25 Comments

  1. “I don’t even know where to begin with this one” – so far, neither does anyone else, including me. But when you saw there was one comment, I bet you thought someone had at least an idea!

  2. My best guess (and it’s admittedly feeble) is that giant robot is used by the Meat store which owns it for deliveries and general heavy-duty lifting and carrying work, and that Heathcliff has somehow talked the guys into letting him “borrow” it for some “innocent” purpose, which will end in carnage and horror. (Buit why a “meat” store specifically? Maybe Heathcliff told him he’d teach the robot to go hunt for meat-containing entities, kill them, and bring them back to restock their larder? But they are in a big city, so the vast majority of meat animals running around are going to be human beings….)

    I’m not sure I’d want to give my business to a store with that garish pink and white coloring theme anyway. Mass slaughter is acceptable to me as a cheery comic strip joke, but over-twee interior decoration? — That’s just a disgusting thing to face over my breakfast coffee.)

  3. A few items:

    1) I don’t know what the colorist was thinking. Let’s ignore that.
    2) This meat market is frequently visited by Heathcliff. But (unlike Cave’s Meat in Marmaduke) it never seems to have any name besides “MEAT”.
    3) There’s a running “gag” in this panel in which people and things wear clothing or accessories with a word representing the object of their desire upon it. Helmets emblazoned with “HAM”, for instance.
    4) Hopefully this explains all of the elements of this comic except why, specifically, a giant robot. To which I can only ask: why not? Perhaps they’ve simply run out of other more mundane things on which to emblazon “MEAT”.

  4. So this is /not/ a robot owned by the butchers, rather it is a robot owned by Heathcliff for the purpose of obtaining “MEAT”? OK, then why is it walking /away/ from the butchers, surely the easiest way for this giant robot to obtain meat would be to tear open the butcher shop? And then the objections Shrug raises…

    Also, does this mean the shop emblazoned “MEAT” does not in fact /sell/ meat, rather it deeply desires to /procure/ meat?

  5. While the robot is cruising the streets looking for MEAT, will it correctly identify crosswalks and stoplights? 🙂

  6. It has been established in previous Heathcliff strips that robots are pretty common in the setting (probably at the level of Questionable Content, although with more of a 50s retro vibe), and that Heathcliff himself has a fan base among robots. This particular giant robot (we don’t usually see them bigger than human sized in the strip) is either one of Heathcliff’s fans, or they bond over a shared love of meat.

  7. Is Heathcliff supposed to make sense these days? I thought it had been nothing but nonsense visual gags since Chuck Lorre was writing for its animated series.

  8. Is Heathcliff supposed to make sense these days? I thought it had been nothing but nonsense visual gags since Chuck Lorre was writing for the animated series.

  9. Duplication is mostly my fault. I was checking Spam list (yeah, not just “Pending” meaning moderated) and saw BillyTheSkink’s comment which looked entirely legit, so I un-spammed it — not having noticed there was an alomst identical one already in the approved/published list.
    Also, no clue why one was blocked but not the other.
    ==mitch

  10. My understanding is the same as Shrug’s: that the Heathcliff is borrowing the Meat store’s giant robot, and that this will end in carnage. However, this just brings up the questions others has asked: why the meat store has a giant robot, and why Heathcliff is borrowing it.

  11. And that bafflement factor was definitely in play in one of Winter’s two examples ostensibly about color scheme. 🙂 I got the cat yoga one (the guy should have gone to pig yoga) but not the airborne floating bubble foot race fish market one.

  12. My apologies for the duplication. The browser I typically/prefer to use sometimes refuses to post my comments on certain WordPress sites. I assumed that happened here, so I switched to my secondary browser to post my comment (altering one word so I don’t get the “you already posted that” error that appears even when my comments won’t show up).

  13. The airborne bubble chase works for me. Heathcliff has stolen a fish and is escaping by air, by blowing a big bubble gum balloon. The store-owner is chasing him by the same method.

    But now that I’m thinking about it, it’s not clear why I find the meat robot baffling, and the fish bubble gum chase mildly amusing, as there’s no more “sensible backstory” for the bubble gum balloons than the meat robot. I guess absurdity-based humor is always a little mysterious.

  14. Not your fault! I still don’t see why the system rejected your first one. But you were smart to resubmit.

  15. Heathcliff’s descent into absurdity was slow, but the creators noticed it was picking up fans, and leaned into it. I have some hardcore neo-Heathcliff fan friends, the strip really appeals to the “GenX but hangs out online with GenZ” crowd’s sensibilities. It’s like Tumblr as a one panel strip.

  16. My limited experience with Heathcliff is that it has developed an internal set of in-jokes upon injokes that have become self-referentional short hand for themselves much like Catholic Catechism. Thus we have what started as a joke about cats noisily knocking over garbage cans so that people imagined there was a ape tossing cans around trash cans to a spectator sports of alley cats getting ecstatic pleasure watch an immense and mythical garbage ape doing a nightly ballet. This makes analyzing a modern Heathcliff cartoon an exercise of dialetctic symbology. The robot isn’t literally a robot, it’s a manifestation of undeterrable ambition and clothing emblazed with words of “HAM” or “MEAT” mean…. well, I’m not entirely sure… perhaps the process of identification of self in regards to ones desires.

    Anyhow, I can not analyze this only the most novice laity access to the hierarchy of Heathcliff liturgy.

  17. Argh… self editting:

    “Anyhow, I can not analyze this as I have only the most novice laity access to the hierarchy of Heathcliff liturgy.”

    H**thcliff forbid, that I might end that post with an impenetrable sentence.

  18. I don’t really have an answer that’ll resolve all this confusion, but I’ll say that human beings are sometimes (and condescendingly) referred to as “meat robots.” It’s a reminder that we’re essentially viewed as robots made out of meat.

    Whether or not you agree with this, I wonder if that’s what the artist was alluding to when he created a giant robot emblazoned with the word “MEAT.” As if he was thinking, “What if there was a cartoon with an actual meat robot’? What would it look like? Where would it come from?” (It would come from the Butcher’s store, obviously.)

    Of course, the depicted robot isn’t really made out of meat (as far as we can tell), further adding to our confusion. So maybe this cartoon is just an attempt to show off an idea that didn’t really pan out.

    And so what we’re left with is a peculiar example of absurdism.

  19. I’ll say that human beings are sometimes (and condescendingly) referred to as “meat robots.”

    Yes, it does sound a bit denigrating; but I can see it as almost exactly paralleling the older, and still important, idea of “ghost in the machine”.

  20. “Meat robot” is kind of the opposite of “ghost in the machine”. In both we don’t really know where the “spark” of consciousness comes from. “Ghost in the machine” says that we don’t know but it comes from somewhere so we can create robots with souls. “Meat Robot” says there really isn’t any and we are deluding ourselves; there is no spark and we are just meat robots with no more relevance than then any other hunks of moving parts.

    I thought of “Meat Robot” but… okay, I don’t know why there are so many characters wearing clothing with the word “Meat” or “Ham” on them, and I don’t know what all the robots hanging around and simply … being… are supposed to represent, and I don’t know why the endless permutations with no particular emphasis or rational are supposed to represent any *new concepts. But that seems to be what Heathcliff is now. Endless permutations of symbolic items sprinkled about. A for cry from the Cat Cartoon it was in the 70s.

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