Saturday Morning Ewww - January 5

Cidu Bill on Jan 5th 2013


Lio ran a storyline in which he got a new camera for Christmas and spent the week taking photos of various weird stuff. This one just seemed gratuitously ewwwy, though:
Keera: An ewwwy explanation for Dagwood’s hair, this one:

Morris Keesan:


Filed in Adam Huber, Bill Bickel, Brevity, Bug Martini, Dagwood Bumstead, Ewww, Guy & Rodd & Dan, Mark Parisi, Mark Tatulli, Off the Mark, comic strips, comics, humor | 59 responses so far

59 Responses to “Saturday Morning Ewww - January 5”

  1. Jeff S. Jan 4th 2013 at 11:46 pm 1

    I laughed at the 2nd panel of Bug, even though I know that is why it was supposed to be an Ewwww… It struck me as funny.

    A couple weeks ago, we ran out of milk, so in a Zen-like move, my wife used water on her cereal for breakfast.

  2. furrykef Jan 5th 2013 at 12:37 am 2

    Water on cereal? Yecch. I’d rather just munch on it straight out of the box.

    Actually, I tend to munch a few handfuls before (or after) I pour some in the bowl anyway. I didn’t think anything was unusual about this until my stepdad found it amusing.

  3. Kilby Jan 5th 2013 at 01:00 am 3

    I knew someone in college who would pour both milk and orange juice onto his cereal (into the same bowl). His position was that I shouldn’t criticize it until after I had tried it myself, so I simply refrained from expressing my opinion (which was, of course, “icky!“).

  4. James Pollock Jan 5th 2013 at 01:27 am 4

    Don’t you know that there are starving children in [China/India/Africa] who would LOVE to have some cereal with milk and orange juice in it?

  5. Proginoskes Jan 5th 2013 at 01:51 am 5

    Jeff S wrote: “A couple weeks ago, we ran out of milk, so in a Zen-like move, my wife used water on her cereal for breakfast.”

    “People aren’t really poor until they start using water on their corn flakes.” — Nancy Reagan.

    In response to the Lio:

    Bender: Neat! (Takes picture)

    (This gag got overused on “Futurama”, when something gross happened.)

  6. The Vicar Jan 5th 2013 at 02:22 am 6

    I dunno, the Bug one makes me sad and slightly angry, similar to the way Foxtrot sometimes did. It has such an assumption of material wealth — “Hey, if you’re reading this strip, then you totally get what I’m talking about! Not being able to choose between multiple types of food at any moment isn’t a luxury! These aren’t First World Problems at all!” — that it’s depressing, just like it’s depressing when the Fox family used to take certain things about prosperity for granted, not as a commentary on prosperity or anything, just as a part of the strip setup. It’s shallow and kind of dumb, although I admit it’s something most people don’t notice.

  7. Keera Jan 5th 2013 at 03:46 am 7

    Kilby, you haven’t heard of “Orange Julius”, obviously. Surprisingly tasty. :-)

    But I, a bachelorette, do not understand why Bug is ewwy. These are all wise and sensible things to do when you can’t be bothered to take yourself off to the store (in time). ;-) Granted, I try never to run out of T.P. but that’s because I tend to run out of napkins, Kleenex, cotton balls, paper towels…

  8. Detcord Jan 5th 2013 at 05:53 am 8

    Bug-wise, I agree with Keera (7). Besides, the French have been using bidets for decades (at least). A bidet is effectively an upside down shower and it’s more effective than T.P. Mind you, a “shower” every time seems impractical (unlike a bidet) - but I still don’t see the Ewww in the Bug toon.

  9. Keera Jan 5th 2013 at 06:34 am 9

    Thanks, Detcord! :-)

    One of the nice things about Norwegian showers is that the shower head is a detachable handset. You can get a bidet function out of it. Also makes cleaning shower stalls much easier.

  10. Soup Dragon Jan 5th 2013 at 07:19 am 10

    Keera: I see you failed to mention one of the more popular uses of the detachable shower head. For bachelorettes, that is to say.

  11. chuckers Jan 5th 2013 at 09:33 am 11

    All right, no more Arlo-ing this thread. We got in trouble for that on another a few days ago.

  12. Morris Keesan Jan 5th 2013 at 09:39 am 12

    Creamsicles® and Orange Julius® notwithstanding, I agree that there’s something icky about the idea of mixing orange juice and milk.

