Friday, July 3, 2009

Marmaduke's Secret Messages

Back in January of this year, my son was reading the comics in the local newspaper when he asked me, "Dad, is Marmaduke supposed to be funny?" Without analyzing why he had asked this question, I replied in the affirmative. After all, Marmaduke had been appearing in the funnies since my earliest memories. Cartoons in the funnies, drawn in a comic style, were supposed to be funny. Perhaps they weren't all uproariously hilarious, leaving us rolling on the floor in laughter, but they all were supposed to have a degree of comic value.

My response did not satisfy the boy however, and a puzzled and depressed look spread across his face. Obviously he had not understood the humor of that day's Marmaduke. Thinking that explaining the humor in the single panel cartoon would be a simple task, I volunteered my services. It was an act which I soon regretted.

The cartoon which my son showed me is displayed below:

I frowned. Explaining the humor in this cartoon was no easy task. Supposedly the humor was that Marmaduke had ransacked his owners' house, and among the articles that he had absconded with was a library book, now overdue. Such humor, weak to begin with, was lost as the book appeared in plain view between the owners and the dog. Was the joke supposed to be then, that Marmaduke had checked out the book? If so, what was the purpose of the accumulation of damaged items and other trash laying around the yard.

The more I looked at the cartoon, the more that I felt that it portrayed a depressing image, as opposed to a comic one. Marmaduke had apparently destroyed his owners entire house, as we even see a battered armchair behind his doghouse. Not only had he caused wanton destruction in the house, but Marmaduke appears to have eaten their car as well. This is evident by the tire and rim laying in the yard. But property was not all that Marmaduke destroyed. He may have killed some people as well, for we see no less than four large bones lying around the yard. If some like scene existed in real life, someone would call the police. At a minimum, the dog's owners would be liable for damages, not to mention being fined for a garbage-littered yard. Yet there were Phil and Dottie, with their house and car destroyed, human skeletal remains in the yard and the police possibly closing in, worrying about nothing more than an overdue library book. Something was wrong.

My son was growing impatient, and asked for an explanation of the humor in the cartoon. I was at a complete loss. Stuttering, I said that Marmaduke's owners are facing financial ruin through a series of potential lawsuits, yet they're concerned only about a library book that's overdue. The boy's frown remained. "But the book's right there," he said, pointing to it, to which I replied that that was part of the humor.

My son continued looking at Marmaduke, unsatisfied. "You'll understand it when you're older," I said. He nodded and sighed, and looked at me with a look that indicated his belief that I myself didn't understand the cartoon, and simply wished to divert attention from it. Sadly, it was true.

I thought back at my experiences with Marmaduke over the years. I had read it along with the other comics while I was growing up, simply because it was there. But thinking back, I could never really remembering it as being funny. The fact that it had always been disappointing had been short lived, as I simply moved on to another, funnier cartoon. Surrounded by other comics, Marmaduke could be quickly forgotten.

But it disturbed me, that if Marmaduke had always been devoid of humor, why had it survived for over half a century? And so, the next day I went online to seek help in comprehending Marmaduke. Searching on Google, I immediately found a blog titled "Marmaduke Explained," by Joe Mathlete. However, while I found many of Joe's explanations quite humorous, his explanations were not exactly what I was looking for. Like me, Joe seemed quite distressed that Brad Anderson was being paid for putting out a humorless cartoon, but Joe did not attempt to dig deep enough into the reasons why it was still being published. Joe's purpose for his blog seemed to be directed at having Mr Anderson cease his talentless work. I on the other hand, wish to discover why Mr Anderson is still being paid for talentless work. If I could be paid for talentless work, I hardly think that I would stop simply because it offended someone. There had be be a reason for it all.

So I continued my search, this time by going to to better study this Marmaduke cartoon which my son had questioned. Looking closer at the strip, I made several important discoveries. First of all, Marmaduke has become quite tense and alert at the mention of the library book. Surely this is not the first time that someone has expressed an interest in one of the many objects that he has pilfered, yet the mention of the book causes in him great alarm. Dottie seems to sense that Marmaduke will not give up the book without a fight, for even though she is looking straight at it, she pretends not to see it, stating that it is "out there, somewhere." Phil seems to see the book as well, but he has wisely chosen to remain silent.

Second, Marmaduke seems to have gone to great lengths to protect his vast collection. What had appeared before as simple mounds of dirt where the dog had buried something, now seemed to be more like land mines. Even if Dottie and Phil would be brave enough to try to regain possession of the book, they would have to cross this minefield in order to do so.

And thirdly, all of the objects scattered around the yard are colored purple, save for three bones which are colored white. One bone is purple, but the remaining three are white, making them stand out sharply against the other junk. These white bones may provide a clue for Phil and Dottie as to how to take back this valuable book.

Seeing all this with my analytical mind, it dawned on me that Marmaduke was most likely a means to convey messages to a select few. Perhaps this cartoon was used to send covert communications to some secret society, for purposes which are not yet clear. Could it be a plot for world domination? Maybe a plan to save the planet from an impending attack by aliens? Could Marmaduke be telling us how to end our enslavement to the system? The possibilities were endless.

I looked back at the cartoon in question. The book most likely represented some goal which was already in view but still far out of reach. Being heavily guarded, it would be no easy task to retrieve it. However, the key to success was in plain view as well, represented by the three white bones. There could no doubt that this cartoon carried with it a hidden message. My beliefs appeared to be confirmed when I looked at the rating at the bottom of the page. Although quite lacking in humor, it had been rated by 15 people with an average rating of 4 and a half out of 5 stars. This would indicate that 90% of the target audience had read and understood the secret message.

Since then I have been studying and analyzing the daily Marmaduke comics. Each day I become more and more convinced that I am on to something. No matter how devoid of humor each new strip may be, between 10 and 20 people rate it, with a rating of 4 to 5 stars on average. The messages are getting through!

And so I decided to start this blog. With corruption rampant in the government I am depending on the general public to help me decipher Marmaduke's hidden messages. It is my intent to publish this blog on a fairly frequent basis, pointing out my observations of each day's cartoon. Perhaps together we can crack the "Code of Marmaduke" - before it's too late.

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