Zits is a comic strip written by Jerry Scott (creator of Baby Blues and one-time cartoonist for Nancy) and illustrated by Jim Borgman about the life of 15-year-old high school freshman Jeremy Duncan.Jeremy lives with his parents, Walt and Connie, who both possess boring jobs and spectacular ignorance (according to Jeremy, anyway). He dreams of 'making it big' as a rock musician, but feels like he lives in the shadow of his highly successful college brother Chad.Many strips deal with relationships with his friends, the sensible Hector and the extremist Pierce, not to mention his on-off girlfriend Sara. Notably for a teen strip, many of the comics also deal with Connie and Walt, and many of the funniest moments come from their perspectives.
Aborted Arc: Oh no, Jeremy's parents saw his Facebook page, and aren't happy with the content! What's going to happen? ... Nothing, apparently.
Accidental Unfortunate Gesture: After Jeremy accidentally cut his middle finger, he was told to elevate it. The nurse quickly changes her mind after she overhears a few "Same to you, Duncan!" comments in the school halls.
The Alleged Car: Jeremy's 1962 VW Microbus. Most of the time, he and Hector just hang out in it, but once, they slipped the tires from Connie's station wagon on it and (barely) got it up and running. Once Jeremy finally got his license, it moved from being a hangout to an actual (somewhat) mode of transportation for good.
Jeremy's parents at one point decided that they would have to buy Jeremy a car in the future just to prevent him from driving this deathtrap.
Apparently they changed their minds, most likely because the microbus can't even make minimum highway speed.
Anachronism Stew: While Walt and Connie being baby boomers with a teenage son was feasible in the 90s, it's become increasingly more of a stretch to buy it. Additionally, Jeremy's clothing stays stuck in the grunge era.
He got a minor update to his hair, and Hector has gotten a completely new hairstyle, which was badly needed - Jeremy's hair is (and mostly was) generic enough to pass anytime from the late 80's to today, but Hector's original 'do was pure 90's.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Jeremy's mother says there's something she wants to talk to him about. He then deadpans several wild guesses, including "You're having a sex change?" and "You and dad are cousins?" She gets increasingly frustrated and finally yells out, "No! We're changing salsa brands!" "...WHAT??"
Repeated a second time when his parents try and tell him they're changing toilet paper brands, which "seemed more monumental at the store."
Walt tells Jeremy that he lived through Nixon, the Cold War, leisure suits and Vietnam. Jeremy's reaction?
He then admonished Pierce for adding to his braces for decorative purposes.
Brain Bleach: Jeremy attempts to apply this many, MANY times when he hears or sees something squicky concerning his parents.
Most notably when Jeremy learns from his mother he was conceived to the song Stairway to Heaven, actually sticking his head under a faucet and pouring water into his ear to try to erase what he had just heard.
His friend Hector later reveals his own mother told him he was conceived while blueberry muffins burned in the oven. To this day, Hector can't even look at one without feeling sick.
This happened to Connie too in one strip. After she commented that a song he was listening to was "catchy", he showed her the lyrics. In the final panel, Jeremy tells his dad, "I'm grounded for buying a CD and mom is at church for liking it."
Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: One strip has Jeremy said he would rather watch grass grow, or paint dry, or paint the grass and watch it dry as it grows.
Chad hasn't been seen or mentioned in ages, either. And he's Jeremy's brother. The creators even joke frequently that they forget he exists. A lampshade was officially hung on this when Jeremy states that he "needs to start leaving his room more" on account of never seeing Chad, to which Chad responds, "That's what I keep telling your sister."
Tim, another member of Jeremy and Hector's band. He was given some Character Development in an arc where he showed sympathy for his mother, who was recovering from breast cancer; both Jeremy and Hector were shocked at this behavior, as they took Tim to be quiet, moody and indifferent to others' needs. However, Tim pretty much disappeared after that.
Since Connie has been shown to fantasize about the days when Jeremy was younger, it could be she is a therapist for younger children, and adolescence is still a mystery to her.
An early strip shows she does at least some work with teenagers.
Honestly, despite his sullen teenage attitude (which, let's face it, is completely normal for his age group), Jeremy is very well-adjusted.
This question is also brought up in the arc where Jeremy painted his room black and began wearing a dog collar in an attempt to make his parents think he was emotionally disturbed. He figured they would try to please him by buying him expensive toys. They decided to try to help him by giving him lots and lots of HUGS!