    But, being lactose intolerant, I routinely put orange juice (without the milk) on my cereal. On the other hand, one time when I wanted cereal and we were out of orange juice, I couldn’t bring myself to try it with apple juice — that just seemed wrong. And I’ve gotten so used to OJ on cereal, that when I occasionally buy lactose-free milk (about once every two or three years), the idea of putting it on cereal feels weird.

    And Keera #7, as I said in a comment thread on the Maximumble website, for a comic that Bill presumably has queued for a future Ewww instalment, you should never (ever) try to flush paper towels down your toilet. Unlike bathroom tissue and facial tissue, towels are designed to retain their strength when wet, and NOT fall apart, and they’re a fairly reliable way to make your toilet back up. I write from unfortunate experience.

  13. farmer Jan 5th 2013 at 10:07 am 13

    I initially read the second panel as “shower curtain” somehow. I reread it after this thread and now the Eww factor seems so much tamer.

    Vicar, I see where you’re coming from, but doesn’t that effectively happen in every comic strip ever? They’re all based on a certain set of assumptions that a target audience will have to understand to get the joke, and in general it seems fair to assume that Bug’s intended First World urban/suburban audience with regular access to a webcomic also has regular access to toilet paper, rice, and dish soap. A webcomic based in the slums of Nairobi or the Hamptons would use different frames of reference, but they’re not inherently offensive to a non-target audience. There’s nothing mocking or pretentious in this setup, at least.

  14. Mark M Jan 5th 2013 at 10:16 am 14

    Off the Mark could certainly have been more Ewww. I can’t remember where I saw it (something on HBO maybe?), but it was a takeoff on Hair Club for Men. In this one they took the hair from a different area and transplanted it on the head.

  15. Keera Jan 5th 2013 at 11:32 am 15

    Morris, that’s why I make sure not to run out of toilet paper. :-)

  16. Paperboy Jan 5th 2013 at 11:42 am 16

    Eeewww!! Why would you use soap and running water to clean up rather than wipe off with a dry,flimsy tissue?

  17. JoeGrunt Jan 5th 2013 at 12:29 pm 17

    Farmer: I initially read the second panel as “shower”. I reread it inserting “shower curtain” and now the Eww factor seems so much worse!

  18. Chakolate Jan 5th 2013 at 12:34 pm 18

    I’m with Keera, too. And Keera, lots of US showers have handheld showers, too.

  19. Elyrest Jan 5th 2013 at 12:49 pm 19

    I loved bidets when I traveled in Europe and wish we had more of them in the U.S. They work so much better than flimsy toilet paper that falls apart, as intended, when it’s wet. If you try to moisten the paper to help cleanse you just have an icky mess.

    I tried orange juice on cereal years ago and didn’t like it at all. I never liked Creamsicles® and Orange Julius® either and the only way I eat fruit and dairy together is with yogurt - I think the sweet/sour combination works.

    Having been poor, or at least w/o money, at different times in my life there are many things you can do to extend product you have. I’ve found that, many things that I thought I had to have, I don’t really need in my life. As I get older I’ve found multipurpose uses for things that I never would’ve thought of in my younger years. It makes it much easier to move when you don’t own too much.

  20. Chakolate Jan 5th 2013 at 01:28 pm 20

    Elyrest, The closest I can get to a bidet here in the US is baby wipes. I love baby wipes.

  21. James Pollock Jan 5th 2013 at 01:34 pm 21

    “I can’t remember where I saw it ”
    I’m pretty sure you’re referring to an SNL bit.

  22. jjmcgaffey Jan 5th 2013 at 01:47 pm 22

    Hmmm. I’m surprised the OJ didn’t curdle the milk - orange (citrus) tea will curdle milk put in it. Though it may be a matter of relative volumes - if you put a small amount of milk into a glass of OJ, that might curdle.

    That’s actually how you make the first stage of cheese (curds) - acidify the milk. That uses a small amount of acid, but strong acid - 5% vinegar will work - and then a good amount of time without stirring.

  23. Mary in Ohio Jan 5th 2013 at 03:43 pm 23

    Vicar - well, that’s ONE of the things that annoyed me about “Foxtrot.”

