The Mary Worth comment board is unhinged and, frankly, a little frightening
And I thought I liked the comic strip
I swear I didn’t start out this pandemic thinking I’d become obsessed with Mary Worth. It’s one of those beyond-your-control things that just happens—much like becoming a timeshare owner. One second you’re just living your life and then—bam—you realize you’re a sucker.
Back in 2020, when everything was uncertain and frightening (I mean, more so), I took a lot of solace in the daily comics. News of the novel coronavirus was just too upsetting, so every morning I would skip past sad and discouraging headlines to the comic section (I would also read the violent and bleak crime report, but since it had no Covid content, it was okay).
Like many people my age, I was raised on newspaper comics. Every weekend, I’d rip apart the paper to get to the colorful Sunday edition. Zits was my favorite. I also loved Non-Sequitur and, god help me, I even chuckled at Dilbert (this was long before Dilbert creator Scott Adams became an alt-right fucker). Garfield was obligatory, same with Hagar the Horrible, Beetle Bailey and Andy Capp, even though they all seemed like the same comic.
Then there were the comics that I passed right over, the serials: Prince Valiant, Rex Morgan M.D. and especially Mary Worth. In the case of Mary Worth, it felt like someone imagined the exact opposite of what would appeal to an elementary school-aged boy and turned it into a comic. They—and by “they” I mean Big Comics—would’ve had a better reaction if they just scanned my homework straight into the funny pages.
Reacquainting myself with the world of daily comics has been like settling into a warm bath. Zits still rules, Garfield’s apathetic malaise feels even more poignant—nay, essential—during these hard times, and Dilbert is still peddling the same tired material from the same sad man.
But now that I’m older and wiser (ish), I figured I’d give another shot to all the serials I dismissed when I was younger. I no longer have the attention span of a hyperactive Diddy Kong, and my ability to understand and deconstruct narratives has matured to the point of being able to enjoy Terrance Malick films (jk that’ll never happen).
It really didn’t take long for me to fall into the Mary Worth rabbit hole. For anyone unfamiliar with the format, the comic (which has been around since 1938, and is currently written by Karen Moy) introduces various characters in the MaryWorthverse and then follows them for months as their drama slowly (very slowly) unfolds. The conflict is usually romantic in nature, and every once in a while, Mary Worth shows up to dispense relationship advice.
I quickly realized that the comic is perfect for an anxiety-ridden brain like mine. Following a Mary Worth arc is both soothing and low-stakes. The stories move so slowly that it feels like watching a movie two seconds at a time, which is either the worst or most ideal way to experience a narrative. You can skip out on a week of comics and there’s a good chance that you’ll only have missed an inconsequential phone call with one of Mary’s lovestruck loser friends.
So slow is this narrative that since I started reading Mary Worth in 2020 there’s really only been about three complete story arcs. Three stories in just under two years. Since about August, however, Worth-heads have been subjected to the excruciating on again/off again escapades of Wilbur and Estelle.
Their story began with Wilbur irritated by Estelle’s cat, Libby, who would meow loudly during Wilbur and Estelle’s piano duets (a common problem for all of us). This escalated into an all-out battle between Wilbur and the cat, which often devolved into Wilbur making death threats. Obvi, Estelle was not down with Wilbur’s psychotic behavior, and kicked Wilbur to the curb.
But Mary Worth then told Estelle to get back together with Wilbur. More like Mary Worthless, right?? And just as soon as Estelle took Wilbur back, he just blew it again, thus hitting reset on this whole cycle of animal threatening and Worth-enabled abuse.
So that’s what’s been going on in Mary Worth for the past four months.
Let’s just pause right here to congratulate me on being a really cool human being.
Make no mistake, it’s refreshing to see a comic depicting a relationship between two older people, especially when the prior arc consisted of two women fighting over a hunky doctor.
But, holy fuck, I don’t think there’s ever been a daily comics character as miserable as Wilbur. I hate Wilbur. I hate a fictional character! And when I realize that that’s where I’m at in life—hating an illustration—it makes me hate Wilbur even more. I have little doubt that this is Moy’s point: to create a character so cowardly, self-centered and pathetic that readers have no choice but to hate-return to see what Wilbur does next, and to fall for this little trolling tactic makes me hate myself along with Wilbur.
However, Dear Readers, I recently discovered I was not alone in my spite. Turns out Mary Worth has a huge? following?? online??!
Over on Comics Kingdom, each strip racks in well over 100 comments, which is, like, 2008-era Gawker numbers. I haven’t seen this much engagement in a long time. And these commenters’ hatred for the current Worth arc makes mine pale in comparison. They are sick of Wilbur’s shit, they are sick of Karen Moy’s shit. They are out for blood. Honestly, the fervency of their devotion to this comic strip is impressive, and we should all wish for this kind of action.
