Blog: The Comics Curmudgeon
Josh, depicted here reading the comics so we don't have to.
A blog started by Josh Fruhlinger in July 2004, under its original title, I Read The Comics So You Don't Have To
(a Boston-area newspaper that featured a similarly-titled column forced the name change). In it, Josh selects several newspaper comic strips
every day and offers (usually sarcastic) commentary on them. Over time, the blog has developed a great deal of media attention as the authors of many comics have discovered it. Some comic artists or writers are even fans of the blog, including Chris Browne (Hägar the Horrible
), Mark Tatulli (Lio
, Heart of the City
), Francesco Marciuliano (Sally Forth
and also the web comic Medium Large
), Ed Power (My Cage
), "Jumble Jeff" Knurek (the Jumble
puzzle/comic), James Allen (Jack Elrod's assistant/successor on Mark Trail
), and Bob Weber, Jr. (Slylock Fox
). Marciuliano, who is also registered on the boards, even created a logo for the site (and the image for this page) during a major site redesign in early 2010. Also, Bob Weber has actually used the blog to sell official Slylock Fox merchandise directed at the adult fans of his strip.
Josh has also developed a great deal of Running Gags
within the blog, including Aldo Kelrast, a character in Mary Worth
, whose storyline became one of the strip's most popular after Josh began joking about it. Archie
has even made reference to one of the blog's running gags.
Read it here
- Alternative Character Interpretation: Much of the blog is based on this.
- His application of plothole logic to Slylock Fox can easily make you unable to see it as anything other than a hell dimension populated by poor souls cursed to be animals for all eternity, constantly under surveillance and presumed to be guilty of all accused crimes.
- Marmaduke is a ravenous, uncontrollable Hellhound who regularly consumes his "owner"'s neighbors and buries their stripped bones in the back yard.
- Also, his owner is apparently Adolf Hitler due to similar hair and mustache styles.
- Instead of being a caring, helpful soul, Mary Worth is a Machiavellian, manipulative harpy who cannot stand people living in ways she doesn't approve and compulsively meddles in the affairs of those she encounters.
- Mark Trail is asexual and secretly hates Rusty.
- Stanley and Harriet from Better Half are addicted to prescription drugs.
- Rex Morgan is gay.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: (In a commentary on Mary Worth) "Place your bets on what this 'troubling' medical condition may be: pregnancy, venereal disease, dementia, Electra Complex, droopy-ponytail-itis"
- Anti-Humor: In a Marmaduke comic featured in this post, Marmaduke is eating out of a bag of chips while Dottie sits next to him, asking, "Did someone give Marmaduke a bag of corn chips?" What kind of "Marmaduke is a people-eating hellbeast" joke will Josh make this time?...
Josh: Someone gave Marmaduke a bag of corn chips.
This wasn't Josh, it was done during one of his vacations by frequent pinch hitter Uncle Lumpy.
- Ascended Meme: After constantly joking about the Archie comic strip being written by the "Archie Joke Generating Laugh Unit 3000," the strip began referencing that line.
- The author of Mary Worth opened a CafePress store and created merchandise prominently featuring some of Aldo's greatest moments.
- Asexuality: Josh constantly makes jokes about Mark Trail being asexual. It's probably second only to the jokes about Mark solving all his problems by punching people with his "fist of justice."
- By contrast, Josh desperately wishes that the characters in Luann would all develop this, as the achingly awkward "sexiness" of the strip "makes my libido shrivel and die."
- Ban on Politics: It's an official blog rule that even just mentioning Mallard Fillmore will get you banned from the comments section.
- Bold Inflation: The man likes using italics and capital letters in spots for emphasis. His fondness is lampshaded in the title of this entry.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Josh speculating on what sort of offscreen rowdiness Gil Thorp characters had gotten up to:
"Drugs? Orgy? Drug fueled orgy?"
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "Marmaduke's owner can't get the dog to stay off the furniture, stop digging up the yard, or refrain from eating the neighbors"
- Caustic Critic: Josh can be this at times, especially to strips that he dislikes, though he's generally more sarcastic and jovial than outright hostile. Except for the one and only time he discussed political cartoons.
- Josh can get pretty hostile about strips he wants to see end, with Marvin, Luann, and (when it was still running) Crock being among the hardest hit. Generally, though, he just mocks the on-going nature of long-running strips, often citing them as horribly out of touch with modern times (such as Crock's belief that kids these days "swap iTunes" as a sign of commitment).