  24. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Jan 5th 2013 at 03:43 pm 24

    Morris @ 7 - I guess it depends how many you try to flush at once, but I’ve never had a problem with paper towels clogging a toilet. Never(?) used them for _that_ purpose, but I sometimes flush paper towels after using them to clean up assorted messes when the mess was of a nature that I didn’t want to leave it in the house in a garbage can - this has sometimes involved a pet or small child and a usage not unlike the cartoon - or after nabbing a cockroach or palmetto bug that has wandered into the house and resisted suggestions that it voluntarily leave. Mind you, this might still leave a problem for the sewage treatment plant or the connections between me and them, but I would guess that these regularly have much more rugged items to deal with…

    Vicar @ 6 - besides farmer’s comment @13, I took the Bug to not be about prosperity at all - it seems to be discussing not an inability to afford the missing items, but just laziness - an unwillingness to go out shopping for them. This would still be a First World issue, and is certainly a shallow concern, but I don’t see it as denigrating the poor, or really referencing them at all. Yes, there are people who lack these items for deeper reasons, but as farmer says, they are neither the target of nor the audience for this cartoon.

  25. Kilby Jan 5th 2013 at 04:00 pm 25

    @ 22 - Tea contains a fair amount of tannin and other agents that will denature milk proteins, so it’s not surprising that citrus tea could have a stronger effect than plain citrus juice. Besides the relative volumes and the acidity of the juice (lemon and grapefruit are far more effective than orange juice), another crucial factor determining whether milk will curdle is its freshness (the older it is, the more likely it is to “turn”; milk that is close to “expiring” can be curdled by standard black tea, which normally has no effect on fresh milk).

  26. Keera Jan 5th 2013 at 04:42 pm 26

    Chak @18, a fixed shower head was never standard in Norway like it often is in the US.

    Ted @24, I’ve been to a sewage processing plant. If your paper towel makes it through the line (which is not a given with older pipes), it gets caught farther down. They do not dissolve like t.p. does.

  27. The Vicar Jan 5th 2013 at 05:33 pm 27

    Ted @24:

    That’s kind of my point. The strip has so many baked-in assumptions about what “everybody” has and can afford, which are not universally true. It’s like watching Mitt Romney during his campaign, failing to make small talk with people in demeaning, low-paid jobs by trying to get them to commiserate about how high the property taxes are on his second home; the cartoonist (and, although I don’t mean to offend, you as well) seems to be unaware that there might be people who have these limitations out of necessity, and it makes me feel bad.

    Come to think of it, that’s sort of the reason I don’t read “Bug”, despite all the people who keep saying it’s so good. Every time I try, I come across these faint assumptions about the audience which are kind of creepy/evil in a passive way. (Assumptions about gender roles, or race, or society, or money, or whatever.) Sometimes it isn’t until much later that I’m able to analyze what it was which made me uncomfortable.

  28. The Vicar Jan 5th 2013 at 05:34 pm 28

    In fact, come to think of it, this “Bug” strip is almost an illustration of the verb “to slum”, and that’s always kind of disgusting.

  29. farmer Jan 5th 2013 at 08:10 pm 29


    In my understanding, “to slum” means to intentionally pretend to be something/someone lower than yourself, especially by engaging in the lower society under false pretenses, often with the intent of fun/daring. If Bug were to stop showering, dress in old clothes, and go through the line at a soup kitchen to see if he’d get caught (or on a dare), that would be “slumming”. Here he’s just being absurdly lazy.

    This strip is just a humorous (to the beholder) extension of the typical laziness that lurks in most of us. Frankly, as someone who lives on a low and uncertain self-employed income in a rural setting, I quite identify with the make-do-without theme of this strip. It’s a funny exaggeration of the choices my wife and I make on a regular basis when we run low on an item but are not prepared to drive a long distance just to buy it. We’re quite good at finding workarounds that keep our spending under control. To me, it’s almost patronizing to be told that such behaviors are to be pitied by the better-off, as you’re implying by saying that the comic is offensive rather than funny. How dare I have to read about someone else creative solving problems, even if he is lazy rather than resourceful?

    For reference, we’re nowhere near as lazy as Bug, and solve the same problems by organizing our shopping trips and buying in bulk, such that we always have staples on hand or enough replacements to be fine without them. And we’re quite good at improvising, repairing, and otherwise taking care of ourselves. That’s a skill and a point of pride for us, not something to be pitied or to protect us from.

