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Eric: Apropos of nothing, who ever heard of an American stockbroker named *Cyrus.* I mean, Cyrus is pretty much limited to "Country Singer" in this land, right?


(From Alex. Click on the thumbnail for full sized business class victimization.)

I used to talk about newspaper strips more than I currently do, over here on the 'snark.

Okay, it's actually fair to say I used to talk about everything more than I currently do, over here on the 'snark. Look, it's been a long summer, okay? Hey, this is third day in a row posting. That's not bad, right? Seriously -- that could be so much worse than it is, right? Right?

Anyway. I used to discuss newspaper strips a lot more often. Heck, it's been many, many months (over a year, I think) since the last time we discussed the continuing adventures of Annie (she the little Orphan one) in her batshit insane world, much less Dick Tracy, For Better or for Worse, or any of the other common web friendly strips. I haven't even brought up For Better or For Worse's creepy-ass online blinking thing. But that's a digression.

This particular newspaper strip, on the other hand, doesn't feel particularly "newspaperish" here in America, because it's a niche strip in Britain. Alex the Stockbroker is the story of an astoundingly venal and "surface" stockbroker named Alex, his permanently befuddled coworker Clive, and a wide panorama of characters, all of whom point out the essential shallowness, self serving backbiting, and callow nature of....

Well, humanity. But it's funny.

Alex is a strip based on what I like to call subversive execution. You'll recall from the Lexicon that execution refers to the way a specific day's strip executes its goals from the first strip to the last. Well, nine out of ten of Alex's strips set up expectations in the first three panels which get subverted in the fourth, for the punchline. It's a relatively common technique, but Alex absolutely runs with it.

Which brings us to the strip in question. Cyrus is Alex and Clive's immediate Supervisor (one of a long chain -- Alex tends to set up situations, run with them for about a year, then end them and launch something new. In the last three years, Alex and Clive were fired, worked various other jobs for a while, and got rehired at Megabank. Clive was made supervisor despite (well, in fact because of) his staggering incompetence, and finally got the sack not too terribly long ago. Cyrus is their new boss, and is (gasp) an American. More to the point, he's an insane workaholic American who thinks nothing of twenty hour days, calling his employees at four in the morning, and denying all vacation time because honestly, who wouldn't rather be working in the first place? And hand in hand with that (and generally with all the stockbrokers) is compulsive Blackberry usage.

So, on one side, this is a very typical Alex strip. It sets up an expectation in the first three panels, then subverts it for the laugh in the fourth. Of course Cyrus being deprived of his Blackberry makes him so agitated that security would think he's a terrorist.

That's not why I'm writing about this.

See, like I said at the top of the essay -- Alex is a newspaper strip. It appears in various business papers throughout the London area, and I believe they're currently in the Daily Telegraph. They also appear around the world.

Now, we all know how newspaper strips generally work. Editors. Preapproval processes. Four or six week lead times. Delays. That's where the web really shines in comparison -- if something happens in the news on a Thursday, then Thursday night there can be a webcomic making fun of it.

Well. Last week there was a major terrorist roundup and sting in England. How major, the variety of it, the details, whether or not I can ever carry a bottle of Propel onto a plane again -- these are things we just don't know right now. What we do know is it's big news. And it's especially big news for heavy travelers in the United Kingdom, since the current restrictions are monumental.

And here we are, just a few days later... and Alex is running a strip about business travel from the United Kingdom, and the new restrictions (including the loss of laptops and blackberrys -- and indeed, all carryons of any stripe) on airlines flying out of England.

Over in America, the biggest strip on the newspaper block (at least for this kind of commentary) is Doonesbury. And it's almost certain they'll have something to say about it, and it will be insightful and funny.

And, it will be in September.

Whatever Alex is doing? It's doing it right.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 15, 2006 12:01 AM


Comment from: BigNickNewt [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 14, 2006 11:54 PM

Reading the strip, I didn't think too much of it at first, but then half-way through your essay it dawned on me, "Oh yeah, lead times...Wow, that was quick. That was insanely quick!"

I wouldn't be too surprised though if Doonesbury touched on this next week to be honest though, I seem to recall a time or two that Trudeau cranked out some strips within two weeks of big current events news, though sadly I can't recall what exactly the news was.

