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.

Technorati tag:, , , , ,


Francesco Marciuliano said...

Wow. First, thank you very much for the kind words and for finding such value in the character (which, admittedly, I did not create). Second, that was an exceptionally well-written, insightful and ernest (in the best way) article. And third, I can only imagine the sh!t you're going to get from all the Ted-haters. Be brave and remember--sticks and stones may break bones but names have a nasty way of appearing on Technorati and Google searches forever.

yellojkt said...

You can thank me by slipping me some of that super valuable SF swag. Limited editions of the Sally Forth box set, that sort of stuff.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Based on this profile, except for the being married part...

...I think I might be Ted. In fact, I secretly suspect that many more of us than care to admit it are also Ted. There's a little bit of Ted in all of us, unless he does manage to become a gay porn star, in which case it could conceivably be the other way around.

And you're never too old to be a fan of The Cure. We're about the same age, are we not? The Cure was around when I was in college. I remember playing "Let's Go to Bed" and other tracks from Japanese Whispers on campus radio.

Bonvallet said...

Good post, we certainly do need more responsible adults. Hats off to you Ted, I mean Yellowjkt. That is upsetting for me too when I hear about kids being attacked by bullies.

Anonymous said...

hear hear! And as someone like Ted who has a much more ambitious wife who is far out-climbing him on the job ladder, I can identify with Ted on THAT score....

yellojkt said...

Being a college student in Atlanta in the mid 80s meant a lot of B-52s and REM. I always leaned to the singer-song-writers: Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffet, Broooce, Sting. I know, pretty MOR. I'll have to give The Cure a listen. I've always associated them more with my little sister's Depeche Mode/The Smiths phase.

Francesco Marciuliano said...

Being a college student in Durham NC in the mid to late 80's meant REM was on every day for me. I listened more to "Lifes Rich Pageant" than to my professors. But it also meant a lot of Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Bauhaus, New Order and The Cure. Nothing like lying in the dark in your dorm room, heart smashed to pieces, listening to "Inbetween Days." Had I put on Joy Division I never would have gotten off the floor.

J.Po said...

Ridicule! Condemnation!

Just kidding, yello - very well-thought-out and well-written piece on Ted's strengths. Although I selfishly prefer my phrase from the Curmudgeon forum that Ces is working with the limp-wristed hand he was dealt...which Ces said made him laugh out loud. Possibly my proudest moment in 2005.

yellojkt said...

Got the link fixed, wf. I spent nearly as much time proofing the HTML as I did writing the text. I've also secretly corrected two glaring grammatical errors that my more literate readers usually catch.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, yellojkt. Much wisdom. The Force [Forths?] is strong with you.

Anonymous said...

Er, that was me ... couldn't log in properly...

- Lor

Mooselet said...

Yes, I see you fixed the "there" to the proper "their" in the classic rock paragraph. I was gonna call you on it, but I got distracted by the ankle biters. Besides, (s)he who lives in glass houses should call the kettle black, or something like that.

I've always liked Ted, despite his odd girly mannerisms and love of meatloaf. Good on you for standing up to be counted, you big nancy girl! What I want to know is, did you have the mullet?

Mooselet said...

oops, that should be "shouldn't call..."


Thumper said...

OK, now I didn't realize the strip wasn't even being written byt the original's always been one of my favorites, but I have thought lately that it's been better.

You know its bad when you have to move and your criteria for happiness is whether or not the newspaper carries your favorite comics. I'e been seriously bummed to be without SF a couple of times.

Anonymous said...

Sally Forth is one of my favorites. Thank you for the analysis cause I look at things on their surface value while you delve into the subtle meanings.

Pixel said...

I appreciate all comics that feature Apple product placement. These include, but are not limited to, Sally Forth, Foxtrot, and Get Fuzzy. My favorite product placement of all time was a bottle of Corsendonk beer in Get Fuzzy. If I weren't already married, I would have the hots for DarB.

yellojkt said...

I love that series too, and I didn't use those in this post, but I may in the future. I made peace with my inner-geek a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Gadzooks! I, too, was a college student mid/late 80's (UF, Gainesville). Who'd'a' thunk there were so many of us?!

Your Mother said...

You said it Y. We need more of them.

howard said...

Few comics, actually, no other comics, have ever gotten better when the pen has been passed.

I found Dick Moores' Gasoline Alley to be far superior to the Frank King version, but that is probably going too far back in time for you to agree or disagree.

Your commentary on Ted Forth was excellent, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Well, yellojkt, after this very nicely written exposition on Ted plus the recent discussion of possible vocations he might pursue in the future, I've finally succumbed and added SF to one of my on-line comics subscriptions.

Back when I was young and not yet jaded, I did enjoy SF. Then I moved away or just no longer was able to get the strip. When I finally was able to catch it here and there, it was in the "softer" style and it just didn't resonate with me. But we'll give it another chance for a while.


Anonymous said...

I got Ted Forth'ed when he got the script to 'Breaking Away" as his favorite movie!

rockann2 said...

Will you please give this man some backbone. I he cares so much about his wife and their love, and others feelings he should man up and get this mess cleared up.

Viagra Online said...

I knew about Craig Macintosh's work from my little sister, who seems have read every comic in the whole world. She was very excited about a comic she was beginning to fall in love with. Guess which it was...?

Viagra Online said...

Thanks for sharing such an article where education of people
matters the most.Your way of expressing articles through words is excellent.he
way of expressing things is best and informative.Keep sharing articles like
this.A great article with best possible effects.I am great fan of your
blog.Every time i come here i see something very new.Thanks for sharing the

kamagra Online said...

I have never ever come across such a wonderful piece of information. Today I am proud to say that I have finally gain knowledge on this topic and here on I shall also spread the same preaching ahead so that the world become a better place to live in.

Generic Levitra

Nicholas said...

interfaith ketubah


ceramic straighteners

divorce act

mortgage rates

spas in los angeles

worlds hardest game

loan calculator

cholesterol levels

price per head service said...

Thanks for posting this review! I love this website and I’ve subscribed to it.

Hope James said...

The latest trending services for the students persuing higher education is the m learning solutions most easiest and convenient way of learning. Acadecraft helps all kinds of learners by coping with them providing best service.

Also Read: freelance technical writer

Unknown said...

Hi I am jhon ceena, I am a mobile app developer with frantic infotech. We provide mobile app development services which include app development on (Native / Cross-platform), migration, update, & ongoing maintenance services.