    Otherwise you’re missing the point both Ted & I are trying to make. The Romney example you give is a good one, but that’s not what Bug is doing. He’s not interacting with anyone different from himself, not rubbing it in; what’s going on in that strip has nothing to do with the outside world of other social or economic classes. And again, as I said in my first comment #13, if you take Bug this literally, how can you consume virtually any comic strip or other form of art/literature without noticing the “assumptions” made in setting up the characters, their setting, and their culture? For that matter, given your handle, how could any “poor” person walk into a church bigger or nicer than a hovel and not feel offended at the assumption that the vicar deserves a nicer setting than they do? I think you’re really over-interpreting this. Heaven forbid you ever read C&H…

  30. The Vicar Jan 5th 2013 at 09:43 pm 30


    Well, let’s appeal to an actual dictionary. The following is copy-and-pasted from from the built-in dictionary in Mac OS X 10.7:


    verb ( slums, slumming , slummed ) [ no obj. ] informal

    spend time at a lower social level than one’s own through curiosity or for charitable purposes: rich tourists slumming among the quaintly dangerous natives.

    • (slum it) put up with conditions that are less comfortable or of a lower quality than one is used to: businessmen are having to slum it in aircraft economy class seats.

    Bug is definitely doing definition 2. But the whole point of the strip is “wow, gee, I’m actually having to do without some creature comforts which are usually within my grasp, isn’t that just amazing and novel and aren’t I precocious for doing this”, which broadly fits definition 1. The fact that it doesn’t seem to occur to the cartoonist that this (or worse) might be the everyday condition for some people is what makes it objectionable. (Of course, it’s possible that Bug is written by a veritable paragon of charity work. But this strip doesn’t reflect that in the slightest.)

    As for Cyanide and Happiness, actually I’ve been reading it longer than I’ve been reading this blog. (Heck, I even have one of their books! And let me say that the 30 never-before-seen comics in the back contain a few really good ones but are mostly just a disappointment.) The difference between Bug and Cyanide and Happiness is that C&H is deliberately horrible, and they know it. Bug, on the other hand, is written as though the author’s baseline is totally normal, without any introspection; there’s always a faint tinge of Sarah Palin stream-of-consciousness. “Oh, gross, I just had to drink out of a ladle. Why do all these terrible things keep happening to me.”

  31. Ian Osmond Jan 5th 2013 at 11:34 pm 31

    jjmcgaffey: OJ will, indeed, curdle the milk given time. If one is to make an OJ/milk “creamsicle” mixture, one only makes as much as one will be able to drink in the next thirty seconds or so. Depending on factors which I absolutely don’t know, but which probably include things like “temperature”, “fat content of the milk”, and stuff like that, you’ve got half a minute to maybe three minutes to drink the stuff before it curdles.

    Adding an emulsifier changes the equation. A homemade Orange Julius-like drink is milk, orange juice, sugar, and egg white. I don’t know if that would curdle eventually, but it’s certainly stable long enough to serve and drink.

  32. Kilby Jan 6th 2013 at 04:26 am 32

    @ Ian Osmond - The egg white probably stabilizes the mixture because its pH is slightly basic (it is one of the few ingredients in a normal kitchen that has this property, the other one being baking soda).

  33. Powers Jan 6th 2013 at 09:29 am 33

    The Vicar: You’re reading too much into it. Stop. Get some perspective.

  34. Keera Jan 6th 2013 at 09:42 am 34

    I’m not sure if I should feel offended at The vicar’s fondness for dictionary definition #1 in comment @30. :-) As someone who spent part of her childhood in a house with an outhouse in a country where shops closed by 5 pm and were never open on Sundays, I find the Bug comic an observation on today’s first world habits: We have access to so much, so easily, it makes us too lazy to plan ahead.

  35. Elyrest Jan 6th 2013 at 11:35 am 35

    Keera - Here in the U.S., when I was a kid, shops closed by 5pm and were never open on Sundays. Blue Laws were prevalent in many areas and almost nothing was open on Sundays. This started changing in the 1970’s in many areas, but there were holdouts for a long time. I had a friend who lived in the Cleveland area then and both she and her husband worked M-F. Grocery stores closed at 6pm and weren’t open on Sunday. That meant that they had to do all of their grocery shopping on Saturday - along with all the others who couldn’t make it during the week. It wasn’t pretty. I lived in Erie,PA at the time and worked 3:30-midnight. There was a 24 hr. grocery store there and I thought it was a little bit of heaven.

  36. farmer Jan 6th 2013 at 12:47 pm 36


    I’ll grant you two points: that the definition of “slumming” is wider than my personal experience, and that C&H was a bad comparison. Maybe Arlo & Janis or Judge Parker, both of which involve core characters comfortable with and/or complaining about their level of material wealth which is far beyond poverty (e.g. see any A&J comic with Arlo complaining about culture while watching TV).