Even then it was two weeks though.

Yeah, I stick with my 'Insanely quick' comment.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 1:07 AM

Yes, yes...but whatever happened to Anton Veil, the Queen of the Martian Iguanas? :)

Comment from: Plaid Phantom [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 1:29 AM

Well, I'm glad we can agree on the blinking, at least.

Comment from: Ford [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 3:01 AM

I've just looked at the alex site, and i cannot find any sort of archive navigation (Other than the previous/next fingers). How much of the archive is available for perusal, and how would one get to the earliest available strip for chronological reading?

Comment from: shadebug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 3:06 AM

looks like the first on the web to me

as for lead times, as a Briton I'm wondering if US papers have the current affairs commentary gag-a-day type strips that accompany various stories. I know most british broadsheets will have about 4 of those which surely only have a day's lead time if that

Comment from: miyaa [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 4:29 AM

British newspaper comics? I've never heard anything about that. The only things I'm aware of in British newspapers are the colored papers, the fonts, and the tabloids with their page 3 nude girlies. I presume the format is much like the states, sans comics.

I will say if we're forbidden to carry any liquid onto a plane in the short term, (or even long-term), expect a lot more orders for drinks on the plane...

Comment from: 32_footsteps [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 8:15 AM

Well, shade, there are usually editorial cartoons that make light of a couple issues of the day, and newspapers have both their own editorial cartoonist and syndicate nationally-known ones. However, those are restricted to the editorial pages of the newspaper (not too familiar with British papers, but either the last pages of the front section of a traditional paper or around the center in a tabloid-style paper).

Though I don't recall precisely when, I also seem to remember Trudeau rapidly hammering out a comic about a major event, but I seem to recall it being a fairly major event (in which case, my gut feeling is that it was September 11, 2001, when Trudeau paused a storyline and hammered out some comics immediately). In other words, while he could get out a comic fairly fast, I think Eric's right in that we won't see anything on this until at least next month (and depending on what he finds interesting to talk about, possibly later than that).

Based on what shadebug said, I wonder if it's just a more robust process in Britain. If your average British pub is churning out at least four different cartoons a day, I imagine that the process has to be made alot smoother (and probably more editors focused on just a small number of strips, thereby expediting the process).

Comment from: shadebug [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 9:18 AM

I think the cartoons I'm talking about are mostly those editorial cartoons though they crop up in a few places

I'm guessing alex isn't subject to the same sort of syndication restraints as most comics becasuse it appears in broadsheets and broadsheets only run specialised comics or the editorials. If memory serves alex appears in the business section of the telegraph.

Comment from: Sili [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 10:52 AM

Just to rub it in. The Danish comic Egoland does appear on the web now, but it's still a newspapercomic and it's been that for more than twenty years.

I'm pretty sure the leadtime on that is about 24 hours. It's not uncommon for it to comment on events (and quite often articles and letters in the newspaper that carries it) the day after their happening/appearance.

It's also one of the most intelligent comics I know of. The author/artist is an MA in classics -- and it shows.

Unfortunately only the past fortnight is available online -- oh! and it's in Danish.

Comment from: Minivet [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 9:29 PM

An unreliable website claims that .007% of American men, or 8,575, are named Cyrus. That's probably several times greater than the British ratio.

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 9:41 PM

But I'll bet a greater percentage of British Cyruses are stockbrokers. ;)

Comment from: Godspiel [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 15, 2006 11:33 PM

"If your average British pub is churning out at least four different cartoons a day...."

Your average pub is likely to be churning out at least that many cartoons a day, but most publications don't accept submissions on coasters or napkins.

Comment from: Dan Severn [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 22, 2006 12:50 PM

When did "Cyrus" become a name for a country and western singer? When I hear "Cyrus," I think "King of Kings," not "King of Nashville." Maybe I'm just too old. You kids and your country music.

Also, I wonder if it might not become an option on airlines-- you pay a smaller fee, sign a form, and you don't have to go through all the security, but you can't sue the airline if you get blown up. Sort of a "I'll take my chances with the terrorists" flight option.

Also also, if not for Achewood, I wouldn't know what a Blackberry was. This furthers my conviction that Achewood is somehow part of the fabric of the Universe.

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