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No. 293: Jock fills in

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Jock fills in

First | Previous | 2018-12-18 | Next | Latest

Permanent URL: https://mezzacotta.net/itoons/?comic=293

Strip by: David Morgan-Mar

Fred: I'm in rather a rush, Jock—
Fred: Can you fill in for me today?!
{Fred runs off, leaving Jock looking in surprise at the background scene (a painting by Jock McFadyen)}

The author writes:

My friends at work and I read Fred Basset religiously. We have an actual ritual. Every day at 4pm we have an afternoon tea break, which we refer to as "fruit time" since several of us use the break to eat a piece of fruit to get us through the post-lunch slump and to knock-off time. During this time we inspect the newspapers that the company has delivered each morning.

The first thing we do is look at the Target puzzles. Both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph print this word puzzle. (I'd expected to find an easy link to show you exactly what Target is, but a brief web search reveals the extremely surprising fact that this syndicated newspaper word puzzle has no web presence. There is a Wikipedia entry for word polygon, which is essentially a generic description of the puzzle format, although Target is always 9 letters and arranged in a 3×3 square.) We don't try to make lists of words; we concentrate on unscrambling the full 9-letter word. This is good anagramming practice and we've become quite good at it. The Australian prints a variant, in a circle, and the total number of letters varies at either 9, 11, or very occasionally 13 letters.

After solving these (or having given up in frustration), the next thing we do is flip the page of the Daily Telegraph to the comics section. This has Calvin and Hobbes, Hagar the Horrible, Fred Basset, Garfield, Ginger Meggs, Snake Tales, Insanity Streak, and The Phantom. The first one we check is always Fred Basset. Not because it's good, but to see just how bad it is today.

I've mentioned this aspect of Fred Basset before. Fred Basset is the quintessentially English comic. It's the life of a dog in a small village somewhere in Kent or Dorset or somewhere equally quintessentially English. His male owner visits the pub for a pint after work. It's all very gentle and good-natured. Which means it's not particularly funny. A typical joke is for a thing to happen, and Fred makes a comment that is a cliché or an idiom that happens to fit the situation somewhat literally.[1]

Which in one sense is exactly what the original strip for this comic is. Fred asks Jock to "fill in" for him. The idiomatic meaning is to take Fred's place in doing some task. But it's made "funny" by the fact that the situation of the comic also demands that Jock "fill in" in a more literal sense - Fred is actually asking Jock to fill in the background of the final comic panel - presumably because the comic artist was too busy (or too lazy) to complete it! This is a stunning fourth wall break, especially for Fred Basset. My jaw dropped when I saw it.

It actually makes the original strip a much more interesting and amusing strip than most Fred Basset strips. And thus ripe for mashing.

Here I've taken Fred somewhat literally, and filled in the background of the last panel with a painting by a Jock, Jock McFadyen (personal website and portfolio here). I was originally going to use a Van Gogh landscape, but a web search for artists named Jock quickly convinced me to go this route.

Original Fred Basset: 2018-12-04.

[1] And that's on a good day. Many days don't even have that - they just have Fred doing something and saying something, without any wordplay.