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The 5 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Comic Strips

Sometimes a form of entertainment can become so bad that it transcends badness and becomes something new and wonderful. The world of newspaper comic strips is a gold mine for this, where strips that were built on a shaky premise to begin with run for decades after the writers and artists have long gone insane.

These are the best for providing hours of unintentional enjoyment.

Mark Trail

Intended Appeal:
Learning about wildlife and following the adventures of a rugged environmentalist.

Actual Appeal:
Comically nonsensical plots, misplaced speech balloons.

Ever since 1946, Mark Trail has been on the funny pages teaching respect for nature, mostly by battling evil companies that want to bulldoze ducks. The artists (Ed Dodd and then Jack Elrod) have both been firm in their priority of nature education first, and other less important things, like making sense, are pushed out of the way as necessary to meet that goal.

Elrod enjoys drawing animals so much that he never really learned to draw human beings, which is somewhat of a problem, since the comic stars several of them (although this illustration of what one assumes to be a hyperencephalic child with a tiny malformed hand seems to be OK).

He cleverly tackles the problem by shifting perspective to large foreground animals at every opportunity. Unfortunately, he either has serious problems with speech balloon placement, or the transmutation of souls is a commonplace occurrence in the Mark Trail universe. We have these conspiring moose:

This reluctant farewell from a squirrel:

This uninvited exposition from a duck:

And, this fish's inexplicable anger toward financial transactions:

Gil Thorp

Intended Appeal:
A hip take on high school sports.

Actual Appeal:
Terrible art, theorizing about the nature of the time warp the writer lives in.

Gil Thorp has its finger on the pulse of modern teenage life, bringing us the latest slang from today's youth.

It's the mentions of "IM" and "hip-hop" that shake you out of the casual acceptance until now that this strip is set in the '50s. A better theory for the background of this strip is that a cataclysmic event, such as a secret H-bomb test during the '50s, somehow split the universe into two divergent timelines, with our universe continuing on to the way it is today. Meanwhile, another parallel universe developed into the Gil Thorp world, where irony and postmodernism as we know it never happened, and "That ain't just a bun. It's the whole pan!" is still considered pretty slick and happening.

This theory of an unstable universe built on a space-time anomaly gains credence with the occasional appearance of a wormhole, such as the one in this fellow's face, sucking his unfortunate assailant's fist into another dimension.

Also puzzling is the fact that Gil Thorp appears to be fairly conservative and family-friendly, yet many of the characters appear to be drag queens.

However, this is all made up for by this strip's finest feature, gratuitous crotch shots.

Rex Morgan, M.D.

Intended Appeal:
No one has figured this one out.

Actual Appeal:
Homosexual innuendo.

Rex Morgan is one of the "soaps," a strip with a continuing storyline that isn't necessarily supposed to be funny. Why it would be exciting to follow the adventures of a somewhat lethargic doctor who doesn't want to do anything exciting and usually gets his wish, no one is quite clear on.

However, what it lacks in cliffhangers and plot twists, it makes up for in nonstop hints about Rex's sexual orientation. Sure, everyone knows that if you're immature enough, you can read gay innuendos into just about anything. No effort is needed, here, in this storyline with a "Dr. Troy."

More disturbingly, Rex has recently moved on to younger prey, with a boy named Niki. Niki is a poverty-stricken youth who came to the Morgans' attention after stealing Mrs. Morgan's purse, after which they naturally adopted him as a little brother.

You might wonder why we're so sure about Rex's homosexuality. Why couldn't he be bisexual? Well, that would mean he would have to be attracted to women, too.

The evidence just doesn't bear that out.

Mary Worth

Intended Appeal:
Soap-opera style drama and gossip.

Actual Appeal:
Hilariously callous approach to ruining other people's lives. Mary Worth sounds in theory like the most boring comic strip possible. It's about an old lady and her role in the gossip and relationships of her apartment complex neighbors. True enough, the dramatic developments are so uninteresting in themselves that they have to be emphasized with inappropriately large-scale hand motions.

However, once you begin to follow the storylines, you find Mary Worth and friends wreaking a quiet trail of destruction over other people's lives with poorly thought-out actions and advice, and then casually moving on to the next storyline. Among other things, Worth advised one woman to pursue a relationship with a married man, but the best highlight has to be the Aldo Kelrast storyline, in which a Capt. Kangaroo look-alike begins stalking Mary Worth.

The idea that anyone would fall madly in love with Mary Worth is already fairly funny, but the best part is when Mary and friends go on to stage an intervention.

The perfectly synchronized chorus of "YOU'D BETTER NOT!" must have been terrifying for Aldo. The result?

The next day, Mary Worth moves cheerfully along in one smooth segue of a strip:

Mary's thoughts have clearly moved on to her next victim, Dr. Jeff Cory. Will Mary Worth and Co. doom him to actual death as with Aldo, or just a sort of tortured living death, as is usual with their victims? We'll let you find out by reading the strip.

Dick Tracy

Intended Appeal:
Exciting action-packed adventures of a tough, square-jawed detective.

Actual Appeal:
Outstandingly sub-par artwork and hilariously gruesome deaths.

When we bring up the venerable Dick Tracy strip, your first thought is probably, "They're still printing that? Like new ones?"

But, if you were to actually read the strip day to day, your thoughts would probably shift to wondering if maybe our American ideal of encouraging people to do whatever they love, and refrain from criticizing those who follow an impossible dream, has gone a bit too far. Maybe mentally handicapped people shouldn't be airline pilots. Maybe fat people shouldn't be supermodels. Maybe it's about time for the artist who draws Dick Tracy to try and find something else he likes.

Take a minute and try to get your lip to bend that way.

Now, here's Dick Tracy going toe-to-toe with what is supposed to be a woman dressed up as a queen from a playing card. Leaving aside the impossibilities of the hair and whether it's supposed to be a two-dimensional prop or not, what we have is a man-faced creature with prominent breasts, which, unless we've completely misunderstood the premise of Dick Tracy, cannot possibly be the character the writer envisioned.

And sometimes, in between panels, the artist seems to forget what style he's drawing in. Here, he begins in his normally consistent, if badly-drawn, square-jawed, angular, noir-like style, and suddenly shifts to what appears to be the Garfield universe.

Meanwhile, Dick Tracy does indeed provide the action it promises, often in the form of hilariously creative deaths and/or comeuppances for villains, whether it be falling into a smokestack ...

... having their brains fried by their own mind-control machines (which Dick Tracy and friend deliberately hooked this fellow up to) ...

... plummeting from the Capitol Dome and then teleporting through an American flag milliseconds before hitting the ground ...

... or snapping in half from their injuries over the back of an exasperated-looking horse.

Dick Tracy also contributes to expanding the English language by introducing what are most likely computer-generated, sound-effect words that no reasonable person could possibly have invented.

As to why Dick Tracy is being hit over the head by 5 million dollars in the second panel, you will just have to read the strip and let this delightful adventure unfold for you in its own time.

Special thanks to The Comics Curmudgeon for tracking down these strips. You could say he's kind of an expert.
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