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Comic Strip / Shoe

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A long-running newspaper comic strip begun in 1977 by Jeff MacNelly, Shoe centralizes on a cast of anthropomorphic bird characters, and is titled after a purple martin character named P. Martin Shoemaker, who runs a newspaper called The Treetops Tattler. Other prominent characters include Prof. Cosmo Fishhawk (usually called "Perfessor"); Roz, the owner of a local treetop diner; Skyler, Cosmo's young nephew; and Loon, a mail carrier and former pilot.

MacNelly worked on this strip and his lesser-known second strip, Pluggers, in addition to doing illustrations for Dave Barry columns and several political cartoons. In 1997, he turned over Pluggers to Gary Brookins; following MacNelly's death in 2000, Brookins took most of the work that MacNelly had previously illustrated, with help from Chris Cassatt and MacNelly's wife, Susie, on Shoe.

The strip can be read here.

Tropes present:

  • Anthropomorphic Shift: The birds had a lot less of an anthropomorphic design early on.
  • Apologizes a Lot:
    Cosmo: Oops, sorry.
    Shoe: Geez, perfesser, you are always apologizing!
    Cosmo: I know. Sorry.
  • Bad to the Last Drop: This early strip from October 11, 1977 has Roz's coffee being so bad that Cosmo uses it for writing ink!
  • Big Eater: Older strips made Cosmo out to be a Big eater. A 2013 strip had Cosmo saying he has tried to lose his weight since July 4, 1958.
  • Boot Camp Episode: A popular Story Arc in The '80s had Cosmo's nephew Skyler attend Camp LeJeune under the impression that it was a summer camp. The arc was later published in a book called So That's Why They Call It Boot Camp, whose proceeds went to the Navy Relief Fund.
    • This was a recurring gag. Another year, Skyler planned on going to Paris for the summer, only to find out it was Parris Island. Still another year had him getting a job with the "United States Marine Corporation", only to find out it was "corps", not "corporation" when he arrived.
  • Character Blog: Not so much a blog, but the Shoe website runs a Treetops Tattler section written in the character of Cosmo.
  • Christmas Creep: One comic strip published and taking place on July 1st, Professor Cosmo "celebrates" July 1st as the day when his Christmas decorations are no longer up too late, but too early. (Which is to say, he leaves them up all year round because he's too lazy to take them down.)
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • Secretary Muffy Hollandaise was introduced in the 1980s and eventually written out.
    • Cosmo also inherited a butler in the 1980s named Bumpkins; the character hasn't been seen for years.
  • Da Editor: Shoe himself.
  • The Ditz: Loon
  • Eye Take: A standard element (at least in recent years). If there are two characters in the final panel, the one who isn't saying the punchline will frequently react with one of these.
  • Foul Cafeteria Food: One strip has Skyler in line at his school's cafeteria, wondering what they'll serve him. Skyler notes that the day is a Thursday. A scoop drops an offwhite, gooey lump onto his tray, at which Skyler observes: "Of course, Cream of Tuesday."
  • Freudian Slip: In one strip, a female character and her husband had their second honeymoon at "Viagra... I mean, Niagara Falls."
  • Fully-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Most of the cast, except for Cosmo (who is a Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal in his normal attire, though he sometimes wears pants too), and the title character and Loon (who are Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal).
  • Furry Reminder: Sometimes the punchline will actually rely on the fact that the main characters are all birds. Sometimes they even fly!
  • Greasy Spoon: Roz's Roost.
  • Jeopardy! Intelligence Test: Subverted; When one character is watching Jeopardy! and getting all the answers right, at the end another character leans over and says, "What is 'rerun'?"
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: Under Cassatt and Brookins' watch, the strip went from being topical and often political, to a series of one-liners about age and failing to understand the opposite sex.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Shoe almost always smokes a cigar.
  • Nephewism: Cosmo and his nephew Skyler. One might assume that Cosmo has or had a brother or sister, who was a parent to Skyler, but this is never explained.
  • Nerd Glasses: Skyler.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Occurs with every female bird that's ever appeared in the strip. Quoth The Comics Curmudgeon:
    "I dunno, there's something about the combination of beaks and feathers with some distinctly, er, mammalian characteristics that just utterly squicks me out."
  • Print Long-Runners: Begun in 1977 and hasn't stopped.
  • Punny Name: One recurring character is Senator Batson D. Belfry.
  • Random Species Offspring: As the names suggest, Cosmo Fishhawk is an osprey and Skylar is a skylark. Since Skylar's parents have never been mentioned, this has never been explained.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Wiz wears this outfit but unlike other examples of this trope, he's not an actual wizard; he's a computer wizard!
  • Start My Own: How the Treetops Tattler newspaper started; in the very first strips back in 1977, it didn't even exist. It came about when Shoe kept sending angry letters to the editor of a local newspaper. Not happy with said paper, Shoe started up his own and it has since remained an integral part of the comic strip.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While the strip is named for Shoe, it is arguably Cosmo who gets the most attention in the strips.
  • Take That!: As MacNelly was generally politically conservative, his portrayal of Senator Belfry is a barely disguised stand-in for Ted Kennedy (identical hairstyle, hints at womanizing, heavy drinking).
    • Though Belfrey's stupidity could cross ideological lines. In one strip, his support of cuts to basic research led the "Concerned Scientists of Planet Earth" to immerse him in a virtual reality version of the future. In other words, they slammed a full trash can over his head.
  • The Alleged Car: Cosmo's car is a 1959 Cadillac that is almost always seen from the rear at the local repair shop
  • Toothy Bird: Any of the characters can exhibit this trait, depending on facial expression. There have even been strips involving false teeth and dentist appointments, which invariably have the Comics Curmudgeon protesting "THEY'RE BIRDS!"