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The Bigger, Super-Deluxe Annotated Bob Archive, Part Two

Solstice, 1995


This was the first time I came up with a title first and did the cartoon around it. It's also the last time. I'm not sure, but I think the solid-bubble-that-doesn't-burst thing was in a really old Peanuts strip. I'm not proud of it, but now that I've come clean I feel better about it. Sorry, Mr. Schultz. (Of course, some readers were so stupid they didn't understand that the bubble didn't burst, and were wondering what Bob was holding in the second-to-last panel. Jeez...)

Plum B ing

Another failed experiment, this time with an incredibly expensive art material called duo-tone board. The idea here is that two grey patterns are impressed into the board, and the artist brings them out using different applicator fluids. Much easier than Letratone -- lots of comic book artists and political cartoonists use it. Great. The problem is that the stuff costs something like $17 per sheet, and I had to work smaller to make the thing fit on this over-priced slab of art supply. And whaddya know? The applicator fluid caused my ink to run all over the page! Hey-hey! I had to go back in with Liquid Paper for something like an hour and a half to clean it up. So long, expensive art paper. The joke's okay, I guess.

What's Proper

Ah, alligators, crocodiles... who can tell the difference? This one turned out okay, I guess. A pretty standard joke, and I think I was a little too ambitious with that last panel, because the point of view is too far away for the detail to jump out at you like it should.

It's Over

Uh... yeah. Let's skip over any possible real-life meaning this one might have and just say that I like the third panel -- I think it's the angriest I've ever drawn Bob. As well, there was going to be a caption for the sixth panel -- "Vaporize, Jezebel!!!" -- but somehow I couldn't quite fit it in.

To Annoy

This one, incredibly, had its origins all the way back in "Goes Through Customs." The opening to this one was going to be the opening to the one following "Customs," but somehow it never happened. I had mentioned the joke to people at the time, however, so when I finally did this one, a friend asked me, "Didn't you do this one already?" Nope -- just pulled a two-year old joke out of safekeeping 'cuz I had no other ideas. This is also a fairly blatant use of photocopying between the fourth and fifth panels...

Gotta Buy a Shovel

I like this one. My humour is usually pretty verbal, so it's kinda fun to do a pantomime cartoon. Plus I love the way the shading and cross-hatching came out in the fourth panel. As for the actual, joke, I was mortified to discover that the "Yes. Yes I would" deadpan line had appeared on The Simpsons not long before I did the strip. Well, there's only so many jokes in the world, I guess...

This is the second time Bob dies. The first time is, of course, The Death of Bob the Angry Flower.

The Patriots

The thing that always strikes me when I look at this cartoon is how the lettering is too small. I did this one and only later realized that my lettering guide was set two notches lower than usual. Not really relevant, but sometimes it's the oddest things that'll stick with you. Even though the resolution looks like a total goofy pointless non sequitor, I like it because it solves the situation without resorting to the two obvious choices, she-beats-him or he-beats-her. Plus, this is one of those strips that works best if you read it and then go back and look at the title again.

When I was working on this idea, I liked it so much I was thinking of holding off and expanding it into a four- or eight-page story. I liked this tax clerk chick, and in fact she re-appears in the full-page Holiday Spirit. The idea was, of course, to give Bob a girlfriend, and in the back of my head, they're sort of dating, the events of Almost on Time notwithstanding.

Patented Ratchet-Load System

This is a classic "formula" Bob cartoon. I wrote down a half-dozen phrases and ideas, picked two and stuck them together using Bob as the glue. In this case the phrases were "high-steel" and "door to door sales". "High steel" was on my mind because I'd been thinking about Darkman that day for some reason. The pattern on the old lady's apron came out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. On the other had, the simple-seeming fifth and sixth panels took me so long to draw I was literally screaming in frustration. I just couldn't figure out how to do it, especially the sixth one. Turned out all right in the end, I guess.

