comic strip begun in 1988. It centers on an urban black family, most notably the title character, 11-year-old Curtis Wilkins. Also included are his brother, Barry; their parents, and a small number of secondary characters.
The strip is noted for being one of the first major comic strips to feature a largely black cast, starting a wake of other such strips including Jump Start
, Herb and Jamaal
... and, of course, The Boondocks
- Abhorrent Admirer: Michelle considers Curtis this. Curtis often felt the same way about Chutney.
- Accidental Misnaming: Gunther the barber can never seem to get Curtis' name right.
- Alpha Bitch: Michelle.
- She crosses over with Rich Bitch, given how obscenely wealthy her parents are. She recently sunk one grand on a foot cleaning treatment involving koi fish. Which backfired when her feet ender up killing half the fish and traumatized the rest.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Subverted on both counts in a series of strips where Curtis and Barry find an unmarked videotape belonging to their parents. It is implied in one panel that it's a sex tape. However, it turns out that it's an old episode of Soul Train that their parents appeared on, which also serves as the "how they met" story for Diane and Greg. After watching the tape, Curtis and Barry have a newfound respect for their parents, i.e. that their parents actually did something "cool" in their eyes.
- Ambition Is Evil: Michelle's pride in her achievements in modeling and acting is seen as prideful and "stuck-up" by the other regular characters (minus Curtis, of course).
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Curtis' brother, Barry.
- At the same time, Barry is still nice to him...sometimes.
- Author Filibuster: In one story arc, some kids made fun of Curtis for being an "Oreo" (a black person that acts white). Curtis' father responded at length that if loving and taking care of one's family and ensuring that they had a roof over their heads was being an Oreo, he was proud to be one.
- The Barber: Curtis gets advice from one. The barber never seems to be able to remember his name, however.
- Curtis' mother often complains that she doesn't like Curtis hanging around those barbers, picking up weird ideas. Greg invariably laughs her off, saying the weird ideas are how you know you've found a trustworthy barber. No, the ones you've got to watch out for are the ones that do the job without a word...
- Betty and Veronica: Chutney (Betty) and Michelle (Veronica).
- Big Eater: Curtis. Some examples include him saying, "Can we stop for pizza before going home to dinner?" after chomping down a bunch of hamburgers, sneaking an entire Dagwood Sandwich into the movie theatre and eating it, before then popping out some fried chicken....
- Bratty Half-Pint: Barry likes to provoke Curtis, then appeal to the fact that his mother is a dupe to get Curtis in trouble for wanting to hurt his poor, sweet, angelic brother. Then, for being a manipulative little sack of shit, Barry gets rewarded with ice cream. Millions of older brothers of all races across the nation declare Dude, Not Funny!.
- Book and Switch: Curtis often tries to hide his Supercaptaincoolman comics this way while in class. His teacher is never fooled.
- Camera Obscurer: A running gag involving Curtis' barber, who claims to have met someone famous. When asked to show proof, he will inevitably produce a photograph of himself with his arm around the celebrity... except that the "celebrity" will be obscured by a finger.
- Cassandra Truth: Yes, there really is a "Flyspeck Island Chameleon" who turns invisible and performs comic mischief. Yes, the adults are going to keep pinning the blame on Curtis.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Gunk exhibits various odd behaviors and abilities as required by the plot.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Every time Gunk discusses Flyspeck Island's customs.
- Darker and Edgier: Believe it or not, the Kwanzaa stories get insanely morbid at times.
- Devil in Plain Sight: While the creator clearly intends for Barry to be a stereotypically bratty little brother to Curtis, his actions are so frequently mean-spirited (and of a "because I can get away with it" bent) that Barry ends up as this.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: Resident school bullies Derrick and "Onion", who seemingly wait to ambush Curtis when he needs some conflict in his life.
- Until Curtis got them expelled.
- Said expulsion seems to have been retconned so that Billingsley can go back to tormenting Curtis.
- The Faceless: Originally, Curtis' parents were only seen from neck down, but eventually the artist started drawing their faces.
- The Freelance Shame Squad: One of the strip's running gags is, the annual Back To School shopping trip, where Diane takes Curtis shopping for clothes and (ostensibly to hand him clothes to try on) opens the dressing room door on Curtis (who always has his pants down) wide enough for a crowd of bystanders to laugh loudly at the sight.
- Family-Unfriendly Aesop: In one comic, when Gunther's Uncle Junie died, Gunther said that his uncle's last wish was if the family had to remember him with tears, it would be better to just forget about him. Yeah, I have no idea what they were thinking... NOT a good message for kids.
- Known Only by Their Nickname: "Onion". Always used complete with quotes.
- Mad Love: Curtis is crazy about his "girl" Michelle, even though she doesn't feel the same about him, even hiring an airplane to write that out in the air for him to see. His crush on Michelle also sometimes enters Stalker with a Crush territory with at least one comic strip having Michelle tell Barry that she keeps on seeing Curtis everywhere she goes and that she's scared to even go to the bathroom because of this.
- Not to mention the fact that he is apparently able to break into the apartment building she lives in for visits, even though there seems to be plenty of security.