- He has come to genuinely and openly hate Funky Winkerbean. Considering he was a fan of the strip when the blog started and had been impressed by the writer's willingness to go through with depicting Lisa's death from cancer, this should say something about the direction the strip has taken since then. He's not too wild about its spinoff strip Crankshaft, either.
- Subverted by Mallard Fillmore. He hates it, but has only talked about it once. Plus, mentioning it on his blog is a bannable offense.
- It should be noted that Josh dislikes political cartoons in general. He also rarely talks about Doonesbury, for example.
- Also subverted by Get Fuzzy; it's one of the few comics he genuinely likes. Since its entertaining on its own merits, he rarely brings it up, and when he does, it's just as often an attempt to explain why it's amusing to those outside the fold, which he undertakes with a surprising amount of maturity, considering this is the internet.
- The Pluggers and Snuffy Smith comics generally get reviewed with a mildly sneery checklist of pretty much every stereotype off the Acceptable Targets checklist regarding rural people.
- Interestingly, his opinion of B.C. seems to have softened since the passing of creator Johnny Hart and the strip's subsequent transformation into a Legacy Comic. Hart had made the comic preachy, unfunny and overtly religious in a way that didn't suit the tone of the comic after his finding religion. The legacy writer's decision to go in a more bizarre direction with it leads to a more incomprehensible but more enjoyable comic.
- Similarly, Dick Tracy has fallen off the rotation since the creative team changed - Josh has stated he just doesn't find it as perversely entertaining anymore, now that the plots are shorter and saner and the artwork is better.
- Child Eater: Marmaduke
- Dissimile: His quip about The Family Circus here:
I'm overjoyed to see Billy's comically overwrought expression of crushing despair as his mother drapes that suit jacket over his shoulders. It's as if he’s won the Masters, only instead of a green jacket he's getting a blue jacket, and instead of winning the Masters he's going to be executed wearing a blue jacket.
- Don't Explain the Joke: Parodied. Josh often explains the punchline of a comic in the most outlandish and unfiltered manner possible.
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Guest commentator Uncle Lumpy has one at the end of this post.
- Family Theme Naming: Josh speculates that Lois from Hi and Lois was originally named Ladybug before she got married and left the Bailey family, considering that her brothers' names are Beetle and Chigger.
- Fanfiction: There was a post about a joke in Hi and Lois when one of the kids misunderstands a metaphor, and assumes that Beethoven was buried alive. This ensued.
- Fetish Retardant: In-universe, Josh has noted that he's never turned on by highly sexualized female characters such as June Morgan or Blondie, yet is head-over-heels in love with Margo McGee. Part of it is his well documented love of strong, take-charge women.
- Fridge Brilliance: There were comics that Josh had initially disliked when the blog started, but as he reviewed them more he began to genuinely appreciate them. Two examples are Curtis and They'll Do It Every Time.
- This is somewhat true with The Better Half in which he never even acknowledged it until Uncle Lumpy started blogging it while he was on vacation. But realizing that their marriage is more fucked up than The Lockhorns he started taking a interest in it. Though it seems if anything more of a "fascination" than actual appreciation.
- Furry Confusion: Josh notes that a dog plugger owning a pet dog is confusing. He says "Pluggers don't have health insurance, so they take their kids to the vet"
- Furry Fandom: Mocks this in Slylock Fox but his dislike/fear of the uprising seemingly extends to any form of Talking Animal, petting zoo or funny.
- Furry Reminder: Josh's initial reaction to a Shoe strip is, "HOLY CRAP THEY'RE FLYING!"
- Hellhound: Marmaduke.
- Ho Yay: Josh points this out about Beetle Bailey and Sarge.
- Human Mail: Josh interprets a silly Hi and Lois strip this way.
- Hypocrisy Nod: Often, Josh complains heartily about some aspect of a comic, only to turn around and demand that the very next strip include more of what he disliked about the first comic. He always lampshades this. Example!
- I Knew It: In Apartment 3G, he correctly guessed that Ruby was Luann's biological mother over four years before The Reveal proved it.
- I Liked It Better When It Sucked: His thoughts on Dick Tracy.
- Insane Troll Logic: Josh writes some of his own for a Dennis the Menace riff. He says that Dennis hates baseball, America's favorite pastime. Therefore, he hates America, and is a terrorist/fascist/commie.