Late Night

Well, this is clearly my tribute to/theft of Frank Miller's Sin City. Frank Miller is one of the modern giants of graphic narrative, best known for his genre-redefining Batman book The Dark Knight Returns. He went on to do Sin City, in which figure and ground are brutally interchanged. His images are blocks of black against white and white against black, and he almost never defines a shape by drawing a line around it. Edges are implied rather than deliniated-- it's the kind of thing that slaps comic artists in the face and will stand as a technical milestone for as long as the medium exists.

So, of course, I had to take a crack at it, and as you can tell, the results aren't pretty. As it turns out, it takes a lot of talent to draw like Frank Miller, and you just can't fake it. I think I got a tiny piece of it in the last panel-- the ninja against the blinds is not too bad, but the rest of the strip is mostly just a lot of cheats and black backgrounds. The joke is incidental, but on reflection I don't mind it too much.

The Brotherhood of Darkness

I thought of this one when I was at a local bar one night. I'd already been toying with doing one about secret societies already. My roommate and I were talking to this fairly pretty girl-- well, he was doing most of the talking-- and out of the blue I said to myself, "You know, she has ridiculously huge ears." What a jerky thing to think! But there it was, and it became a cartoon. I feared that this one was rather meaner than others that had come before. In retrospect, I needn't have worried. I think the first panel looks kinda cool, too.

Gateway, 1995-96

Almost on Time

This was the first one back from summer holiday, and every time I take a break of a week or two, I end up having to kind of ramp up again to get back on the rails. This one was a little wonky, and I could tell it was wonky because it feels more like a Germ cartoon than a Bob cartoon. And what's the Germ? Well, it was the cartoon I did at the Gateway before I started doing Bob. It was about a goofy Batman-like super-hero (or if you're familiar with comics, a Rorschach-type hero, from Alan Moore's Watchmen). It had a continuing storyline that went from week to week-- one of the things I was trying to get away from when I switched over to Bob. Because each strip was mostly given over to advancing the plot, I ended up having to make most of my jokes just as "witty" throwaway lines in the final panel. That's sort of what this strip feels like to me.

Who's the girl? Is it the tax clerk from The Patriots? No, I don't think so, even if they are dating in the back of my mind. In fact, I'm pretty certain that the girl is none other than Bethany, the Germ's old girlfriend. She talks just like Bethany, makes the same kind of smart-alecky remarks... I'm pretty sure it's Bethany. Which contributes to this very "Germy" feel I have for this strip.

The Challenge

Eh. It's a cartoon. I have a liking for the UN, so I mentioned them, but otherwise this is a pretty workmanlike strip. Notice the saloon doors in the first panel.

Na Cl (s)

This, on the other hand, is one of my favorites. I don't know why, really-- I guess it just has that mixture of weird silly things all coming together, with Bob all mad, that I think represents what the cartoon is all about. As you may notice, it's one of the ones I highlight for brand-new visitors to the page.


This is, of course, influenced by the real-life adventure of doing a strip. Slurafter a while became the repository of a lot of strips about doing strips-- there's this one, Block, and the upcoming Total Deadline Pressure. Why? Because I'd always be doing Slur strips after I'd exhausted my idea for the week, and there's no gag that comes more surely and unbidden to the struggling cartoonist trying to come up with an idea than that of a struggling cartoonist trying to come up with a idea. This was the first, and it's a comment to all those who have dumb ideas for my cartoon.

The fact is, though I appreciate the sentiment, I almost never use ideas that people suggest to me. Often it's because the ideas are really lame, as in this strip. Other times... I don't know... they just don't click, somehow. People suggest ideas that I instantly know are wrong. I don't know how. Perhaps it's a reminder of the mysterious relationship between creator, creation and audience, in that even though I have an intimate understanding of who Bob is and what's right for him, every reader creates his or her own overall sense of who Bob is, based on their own experiences, and when that altered perception gets refracted back to me in the form of a suggestion, I find it jarring.

Or maybe I'm just a big jerk.

No Tip

From one extreme to the other. This one is sheer trash, in my opinion, and I only put it up to partially satisfy my sense of completion. Plus, the death-on-a-plate is kinda cute. Other than that, this cartoon doesn't make any damn sense no matter how you read it, and that was after I went through and liquid-papered the dialogue and re-wrote it to make it make sense. Recently I went back and figured out how to fix it, but I can't for the life of me remember what the solution was. Sheesh. I don't know what the hell I was thinking...

