The Bigger, Super-Deluxe Annotated Bob Archive, Part One
I hope to provide
brief chunks of commentary to my cartoons with this expanded archive.
The down side to this ambition is that this archive is usually a week
or so behind the quick one, so some links may not work. The Qwik
archive is the most current one. This archive also starts at the
beginning and moves forward, unlike the Qwik archive. I'm doing this so
that, hopefully, I can comment on the way the strip has developed over
The First One Ever
Originally, Bob was going to be a cartoon about the kind of
person who would just stand on the street and scream at people for no
reason. He'd just fly into rages over nothing, sorta reminiscent of
David Lynch's Angriest Dog in the World cartoon, but with
dialogue. It didn't quite work out that way, and even though this is
the first one I ever did, already he's sliding away from what I
intended-- he actually has a target, of sorts. Artistically, as you can
tell, it's pretty crude -- the number of petals changes from panel to
panel, for instance. I also do a lot of the things I tell people never
to do -- squish panels together, for example.
The drawings are still a little crude, but the picture of
Bob in the second panel is one of my favorite drawings of him, ever.
Also, it was kind of a struggle to draw the chess board, because I
didn't want Bob to already be checkmated.
Comes Home Late
Who is Dr. Renticulus? Who knows? He sure is a skeleton. Bob
was originally going to respond with something like "Oh, you're looking
for Bob the Discontented Cactus down the hall," but even way back then,
I knew that wasn't the kind of joke I wanted to do (ie. not funny).
Dealing With Feeling
Many people count this as their favorite Bob ever, which
puts me in the spot of presiding over a three-year decline since then.
A friend of mine, Malcolm Azania, asked if he could borrow this joke,
and without thinking, I said sure. Then I read a script he wrote a year
later and there it was. I was astonished and mildly indignant until he
reminded me that I'd said it was okay. Whoops. The show Bob's talking
about, of course, is Star Trek.
Enter Freddie, Parts 1
These pair of cartoons introduce the last new character to
the strip, Freddie the Flying Fetus. They're really two small cartoons
rather than one normal-sized one, but I put 'em together because they
sort of encapsulate Freddie's role around the house. Since Stumpy has
known Bob for a long time, he doesn't have a lot of patience for Bob's
extravagant outbursts, but Freddie is young and innocent, so he makes
the perfect target for Bob's rage.
I don't know what I was thinking when I inked Bob's petals
in the fourth panel --we somehow see the edge of the petals facing away
from us. Still bugs me. The ninth panel was inked by my roommate, Chris
"Fish" Griwkowsky -- hence the goofy space blobs behind Bob. The small
horned object to the right of Bob's neck is Skitters, a mute horned
barfer in Chris' former cartoon Poo-Poo. Bob is, of course,
making up being controlled by Plantae.
Goes Through Customs
This cartoon represented something of a watershed for me.
Before this one, I'd been trying to do "character" strips about Bob's
interactions with the supporting characters, Stumpy and Freddie. I had
some dumb idea about doing it like some sort of ensemble strip, like
Fish Griwkowsky's Poo-Poo.
Then, one day I was returning to Canada from a trip to the
States and I was nervous about the amount of stuff I was bringing back.
I sweated over the customs declaration form, constructing arcane
currency exchanges and elaborate fake price lists. I figured I'd blow
through any challenges with the line "Well, I'm no math genius." Then I
realized I had an instruction book for an artificial life simulator in
my bag, with description of Turing machines and complex math. I was
terrified that a canny customs officer would spot this and see through
my ruse. I consoled myself by turning my anxiety into a cartoon,
running over how it would look in my head as we touched down. The
inquistion I'd feared consisted of "What'd you bring back?", to which I
replied, "Oh, just some posters and stuff." I was waved through. But
the cartoon remains.
This was a watershed because it was Bob, out on his own,
confronting an absurd universe on his own, not tied down with minor
characters.. It also marks the beginning of my fondness for bringing in
abstruse but accurate (or seemingly accurate) technical details to
increase verisimilitude. This one remains one of my all-time favorites.