    Otherwise, it seems to me that you’re avoiding or missing my core points. The comic is not in any way about glorifying First World abundance, it’s about gently exaggerating and mocking First World laziness (although you introduced that concept, Bug didn’t). Note how every character in every panel is critical of Bug rather than enjoying or praising his “slumming”. And if you’re taking this tack on Bug, I don’t see how you can’t take that tack on pretty much any other media form that emphasizes cultural settings other than desperate poverty.

    Powers #33 has the succinct version. I get not finding it funny. I don’t get finding it offensive to poor people.

  37. The Vicar Jan 6th 2013 at 02:17 pm 37

    @… various:

    Okay, first off: you people are reading too much into my comments! I never said “I don’t get this joke” or “this guy is making fun of poor people”, I said “this joke doesn’t appeal to me because the cartoonist is terribly un-introspective (and that seems to be a regular thing in Bug)”. So stop telling me “oh, you’re reading too much into it”. Yes, I get it. This is meant to be a light-hearted commentary on laziness. That is not the problem. If you’re trying to tell me that, you aren’t even bothering to read what I’m saying before you complain, and should probably spend your time doing something more productive, such as trying to get free work from David Thorne.


    Those two strips are also remarkably bad choices in this case.

    I don’t read Arlo and Janis, but it shows up here regularly, and even has a category named after it because it is regularly disgusting, apparently to a degree which even Cyanide and Happiness doesn’t match (there is no “explosm” category on this blog, right?). Arlo and Janis shows up here a lot, and on the rare occasions when it isn’t here for being disgusting, it’s here for being incomprehensible. Which is to say: as far as I can tell Arlo and Janis is not a strip which should be held up as a sterling example for other strips to follow, and certainly does not pretend that its characters live a normal life.

    And then there’s Judge Parker, another strip of which I am only peripherally aware. Yes, that strip is notoriously about overly-wealthy people who constantly complain that their lives are not even more filled with wealth and luxury than they in fact are. (So much so that it regularly features on The Comics Curmudgeon for that reason, which is where I heard of it.) (In fact, I followed my bookmark so I could copy the URL for that link, and one of today’s two featured comics is a Judge Parker strip being mocked for this very reason.) But Judge Parker is a story strip. It isn’t supposed to be funny, or even particularly to convince us that the characters’ lives are normal as far as I can tell from the examples I’ve seen.

    (Actually, thinking about syndicated story strips, one could with equal justice say “it’s a newspaper story strip, it isn’t supposed to be worth reading”. The good story strips I’ve seen are all on the Internet instead, where they have enough room to actually advance the story on a regular basis, and have archives so they don’t have to spend the first half of each strip on a recap. Newspapers stopped being able to run good story strips when they decided that comics should be no larger than the comment entry box on this page.)

    What I’m complaining about is the assumed baseline experience and late of self-awareness which is being used to sell the Bug strip’s joke. And, as I said, this happens a lot in Bug (not just with poverty but also with lots of other things), and Foxtrot used to do it too.

  38. farmer Jan 6th 2013 at 04:09 pm 38

    Vicar, you might review the CIDU FAQ, especially as it regards the Arlo categories, before you dig a deeper hole. A&J doesn’t generally show up for being disgusting, it shows up for dealing honestly with adult situations that married couples generally face, in ways that get it past the newspaper censorship code. Ranking it above C&H on the disgusting scale is pretty absurd.

  39. Jeff S. Jan 6th 2013 at 04:24 pm 39

    Ian Osmond and Kilby… You have to ask for for the egg in your Orange Julius now. I suspect it has to do with it being a raw egg.

  40. The Vicar Jan 6th 2013 at 04:55 pm 40


    Okay, so the category is not named Arlo because of the routine existence of disgusting Arlo and Janis strips. So what? Those strips still show up regularly (in “Ewww” posts, is that better?), and is often here because it is incomprehensible. In other words, my statement still stands: Arlo and Janis is often gross or hard to understand, and should not be held up as a model of “this is normal for comics”.

  41. Ted in Fort Lauderdale Jan 6th 2013 at 06:20 pm 41

    Vicar - A&J show up in CIDU very regularly. _Very_ few are Ewwws, a few more are CIDUs that are quickly explained, many are Arlos, and most are humor or LOLs. In other words, your statement is incorrect: Arlo and Janis is almost never gross (unless you think a long-married middle-aged couple expressing interest in sex is disgusting) and is rarely hard to understand - it is here often because it is judged as funny and sometimes a bit adult (by comic page standards). It is usually held up here as a model of “this is what family/relationship comics should strive for”.

