Judge Parker. Possibly the most misunderstood of all comic strips. And certainly it’s the comic with the deepest storyline and the most complex subtext and meaning. You cannot skim through Judge Parker over your morning cereal as you do “Blondie” or “Garfield.” To do that would be to miss the whole other world in which the Judge lives. No, instead you have to study the Judge. Take him in context with the rest of the strips on the comic page. See past each isolated panel and discover the real Judge Parker.
I read (browsed may be a better word) Judge Parker for many years; to take a glance and move on was the norm. Although earnestly drawn and involving detailed story lines, the Judge never made much of an impact. Maybe it was the old-fashioned writing style, maybe my 21st Century short attention span, but I was never able to fully grasp what was going on from day to day. Characters came and went without ever showing who they were, what motivated them. I was not even sure which character really was the good judge. (I’ve since learned it’s Alan. Randy is his son. The Judge himself rarely appears.) Plot lines would drag on for weeks or months; you could go on a two week vacation without a daily Judge Parker and come back having missed very little of the story.
But to judge Judge Parker in isolation is to miss the larger picture, the 10,000 foot view that puts the Judge in context with the rest of the comic world. One must learn to read between the lines, to view Parker’s actions against a more global backdrop and how he relates to the other characters on the comics page.
My comic aficionado friend Joe Richter planted the seed for Understanding Judge Parker. I fertilized, watered, weeded, and nurtured that seed, and reaped a bumper crop of examples showing the complex interrelationship between Judge Parker and the others under the morning coffee cup.
One finds that other strips are the setup and Judge Parker is the punch line. Using the trademark reactionary statements and facial close-ups, Judge Parker characters reveal a great deal about themselves and others on the page. The humor, drama, violence, sexuality, and simple Zen-like truths begin to emerge. Occasionally the Judge Parker strip will serve as the setup, allowing his fellow strip characters to make the point. But the point is made. It’s there to be read if you know how.
NOTE: These panels do not correspond to real-time comic page publication. Some of these panels go back to the late 1990s and are in no particular order.
The December 8, 2008 posting begins Volume 2, not yet available in paperback form.
DISCLAIMER: The images contained in this blog are owned by their respective copyright holders and are used here without authorization. Any repercussions arising from my actions are my responsibility.