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Comic Book / Pierre Tombal

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Just hope that when you pass away you'll have a grave digger as competent and wonderful as Pierre!

Pierre Tombal is a Belgian comic book series by Marc Hardy and Raoul Cauvin. It's a gag comic about a gravedigger who acts like a confidence advisor towards the dead people in his cemetery. He treats them as residents and listens to their wishes, complaints and problems, yet also makes sure they obey the rules. Sometimes the dead forget that they are all living skeletons now and frighten the living people. Or they overestimate their abilities and do stuff that either leaves their bones in a mess or frightens everybody. One of the running gags is that some people are genuinely shocked by the fact that these skeletons are still alive, while others just accept the fact that life apparently just goes on, even after death.

The series is one of the Print Long-Runners, debuted in 1986 and still in syndication.

Tropes found in this comic strip:

  • All Are Equal in Death: Subverted with a gag where Jesus and his apostles all receive poor man's graves, while Judas is buried in a colossal mausoleum. Pierre's commentary: "Judas could afford it."
  • Art Evolution: Compare Pierre in the first volume to the latest one. Mindblowing, isn't it? The compilation for love-themed gags makes this all the more apparent.
  • Any Last Words?: One gag was entirely devoted to famous last words in history.
  • Asshole Victim: People that unwisely annoy the Grim Reaper tend to have it coming.
  • Berserk Button: One good way to anger Pierre fast is to bring up his cousin/rival gravedigger Marie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Pierre is friendly as can be, but even his patience has limits.
  • Black Comedy: A lot of jokes about death.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: The Grim Reaper is usually seen sitting around on somebody's gravestone. Being who he is, he's actually fast enough to go anywhere on Earth on short notice.
  • Burial at Sea: Pierre desperately tries to avoid his potential clients being buried there (same for incineration), because his rival takes care of those.
  • Cain and Abel/Sibling Rivalry: Despite being cousins, Pierre and Marie don't get along too well...
  • Can't Live with Them, Can't Live Without Them: The Grim Reaper would love nothing more than to reap Life, but it's been shown that without her, the world would be lifeless and he'd be left with nothing to do, so he tries to tolerate her existence. Sometimes.
  • Comic-Book Time: None of the recurrers age a day, although given the Grim Reaper's job, that is a blessing of sorts.
  • Creepy Mortician: Pierre himself isn't particularly creepy. It's just the fact that his clients are all Not Quite Dead and he seems unfazed by it.
  • The Dead Have Names: They do and some of them are celebrities.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Pierre often talks with the dead on his cemetery, helping them out or telling them to follow the rules.
  • Death as Comedy: The entire theme of this series.
  • Death by Irony: Often used a punchline.
  • Death Is Not Permanent: According to this comic strip the dead are actually not really dead, just spending the rest of their... er... death underneath the ground. They still find time for new activities, such as playing games, reading magazines and going on a holiday.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons are very much alive in this comic strip.
  • Didn't Think This Through: One tenant was an author who would get huge amounts of hands-on experience before publishing a book. So when he wondered about death, he committed suicide, got huge amounts of hands-on experience being dead, and now... can't write the book.
  • Fantastically Indifferent: The people that aren't bothered by the living dead also take the existence of beings like the Grim Reaper in stride.
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": A wonderful description of this comic book.
  • Gag Nose: Most people have huge noses in this comic book.
  • Grave Humor: Starting with the protagonist's name and going down from here.
  • Grave Robbing: Whenever this happens the robbers are in for a Jump Scare, because the skeletons just answer back.
  • Grim Reaper: The Grim Reaper is also a regular character. But you better not anger him, or he kills you off.
  • Interrogating the Dead: Pierre often does this, because something is missing and he suspects one of his dead clients stole it. Or there's some other disturbance that the living complain about and it is apparently traceable to the dead people.
  • Jump Scare: This is the most common reaction of living people whenever they see the dead move or show a sign of life.
  • Just Following Orders: The Grim Reaper generally doesn't kill unless God tells him to. However, if someone makes him angry enough, he's willing to act on his own.
  • Laxative Prank: Pierre and Marie once planned to spike the other's drink. At the same time. This goes as well as you might expect.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: Parodied Trope. One gag sees a petty thug being brought to prison and panicking at the coffin in his jail cell. As it turned out, his cellmate was convicted and condemned to a 20 years jail sentence. He committed suicide during his 10th year in jail. As the cops explain to the petty thug who has just been jailed, they brought back his cellmate's coffin to serve the 10 years he still had to do.
