Death Watch for Wilbur Weston: A WWAC Mary Worth Roundtable

A panel from Mary Worth: A grey haired woman is thinking of a middle aged man with glasses thinking "Wilbur, even though you drive me crazy sometimes... I love you."

The comic strip Mary Worth has over 80 years of archives you could read, a nebulous origin story, and an enormous rotating cast. But today’s roundtable is focused on its current villain: Wilbur Weston. Introduced in 1993 by the creative team of writer John Saunders (the son of Allen Saunders, potentially the first writer of Mary Worth) and former DC Comics artist Joe Giella, Wilbur Weston is an advice columnist who lives in the same building as the titular Mary Worth, the Charterstone Condominium Complex. He is a divorced father of young adult Dawn, and the Comics Kingdom describes him thusly: “His mild-mannered and sometimes befuddled ways belie a thoughtful and loyal persona.”

Currently drawn by Power Pack co-creator June Brigman (since 2016) and written by Karen Moy (since 2004), the modern Mary Worth is a consummate busybody and life-ruiner who sometimes steps in when Wilbur needs a guest writer for his advice column. She’s also often trying to play match-maker, and in 2019 she encouraged her friend Estelle (another Charterstone denizen) to befriend Wilbur after she got ripped off by a scammer while online dating (this is a soap opera folks!). Anyway, they went to karaoke, broke up, had a bad double date, fought over pets, and finally got back together. Wilbur is an extremely horrible person throughout most of this, a perfectly hatable villain with an inflated sense of self. He could be a schlubby guy with a stellar personality…but he isn’t.

That bring us to our current storyline. Back on again, Stella and Wilbur go on a romantic cruise together, where Wilbur is so overwhelmed with love that he spontaneously proposes. Stella, a rational woman who deserves better, gently declines, which sends Wilbur into a drunken tailspin that ends with him falling off the boat (not the first time this plot device has been used in Mary Worth!). Which led us to: WILBUR DEATH WATCH.

A cruise ship sails off into the distance. Bubbles are in the foreground, implying that someone has fallen in and been left behind
Mary Worth, January 10, 2022

Okay, let’s start with the most important question: IS WILBUR ACTUALLY DEAD?

Cori: Fuck I fucking hope so. I hope Libby [Estelle’s cat] gets to piss on his empty grave too.

Kayleigh: WILBUR’S DEAD! *Krusty the Clown laugh*

But seriously: when we last saw Wilbur, he was underwater with the cruise ship receding into the distance. It takes very little time for someone to drown, even if they’re not drunk and disoriented and just slammed into a wall of freezing water from a great height after doing a bad Leonardo DiCaprio impression. (He didn’t even do it on the front of the ship! Wilbur fucking sucks!) And there were no witnesses! I suppose the comic strip could pull a fortuitously-nearby fishing boat or a dream sequence out of its ass, but honestly, I’m prepared to go full-on Annie Wilkes “HOW’D HE GET OUT OF THE COCKADOODIE OCEAN?” if he lives.

Kat: He’d better be. This isn’t the first instance of someone leaping off a cruise ship to their watery doom in Mary Worth so there’s a chance of rescue, but I want to assume he’s finished. But also it takes approximately 4 strips for anything to actually happen so I’m waiting with bated breath.

Masha: I think it would be very funny if this is how he meets his doom.

Will Estelle be allowed to move on or will she be forced to angst for the next six months?

Cori: Without Mary’s intervention, Estelle would be thriving, single and flirty, maybe even still hooking up with that hot vet. I fully expect Mary to hear about Wilbur’s demise, and personally drag the ocean floor for his body so that she can Weekend At Bernie’s him back into Estelle’s life. But at least then his personality would be better.

Masha: Estelle has a cat to keep her company, how much could she really angst? I hope she gets a second chance with that hot vet though.

Cori: And a dog! Don’t forget Pierre! And presumably two fish now?

Kayleigh: My heart genuinely breaks for Estelle if the in-strip reaction is “Wilbur jumped because you rejected his marriage proposal.” If Mary Worth was actually a good friend, she’d sit down with Estelle and tell her that she’s not responsible for Wilbur’s actions, it was never her job to “fix” him, and she should feel no shame for rejecting an impulsive marriage proposal from an ex she’d only recently started seeing again. Then, finally released from Wilbur’s psychic shackles, Estelle would be free to hook up with that hot veterinarian. Sadly, my Magic 8-ball doesn’t seem optimistic about this outcome.