- Insistent Terminology: When discussing the creators of Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois, Josh always refers to them as "Walker-Browne Amalgamated Humor Industries LLC."
- Memetic Badass: In-universe, Mark Trail, Margo Magee, and Mary Worth when a peon interferes with her meddling.
- Memetic Molester: In-universe, Rex Morgan.
- Memetic Sex Goddess / Ms. Fanservice: Cassandra Cat.
- Mood Whiplash: Josh delves into the metatextual layers of a Dennis the Menace strip, culminating in his decision that "perhaps Dennis is menacing us, by showing us the real human consequences of our hidden desires." The next strip was Shoe:
- Nephewism: The Trope Namer, though the entry lumps the Chaste Toons trope in with this as well.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: When Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus, died in 2011, Josh was very somber, recalling the era when the strip was a lot edgier, and how the man himself had a great sense of humor about all the parodies of his work.
- Even the comments section has nothing but respect for the man, everybody agreeing that their mocking was in good jest, and that despite how unfunny many may have found the comic, every single commentor still respected him as a cartoonist and human being.
- Also on the death of B.C. creator Johnny Hart: "Instead, I’ll just note that the dude died at his drawing board. That’s hardcore."
- And when Al Scaduto of They Do It Every Time passed away at the age of 79, no one, not Josh nor the commenters, expressed anything but respect for the man.
- Josh's response to the creator death-driven end of Crock, even though Josh disliked the strip, and it had made a Take That at his expense just five days before.
- New Media Are Evil: While Josh himself doesn't believe this, he does point out the more obnoxious or ridiculous examples of the comics.
- The Noseless: What Josh realises to his horror in regards to Jon Arbuckle, when he and Dagwood Bumstead appeared together in the same panel.
- Perverse Sexual Lust: Josh has it for Margo McGee.
- Precision F-Strike
Now that we're in bed, they won't have to watch their language on TV. Josh:
You sure got that right, you little fucker.
- Put on a Bus: An interesting non-character example. Either Josh loses interest in many comics, or runs out of ways he can play on the same running gag, or he finds replacements to mock when the older riffing material gets stale. note Regardless, many many comics have come and gone from his circulation over the years.
- Reality Ensues: A huge amount of the blog's comedy is found in describing the real world ramifications of a given strip, especially if given dark, gory or sexual undertones.
- Rule 34: He found one of Cassandra Cat on someone else's blog and posted it to his own. It later got taken down from both blogs, at Bob Weber, Jr.'s requestnote .
- Running Gag: Beyond all the Memetic Mutation, other recurring gags include:
- Beetle Bailey and Sarge being sexual partners.
- Dennis the Menace's ever-growing Menace Decay.
- Though quite a few times Josh finds him very passively-aggressively menacing.
- The Family Circus being the story of an ultra-Fundamentalist cult living sequestered away in the "Keane Kompound."
- Also, jokes about the kids being drooling retards
- Funky Winkerbean's obsession with cancer and death, to the point that never-ending depression seems to be the only constant force in the Funkyverse. Also extends to Crankshaft at times.
- Herb and Jamaal being "ludicrously non-specific."
- And those two being "on the down-low." You know what I'm talking about.
- Marmaduke being a demonspawned hellhound who can't stop killing and eating people, and his owner being Adolf Hitler.
- Marvin's obsession with Toilet Humor.
- Mary Worth's obsession with sanctimonious meddling (although that one is more or less canon).
- Archie being written by a sterile computer, the Archie Joke-Generating Laugh Unit 3000, that "almost, but doesn't quite, understand humor."
- Mark Trail solving most of his problems by punching bearded hillbillies.
- As well his asexuality.
- The abominations that are the author's attempts to draw Rusty as something more resembling a human boy than some sort of hellspawn.
- And all the giant animals running around, and even occasionally speaking.
- Dick Tracy is an authoritarian tyrant who believes violence is the solution to everything.
- The romance between Brad and Toni in Luann seems to make Josh physically ill. Also, TJ is probably gay.
- Crankshaft being a Jerkass.
- Slylock Fox He jokes about the world being a dystopian society where animals evolved and overthrew the human race. Josh recently managed to pinpoint where it all started
- Newspaper Spider-Man wants nothing more than to watch TV.
- Along with jokes about everyone else in the strip being absolute morons.