Comfort Food: When Jeremy isn't feeling well, his mother knows that it helps.
Walt: Calorie therapy?
Connie: When in doubt, apply food to the wound.
Comic Book Time: Jeremy has been 15 for over a decade. It's only since 2009 that he's turned 16, gotten a driver's license and moved up to being a sophomore.
This becomes problematic with Jeremy's parents, especially with Walt, as there are many references to him being a hippy in The Sixties. When the strip started in 1997, it was not uncommon for a baby boomers to have a teenage kid. But since the strip is still going on in 2014, Walt should be in his sixties now, so he should be retired or close to retirement age. And since Connie is implied to be roughly the same age as Walt, this would mean she gave birth to Jeremy in her late forties or early fifties, which, while not impossible, is extremely uncommon.
Cone of Shame: Pierce wears one to try to cut down his mobile phone usage.
Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Jeremy and Sara were exchanging gifts for Christmas, but Sara forgot. She quickly grabs the first thing she sees, wraps it and gives it to Jeremy. Cut to Jeremy and Hector examining the very loud, wide necktie:
Jeremy: What do you think she's trying to say?
Hector: I heart geeks?
Cue the Flying Pigs: When Jeremy cleans his bathroom without being threatened, a flock of pigs take to the air and fly through the house.
Dagwood Sandwich: At one point Jeremy eats one that's so big he has to unhinge his jaw.
Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: Jeremy accidentally cheesed off Sara by saying that her freckles help hide her zits, then compounded it by asking what it's like having divorced parents. Both comments are represented by white-on-black word balloons that linger in the air.
Jeremy had this problem one other time: every time he opened his mouth, something stupid came out (which was depicted as a hillbilly-looking mini-Jeremy leaping out his mouth shouting things like "Shagadellic!" and "I think Adam Sandler movies will stand the test of time.") Eventually he goes to Britney for help, who illuminates him to the fact that most males go undiagnosed with this same affliction for years.
Another time, Jeremy is getting progressively angry with Sara about something. It culminates with him dialing her number, getting her voicemail, and screaming, "YOU SKANK!" into the phone. A panel later, he's covering his mouth in Stunned Silence, realizing the gravity of what he's just said.
Dinner Order Flub: Attempting to impress Sara, Jeremy orders the radicchio, "medium rare, of course". The waiter informs him that the raddicho is a salad and the chef prefers to serve it raw. As Sara and Connie dissolve in laughter, Walt attempts to make Jeremy feel better by saying that when he and Connie were dating he once ordered "jackets required".
Dissimile: Pierce's family life "is like a symphony. But there aren't any musical instruments, and the musicians just yell at each other."
Early Installment Weirdness: The art was a lot different early on; Jeremy and Hector's drummer was a black guy named Y.A., who never developed and was quickly dropped; Jeremy's mom was a child therapist; Chad was always drawn so that word balloons obscured his face; et cetera. Also, some early strips had Jeremy as The Narrator, but that aspect quickly disappeared.
Flanderization: Jeremy went from being a regular, believable (and more importantly, relatable) teenager to just another TV Teen who only communicates in grunts, texts needlessly, and has a messy room, earning him the Fan Nickname, "Jerkemy" on many snark boards.
Fluffy the Terrible: Sara's pet turtles: Peaches and Mordoc, Lord of Unholy Fury. She got them at different times of the month.
Free the Frogs: Autumn encourages Jeremy and Hector to let loose boxes of crickets that were supposed to be dissected in biology class.
In a later strip, Pierce frees thousands of locusts that were to be dissected. Or rather, he lets them out into the hallway.
Funny Answering Machine: Jeremy makes a message where he simply farts into the phone: "Leave a message at the sound of the 'frap'." And in an early strip, "You have reached the number you called. Blah, blah, blah. If you actually need further instructions, well, that's just pathetic."
Subverted in one strip where the dad starts saying all sorts of outlandish things to the be-headphoned Jeremy, including a promise of new computer equipment and tales of an alien attack. After a short pause, Jeremy responds to everything Dad just said, even capping it off with "But the Martian thing sounds kinda unlikely."
Played straight in a Sunday Strip where Jeremy walks into the kitchen with headphones on. Connie gets on his case, ranting for three panels and asking, "Why not just save the headphones for those times when you want to block out unwanted noise?" The last panel is him with his headphones back on, blocking out her ranting.