Kat: Kayleigh I’m so worried that this is what’s going to happen!! Mary Worth encouraging them to get together was already the worst, but Stella seems like a kind heart who would be forever burdened by his death. (Oh god, what if he comes back as a ghost?? Maybe if only Libby can see him).

Why are you reading Mary Worth? When did you pick it up? Is this your first run with Wilbur?

Kayleigh: For me, Mary Worth’s lasting cultural legacy is Bart Simpson’s Mary Worth telephone, the one with the “stern but sensible face” that sits on his desk and impassively observes Bart’s many atrocities. Kind of like the real Mary Worth and Wilbur. (Yes, this is my second Simpsons reference – only God can judge me because Mary Worth sure as hell can’t.) I started reading Mary Worth last year through Cheryl Lynn Eaton on Twitter, and she has been deservedly merciless toward Wilbur. Imagine that Naomi Wolf “No! No!!” tweet, but I’m yelling at Estelle taking Wilbur back instead of a teddy bear who helps kids get vaccinated.

A GIF of Bart Simpson promising to keep his Mary Worth telephone to watch over him so he doesn't do anything bad again

Cori:Feline revenge.” I only started following Mary Worth stories this summer as I was “enjoying” (please say that with as sarcastic a tone as possible please) David Willis’s descent into madness with the 9 Chickweed Lane “Pride” storyline. The Mary Worth bits with Wilbur and Libby the winking cat were the nice happy change of pace from that trainwreck. I’ve been following this on Willis’s feed for the past several months, delightedly sharing new updates with my friend Liz as I read them. We’ve been alternating between delighting in Wilbur’s misery, or wishing death upon him, and guess what, we won!

Masha: I’ve been reading the Comics Curmudgeon since I was in high school, and that’s my main exposure to newspaper continuity comic strips today. I’ve been really enjoying both the Comics Curmudgeon and David Willis’s commentary on this recent arc, but I think this is the most invested I’ve ever been in a Mary Worth storyline. I vaguely remember the last Wilbur arc where he gets swindled by a hot Latina. I took a few classes taught by June Brigman, the artist of Mary Worth, in undergrad, but she did not talk about her Mary Worth job much. I’m glad she gets paid to draw cats!

Kat: My dad raised me reading the comics pages in the Houston Chronicle (for a while it was the biggest comics section in mainstream papers), but I didn’t start reading the “boring adult strips” until I was in high school — Mary Worth, Mark Trail, Rex Morgan MD — and got really into Apartment 3G (RIP). I’ve sporadically kept up with them over the years, via Comics Curmudgeon, Twitter, and just reading online, but Cheryl Lynn Eaton’s tweets definitely pulled me back into Mary Worth as a regular reader (like Kayleigh!) because there’s always so much drama!

Why do you think Mary Worth is having a moment — at least in a certain corner of comics Twitter?

Kayleigh: Everyone loves a good soap opera. They also love a good car crash, or, in this case, swan dive. Mary Worth is known for being the dependable voice of reason who helps white suburbanites with their problems, so it’s fascinating to watch her give terrible advice and actively make things worse. (Seriously, Wilbur wouldn’t be fish food if Mary hadn’t pushed Estelle to take him back.) Plus, we’re all Going Through It right now, and there’s something deeply comforting about coming together to incinerate one awful little comic strip character. Wilbur is Comic Twitter’s Wicker Man. The next harvest will not fail!

Cori: Honestly, because with their reach both Cheryl and David have really made this a fun storyline to follow the past several months. We got to see him be so absolutely shitty to a cat and now he gets the comeuppance he so richly deserved.

Kat: Comic strip soaps are so high drama, low stakes, and Twitter is kind of the perfect vehicle to discuss them. And I agree that between Cheryl and Willis, Wilbur is getting the roasting he well deserves.

If Wilbur really is dead, then how will you remember him? What fond Wilbur moments will you be reminiscing about?

