(sound FX: quiet banjo music)

Dearest Eliza;
It has been more or less one hundred years since that tragic and bloody War Between The States was ended at Appomattox Court House by the brave charge of Captain Parmenter, whose timely nasal eructations changed an ignominious retreat into what we all heralded as a brave assault upon the faltering Rebel lines. I trust wholeheartedly that you, along with your countrymen and fellows North and South, have been carefully viewing Parmenter's further adventures as he was posted to a cavalry regiment at Fort Courage far on the Western frontier. One can only hope that all true Americans, finally reunited, felt encouragement and pride in those thrilling and frequently hilarious escapades, seen every week on the American Broadcasting Network.

Can there be citizens of this great land who have yet to see these Indian fights which are colorful sights in which nobody takes "a licking", in which the "pale face" and the "redskin" both find discretion the better part of valor? Well, then, my sweet Eliza, I can only suggest that they resume watching - Thursdays at 8, after Batman - F Troop.

Yes, F Troop, that linchpin of wild West sitcom humor, that stalwart of UHF rerun programming, the show that I could not endure past the opening credits of, because even the combined talents of Ken Berry, Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Melody "I Lied About My Age To Get The Audition" Patterson couldn't make this stuff funny. Is this comic book any better? Is "The Grotto" still selling books in Brampton? Did Wrangler Jane really have a mustache and glasses? No, no, and no.

F Troop is the story of the craziest, laziest, screwiest bunch of US Army soldiers stationed in an army base somewhere in the middle of nowhere. No, wait, that's "Beetle Bailey." Okay, F Troop is about how these goofball cavalrymen keep being outsmarted by the local tribe of Native Americans, who are... no, wait, that's "Tumbleweeds," or maybe "Go Go Gophers." How about, F Troop is about a conniving non-com whose money-making schemes always... no, wait, that's "Sgt. Bilko." Okay, fine, maybe F Troop is a little bit of all those things. What F Troop added to the mix was gunfire and explosions, and lots of em. Heck, you can't even get through the opening credits without the guard tower getting blasted down.

See, there it goes. This is why our military budget is so bloated, always rebuilding that guard tower! And keeping big open barrels of gunpower lying around... is that safe?

F Troop loves explosions, and this F Troop comic also loves explosions, because a big sound effect is a great way to use up a panel, which otherwise would require the artist to dig around for that issue of TV Guide so's he can get some Ken Berry reference, and that's a pain.

Once again America's shameful treatment of a minority group is mere sitcom fodder. I speak, of course, of the vaudeville comedians forced to participate in the cultural appropriation we now call "redface," because let me tell you, there wasn't a Native American actor within fifty miles of the F Troop backlot. But can you really call it "cultural appropriation" when it involves a completely made-up Indian tribe? Or should we be thankful no First Nations peoples were involved in the show? I mean, haven't they suffered enough?

That's a lot of work to get to a "Last Of The Mohicans" joke, and I salute you for it, comic book.

Here's Wrangler Jane to tell us the terrible news - the senator's been captured by that horrible band of sibling outsider musicians. No, wait, that's "The Shaggs."

The fake Shugs are tamed by cash while the real Shugs demand reparations for centuries of abuse and degradation. I'm with the Shugs on this one. Give him the "Man Called Horse" treatment, fellas!

"The real Shugs." What am I saying? The real Borscht Belt comedians they'd hire to play Indians, I mean.

And to the surprise of absolutely no one, the military budget gets increased. Same as it ever was!

More space-filling explosions ahead as Tucker and Storch play "catch the dynamite". This is why the railroads and construction companies had to make all those safety films about not playing with explosives!

As Mark Twain once said, "A mine is a hole in the ground, owned by a liar." Or two liars and one gold dust supplier, using dynamite to blast that gold dust into the walls of a mine to make it look like a rich vein's been uncovered. This is called "salting the mine" and unlike salting food, it won't lead to heart trouble, unless you're discovered salting the mine, in which case it *will* lead to heart trouble, namely, an aggrieved would-be miner blowing holes into it.

So they light the fuse and they creep off in an easy to draw silhouette without waiting to make sure the dynamite went off? Maybe they should stick around until the cartoons come on the UHF channel this episode of F Troop was no doubt being syndicated to and see what happens to Tom or Wile E Coyote whey they're in a similar situation. Hint: it leads to another kind of racial appropriation when the blast goes off right in their face.

The townspeople catch gold fever as the train smoke and dust take up larger and larger percentages of the comic book panel. Smoke and dust are easy to draw, and somebody's got deadlines to meet!

We can take wacky destruction and endless goofy schemes, but F Troop demands its troopers turn out smartly in proper uniform at all times.

Just when you realize that the whole point of salting the mine was to get people into the mine to see the salted mine and yet Tucker and Storch never actually let anyone into the mine to see the salted mine, and hence their entire dynamite-salting plan is pointless, well, here's that dynamite-salting plan right in your face!

Can a seasoned cartoonist deliver an entire page's worth of continuity without drawing a character's face, instead filling things up with smoke, dust, rocks, and stick figures? Almost!

Uh oh, looks like the citizens have caught on to the latest scheme of those two swindlers. I guess they'll both be court martialed, kicked out of the service, and hunted down by a vigilante posse to be strung up as a warning to others. Right? No? We still have thirty five episodes to squeeze out of this premise?

I'm not saying this imagery is coded to appeal to certain types of fetishes- military gear, boots, goopy mud, squishing sounds... but you know this is making somebody out there very happy.

CARTOONIST PRO TIP: want to add an element of mystery and intrique to your comics? Never show character's faces! That way you can't tell who's talking, who's hiding in the mud, or who's taking the ladder. The critics will be analyzing this for weeks! What does it all mean? (it means Tony Tallarico is lazy, is what it means)

Our disheveled grifters return to camp filthy, broke, cheated by Wild Eagle, and somehow not dishonorably discharged or doing 20 years busting rocks at Leavenworth. That's the magic of television!

It's a photo reference bonanza as all three principals appear in the same panel at the same time. Be careful Tony, you might strain something!

This particular story takes place during a rainstorm, at night, in a cave? We've won the "easy to draw" sweepstakes!

Okay this is DEFINITELY some kind of fetish thing.

And the US Army hands a big handful of cash over to a Native American tribe, reminding us again that this is a complete work of fiction. F Troop - DISMISSED!

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