Tuesday, July 20, 2004


One of the perverse delights of “Seinfeld,” especially for an erratic watcher such as myself, was that tuning in late in the show would produce bewilderment -- short cuts between various characters, all behaving in inexplicable ways and employing language that frequently made no sense. Unlike almost every other sitcom, whose scripts are so predictable and obvious that it’s possible to tune in for the last five minutes and grasp all the plot points of the previous 17, “Seinfeld” obligated watchers to tune in from the start.

It passed on an appreciation for the absurdity of life. It was almost dada.

But that kind of thing only goes so far.

I stumbled across a comic strip called “Algernon’s Dilemma” today that gives a hint of exactly how far that kind of thing does go. It stops back with “Seinfeld,” apparently.

“Algernon’s Dilemma” is an Internet-only serial mixing science fiction and soap opera, starring primitively drawn characters that include, ubiquitously, ridiculously large-breasted women -- so large-breasted that the trait suggests either parody, mental imbalance or poor depth perception. The argument for mild mental imbalance is strengthened by the strip’s hyperbolic punctuation, the fact that it’s been on the Web apparently without funding, posting more or less daily, since October 1999, and that the artist links to Fox News as “the only news I watch.” (Bless the social conservatives who draw comix where every chick is hot and has really big breasts. That’s good wholesome fun those filthy liberals would never understand.)

According to the site’s FAQ, there is no character named Algernon, nor any dilemma, so it’s possible the artist, Jim Alexander (“Jim has no formal education beyond High School. He is a Christian and conservative Republican who has never been married, and has driven a schoolbus for the past six years,” his bio says) intends for his narrative to be as stupefying as it is.

The obliqueness of “Seinfeld” offered intrigue and a sprinkling of context-free laughs. “Algernon’s Dilemma” conks visitors over their heads with a whirlwind of leaden nonsequiturs, all screamed with implied asterisks demanding that attention be paid to the clenched-teeth screams and alarmed bursts of sweat for the entire past five years. It seems to be a comic strip about everything, all at once, and that’s exhausting without being interesting.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out today’s strip.

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