Joins the Circus
I was nervous about trying to follow up what I thought then
was the best cartoon I was ever going to do, but this one turned out
all right, I think. Circuses are a pretty rich source of humour, and I
was so afraid of repeating myself that I didn't go back to the circus
idea until For The Kids
almost two years later. I look at this cartoon as an object lesson in
the script editing stage of the cartooning process. Originally Bob was
going to impress the owner by selling the encyclopedias to a big
strong-man type named Beefio. I wrote it and rewrote it and I couldn't
make it fit until I just ditched Beefio altogether and had Bob sell
directly to the owner. Much more sensible.
Takes a Bite Out of Crime
Pretty straightforward, this one. I'd made the 12-gram joke
a week before I did the cartoon, thought it was funny and stuck it in a
cartoon. The text of the paper in the last panel reads as follows: "JFK
PLOT PROVED Second gunman found under chair, by Laurence Dortman,
special to the Star. Over thirty years of controversy came to a close
yesterday as an assassination plot against former president John F.
Kennedy was conclusively proved by a mysterious plant-like (?) who
refused to identify himself ... Even more astonishing is the fact that
the cartoonist went to all the trouble of printing up this bogus story
to go along with it. It's not as though this new material is especially
funny or anything. It's really just a waste of time. And worse, it's
insulting to the loyal reader who actually goes to the trouble of
reading it. 'Well, I just figured I wanted the newspaper text to look
authentic, and nothing looks more like text than text' said ashamed
cartoonist Stephen Notley."
Blame it on the Rain
Another personal fave. The salt sculptures were fun to draw,
and nothing sexes up a drawing like Letratone. I also think my picture
of Noam Chomsky is pretty good, considering. The second panel is one of
four that made it on to the Bob T-shirt Version 1.0.
Vs. the Vegans
When this was printed in Slur the panels were out of
order. I don't remember what the order was, just that the first panel
came first and the last panel came last, but in between all bets were
off and it didn't make any goddamn sense. This was never one of my
favorites, because I think Bob's way of getting out of the situation is
kind of cheap. Also: how fast can Bob run? Compare this with The Death of Bob the Angry Flower
and decide for yourself. Explanation? There isn't one!
Even though I like the joke here, and I've always wanted to
slam those S.O.B. aliens who abduct people and then refuse to explain
what they're doing, I'm a little disappointed with this strip. Let's
pretend all that third-panel dialogue never happened. Yeesh.
Readers of old Justice League of America comics will
remember Starro, the one-eyed starfish from space. Some friends and I
were discussing Starro lore and I made the "which hand is closer" joke.
Presto, it's in the strip the next week, with Monoculus standing in for
Starro for copyright reasons. I was afraid some people wouldn't get it,
after early road-testing of the joke produced some confusion, but
apparently most people weren't as stupid as the first bunch I tried it
out on. Also, I sometimes wonder for what job fluent Latin, a 10,000
wpm typing speed and rooty-leafy-thing legs are perfect qualifications.
Shark in the Pool
This was one of the easiest strips I ever wrote. I was out
on my part-time job, watching theatrical trailers, and the whole strip
just popped into my head. I wrote it out on a scrap of paper and that's
how it appeared. Easy-peasy. If some crazy guy years from now says I
stole his idea using some kind of weird brain-sucking device, I won't
have any good defense -- for all I know that's what happened.
Sales Success a la Meteor
Wow. Some pretty lazy drawing here, though I swear my point
was to try to accentuate the differences in Stumpy and Freddie's
expressions. Unbelievably, I didn't use photocopy to reproduce all
those near-identical panels -- drew 'em all out by hand. Squeeee!
The Morning Routine
This one went in Slur and it was the first time I
made a conscious decision to let Slur have the good one out of
the two I'd done that day (the other being "Sales Success a la
Meteor"). Also, Bob wears a tie here.
I'd wanted to showcase these guys for a while, and this
seemed like a good way to do it. My ex-girlfriend doesn't like this
one, because she thinks it advocates a pro-life stance. Well, I have a
walking talking flower; that doesn't mean I'm saying they're human
beings and that we shouldn't eat plants. I don't see how having a
floating talking fetus is any different, even though I think Freddie's
point is a good one. The song is "Turbo Lover," from Judas Priest's Turbo
album. I had to fudge the lyrics a little to get them to fit, and in
the third panel the lyric should be "How-- your-- heart--beats,"
not "How-- your--heart-- breaks." If you can read any of it from the
triumphant return, making him the first guest character to ever
reappear. The magazine he's hawking is Spare Change, a sad
little publication purchased by homeless people and then sold on street
corners for a buck or two -- hence the name. In a way, it makes it even
easier to avoid giving money to the homeless, simply by employing the
strategy Bob does here of claiming to have that issue already.