Kat: I absolutely loved it when he went to Colombia and immediately got karmically smacked upside the head by getting sex grifted by a beautiful woman and her “cousin” Pedro. He even bought her a ring!

Kayleigh: Sitting in a puddle of cat piss.

Cori: Tonight I started deep diving into Comics Curmudgeon, and the very first Wilbur-centric storyline was him getting sued for giving terrible advice in the advice column he somehow writes. Sadly the suit was dropped, but I hope Jane Hand laughs when she reads his obituary right after the advice column’s posting of an opening for a new “Wendy”.

Do you read other comic strips often? Did you as a kid?

Cori: I was raised on a steady diet of Calvin & Hobbes and Garfield. My dad loved Calvin and would buy the collected editions, reading them to me as bedtime stories. When the big hardcovers came out of the complete series, I used the Christmas money he gave me to buy them, as it felt like the perfect gift from him. I also read the strips in the paper daily, but much like Kat I skipped the boring adult soap opera strips, so never got into Mary Worth. Now I wish I had.

Masha: My family never subscribed to any newspapers, so I didn’t start reading newspaper comic strips until I learned I could do that online in middle school. I read the complete archives of Big Nate, Nancy and Luann then, and tried to read all of Peanuts but never made it past the 70s. I don’t super keep up with any now besides what the Comics Curmudgeon comments on, but every once in a while I catch up to Luann again just to see what she’s been up to since the last time I checked on her.

Kayleigh: I read newspaper comic strips pretty avidly as a kid, with Gary Larson’s The Far Side irreversibly warping my sense of humor. Aside from Olivia Jaimes’ Nancy, which is pure gold, I don’t really pay attention to comic strips unless something like “I can’t believe Funky Winkerbean joined ISIS” comes across my Twitter feed.

Kat: Glad I had to take a minute to double-check Funky Winkerbean did not actually join ISIS but also I would have believed it. Like I said above, I read the newspaper comics as a kid, and I’m so glad everyone is mentioning The Far Side because I grew up reading the anthologies for that and Calvin & Hobbes as well. I, too, am on the current Nancy train — but now I think I’m gonna drop in on Luann to make sure she’s not about to throw herself off a cruise ship in a fit of pique.

Kat Overland

Kat Overland

Small press editor Kat Overland is a displaced Texan now living in Washington, DC, where she is perpetually behind on reading her pull list. She's a millennial, Latina, exhausted, and can often be spotted casually cosplaying America Chavez and complaining.

6 thoughts on “Death Watch for Wilbur Weston: A WWAC Mary Worth Roundtable

  1. Well, this last storyline did it for me. No more Mary Worth, which Ive been reading since i was a child….IM 80 now. Wilbur miraculously washes up on an island ALIVE and even has his glasses on?!!! Cmon now. Writers you can do better than this.

  2. I would like to know how Wilbur managed to float in open sea to a desert island laying face down on the beach and still has his eyeglasses on. That would be Impossible. Since the drawings do not show any form of attachment. They would be lost the moment he hit the water. The fact he did not drown is a miracle in itself.

  3. My mom has been a long-time fan of Mary Worth & Rex Morgan. Her eyesight has gotten bad over the years so it’s become a ritual for me to read these comics to her every morning. We all speculate on what will happen before we read it. I didn’t think they’d really off him. I thought he’d end up “rescued” by pirates or washed ashore somewhere & end up writing a travel column about it in the future. I was right. Sigh. He’s become such a jerk! Maybe the island is inhabited by cannibals. Hmmmm… Probably not. He’s probably on a private resort island where he’ll enjoy free mai tai while Estelle goes nuts with worry.

  4. As I sit here today on this cold and sunny Sunday morning, my biggest fear is that Wilbur will miraculously survive “the fall”. No logical way a drunken goofball with a bad combover and worse personality should live through this, but the fact that the only word in Sunday’s final frame that was in bold type was Estelle’s “survive” doesn’t bode well for those of us hoping he sinks to the bottom.

  5. Full fathom five old Wilbur lies;
    Of his bones are coral made;
    Those are pearls that were his eyes:
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change
    Into something rich and strange.
    Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
    Ding-dong.
    Hark! now I hear them,—ding-dong, bell.

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