Over the past week, shit has gone down in Mary Worth, and the comments have been wild. Here’s what it looks like.
This strip is from Monday, January 3. After Mary advised Estelle to get back together with Wilbur again, lots of readers prayed that was the final time we’d see the couple. Alas, Moy—in true troll fashion—cut to Wilbur and Estelle’s cruise that was only mentioned in passing up to that point, thereby extending this DOA story. Not only that, but she dropped a narrative bombshell in the form of Wilbur’s marriage proposal. You fucked us, Moy! You fucked us!
User Captain Obvious had the most succinct assessment:
Captain Obvious: This is a bad omen for 2022.
However, this comment also blew my mind, not only for codifying “window eels”—i.e. the strange way that the artist tries to convey reflections off of glass—but for using the highly technical term “P-1”
Bob Tice: It was very nice to see in P-1 that Estelle and Wilbur brought their window eels with them on their cruise. It's always great to bring along some of the comforts of home when you're on a faraway trip.
Phew, big sigh of relief here. At least Estelle had the good judgment to reject Wilbur (aka Wilburp or Wilbore, according to the commenters).
And for an example of the genius you’ll find in the comment section, look no further than itsg82bdum’s wise observation. Quality stuff.
itsgr82bdum: Wouldn't it be funny if the deck sprung a leak, Wilbur plugged it up with his finger, and the water came out his ears?
It should be a surprise to no one that the Mary Worth discussion board is also full of mean-spirited awfulness. I mean, this is the internet after all. It’s true that Wilbur is an unpleasant manchild with inadequacy issues and anger management problems, but commenters love to focus on the guy’s weight. Fat-shaming is very common in the Mary Worth comment board. I know we’re talking about a fake character here, but it’s like, c’mon people—can’t we all be adults (who read the funnies)?
Yllas: Either our comb-overed tub o' guts is getting some kind of dementia, or is bipolar. That is going to be one awkward rest of the trip, Estelle. When you get home, find Mary Worth, take your pets back, and give her a punch in the nose for her idiot advice.
jkn: Can't wait to see smug Mary welcome Estelle and Wilbur back from the cruise grozar: Estelle needs to pop false Mary in her craw on her return!
Okay, settle down.
It was around Thursday that people began to get very horny for violence.
Mark Corrigan: Oh please let him get so drunk he falls overboard and drowns. Please. I need this.
Rae White: If this arc doesn’t end with Wilbur stumbling off the deck and dying, I’m going to be real mad.
ComicsSkulker: Wilbur will be found the next morning, passed out in a deck chair, his pants fully cr@pped in, and unresponsive..
Just wanted to highlight the following thread because I love the notion of a daily comic getting “clicks.” The idea that someone thinks daily comics are some lucrative source of income for newspapers is mind-boggling, or that there’s even a strategy for reader engagement when it comes to comics. This is pretty much equivalent to dragging classified ads or TV listings for being clickbait.
just1lis: Much as I am so utterly sick of this story arc....the events of the last couple days have made it much more entertaining.
Captain Spaulding: Because of the snarking I’ll bet!!!
Trespassers W: I am honestly wondering whether the comics syndicate responded to all the negative votes/comments earlier in this arc and called up Moy and ordered her to fix the planed [sic] ending so that Estelle is free from Wilbur. The Real Bill: Nope. As long as they get their clicks for advertisers, they're happy, and none of their dreck gets as much reaction as this dreck does. The more we snark, the happier they are. We live in Bizarro World.
Friday’s comic is like edging for Mary Worth readers. They are ready to explode.
HCassidyHa: I predicted this plot days ago. Estelle, please take my advice and find yourself a narrowest wooden board you can rest on and hold on to it. And learn the lyrics of "My Heart Will Go On" so you can sing to Wilbur while he's sinking into oblivion.
splashcat2000OMG: Wilbur’s gonna die (smashes Love button).
And Dave Hill brings up a good point about the “Buy Print” option on Comics Kingdom. I, for one, would probably benefit from a Wilburp print to commemorate this high-point in my life.
Dave Hill: Imagine buying this print and having Wilbur's Golem face perpetually staring at you from the wall.
Bryan White: Maybe you shouldn’t have left him alone after he stormed off?? Judging by the weird relationship you’ve allowed yourself to be bullied into, I’d say you don’t need to drive to crazy. You can walk. The man you’ve given a “second chance” is sh*tfaced and standing on the bow of the boat like a teenaged beach ball that’s just watched “Titanic” for the first time. If you grab his hand, he’ll drag you into the drink, too. And frankly, Estelle, I’m fine with that. It serves you right. Good riddance to both of you.