Plantae's really lucked out here, though, since Bob is the one being on
the planet his powers can be usefully employed against.
Pretty simple, here. A friend of mine suggested all his hair
should fall out. I thought that was a dumb idea, but I sketched the
last panel, thought it was funny and went ahead with it. I thought this
one was too simple, actually; people would complain that
nothing happens. This one turned out to be quite popular, though. The
fake petals in the last panel are made of cardboard, and Bob's so
stupid he's taped eleven petals to his head when he normally has seven.
A Time of Solitude
Well, every so often you have to do a cartoon where the joke
isn't the strongest and the art isn't all that ambitious because you're
pressed for time. Hence "A Time of Solitude." The point is that, of
course, Bob doesn't recognize the crucial usefulness of the rescue
transmission kit in his list of resources. The problem is, people
thought he'd switched the kit on and it was constantly transmitting.
Nope, folks; he just didn't get it. It was fun to draw him with a five
o'clock shadow, though.
This one started out as kind of the idea that was eventually
to become "Bad Dreams." It was
going to have him captured by businessmen who want him to make a
speech. Somehow that became an insane music professor, and since the
joke was over by panel 7 ("Or wait... that doesn't actually sound so
bad...") I had to thrash around for four more panels to finish the
strip. Not one of my favorites, but a friend told me she'd seen it
posted in a locker in the Music Department at the U of A, so I guess
somebody liked it. Plus I used the last panel as the second of four on
my first Bob T-shirt.
The Death of Bob the Angry
A lot of people say this is one of their favorites. This
confuses me, especially since there isn't really a punch line. There
are some things I like about it, though. It was the first one in which
I switched over to a weird kind of automatic brush for my inks, so it
looks a little beefier than the ones that precede it. Also, this is a
classic in media res scenario, where we don't know who this guy
is or why he has an atomic bomb; all we know is that after a long
series of feints, false starts and dead ends, Bob has found the guy and
this, this is the ultimate moment of confrontation. Compare
Bob's running speed with "Vs. the
Vegans" for a confusing bit on non-continuity. In fact, I think Bob
is running somewhat faster than the speed of light here.
This is the first time Bob dies. The second time is in "Gotta Buy a Shovel."
Y'know, Bob's plan seems so simple I'm surprised nobody's
done it yet. Originally, Bob was going to reveal his cordless phone in
the first panel instead of the last, but I found that way that was no
real conclusion. Switch first with last and presto, another cartoon is
born. I was congratulated for this cartoon by local
direct-democracy/anarchist/hemp activist David Malmo-Levine for its
political message. Hey, I just writes 'em, man...
Big beefy inks continue to have their way with my cartoon in
"L'Atuobus." This is one of my all-time favorites, for two reasons.
First, the first half of the cartoon is drawn directly from my life.
Yes, there really is a sonofabitch bus driver out there who pulled away
as I ran for the bus, and I really did scream at him as he disappeared
in the distance. It's the only cartoon drawn so directly from my
Second, I think this one comes together amazingly
considering that I got all the way to the "Hey, this poison tastes
great" panel with not even the faintest clue how I would end it. Was
the bus driver going to come back and feel bad? Was Bob going to die
again? I had no idea. Then a friend offered me a ride from the Gateway
offices and I had to wrap it up in ten minutes. Hey presto, a punch
line, and it even looks good. Sometime the cartoon gods smile.