  42. Elyrest Jan 6th 2013 at 06:56 pm 42

    As either a nit-picker, or a knit-picker, I had to check. Arlo & Janis has been an Ewww three times in the last year and you’d have to go back to October of 2010 to find a fourth one.

  43. James Pollock Jan 6th 2013 at 07:49 pm 43

    “as far as I can tell Arlo and Janis is not a strip which should be held up as a sterling example for other strips to follow, and certainly does not pretend that its characters live a normal life.”

    Staggeringly wrong on both counts.

  44. farmer Jan 6th 2013 at 07:58 pm 44

    Vicar, as has already been demonstrated, you’re not going to find much support for the “A&J is disgusting and incomprehensible” argument around here. Personal tastes are one thing, but that’s just not based in reality, especially given your stated reasons.

    You might consider that this site isn’t for mocking bad comics (like Comics Curmudgeon), it’s “a place for people who love comics” (from the FAQ). Thus, even strips which get sent in as CIDUs or Ewws or Arlos are generally from strips that people enjoy reading on a regular basis; they’re strips whose “artists deserve respect”. Look at the list of comics Bill has directly linked along the left-hand sidebar for a sense of the type of comics valued here, though that list is hardly up-to-date or complete. Compare to the comics most often featured at CC, and the way they’re treated there.

    Often good strips show up here, even as CIDUs, because they are of good quality and the author/cartoonist is stretching their boundaries of narrative/humorous craft and sometimes it doesn’t work or just takes thought or a community to help appreciate it. You’ll rarely see zombie strips here, not because they’re too good to get critical tags, but because they’re so formulaic and boring that there’s nothing to discuss about them. Kind of like a group discussion of Shakespeare as opposed to a serial romance novel. There’s nothing there unless you want to make fun of them, which isn’t what this site does.

    That leaves plenty of room for disagreement in personal taste, and plenty of room for discussion of what a comic means or even if it’s offensive, but you’re basing most of your arguments on claims and descriptions of comics which simply aren’t factually accurate. I think that’s why you’re getting blowback from numerous other users. I understand “Bug’s twisted sense of humor doesn’t work for me”. I don’t get “It has such an assumption of material wealth” or “faint assumptions about the audience which are kind of creepy/evil” because they don’t seem to have any basis in demonstrable fact or knowledge.

    By your stated rationale, even Calvin & Hobbes would have been a clearly materialist, shallow, offensive strip making lots of assumptions about its target audience (acceptance of comfortable middle class lives, lots of free time, twisted sense of humor, greed & consumerism, misogyny, death & violence, etc.). I’d actually be quite interested to hear your take on that, given your stated parameters.

  45. The Bad Seed Jan 6th 2013 at 08:35 pm 45

    Wow, I keep looking and looking at the Bug strip here, and I still don’t find it referencing anything that’s a “rich person’s problem”. In my work, I’ve visited many poor people’s houses, and have never been in one where they couldn’t afford toilet paper or dish soap, so I don’t think one has to be wealthy to afford them. And in any case, it’s not that he doesn’t have them because he’s poor, it’s because he’s camouflaging laziness as “Zen”. I’ve been known to do similar repurposing when I’m out of something and forget - or are too lazy - to go grocery shopping. As a matter of fact, at work they have dispensers for the huge tube-free toilet paper rolls, and they take off the old rolls when they get down to an inch or so in diameter - and I keep a stash of these at home for when I keep forgetting to buy new TP.

  46. Elyrest Jan 6th 2013 at 08:49 pm 46

    The Bad Seed - I keep a stash of the ends of large toilet paper rolls at the front desk where I work and use them when anyone, including me, needs Kleenex.

  47. The Vicar Jan 7th 2013 at 05:30 am 47

    @Ted, #41:

    Although this has already been covered, you raise an interesting point: what possible excuse can there be for the state of newspaper comics (short and in tiny print, usually bland, and generally nowhere near as entertaining as they have been in the past) if they are not child-safe? In other words, if the comics page in the newspaper has adult content, however veiled by “kids won’t understand the words we’re using*”, why read it at all when we have the Internet instead? In that context, now that I think about it, yes, an “Arlo” constitutes “gross”.

