Title text: 'Now, minions, I'm off to inspect our shark cages.' 'Do you really need to inspect them this often?' 'PRISONERS MUST NEVER ESCAPE.'
This comic is a joke about the use of sharks in action movies. In these movies, sharks are often used to guard locations and dispense capital punishment. Since the idea of a guard shark is not practical, this comic suggests that villains raise sharks to help with declining shark populations in the oceans.
In this comic Cueball is an evil villain who rules over a "Doom Island." In addition to commanding minions and detaining prisoners, he keeps sharks to threaten prisoners. When a prisoner escapes the island, he orders his minions to "release the sharks." However, the sharks do not hunt the prisoner, but merely swim away. The comic jokes that Cueball is using fugitives as a pretense to help with declining shark populations, and that Doom Island is just a front for a marine biology center. Cueball maintains the whole "guard sharks" idea as a cover-up, so that his minions do not catch on to the real mission.
The title text plays on the idea that Cueball can't be openly concerned with his sharks' welfare without his minions catching on. He claims to be inspecting the shark cages. As a shark cage is normally used to provide protection for divers wishing to observe sharks up-close, they would not work well as cages to hold prisoners (which is there stated purpose). THe comic implies that when he is "inspecting the cages" he is really performing a scientific study on the sharks, or simply observing them because he loves them.
Because a real villainous lair would have no use for shark cages, it follows that Cueball owns them solely for the purpose of gratifying his interest in his sharks, thus forcing him to keep up the pretense of the cages being of some help in preventing prisoners from escaping.
The shark issue is also one of the items on the chart of 1331: Frequency.
Use of sharks in movies
In action movie trope from the '70s and '80s, evil villains use sharks to kill off enemies. Some examples are:
- Le Magnifique, with the opening scene of the French movie a spy is trapped in a phone booth, which is then lifted by an helicopter and lowered into the sea, where a squad of frogmen attach it to a shark's cage before opening the door.
- The Phantom, the Sengh Brotherhood has a Shark Pool in their Elaborate Underground Base. This is one of the parts of the film lifted directly from the very first Phantom story, published in 1936, so the trope is at least that old.
- Despicable Me, where the comical villain has a shark in his lair that unrealistically acts as a guard dog.
- Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Dr. Evil wanted a pool full of sharks (with laser beams attached to their heads), but had to settle for ill-tempered mutated seabass.
And in the James Bond series:
- Live and Let Die
- The Spy Who Loved Me
- Never Say Never Again with electronically controlled sharks in the Caribbean.
- Licence to Kill
- [Cueball is sitting on a throne, talking to a minion who's not shown in the panel.]
- Minion: The prisoner escaped and is swimming toward the mainland!
- Cueball: Release the sharks.
- Minion: Yes, sir.
- Minion: The sharks are swimming away.
- Cueball: They're escaping, too? Send sharks after them!
- Minion: Now those sharks are swimming away.
- Cueball: More sharks.
- Minion: ...Sir, what's going on?
- Cueball: Prisoners, of course! Can't let 'em escape!
- Minion: Sir, are you trying to turn Doom Island into a marine biology center?
- Cueball: Shark populations are in decline–
- Cueball: *ahem*
- Cueball: I mean, the world must fear us!
- Minion: Right...
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