What Goes Around, Stays Around

Another real-life connection. Somebody had stolen my iced tea from the fridge at work, and I was filled with outrage. I mean, this was a respectable daily newspaper, staffed by adults, and yet somebody swiped my $3 iced tea like recess in Grade 4. I couldn't believe it.

This was another strip in that weird period that produced swill like No Tip. While I happen to like this one, it was still a strange time and I was doing strange jokes. Here the joke is, boiled down to its essentials, just that a guy with his eyes melted is pretty funny, ha-ha. Pretty sick. I like the sheer improbability of it all-- I could have had a big thing about Bob setting up a bomb, or some such, but no-- the fridge blows up mostly because Bob hopes it will.

Achilles' Heel

Kinda like this one. There was a time when I worried about the relative morality of Bob's actions, something that came into play much later in Storytime. Looking back, I now realize that he passed a lot of milestones and I never even noticed. Here he is, clearly the bad guy, clearly breaking into a safe and stealing a bunch of jewels. Like the way that Ultraman turned out, and I like Bob's casual reaction. Plus, maybe my favorite joke in the strip goes almost unnoticed in the first panel-- "the jewels will be ours-- forever." It sounds very evil and bad-guyish, but if you think about it, it makes no sense at all. Why would he want the jewels forever?

Also, a subtle bit of continuity; Stumpy is cutting the safe open, using his welding skills. In some extremely early strips that I haven't posted, it is revealed how Bob and the boys make money: Stumpy welds sculptures and sells them to local universities. That notion has sort of fallen by the wayside, especially since Bob started to show an interest in get-rich-quick schemes, but it's still there, humming in the background.


This one I wrote rather quickly, so on the creating end it was pretty painless. It's not exactly the funniest strip I've ever done, but it's a chuckle. Note the planaria in the fifth panel. Also, that third panel with the taxi is a pretty big art cop-out, since I just didn't bother to fill in any background. Too lazy, and I really don't know how to draw city streets.

The Cube Root of 500

I like this one, and I don't really know if anybody else does. I share Bob's contempt for dinky little calculators that can only do basic arithmetic. Of course, most calculators these days will solve Fermat's Last Theorem for you, and can draw funky little graphs as well, but I still feel a certain fondness for my crusty old physics calculator. I also dig the Abacusian-- he's sort of like Thor, or the Juggernaut from X-Men. The thing that always strikes me when I look at this cartoon is how lovingly I added detail to Trent's legs in the first panel he appears. Man, I loved those legs!

At the Bar

As I'm sure you can guess, I was amused by a word that day. This one again isn't any world-changing strip, but it does the job. I've always liked the expression on Bob's face in the "Ho ho ho" panel. Note the "No Fear" shirt one of the assholes is wearing in the fifth panel. The events in this cartoon occur, sort of, in the movie Trainspotting, except there it's pretty damn grisly, though perversely amusing as well.

The Joy of Learning

Hoo boy. Don't get me started. I did about half of this cartoon one night at the Gateway, and then for the sake of legal propriety, let's say I got "drunk." Really really "drunk," if you know what I mean. Then I came back and did the second half. I was at the height (so to speak) of my intoxication when I drew the fifth panel, the "At last! My quest is finished!" panel. Look at that panel again, and note that the guy is totally insane. That, of course, was me at that moment. Not a self-portrait, mind you, but make no mistake-- it was me.

I also have no excuse for the flowery crappo prose in the second panel, and I can't even say I was wasted, 'cuz I wasn't. And after all that, the punchline? Heck-- I kinda like it.

On Tha Street

This is one of my all-time favorite strips, and this seems to be one of those classic cases where nobody feels the same way as I do. It started somehow with the phrase "Wanna buy some tape," the reply "Is it sticky?", and the followup bit of street-lingo-ish "Yeah, man, it'll stick you up real good." That's all I had. Then somehow I was sketching this very serious Chinese guy and hey presto! I've got a cartoon with a twist.

