By: Greg Mitchell
As we observed last week, Brenda Starr, gal reporter, has gotten mixed up in the pundit payola mess, and now it?s turned into a murder case with — get this — a Bill O?Reilly character seemingly the guilty party.
Of course, it?s ?only? in the comic pages, but it?s good to see at least one mainstream journalist has not lost her flair for adventure. She has bright red hair, but it’s not Maureen Dowd. She’s been around since 1940, but it’s not Helen Thomas. Brenda Starr will do.
To recap the story line of the past three weeks:
In their daily strip syndicated by Tribune Media Services, the writer Mary Schmich (also a columnist for the Chicago Tribune) and artist June Brigman have been lampooning the punditocracy, denouncing “bribes” that “compromise us all.”
It began with flame-haired Brenda attending the annual pundit party in Washington, D.C. Guest speaker: a U.S. president who looks suspiciously like George W. Bush. Other attendees: pundits who resemble Pat Buchanan, Arianna Huffington, and Al Franken (or Fred Barnes, take your pick).
When the president announces an award to Brenda?s colleague Slash Burns (a thinly disguised Bill O?Reilly), who has not yet arrived, she has to go up to the stage to accept it for him. Brenda notes that Slash is probably in the bathroom (?You know men?), then proclaims: ?Imagine! In a democracy, the government tries to bribe journalists!”
Next panel: “And some journalists can be bought as easily as chewing gum!? The president, Huffington, and Buchanan all appear stricken.
Finally, waving the award before her, she concludes: “Most journalists are honest. But parties like this and awards like this compromise us all!? That strip ends with the suggestion, from another character watching it all on TV, that the speech might ?kill? Brenda?s career.
But Brenda?s not the only woman facing termination, it turns out.
When Slash arrives, disheveled, Brenda wonders if he’s fooling around with his assistant (who is not his wife), though there are no references to loofahs or falafels. Slash seizes the award, announcing, “I feel I’ve scaled journalism’s Mt. Everest!”
But then someone rushes in to announce that a woman has been murdered outside. One pundit mutters, ?I hate it when news interrupts my social life.? Slash moans, ?The news! It?s killed my big moment!?
Naturally, it turns out the deceased is Slash?s assistant. Brenda, still in low-cut party dress, finds an acquaintance and asks: ?Who, what, when, where, why?? He replies: ?Excellent recall of the five W?s!?
Then a detective arrives and seizes Slash, telling him a witness saw him running from the murder scene, ?and is that blood on your shoes?? He informs Slash, ?You have the right to remain silent, through you self-important TV talkers can never keep your yappers shut.? Slash hardly responds, perhaps recognizing that this is truly a no-spin-zone.
Slash?s wife ?- a rather stocky woman -? arrives, declaring that her hubby is a ?good man,? no doubt bursting with family values, but the detective responds, ?Charlie Manson?s women adored him too.? The kicker: The assistant was working on a tell-all about Slash.
Today the detective tells the wife that jail might be good for Slash’s career: “Just ask Martha.”
To be continued… if not here, at least on a comics page near you.