Heh Heh, You Said X: One Sunday strip is made of this trope, in which a museum guide calmly gives the class a tour on "the many wonderful examples of tools," causing Jeremy and Hector to mutter "Tools" at each other and dissolve into barely contained giggles. The guide goes on to explaining to the class on how "Some tools are very large... some are nearly microscopic," then asks them "Can you think of a tool you have in your pocket right now? What tool do you use every day?" It's a wonder they kept straight faces for as long as they did. Then after they get in trouble for it, Connie asks them what is so funny about the word 'tool', and we see Walt barely able to control himself. Also a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar. The Swedish translation translated it into verktyg, the Swedish word for tool. It didn't work very well.
Hidden Depths: Pierce started out as an angry punk jerk but gradually morphed into a nice guy with extreme tastes. Similarly, Chad started out as an amazingly perfect guy (whose face wasn't even shown in the panels, except for a huge smile and an even more huge chin) but soon morphed into a more casual, bewhiskered, laid-back (but still perfect) type.
Likewise with Tim's sympathy for his mother after her breast cancer.
Improbably High IQ / Improbably Low IQ: Parodied. Jeremy and Hector once took an Internet IQ test with Jeremy scoring impossibly low and Hector scoring impossibly high, despite their virtually identical educations. Jeremy began to wonder if he was really that stupid and Hector started treating him like a dolt. Jeremy was only convinced the test was flawed after his father scored even higher on it.
Improbably Predictable: Jeremy comes down for breakfast with a stack of cards, and answers each of his mother's questions ("Orange juice? Eggs?") with the next card. Finally she insists, "I am not that predictable!" and he reveals the card which reads, "Wanna bet?"
Informed Flaw: Tim is always portrayed as quiet, agreeable, and low-key, at least in person. However, literally every time Jeremy is shown speaking to him over the phone, he furiously comments on what a jerk (or "prong") Tim is.
I Never Said It Was Poison: When Jeremy comes home and finds a note in his room moved, he asks his mother about it and she claims she would never read a silly note from a girl. Then Jeremy asks how she knew it was from a girl.
Mr. Seahorse: Played with. In one two-week arc, Jeremy, Hector and Pierce wear weighted vests that simulate the weight gain of pregnancy. The whole two weeks play out as if they actually are pregnant, with the first strip in the series featuring "pregnant" Jeremy, Hector and Pierce walking down the hallway, without any context as to why they're that way.
Walt: Oh, hi mom... no, nothing much new. Connie is just teaching Jeremy some Lamaze techniques.
The Nineties: A major indicator of when this strip was first created is the clothing/styles of the main characters. Jeremy wears baggy flannel shirts, and Hector has his hair parted at the middle in a classic 90s hairstyle.
Although they did change Jeremy's hair a few years ago to something more modern. In time, Hector got a well-deserved makeover too.
Non-Answer: When Connie asks Jeremy whether he was at Pierce's house instead of going to a movie like he claimed, Jeremy says that he is not going to lie to her. When Connie points out that is not answer, he points out that is also not a lie and she can't punish him. He's wrong.
Nostalgia Filter: Played for laughs in one arc in which Walt brings Jeremy and Connie to a cabin that Walt has nothing but fond memories of. Jeremy meanwhile finds that Walt hated the cabin as much as he does...there was a carving of "I hate this $@#% dump!" that Walt had apparently carved when he was Jeremy's age.
"Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Parodied. Jeremy has a dream that he's at school naked, and decides to play it cool instead of panicking. Cue Hector saying, "What makes you so sure this is just a dream?" just before he wakes up.
Another time, he said that he wasn't sure what was worse: dreaming that he was naked, or the fact that nobody ever noticed.
Organ Autonomy: Jeremy's brain goes on strike (and jumps out onto the desk to taunt him) right before a big test.
Orphaned Punchline: A number of strips open with the tail end of one of Walt's stories, with the rest of the strip dealing with Jeremy's reaction.
Out of Focus: Many of the gang's classmates in the earlier years don't show up so much anymore, including Jeremy's self-appointed self-help guru Brittany, Zuma and her Posse, and the caffeine junkie Phoebe. (Phoebe admittedly did show up once, when she sold her soul for a 4.3 GPA.)
Lately, the strip has taken on the parents' perspective a lot more than it used to, resulting in more jokes at the expense of teenagers and perceived teenage behavior. As a result, many of of Jeremy's friends are seen a LOT less.