I quite liked the way that Aung Kung Sui turned out, both with his dialogue and the way he looked. He had a lot of vigour, and I really dig the punchline -- I like to think it usually squeezes a half-decent laugh out right at the end. Every so often I think about how to bring him back for an encore performance. In fact, when I established the Reader Survey, I was hoping Kung Sui would be near the top of the list, so I'd have an excuse. No dice. Still, I have no doubt that he's out there somewhere, planning to make things rough for our brave hero someday.

One Small Small Step

I had grave, grave doubts about this one. The core joke, essentially, was the phrase "My Amazing Moon Room." I really figured nobody but nobody was going to go for this. But when I brought it in, it got a great response. A friend of mine told me it's becasue there's something kind of funny in every panel. I'm also quite proud of my Moon stuff, especially the first and third panels. So this is one of my weird favorites, one that does things a little differently than the usual.

For the Kids

Ah, the never-ending quest for controversy found its impotent end with this one.

There's a brilliant cartoon out there called Space Moose. It's visually very soft and inviting, but it's incredibly offensive. And there's no better laugh than the one that you're ashamed to share with your mother. I wanted a piece of that action.

Thus, the pedophile circus. I wrote this, and then I just drew it on autopilot, but even then, I couldn't stop thinking every so often, "What the hell am I doing here? I mean, just what the hell am I laughing at here?" I thought this one might really be the one. "Child-raping scum!"

And it went in, and nary a whisper. Nary a phone call. Nary a single letter of outrage from Peer Health Educators or Campus Crusade Against Sodomizing Children or anything. No tearful, timid testimonials from people who reluctantly admitted that they, themselves, had suffered abuse as a child, and found my cartoon, "offensive, degrading and hurtful." Nada. Not a sausage. So that was it. I can't offend anyone. I tried, but I can't.

What's all the more depressing was that the more I pored over this cartoon, the more I felt it had a little something to say. I mean, here's this guy. He's a pedophile-- granted. But he's done his time in prison, he's been released, and everywhere he goes he's hounded and spat on. He can never get a job, he can never live anywhere longer than a couple of months. Sure, people are concerned for their kids, but there is also an ugly mob mentality to the way this guy is vilified. Hopeless, destitute, he hears about Bob's circus, and he's so desperate, he actually tries to go to the one place he thinks may accept him as he really is. And he's rejected. Kinda sad, don't you think?

And hell, I just love that panel where Bob has his arm around Stu, all concerned, but a little impatient as well. "Sigh... I know you molest children. I mean circusy stuff. What kind of circusy stuff can you do?" Bob's just trying to get through these interviews, and just doesn't seem to get the pedophile thing.

And finally, note how in the third panel we see Stu's ominous sihouette, and then when we see him, he's a pale skinny gimp. Y'know, our most terrible monsters are victims too.


This is categorically not an AIDS-awareness public service announcement. I did it as sort of a free-association thing, still smarting from the pedophile thing, still looking for something that would make people angry. I thought if I made fun of AIDS awareness I'd get some complaints. Imagine my shock when I brought the cartoon in only to discover that it was in fact AIDS Awareness week. Suddenly my callous brushing-off of AIDS public service announcements seems legit. The point comes across best if you read the lines out loud, as in, "... Use a condom when you have sex or you could die. It's that simple. AIDS is no joke. Sproing sproing sproing." That's what I was looking for.

Also, a friend of mine took this cartoon and used a gif-splitting program to make a little slideshow of it. I had it spotlighted on the main page for a while, but I took it down because it often didn't work. Nonetheless, if you want to give it a try, go ahead.

The Coolest Guy on the Hill

Gotta say I like this one. Salamar Le Bey is another guy like Aung Kung Sui who I just like to draw, and I think he's got a nice presence. This was a pretty simple one to write, and it didn't take long to draw. Just nice all-round. And the gag in the second panel is that he's saying something that kind of ryhmes with "Geronimo!" Yeah, I know it's not very funny.


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