Sunday, January 08, 2006
Ted Forth, My Hero
I’ve been a reader of the comic strip Sally Forth for a long time. I vividly remember the firestorm of controversy when the current artist Craig Macintosh tried to introduce a softer drawing style to the rather stick figure-ish doodlings of creator Greg Howard. People don’t adjust well to change.
Sally Forth is about the work and family related travails of a career woman and her husband and young daughter. The strip tries to be funny without being mean-spirited or condescending, which can occasionally make it seem smug (what is up with that trademarked Sally smirk?) or trite.
One of the running gags amongst the comics-noscenti is that Ted Forth is either a repressed closeted homosexual, a neutered hermaphrodite, or simply a ball-less hen-pecked dweeb. The recent post on the Comics Curmudgeon plays into all those perceptions and then some. Even the current writer of Sally Forth, Francesco Marciuliano, who is acutely self-aware of the Mephistophelian pact he has made to see his name in over 900 newspapers every day, jumps in with his own shots.
Ces, as he is known to is webfriends, including me, has more than once mocked the no-win situation of poor Ted being a supporting character in a strip with an assertive female titular (God, I love that word) heroine. Ces, who I have publicly declared to be best second string replacement cartoonist ever, has kept up the tone of the original writer and improved the strip as well. Few comics, actually, no other comics, have ever gotten better when the pen has been passed. Ces’s own humor, on display at his Drink At Work website, is much edgier and sharper. As the heir (not literally, his last name isn’t Browne) of the Sally Forth legacy, he has to work with the hand he was dealt. He addressed that dichotomy in the past about having to match styles while being his own voice.
Here’s where I risk ridicule and condemnation of my fellow comic snarks: I like Ted Forth, and not in a watching-gladiator-movies-together way. The comics page, like the CBS primetime line-up, is full of clueless loser dads. They include Roger Fox, Ralph Drabble, and the archetype, Dagwood Bumstead. It’s much harder to portray a parent as responsible and understanding while still getting laffs out of the situation. As a 40-something dad in a two-income family with an only child I relate to Ted Forth in a lot of ways:
Ted had much more hair in high school.
I had long hair in the late 70s and early 80s, but changing styles, the need to look professional, and the pressures of a receding hairline force all of us to make adjustments.
Ted likes classic rock.
I never even owned a Lynyrd Skynyrd album until last year, but I know all their hits from years of keeping the car radio on the classic rock stations.
Ted shares his music with his kid.
I’m a little too old to be a Cure fan, but about half my kid’s iPod is from him raiding the heavier stuff from my iTunes archive.
Ted reads for self-improvement.
Unlike Ted, I actually made it all the way through Guns, Germs, and Steel. But I feel his pain about trying to stay awake through it.
Ted likes to eat.
Ted loves meatloaf. I’m more of a lasagna guy, but that’s too Garfieldish to get away with in the comic strips.
Ted likes ice cream.
I visited the Ben and Jerry’s factory on my honeymoon. ‘Nuff said.
Ted also has too watch what he eats.
I was the proverbial kick-sand-in-the-face skinny dork, but a pasta eating trip through Italy and sympathy weight from my wife’s pregnancy cured that. Damn her steak cravings.
Ted is involved with his kid’s activities.
I never coached Little League, but I was Assistant Den Leader for four years, which is the lowest rank you can have in Cub Scouts and still get to wear the spiffy uniform.
Ted dreads having to pay for his kid’s college.
That’s why mine is an only child too.
Ted loves his kid.
One of the most upsetting days in my life was finding out my kid was attacked by bullies. That had happened to me as a kid and I had hoped my kid could avoid it.
The point I’m making is that Ted is a regular with all the regular guy baggage. He works hard, loves his wife and tries to be the best dad he can be. If that makes him look gay or fruity, he can live with that. It’s called being a responsible adult and we need more of those.
Update: For a vastly inferior sequel, see Sally's Hero: Ted Forth, Part Deaux.
Update (10/15/06): I've also found some of Hilary's Xanga page.
Update (10/8/07): For the Behind The Music look at how Ted Forth got his own Wikipedia page, click here.
Instructions, Warnings, and Disclaimers: Click on images for full strip. Images used under fair use for ridicule and satire. Kings Features lawyers ought to find something better to do rather than hassle bloggers with less 100 unique visitors a day. Like getting a full month of strips back into the archive. Are you guys really making any money off of the subscriptions? Your mileage may vary. Shown with optional equipment.
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