Overcomplicated Menu Order: Done a few times. One strip observes that the more complicated the coffee order, the more high-maintenance the girlfriend.
Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: One strip had Jeremy and his girlfriend studying in the kitchen, so of course Jeremy's parents come in every five minutes, getting "good, clear water!", taking out laundry, changing light bulbs, dusting the top of the fridge...
Perfumigation: Jeremy's overuse of cologne is a Running Gag. In one strip, Jeremy uses some of Walt's old musk oil, and the resulting stench is shown by depicting Jeremy as a musk ox.
Perky Goth: More like perky punk. Pierce looks a little scary, but is harmless.
Ping Pong Naïveté: Regarding Jeremy's knowledge of classic rock. Didn't know what his dad meant when he complimented Jeremy and Hector's songwriting as having a Lennon/McCartney thing going, other strips has him referencing Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton.
Psmith Psyndrome: Sara can tell when someone is saying her name with an 'H' on the end.
Punctuation Shaker: D'ijon, whose real name is Dionne; she "started doing the punctuation thing in seventh grade." After finding out her real name, Pierce decides to change his name to "P'ierce," to which D'ijon responds, "N'o."
Reality Is Unrealistic: When it lampoons parents and teenagers, people always laugh because so many of it is true. Like the teenager trying to give advice on parenting to his parents or parents interpreting "Leave me alone" to meaning that they want to talk.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Jeremy's parents, much to his chagrin. Even their attempts to censor what music he listens to were dropped when they realized how tame it was.
Rule of Funny: Whether or not Jeremy's a great student depends on the joke of the strip: he occasionally aces tests, or claims to have "straight-As" and is considered a bright student, but at other times he struggles and/or fails.
Sadist Teacher: Ms. Butcher, who seems to have a vendetta against Jeremy - she gave both Hector and Jeremy 97% on a test, but Hector's was an A and Jeremy's, a C-. And she wrote Jeremy's grade in blood.
Satellite Character: Both Y.A. and Tim, who pretty much showed up only to be in Jeremy and Hector's band and were almost never seen in strips where the band wasn't involved.
Scenery Censor: In the strips where Jeremy decided to march around the living room naked.
Series Continuity Error: Connie was a child psychologist in early strips. This in a comic which has featured tons of jokes about how Connie doesn't understand Jeremy or how he works. In the January 27, 2012 strip, she outright says that she might need a job outside the house, so apparently her job isn't canon anymore. At one point she was spending her time writing a book on the topic in her home office.
Severely Specialized Store: A Sunday strip features an establishing panel of the inside of the local mall; stores named Just Burlap, Wineglasses in an Hour (a parody of Glasses in an Hour), and Things That Start with Q can be seen in the background.
Shower Shy: Jeremy hates having to shower with the seniors after gym.
Sickeningly Sweethearts: Richandamy, based on a real couple from the authors' lives, who appear to have achieved some kind of symbiosis and seem locked in a permanent embrace. The other characters' attitude towards them alternates between a strange sort of admiration and utter disbelief.
In one strip where they temporarily break up, the other characters can't pronounce their names separately, saying "Richand Amy" or "Rich Andamy." The mere attempt causes physical pain.
Something Completely Different: Since Halloween 2009, the last week of October has apparently become Zombie Week; specifically, Reasons Why Zombies Would Make Cool Parents.
Straight Gay: Billy, a character seen now and then in the background mentioned once that he's homosexual, but it's never joked about or mentioned in any other strip.
The mention was after Jeremy said his outfit looked gay. Jeremy seemed unfazed and simply said he meant "gay" as in "lame".
Straw Vegetarian: Hector's girlfriend Autumn is an animal lover and a fanatical vegetarian. The first time she saw Jeremy eating a burger, she got a hysterical fit as if she truly had never seen anything so terrible before.
One strip involved Jeremy getting scolded for swearing (represented by grawlixes), and then commenting that he's the only guy he knows who has a less colorful vocabulary than Beetle Bailey.
Another strip has Jeremy saying "Star-Asterisk-Fishbone!" when he hurts himself, and when Hector comments on it (apparently it's the equivalent of Gosh Dang It to Heck!) he explains that his mother will kill him if he says [string of grawlixes].
