Mallard Fillmore, created by Bruce Tinsley and currently produced by Loren Fishman, is about an anthropomorphic duck journalist and the struggles he finds in dealing with a liberal world. It started out as a non-political strip for the Charlottesville Daily Progress, which had asked Tinsley to create a mascot strip for their entertainment page. After several rejections, the eponymous duck won out and the strip was launched. After Tinsley expressed his conservative political views, he found himself out of a job. He successfully sold the strip to The Washington Times in 1992 and eventually got it syndicated nationally by King Features Syndicate.
Much like compatriots Prickly City and Doonesbury, the strip is ostensibly a slice of life story with a political bent. When the strip began, Mallard was hired to work at a television news station and thus his co-workers (all liberals, naturally) served as targets for the strip's conservative humor. Over time, this has largely been dropped and most of the supporting cast only appear very rarely. Today the strip just generally portrays Mallard as a mouthpiece for Tinsley's personal views, blurring the line between a straight newspaper comic strip and a series of political cartoons that all happen to feature the same character.
Tinsley wrote and drew the strip himself until late 2019. While no stranger to controversy given his volatile opinions, a particularly aggressive strip aimed at Rep. Ihlan Omar got the strip dropped from several papers in late 2019. The strip went on a short hiatus, running four months of reruns, before Loren Fishman took over the production of the strip in March 2020. While still credited as a guest artist, it's unclear if Tinsley is still involved, in what capacity, whether he voluntarily left, and if he will ever return.
This strip provides examples of:
- Ambiguously Jewish: Mr. Noseworthy strikes one as rather this way, what with his long nose, frizzy hair, and spouting of leftist intellectual gobbledygook. It's a little bit worrying, acrually, especially considering he's the boss of our hero, who works in the media...
- Author Filibuster: The cause of every Wall of Text, mentioned below.
- Author Tract: Every strip.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: One comic strip has one woman write her "to-do" list as follows:
- Pay mechanic's bill.
- Pay roofer's bill.
- Pay computer repair guy's bill.
- Make 68th student loan payment.
- Go kick butt of guidance counselor who told me to major in sociology.
- Dear Negative Reader: Occasionally, Mallard addresses his complaining readership in-universe, though it's hard to say if the author is quoting actual e-mails or not.
- Expy: More than a few critics have noted Mallard's incredible similarity to Opus the Penguin. This is less obvious on the rare days that Mallard's head is colored — his head is canonically green (being a mallard), but on weekdays, his head is jet black, making the resemblance uncanny.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Like many cartoon ducks, Mallard never wears pants.
- Honorary Uncle: A baby hopes a man is this.
- Interactive Narrator: Tinsley occasionally interacts with Mallard, represented as a pair of floating fingers with a pencil.
- Intrepid Reporter: Technically Mallard, though we don't actually see him doing anything suggesting he researches or sniffs out stories - just that he reports on them.
- Missing Mom: Rush's mom.
- Named After Somebody Famous: Dave Quat named his son, Rush, after Rush Limbaugh. It's what led to his wife divorcing him.◊
- No Animals Were Harmed: In one comic strip, the TV that Mallard is watching says, "The following heartwarming holiday special contains 100 percent faux snow; no actual snow was harmed in the production of this program."
- Poe's Law: Tinsley has a bad habit of forgetting to explain why ideas are worthy of mockery. The result is that the only reason you know that whatever the Strawman Political of the strip is saying isn't his actual opinion is the byline. This gets especially bad when he's trying to accuse the left of baseless name-calling, but all that he actually shows is a talking head saying that x is racist/sexist/fascist etc.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: A frequent target of mockery. The strip started with Mallard going out for a job as a reporter and being declined because he's just a duck. He gets the job by pointing out that he's an "Aquatic-American".
- Press Hat: Perhaps the prime example. Back when he was a reporter, he kept that little note in his hat. He eventually abandoned it, yet kept the jacket.
- Punny Name: The title character is an obvious play on Millard Fillmore.
- Straw Feminist:
- This strip has a recurring one, and she's an ugly and bitter hag. Then again, Tinsley also regularly features a brick-brained, glamorous model named Purge Daley, showing that he at least doesn't discriminate against Hollywood Homely women.
- While she never appeared, Dave's ex-wife qualifies, seeing that she divorced him for naming their son after Rush Limbaugh, who is outspoken in his opposition to feminists, as well as about anti-racism efforts and LGBT people being open about their sexualities.
- Strawman Political: There's a few stock characters that serve this purpose and appear only in strips covering their topic (education, feminism, race, etc.). Outside of these, Noseworthy often plays the role of the smug, line-toeing liberal for Mallard to easily criticize. He's also Mallard's boss, but this is really not an issue outside of the initial strips in which Mallard is hired by him.
- Very Special Episode: Every so often Tinsley will stop being funny and do a strip delivering a serious message about something like abortion or child abuse, or most recently the coronavirus.
- Wall of Text: Many strips are a pile of word balloons crowding out, at best, a character's head.
- With Us or Against Us: Mallard once preempted a professor from invoking Godwin's Law over then-President George W. Bush's use of the phrase by remarking that the professor's generation made "You're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." a famous rallying cry.
- Worthy Opponent: Chantel, a newscaster who works with Mallard. She's the token non-straw liberal and appears in the strip on the rare occasions Tinsley agrees with the liberal argument or wants to call conservatives to task over something. However, she started out as a much more empty-headed criticism of liberals like the rest of the cast and the official comic page from King Features still insinuates Mallard only barely tolerates her opinions.