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Comic Strip / Stone Soup

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Stone Soup is a comic strip created by Jan Eliot. It began in 1990 as a weekly strip called Sister City, and went syndicated in 1995 as Stone Soup. In 2015 the strip ceased daily strips but continued with Sunday strips until Eliot ended the strip entirely in 2020. The strip centers on two sisters who live next to each other, as well as their families. These families consist of:

  • Val Stone, widowed mother with two daughters:
    • Holly, her 13 year old daughter
    • Alix, her 10 year old daughter
    • Evie, her mother and Holly and Alix's grandmother
    • Arnold, Evie's second husband, who she married in 2014
    • Biscuit, a hyperactive dog not above sleeping the whole day

  • Joan Stone, Val's sister:
    • Wally Weinstein, Joan's neighbor, whom she married in 2000
    • Andy Gilburt, Wally's nephew, who lives with him due to his Neglectful Parents
    • Max Krabowsky, Joan's 3 year old son from her first marriage
    • Luci, Joan and Wally's first kid who was born July 8, 2007

Other recurring characters include:

  • Phil Jackson, a motorcycle cop whom Val dated on and off, before marrying him in July 2015
  • Dickerson, Val's brown-nosing coworker
  • Rena, another office buddy of Val's
  • Leon, Joan's first husband who occasionally shows up just to mooch off Joan
  • Susan, neighborhood vet/Holly's basketball coach whom Wally used to date

Stone Soup contains examples of:

  • Ambiguously Brown: Phil. He's most likely supposed to be African-American, but his ethnicity has never been specified.
  • Appeal to Worse Problems: Most of the Habitat for Humanity strips seem to have a message that since Holly is more worried about immediate concerns than things she can't actually do anything about what with being thirteen and all, she's a horrible person. It probably isn't the author's intent but it kind of looks that way to the untrained eye.
  • Author Tract: This strip from July 8, 2002 is a four-panel rant against Roger Ebert's negative review of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, an opinion that Eliot felt Ebert couldn't relate to because it was for women.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: While Holly and Alix get on each other's nerves all of the time, they really do care about each other:
    • In June 1998, Holly and Alix, when they are supposed to be watching Max, get distracted at the park, so he wanders off and winds up at a donut shop near-by. Val initially only grounds Holly for it, but then Alix asks to get the same punishment because she was also partially responsible for what happened and thinks it's unfair for Holly to take all of the blame.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Holly, who obsesses over boys, freaks out over anything gross, and tries to get away with wearing provocative clothing. She does have her moments of compassion and decency, though.
  • Bumbling Dad: Averted; Wally can cook and is at least as competent with Max as is Joan, if not more so.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Here for Val, after she apparently finally "had Sandy" with Officer Phil.
  • Disappeared Dad: Holly and Alix's father died from an unspecified illness when they were five and one, respectively. Max's biological father also walked out on him and Joan a year before they met Wally.
  • The Disease That Shall Not Be Named: Tom, Val’s first husband and Holly and Alix’s birth father, died from some sort of illness (according to one strip he was sick for less than a year before he died), but what it was is never specified.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: One early strip had Alix agreeing with her sister that she's too old to need a babysitter and would rather be at the mall with friends. Subsequent strips have Alix acting more like a 9 year old and having a sunnier disposition than her middle school aged sister.
  • Earthy Barefoot Character: See Alix's quote above. She loves nature, mud, and going barefoot.
  • Expy: Max has a similar design to Calvin.
  • From Bad to Worse: In one 2002 story arc, Val locks her keys in the house. When scouting the house for an open window, she rips her pants on the rose bush and steps in dog doo. They manage to get Alix through the bathroom window, only for her to fall in the toilet. And then as soon as they get the keys, the car's out of gas.
  • Girly Girl with a Tomboy Streak: Holly is definitely much more feminine that Alix is with her dislike of gross things and her liking wearing makeup and jewelry, but she's an excellent basketball player and part of the middle school girls’ team every winter.
  • Fun with Flushing: In one arc, Max flushes a bunch of his toys (and Alix's Barbie) down the toilet.
  • Lethal Chef: Val is explicitly stated to be this, to the point that her mom told her to stay away from the stove when she saw what she tried to cook.
  • Naked People Are Funny: In late 2001, Evie joins the local Senior Center and signs up for a painting class, where she draws a naked man and submits it to the art fair. Val and Joan are mortified, while everybody else finds it funny.
  • Oblivious to Love: Andy was oblivious to Holly's crush on him until years later, when Wally tipped him off.
    • Wally was a bit like this with Joan for a while.
  • Outdoorsy Gal: Alix has a fondness for playing in the mud, catching creepy crawly things, and going exploring in her backyard baby pool. Luci's probably going this way as well.
  • Parental Fashion Veto: While it's not unusual for Holly to favor pieces that are both high-priced and provocative, in one strip she managed to outdo even herself in such a way that her mother Val finally laid down the law: "NO DAUGHTER OF MINE IS GOING OUT LOOKING LIKE THAT!!!"
  • Parental Neglect: Andy lives with his Uncle Wally because his parents are so occupied with work that they don't pay any attention to him. In fact, when they eventually got divorced, Andy decided to stay with Wally because he gave him the attention he needed.
    Andy: At my folks' I can do whatever I want, whenever I want. It sounds cool. But I realized that even though Uncle Wally is geeky, clueless, and uptight, at least he cares.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: A 2013 storyline had Holly downloading someone else's term paper and passing it off as her own. She got busted instantly because she forgot to change the original writer's name with her own.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Alix is particularly thrilled when "it's warm enough for bare feet", and happily walks to the park and runs around a lakeside campsite without shoes. However at least two separate strips deal with her misadventures walking barefoot, such as treading on slugs, ice cream, bees and hot pavement. According to her, it's worth it.
    Holly: Why don't you just wear sandals?
    Alix: It's summer! I need to feel the earth between my toes.
    Holly: I don't think that's earth.
  • Print Long-Runners: 1995 to 2020, nearly a quarter-century in syndication.
  • Scrabble Babble: Wally puts down "Zuccini" [sic] on a double-word score. He defends himself by saying that's how it's spelled at the produce stand, only to be told "They also sell 'onyons' and 'bokays'."
  • Shout-Out: Val once joined a book club consisting of Elly from For Better or for Worse, Alice from Dilbert, Rose from Rose is Rose, and Connie from Zits.
  • Stripperific: Holly really likes wearing provocative clothing and tries to get away with wearing it whenever she can, much to Val's displeasure.
  • Title Drop: After a storyline in which Val temporarily loses her job, Joan, Evie and even Holly all pitch in some money to help her through. Val then comments on how every little bit helped, and jokes about having stone soup for dinner (a reference to a French tale in which villagers contribute to a pot of "stone soup" to make it better).
  • Thought Bubble Speech: Max, Biscuit, and later Luci communicate in this way.
  • Toilet Training Plot: A few of these come up with Max. One where he's more interested in using the toilet seat as a hat, another where he's finally potty trained when he decides he likes wearing superhero underwear.
  • Underwear Swimsuit: Alix swims in her underwear on the family's trip to a lake, much to Holly's chagrin.