- In Apartment 3-G, Luann is vapid, Tommie has the personality of cardboard, and Margo Magee is a memetic psychopath who would just as soon snap someone's neck as acknowledge they exist. Of course, no part of that diminishes Josh's Perverse Sexual Lust for her.
- Finger-Quotin' Margo.
- Recently a running-gag is about how incredibly boring the current storyline is (Tommie and Carol talking about nothing for months) and how it seems to never end, while wondering where the heck Margo and Luann are.
- Calling For Better or for Worse "FOOB" (all caps, as if it were a botched attempt at an acronym), after a strip where April explains slang that actually only exists in-universe.
- The crazy pervert inbound visitors. See, when someone goes to the site from a search engine result, Josh can see what they searched, and he took to posting some of the most creepy and outlandish ones for the amusement of readers.
- The characters of Judge Parker being smug dicks, who see no problem with using their money to get whatever they want.
- The running gag in Heathcliff is Josh making fun of the fact that the comic is pure insanity, to the point where Josh doesn't even have to say anything. It's almost as if the writer expects Josh to riff it so he makes it as bizarre as possible to make it easier for him.
- Referring to The Phantom as "The Ghost Who [something related to that day's comic]", after his official epithet of "The Ghost Who Walks"
- "Ha! It's funny because [some creepy reason]." The best part is that, for once, he's not extrapolating anything; these are always the intended joke.
- It's gotten to the point that he has a Running Gag where he wonders if he's overplaying a particular gag, only for a strip to take it to new and disturbing heights.
- he constantly compares Hägar the Horrible to the (not at all family friendly) real life vikings. Implying that Hagar is still no different, and rapes and murders off-panel.
- When a character says something that someone would never use in a normal everyday conversation, he assumes the characters are aliens trying to fit in with human society.
- Sarah Morgan being better than everyone else, to the point of being a powerful entity who is not bound to the rules of pathetic mortals.
- Scunthorpe Problem: At one point the comment system's spam filter kept catching posts containing "MILF"...and Gil Thorp takes place in Milford.
- Self-Deprecation: Josh will occasionally comment on how horrible or immature a person he thinks he is based on how he reacts to a scene.
- Shout-Out: My Cage, Pearls Before Swine and Sally Forth have all made positive references to the blog. Retail made a less positive reference to it in a strip about a blog called "hateoncomics.com." Ironic, considering Josh has never covered Retail.
- The Jumble (whose artist is a regular commenter) has included Josh in a few puzzles, including one where he is put on trial and found guilty by the entire newspaper comics page.
- Archie occasionally drops references to the AJGLU 3000 into background detail.
- The authors of Mary Worth have released "Aldomania" merchandise.
- One Crock Sunday strip featured a soldier named "Freerloiter" getting injured in battle and receiving a lobotomy, which has caused him to lose "his artistic talent". When Crock asks him what he's going to do next, he responds "I think I'll move to Baltimore and start a comics blog." (Crock responds by pulling the plug on his life support.)
While the idea that I began my blog as the result of some kind of massive traumatic brain injury would explain a lot of things
, the jokes on them: I never had any artistic talent in the first place, suckers!
- Take That, Audience!: When Sally Forth had a strip of Ted reading the blog, Josh was unsurprised as he says his target audience is the "pop-culture-obsessed emotionally arrested man-child".
- They Just Didn't Care: What Josh says of Gil Thorp and Shoe in regards to paying tribute to Dick Tracy's 75th anniversary.
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Josh loves pointing out a) potentially awesome ways the plot could develop and b) how boring the plot actually develops. When it does turn out awesome, however...
- Think of the Children!: What he says of a Hi and Lois strip depicting a heart-shaped candy box as black even in color, implying that the title characters are in an S&M relation ship.
I'd cry "But what about the children?" except that I'm reasonably sure that no children actually read Hi and Lois.
- He used this same statement to imply that the writers seem to be well aware of this, suggesting that's why they un-bowlderized Thirsty back into a drunk.
- [Trope Name]: This entry.
- Uncanny Valley: Whatever on Earth Rusty is.
- Understatement: Josh describes Hagar killing his dog as "not cool".
- Very Special Episode: Parodied. "Two weeks ago, General Halftrack slipped off into the woods to quietly kill himself. Today, in a very special Beetle Bailey, Beetle finds the body."
- World of Snark: But of course! The Curmudgeon's raison d'etre...