- Magical Negro: Inverted with Gunk, the Magical Token White.
- Mama Bear: Diane is fiercely protective of Curtis and Barry. This was exemplified when a car skidded out of control and pinned Barry beneath it; Diane LIFTED the car WITH HER BARE HANDS and pulled him out.
- Never Trust a Hair Tonic: A few examples, often thanks to Curtis's misuse of a Flyspeck Island substance.
- Nice Hat: The title character often gives commentary on the church ladies' more and more extravagant (and silly) hats. Curtis himself is always seen with an oversized green cap; he even sleeps with it on.
- We seem to have seen the last of these; what happened is that Barry finally told Diane what Curtis was doing and, well, she spanked him for, I don't know, not respecting his elders or insulting God or something that June Cleaver would have handled by a Dope Slap and a comment about not making fun.
- Oblivious to Love: Curtis never seems to notice that his good friend Chutney is madly in love with him. Or that Michelle isn't romantically interested in him, for that matter, and only even thinks of him as a friend occasionally.
- Once a Season: The Kwanzaa arcs.
- Overly Long Name: Gunk's name is actually an acronym for his full name, which is "Gladimus Unfred Nostradamus Klaustauvicke".
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Inverted: the disguises Michelle sometimes don to avoid Curtis are ridiculously good (one of them is a full-body "fat woman" disguise), yet Curtis can always tell that it's her.
- Parental Favoritism: Barry by far. He not only frequently torments Curtis, but is able to avoid punishment (and pass the blame on to Curtis) because he can taunt Curtis into trying to smack him, then cry to mom, who frequently says "Since you have nothing better to do, Curtis, do chores". Barry is often shown taunting him after this.
- Perpetual Poverty: The Wilkins (mainly Greg) constantly complain about scraping by to make ends meet on Greg's salary (Diane appears to be a stay-at-home mom). Yet, they never seen to be short on food (See Big Eater) and the boys always seem to have electronic gizmos current enough to keep them happy.
- Reality Ensues: In a recent sequence, Gunk decided to dive into a freezing cold river to rescue trapped dolphins only to end up being treated for hypothermia after being mistakenly declared DOA by EM Ts who forgot about the mammalian diving reflex. While glad to see his friend had survived, Curtis was not happy with being put through the emotional wringer by screw-ups.
- Rebellious Princess: Or in Gunk's case, "Prince."
- Reset Button: No matter how long-lasting or major the repercussions of a storyline should be, things are firmly back to normal come the next storyline.
- Running Gag: The strip cycles through them like clockwork. A few examples include Curtis screwing up, Gunk doing crazy things, Barry being an obnoxious bratty little kid getting Curtis into trouble, Curtis sneaking food into the movie theater....
- Gunther the barber constantly claims to have met famous people, and whenever he produces a picture, there is always, ALWAYS a thumb covering the lens over said famous person.
- Curtis leads Barry to a seemingly prim-and-proper organization that turns out to be a record store selling rap albums. Curtis explains that every time parents find the store, "they rally together and torch it!"
- Curtis playing rap at full blast with his dad, Greg, screaming, "Curtis, turn that rap junk down!" Inverted in one strip where Greg and Diane play 1970's songs from when they were younger. This has become problematic in recent years, as Greg and Diane act clueless about 80s and 90s music that now would have been what they were exposed to growing up, while Curtis uses slang and enjoys entertainment of a sort twenty years or so out of date.
- Status Quo Is God: See Reset Button.
- This Loser Is You: There have been a lot of strips that show us that Curtis is a rather heedless young boy plowing headlong through a city filled with angry people who hate him because he won't do what they expect of him.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Derrick and "Onion".
- Token White: Gunk.
- Too Dumb to Live: Most of Curtis's problems in life stem from the fact that he is too blasted stupid to follow the rules or pick up on the fact that his behaviour irritates people around him.
- Very Special Episode: Early strips focused on Curtis trying to get his dad to quit smoking, Curtis finding a crack baby in a trash bin, etc.
- Periodically there'll be another strip or two where Curtis makes off with his dad's cigarettes and flushes them down the toilet. It's entirely possible the artist is actually rerunning the same strip, for all that anything new happens; Greg rages, then impotently acknowledges his wife's point when she tells him his son means well and is just looking out for his health.
- During the 90s, there was an extended story where Curtis' mother became pregnant, with most of the focus being on Barry's jealousy and apprehension over no longer being the cute, coddled one. When the baby was about due, though, Barry and Mom inexplicably decided they needed to go out at night alone for some eclairs. Some thugs came up and mugged them, punching Mom in the stomach hard. The baby ended up a miscarriage. The entire neighborhood banded together, agreeing to never forget this terrible tragedy and watch out for each other. Of course, the unborn sibling has -never- been even vaguely alluded to since, Aesop Amnesia being in full force for everyone and everything.
- There was also a sequence where Curtis went through a door and found himself back in time on the day that Martin Luther King was assassinated.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The city Curtis was set went unnamed for years, until a story arc involving Curtis and Barry sneaking off to see the Obama Inaguration IDed their hometown as Baltimore.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: See Bratty Half-Pint.
- Your Mom: All the time, from Derek and "Onion".