Tacky Tuxedo: In an attempt to persuade Sara to go to the prom with him, Jeremy borrows a tuxedo that used to belong to Hector's grandfather. Only when Hector gives it to him does he discover that Hector's grandfather had been in a mariachi band.
Talking with Signs: Zits does a non-speechless version of this. Jeremy comes down for breakfast with a stack of cards, and answers each of his mother's questions ("Orange juice? Eggs?") with the next card. Finally she insists "I am not that predictable!" and he reveals the card which reads "Wanna bet?"
Tall Poppy Syndrome: One strip shows that Jeremy fears this when he at first is glad to have gotten an A on a test, only to instead have a fantasy where his parents are proud of him and say that from now on, they'll expect an A on every quiz. The next panel, he says he thinks he blew it.
The Talk: Walt takes Jeremy on an early fishing morning trip as an excuse to have The Talk with him.
Walt: Your mom and I just want to make sure that there's no risky behavior going on between the two of you.
Jeremy: Don't worry. You can't have "risky" behavior if there's no behavior in the first place.
Technically a Smile: One strip showed a progression of school photos for Jeremy, each one showing a gradually less obvious smile. Another time, he propped the corners of his mouth upward with his fingers when Connie suggested that he smile instead of scowl.
Telecom Tree: We don't see the actual tree but Pierce calculates that in order to get 700 people to turn up to his Wild Teen Party he has to inform exactly one person (Brittney) and let the word spread. It works.
That Came Out Wrong: A history teacher saying "And the Vikings in their pillaging made off with lots of booty." Needless to say the class was over after she said it.
Tied Up on the Phone: Jeremy has done this by moving from phone to phone in the house, stretching out the cord on one phone till he can pick up the receiver on the next.
Totally Radical: Jeremy had to teach his dad not to say "What's up, dood?" Unfortunately, though he could pronounce "Whatup, dude?" (relatively in use at time of publishing), he had no idea what it meant.
Parodied in one strip where Jeremy tries to get a slang word of his own invention to catch on: "Plasmic". It works about as well as you'd expect. Which was just plasmic with everybody.
Pierce's locker is possibly even worse than that. But it has killer chi.
Truth in Television: Honestly, whose teen hasn't done some of that stuff like running a blender without the lid or texting people who're in the same room as them? And whose parents haven't done that sort of stuff like trying to talk to someone who says "Leave me alone"?
Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Husband Walt is shown as bald and cartoonishly obese, while his wife is much thinner and not altogether unattractive, having a body type resembling the teenage girls of the comic. This is actually lampshaded by Sara who comments "Isn't weird how your Mom and I have like identical bodies?" (Cue the awkward moment) Connie's still not gorgeous given the art style, but it's a notable difference over Walt.
And an older strip Lampshaded it when Jeremy asks Connie, "What is it about him [Walt] made you say, "This is what I want to wake up to for the rest of my life." which ends with Connie staring at Walt with a disturbed expression.
Verbal Tic: Parodied in one instance? Where Jeremy and Hector criticize a girl? Who seems to talk? In questions?
And then parodied again at the end of the same arc, when Jeremy asks Hector to point out if Jeremy ever develops a verbal tic — all the while, both of them are generously peppering their sentences with enough "dude"s to annoy Mordecai and Rigby.
Visual Pun: Quite often. For example, when Connie "talks [Jeremy's] ear off," his ears, and other pieces of his face, literally fall off his head and onto the table.
Wangst: Jeremy in-universe, though he tends to get mocked for it.
Jeremy: Everything's about cause and effect with you, isn't it?
Wild Teen Party: Pierce throws one of these. His classic response: "Who would have thought 700 drunken teenagers could get so rowdy?"
Jeremy was a little wary before it even started, saying, "I don't know whether to go to this or just watch it on the news."
What Did I Do Last Night?: Jeremy wakes up one morning with his boxers over his head. He resolves to try and remember his dreams.
Where The Hell Is Springfield?: There are slight clues to the Duncan family's residence, all suggesting that they're somewhere in the Midwest. Jim Borgman lives in Cincinnati, Ohio (and is a Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist for the Cincinnati Enquirer), and many locals have always assumed that Zits was set in Cincinnati. Interstate 70, Bucyrus and Grater's Ice Cream have all been referenced at various points, further suggesting this.
All but confirmed in one strip (about Jeremy buying a surfboard) where Walt says "Surf's down in central Ohio". This line makes no sense if they're not in central Ohio.