Not sure if this is the start of an arc or a one-off, but Pajama Diaries has had an ongoing story that pops up now and then about Ben, who is autistic, and Terri Libenson has been handling it with a nice combination of sympathy, homework and humor.
It's a tough balancing act, because, while you can't just play it for laffs, neither can you shut things down for a Very Special Episode in which everything is suddenly serious. Not only is that an artistic violation of your contract with readers, but turning your strip into a pity party doesn't help anybody.
Life goes on, or, at least, we hope it does, and people in the midst of a tough situation need to have that situation acknowledged, but they also need normalcy and that includes some humor, as long as it's on-target and respectful, which is where that third element, homework, comes in.
You'd better know what you're laughing about.
To start with, the joke can never be at Ben's expense. At the same time, his needs can create humorous situations, if you understand them well enough to know where the gags come in.
In this particular example, the joke is all on Nanci's side: Jill is sympathetic but there's a level at which she doesn't get it and so Nanci serves up a plateful of how all-encompassing life with Ben is.
The humor is in Jill's sudden backdown, and her realization that Nanci isn't just indulging Ben's moods but living in a constant world of survival strategies.
And the actual gag is in Nanci's empty-but-ghastly threat, which is not something she would really do, but is a lovely comeback of "let's see how you like living my life for five freaking minutes."
I laughed, but I also thought of how life would be if you had to know where every M-C-D-O-N-A-L-D-S in the area was and how to avoid driving past any of them, and I also hoped that Nanci has some respite care so she can not be on guard against triggers for an hour or two.
Here's another tightrope for a cartoonist to walk: The Nancis of this world need their friends to acknowledge their situation, but they don't need to be hailed as heroes, because they're just people living with the hand they've been dealt.
When I finish today's posting, I'll be heading over to the hospital for my weekly infusion of magnesium, which is about the last vestige of my brush with cancer. I'm not allowed to say I'm "cured" until five years have passed, but I'm out of the woods and none of my doctors seem concerned about anything.
Meanwhile, the damage chemo did to my kidneys is permanent, but it's also stable.
What this means, oddly enough, is that I have been placed in yet another situation where my detached journalistic personality comes forward, because I spend four hours a week in the company of people whose fate is all over the place, virtually none of them as free-and-clear as I am.
The infusion suite, where I sit with a tube in my veins for those four hours, features nooks with two comfy recliners each, and you never ask your partner what they are there for or how they are doing, but it's inevitable that you will overhear things or that they will volunteer something.
I've never heard anyone complain, nor have I seen anyone try to be heroic.
It's simply a place where you play the hand you've been dealt. I suppose it may be a place where you can relax and do that, and that life may be different when you're surrounded by people who aren't in the same boat.
But, for instance, a few weeks ago, the guy next to me had just been told he had seven to nine weeks left, and we talked about old time television, tried to remember the names of minor characters and chuckled over some of our favorites.
I hope Ben is able to chill for a bit so that Nanci and Jill can have that kind of frivolous conversation, too.
Agnes must have been hanging around White River Junction, because, wit all doo respeck, it's not hard to tell the enrollees at the Center for Cartoon Studies, or, at least, while some of the aspiring cartoonists may fly below the radar, others are pretty clearly in the group.
As long as they don't get drunk and start cutting each other's ears off, I'm cool with it.
And if you want to see some artists for yourself, you've got a couple of chances coming up:
On Thursday, Ed Koren and Jeff Danziger will be at the Brattleboro Museum Art Center in Brattleboro, Vermont, which is about halfway between here and Northampton, Mass.
Then leap into your car, drive across the country and arrive in LA by Sunday to see David Horsey, Berke Breathed and Tom Tomorrow at the Los Angeles Times' Festival of Books.
Or, if you're not up for a road trip, stay home and listen to Terri Libenson interviewed at Tall Tale Radio.
Nothing funny here
The referendum in Turkey resulted in a narrow victory for Erdogan's bid to become more powerful and less accountable, though, as Italian cartoonist Giancarlo Uber suggests at Cartoon Movement, not everyone who wanted to cast a "no" vote had the opportunity.
Erdogan has been locking up all sorts of people lately, and artists and journalists -- including cartoonist Musa Kart -- are high on the list of voices to be silenced since the attempted coup last July.
His victory in the referendum gives him even more power to suppress agitators.
Not that the victory is untainted: In the closing hours, the requirements for casting a legal ballot were relaxed by the government, apparently snatching victory from the jaws of democracy.