  • Meaningful Name: Pierre Tombal, a pun on the French first name Pierre, which can also mean stone. In combination with the last name Tombal this makes his name translate to Grave Stone.
  • Metaphorically True: "This book contains the name of a great number of people whom will die in the future." It turned out to be a phone book. After all, We All Die Someday.
  • Minimalist Cast: Pierre Tombal is the only recurring character whose name we know, except for Anja the barmaid in his local bar. There are some people who regularly visit the cemetery and whom he lectures about the proceedings there, but they never receive a name. Pierre is sometimes seen playing cards with his rivals, the proprietor of a crematory and a capitain specializing in sea burials.
    • Later volumes introduce his cousin Marie, who is also a gravedigger (and therefore another rival to his business).
  • Mundane Utility: Ever hear of someone turning in his grave? Turns out attaching a dynamo to a coffin does wonders for your electric bill.
    • Some of the skeletonized residents do odd jobs like unblocking the septic tank. They're willing to help, but if you forget them while they're in there...
  • National Stereotypes: One strip has a grave salesmen showing the kinds of graves dug in other countries: Americans' are grossly oversized, Middle Eastern countries use bomb craters...
  • Nausea Fuel: In-Universe: One talk show features different methods of burial, with one guy going on about the virtues of being buried at sea. Someone else asks if he likes seafood, he says yes, then gets sked "What do you think they eat?" Cue vomiting.
  • Nephewism: A retroactive case, as Pierre and Marie are noted to descend from fathers that shared the same gravedigger business as brothers.
  • No Antagonist: There's no real antagonist in this comic book, though Pierre has a business rivalry with a Burial at Sea business and another specializing in incinerations. Then there's his cousin Marie.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • One album cover has Pierre walking towards a grave that shoots its gravestone up in the air and shouting: "I wish you would stop doing that, Mr. von Braun!"
    • In another grave a large eagle arrives, opens up the grave, goes inside, a painful scream is heard, whereupon Pierre runs to the grave, but the bird already flew away. Turns out it was the grave of Prometheus.
  • Non-Standard Character Design: Little girls and beautiful young women look different from other types of characters. They also tend to lack noses.
  • The Nothing After Death: A particularly odd example. God and the Grim Reaper apparently exist in this universe, but the dead don't seem to go to either Heaven, Purgatory, Hell or any other sort of afterlife. They just spend their days and nights on the cemetery as residents.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The personification of Life is a nymph with blue hair and urban clothing.
  • Pals with Jesus: Pierre and the Grim Reaper are long-time acquaintances, though not necessarily on friendly terms.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Not really a villain per se, but the Grim Reaper fits. He simply does his job, and sometimes regrets having to make his victims' loved ones sad.
  • The Rival: Pierre Tombal's main rivals are the proprietor of a crematory and one who specializes in burials at sea. The latest volumes introduce a third one, his own cousin Marie.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Sometimes, Pierre relies on the Grim Reaper to "persuade" people from doing a bad decision.
  • The Silent Bob: While the Grim Reaper rarely says anything, his intent is understood just fine by some people.
  • Shout-Out: One Pierre Tombal gag has someone buried with his flute, as a last wish. In the final panel we see on his grave stone that it is Peewit from Johan and Peewit.
  • Slapstick: Naturally, since people tend to die in comical ways. Not even young ladies are spared.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Pierre is seldom seen without a cigarette between his lips.
  • Squashed Flat: Besides his usual rounds on dry land, the Grim Reaper also has to naturally plunge into the sea to kill the animals there. This involves deep sea creatures as well, with the resulting depth pressure flattening him like a board.
  • Too Dumb to Live: One guy died because of AIDS. Pierre starts telling him off about how people should be aware of how to protect themselves, and the guy protests that he did: one condom with a glass of water every day. Cause of death: blocked intestine.
  • We All Die Someday: "This book contains the names of a great many people whom will die in the future." It's a phone book.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: Pierre's professional activities go well beyond what a normal gravedigger would do. He acts as a confidential advisor, spokesperson, guard, justice keeper, peace and order keeper, contact with the real world....
  • You Can't Fight Fate: It doesn't matter what you do, the Grim Reaper will claim you sooner or later. The best thing to do is try to be in his good graces, so that he can offer protection from robbers.