    *a notion which is only ever used by people who do not regularly deal with kids, just as “nobody will ever break the security of this system” is only ever used by people who have never actually met anyone who makes a practice of breaking security.


    It’s funny that you’re telling me I don’t know enough about Bug to judge it, seeing as how when I first saw it recommended on this blog I went and read all the strips which were available online and have occasionally dipped into it since then, and consistently get the same feeling when I read a run of strips. Okay, I don’t know the author’s address, phone number, and Pop Tart filling preference, but I’ve read a lot of the strips — unlike both Arlo and Janis and Judge Parker, neither of which have ever been recommended to me by anyone, ever.

    Calvin and Hobbes is yet another unfortunate choice as an analogy, since Waterson repeatedly specifically addressed materialism, gender issues, and other such items in the strip. Calvin’s greed was practically always used to throw a spotlight on the fact that his greed was unwise or unnecessary. (And Calvin was actually a complex character in ways that Bug characters — which are mostly kind of generic throwaways anyway — just can’t be, and FoxTrot characters could have been but very seldom were. Here and there, Calvin was genuinely introspective, like in the sequence where he found a dying animal, and actually — if temporarily — amended his behavior.) FoxTrot on the other hand — and, incidentally, my apologies for getting the name wrong; according to the copyright pages on the print collections I got out to reference, it’s properly a one-word CamelCase title — quite frequently just ran with mainstream assumptions of greed or gender roles or whatever as unspoken backstory, and if the characters occasionally perceived their own motivations they usually ended up doubling down on them. And yet Calvin and Hobbes is almost universally regarded as one of the best strips ever, while a substantial number of people disliked FoxTrot. (And, incidentally, although FoxTrot occasionally gave me a creepy feeling, it did so nowhere near as often as Bug. The difference is enough that I have about 12 years’ worth of FoxTrot print collections.)

    It would be interesting to see how Calvin and Hobbes would have dealt with race. FoxTrot had Jason’s friend Marcus, who was visibly dark-skinned but otherwise basically a clone of Jason minus the glasses. Given the name, he was probably supposed to be of African descent, but he could easily have just had parents from India. If someone had been reading the strips to you out loud without describing the characters’ appearance beyond what was necessary for sight gags, you could easily have gone for years without knowing about Marcus’ ethnicity at all. Dilbert has Asok, who is definitely and proudly Indian, and Scott Adams has said that all other skin color variations are inserted by his syndicate’s editors at random, which is kind of fitting. (He also points out that they tend to reserve darker skin colors for menial laborers and criminals.) But Calvin and Hobbes never did it at all as far as I can recall, and it would have been very interesting, in retrospect, to see how it would have been handled.

    (You know, now that I think of it, did Calvin ever play a video game, or even use a non-imaginary computer for anything? I remember him watching lots of TV, usually on a small, ratty CRT with an antenna, but not playing video games even though the strip ran until 1995. Jason Fox mentioned that he played Star Trek games on the family’s Apple II within the first three weeks of FoxTrot, assuming that FoxTrot: The Works is both complete and in order, meaning that the Foxes had computers and video games in 1990.)

    As far as getting emotionally vested in arguments, I’m afraid the only one who really seems to be doing that is you. Everyone else… well, they may not agree with me (or I with them), but we seem to be keeping our respective cools.

  48. Soup Dragon Jan 7th 2013 at 05:49 am 48

    Vicar: Oh, you’re no fun anymore!

    Clearly, Watterson made assumption of an all-white, suburban America. Creepy!

  49. Kilby Jan 7th 2013 at 07:11 am 49

    I think the reason that all the characters in Calvin and Hobbes were depicted as white is that:
    A) race was simply not relevant to the issues of imagination and identity that Watterson was exploring, and
    B) Watterson did not use any external shading or coloring elements in his daily strips, not even the scratch-on “gray scale dots” that are often used by other artists. Calvin and Hobbes was strictly a pen and ink operation, making it extremely difficult to depict any shade other than “newsprint”. Cross hatching or any other shading technique would have been an unreasonable amount of effort, given that skin color was not relevant to any of the plots.

  50. farmer Jan 7th 2013 at 08:26 am 50

    Vicar, don’t confuse long-windedness with emotion. I’m invested in an interesting discussion, sure (though I never thought I’d end up analyzing Bug this deeply), but I’m not sure where you see any lost cool.