Can someone please check on Bryan?
Here’s the moment we were waiting for. My jaw actually dropped when I saw that final panel (P-7). Also, shit, if I got 436 comments on anything, I’d log off, collect my trophy, and never step foot on the internet again.
Again, commenters go to very great lengths to make fun of fat people.
Big Al: Tsunami alert? Hannibal's Lectern: The physics is complex: Wilburp's fall from the ship to the briny deep does not affect the level of the Pacific Ocean, as he was part of the cruise ship's tonnage when he was on deck, and displacing his own deadweight after impact. However, during the 1-2 seconds of his fall, the ocean level does drop some. This exposes a portion of the Indonesian seabed, and some people do run onto the newly-dry land to scoop up clams, oysters, and other bottom dwellers. They, unfortunately, are drowned when the Wilburp Tsunami restores the Pacific to its previous level. Sad story.
Have you ever witnessed someone truly, unabashedly happy? It’s a rare occurrence in this world. Monday’s comic, my friends, was truly a gift for a lot of people.
The Pope of Chilitown: Holy S**t! They did it! They really did it! And on a weekend!
ShagsCA: Please God -- yes, YES, YESSSSS!!!
I also have to admire Jack Jay for giving us all some much-needed perspective. However, the final response to his comment laid me out flat.
Jack Jay: But seriously, I know its a comic strip, but suicide is not the answer to problems. I have seen it, and investigated it, and it may relieve the person of their troubles, but the pain it causes others is not worth it. JT: He didn't jump. He was talking about recreating the song from Titanic and was singing when he fell in his drunken stupor. Jeff Fecke: I'm a suicide attempt survivor and generally agree, but Wilbur is one of the few examples of someone who really should jump.
Chucky Quartarolo: Estelle said 'sometimes' twice to diminish Wilbur's shortcomings. Karen, don't you know we read the strip? We remember what he does and says. You can't rewrite your characters with a few pen str0kes. He's been painted as a terrible man, by you, and we believed it. Now you want to soft boil the facts so he appears not-so-bad? Have the guts to stick with your decision and not waffle. We read the strip and we never forget.
Hear that, Karen Moy? Keep playing with fire and you’re bound to get burned. We are legion. We never forget.
Walter Hammann: Stell looks hot talking to the Captain.
Good point, Walter. Saying what we’re all thinking.
ueSL: Everything's in blue, that's panic and gloom setting in. "Miraculous survival" is looking less likely I think. The second panel isn't a Dutch angle, but it kind of feels like it is. Brigman's doing a good job with the mood.
Phew. What a rollercoaster. I’m sweaty just recapping that. I hope Wilbur’s out of the picture for good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Moy saves Wilbur with some deus ex machina shit, or reveals that it was all a dream. Perhaps Wilbur is actually an analogy for Covid—two unpleasant things that will just never die. Whatever the case, I’ve learned not to get my hopes up with this comic strip, and that sums up my attitude toward a lot of things these days.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to check my windows for eels.
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Thursday, Jan 13
Tzimani, Anubis, Space Vacation @ Til Two: If you ever had a yearning for an ‘80s metal song to soundtrack your training montage, Tzimani’s got you. It’s damn near impossible not to nod along to their power metal/NES-style riffs. Just remember to wear a mask whilst headbanging.
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Julia Dixon Evans edited this post. Thanks, Julia. Go follow her on Twitter.
I saved this for the weekend so I could savor it more. When I was a kid, we had 2 whole sections of funnies in the WaPo on Sunday and my dad and I would read them and then swap. One section was mostly bullshit like Mary Worth, Girls in apt 3G, Prince Valiant, etc., but they'd throw in a couple good ones. My dad's policy (which he only enforced for himself, but I chose to adopt) was that you had to read *all* the strips. Like eating your veggies before you get dessert.
I was surprised reading this that I was a little triggered when I saw the MW Sunday strip. It used to piss me off so bad when most of the Sunday strip was a recap of the previous week, with one panel of new content. I was like MOVE THIS FUCKING PLOT ALONG I HATE THIS STRIP BUT I HAVE A WEIRD OBLIGATION TO READ EVERY WORD OF IT.
Anyway, I loled a lot reading this.
I seriously doubt passengers would be allowed on the forecastle while underway. Also, the bow is visible from the bridge so someone should have seen Wilbur. Some suspect storytelling here.