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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 time.


Solstice, 1992

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.

Plays Chess

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.

Solstice, 1994

Enter Freddie, Parts 1 and 2

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!

Gateway, 1994-95

The Abduction

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.

Stereoscopy Stereoscopy

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.

Deep Issues

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 scan...

Old Foes

Plantae's 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.

Objection Noted

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 Flower

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."

Big Plans

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 experience.

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 arms.


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?

Bad Dreams

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 the Book

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...

Self Image

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 snotley@gpu.srv.ualberta.ca" (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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