    As for Calvin, let me try a different version of my point. Watterson had numerous expectations of his strip’s readers, including that they be able to deal with the difficult issues and disturbing images he often drew, while understanding their humor. To enjoy Calvin, you had to have a bit of twisted/nasty humor in you, or you just wouldn’t get some of the storyline/jokes (like Far Side). He also received quite a bit of pushback from readers and editors who did not understand/appreciate his style and content. Your comments on Bug reminded me a great deal of the readers Watterson discussed as having (paraphrase) no sense of humor or perspective about the use of imagination and exaggeration. While Bug is certainly no Calvin or Far Side, I don’t see where you’re getting its offensive assumptions about readers in any way that’s different from these other edgy strips. I think you’re somehow reading a lot more into Bug than is there, while not treating other strips the same way. I’m ignoring FoxTrot in all of this because I never read it enough to have useful opinions on it.

    As for child-safety in print comics, an interesting point, but I don’t feel it holds up in view of the existing content of long-running comics. Prison torture in Crock and Wizard of Id? Gratuitous violence and creepy ogling in Beetle Bailey? Peanuts was graphically safe, but had dark content. An attempted rape in For Better Or For Worse? There’s plenty of content difficult to explain to children already, unless you reduce the pages down to Family Circus and Love Is (actually, explaining why the paragons of virtue walk around naked all the time is still hard to explain to kids). So the real question is, why is the vaguely sexual content of A&J so much more offensive to you than the outwardly violent/mysogynistic content of so many existing legacy strips?

  51. farmer Jan 7th 2013 at 08:50 am 51

    Apologies for the double-post, but while out doing morning chores I thought of a better way to make this point. This all started through Vicar’s concern about Bug’s assumption of material wealth, and a privileged audience that would appreciate that. Calvin’s setting in an idyllic American small town makes the same assumptions. Would a poor child in an urban ghetto be able to relate to Calvin’s stable home life, material prosperity, free time, acres of backyard nature, safe school environment, and so on, much less one from a developing country? Watterson never dealt with any issues of economics, class, family dynamics, etc. that are at the core of so many peoples’ lives. Yet I doubt he was ever seriously criticized as being “insensitive” because his strip was set in a Norman Rockwell painting. So why is Bug’s assumption of the material wealth of a typical American apartment-dweller more offensive, when Bug probably represents the class and resources of far more Americans than Calvin’s family with their perfect rural/suburban life?

  52. Paperboy Jan 7th 2013 at 12:21 pm 52

    How can a cartoon be funny if it does not reflect the struggle of the proletariat? Bug’s decandent bourgeois viewpoint can be altered with proper re-education.

  53. Soup Dragon Jan 7th 2013 at 01:20 pm 53

    All this talk made me go back to the Bug archive. This one from 2009 was a LOL:

  54. James Pollock Jan 7th 2013 at 03:07 pm 54

    “Waterson repeatedly specifically addressed materialism, gender issues, and other such items in the strip”
    Jimmie Johnson specifically addresses materialism, gender issues, and other such items in his strip. (P.S. recommended, highly, as a quality strip and a paragon of what comic strips can be as a narrative artform.)

  55. James Pollock Jan 7th 2013 at 03:15 pm 55

    “the Foxes had computers and video games in 1990″
    An Apple II (or, for purists, an “Apple ][”) in 1990 would have been at least 9 years old, and would have been worth about $50, if you could find a buyer at all. Not the sign of wealth you think it is, despite the fact that it relies on certain factors inherent in first-world living (like readily available house current).

  56. James Pollock Jan 7th 2013 at 03:19 pm 56

    “all the characters in Calvin and Hobbes were depicted as white”
    Hobbes, a title character, was not white. Ms. Wormwood was often depicted as green (and tentacled).

  57. James Pollock Jan 7th 2013 at 03:22 pm 57

    “As for child-safety in print comics, an interesting point, but I don’t feel it holds up in view of the existing content of long-running comics”
    Lynn Johnston got death threats for having a character come out as gay, and even more death threats for killing the dog.

  58. Cidu Bill Jan 7th 2013 at 04:38 pm 58

    Speaking of Lynn Johnston’s death threats, there’s this

  59. carrot Jan 12th 2013 at 05:45 am 59

    ya know, vicar’s post up there at 6 is just stating some of his emotions.

    to say that his emotions are wrong or unjustified is rather insenstive.

    especially if you don’t understand tham.

    ironic that farmer at 51 summarises nicely that what causes vicar’s emotions, while at the last sentence seems to deny their validity.

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