In the Stars
Uh... sure. Okay. This one was fun to draw for the shading
on the Easter Island statue. As you can probably guess, I'm a Virgo,
and that's a astrological sign that gets a lot of snickers. So this is
my terrible "revenge." I also wonder what the Easter Island statue is
holding the tape recorder with, since he doesn't have any hands or
This first panel is one of my favorite drawings of Bob ever,
right up there with the one in "Plays Chess." This is a cartoon that
seems simple, but it had a ridiculously complicated origin. I'd made
the comment a few times about how when we're babies, our parents get us
all hooked on food, so that soon we're totally addicted to it and can't
go without it. So I thought I'd have Bob thinking about broadening his
horizons, trying to find out what kind of non-food things he could eat.
Took too long to set up, and wasn't funny anyway. This is much simpler.
One summer, I worked for the public works department of a
small town, and one thing we did is tar roads. Tar is without question
one of the most evil substances in God's creation. Not only is it
virtually impossible to clean, but even the smallest drop of tar is
capable of staining several things. You get it on your pants, then that
gets on the car seat, which gets on somebody else's pants, which gets
on the kitchen chairs, and it just spreads and spreads. We had to burn
the tar off the dispensers, and as I watched that bubbling black
awfulness I almost puked from thinking about the indescribable pain of
getting that crap all over you. Remember, tar used to be called
"pitch," so when you read some Grimm's fairy tales and somebody gets
covered with boiling pitch -- it's tar, folks.
The second to last panel was going to be much more
complicated -- Bob dunking his head and hands in the sink and a big
cloud of steam. But then I realized that without his head and hands,
Bob doesn't really look like anything, and it'd look more like somebody
was sticking a fork in some water. So I used the "so it goes" bit
instead. I like it, but the other cartoonists sure made fun of me that
day for wimping out...
The Search for Acceptance
I'm not left-handed, in case you were wondering. But
some people who are have said they like that strip. Can't I offend anybody?
Sure is a lot of fancy stuff in that first panel, huh? Lots
of Letratone and shadows and hard-to-draw angles, huh? And thoes next
two panels -- pretty snazzy, huh? Kinda makes you wonder why the fifth
panel looks like I drew it with my feet, huh? The big thing with this
strip was to see how many times I could get away with saying the word
"Ants." Eight times! That must be a record somewhere!
Another all-time fave, this time because I just think this
is one of the funniest ones I've done. My favorite panel is, of course,
the sixth one. Originally this was going to be a long shot, showing Bob
full-figure with wheelchair guys circling around him trying to grab the
ball. But the way I ended up doing it strips them of their dignity much
better, I think. Amazingly, I didn't get any complaints about this,
even though I was looking for some. I guess it's because Bob learns his
lesson at the end... sort of...
The 2nd Oldest trick in
Oh, well. You win some and you lose some. This works just
fine if there are only three panels -- the fifth, the seventh and the
eighth. Trying to blow a three-panel joke into nine panels just
confuses everybody. I was going to use the last panel as the design for
the first Bob T-shirt, but eventually decided against it. And the 1st
oldest trick in the book? Pulling a rabbit out of a hat! Ahhhh, now
I get it....
The "single perfect rose" bit comes from Disney's Beauty
and the Beast. As I'm sure you can guess, I was apartment-hunting
when I drew this one, so there you go. I think this one is a good
showcase for one of Bob's key qualities -- the ability to shift
abruptly from one emotional state to another for no good reason.
Quality Health Care
This could well be my favorite Bob ever. Why? Don't know. I
just dig it, that's all. I had been watching a lot of Chicago Hope
at the time, during its first season when it was good. I almost didn't
do this one, because my original plan had Bob dancing around in the
guy's entrails. I had decided I couldn't draw that, so I was going to
scrap the idea when it occurred to me I could just have him grabbing
them and pulling them out. The sixth panel is probably my favorite
panel ever. If I do another T-shirt, I may put that on the back...
Also, note that he says "ER" in the seventh panel, a little reference
to Chicago Hope's major competiton at the time...
Guess what I was doing in conjunction with this cartoon's
publication? A slender little ad ran under this cartoon saying "If you
want horse blood or a Bob T-shirt, call (my number) or e-mail
email@example.com" (which was my e-mail address at the time).
I made fifty T-shirts and sold 'em all. How about that? The guy buying
the horse blood is Chris Woo, who had been bugging me for weeks to put
him, or any Asian, in the cartoon. None of the drawings really look
like him, but if you sort of put them all together you'd get another
drawing that doesn't look like him.
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