A single-panel newspaper comic begun in 1993 by cartoonist Jeff MacNelly, best known for his long-running comic strip Shoe.
In Pluggers, a cast of Funny Animal characters illustrate reader-submitted one-liners about "Pluggers": working-class, mostly middle-aged, largely rural people who "unceremoniously keep plugging along, balancing work, play and family life." An example might be "You're a Plugger when the most expensive piece of clothing you own is an NFL jersey."
It's not commonly known, but the five main characters have names: Andy Bear, Sheila Roo, Carl Rhinowski, Earl Houndstooth and Henrietta Beak. There's no reward for guessing that they are, respectively, a bear, kangaroo, rhinoceros, dog and hen. According to an old version of the now defunct website, there were once more characters.
MacNelly originally wrote the gags himself, but made the shift to reader-submitted gags after receiving so many. He handed art duties to Gary Brookins in 1997, who also took over in the same capacity on Shoe after MacNelly died in 2000.
Pluggers can be read here.
- The Alleged Car: Apparently a fairly typical Plugger vehicle, if this strip is correct.
- All There in the Manual / Informed Attribute: The now-defunct website listed the names and backstories of the various characters. These traits almost never showed up in the actual strip (for instance, Sheila is supposed to be an aerobics instructor).
- Aside Glance: Sheila's default expression.
- Big Eater: Several strips make Pluggers out to be this. One example: A plugger's appetite suppressant is having a Dagwood Sandwich before dinner.
- Blanket Tug O' War: "A plugger knows that one good turn gets most of the blanket."◊
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Most of the characters listed in the archived character sheet above have disappeared. A cat couple also showed up in the 2000s, but have disappeared as well.
- The Everyman: Andy Bear.
- Fat and Skinny: Andy and Sheila, respectively. Sheila is a constantly-bemused straight-woman... straight-flyer?
- Flyover Country: Where Pluggers chiefly reside.
- Furry Confusion: Since the characters are drawn as anthropomorphic animals, but the ideas used in the strip are submitted by readers (i.e. humans,) the overlap can range from confusing (the bear taking a normal dog for a walk) to disturbing (the hen storing her jewelry in an egg carton).
- To take the confusion to massive levels, one strip says 'When a Plugger's wife uses the words "Honey" "Sweetie" and "Sugar Pie" he knows she's talking to the dog' yet the husband is a Dog.
- Lampshaded in this comic here
- Inexplicably Tailless: Everyone, but Sheila in particular stands out. At least one strip◊ from the MacNelly era averted it, though.
- Interspecies Romance: Andy Bear and Sheila Roo are married, as are Earl and Henrietta. Even more confusingly, Andy and Sheila have both kangaroo and bear offspring.
- Kangaroos Represent Australia: Sheila.
- Meaningful Name: "Sheila" is Aussie slang for a woman. And then there's Henrietta.
- Non-Mammal Mammaries: Yes, Henrietta has breasts. One could even argue that a marsupial character shouldn't have breasts, either...
- Nostalgia Filter: Distaste for any entertainment made since you graduated high school seems to be a requirement for Pluggerhood.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Seriously, how do you do something like this?
- The Scrooge: Some strips try to praise plugger frugality but end up portraying them as this; given the lengths pluggers will go to save money, like using the same paper bag for lunch every day or using a disposable razor for months on end, the message is less "pluggers are frugal" and more "pluggers will do absolutely anything to avoid spending money."
- Small Taxonomy Pools with a touch of Lazy Artist: A perusal of the older strips will show that when MacNelly was drawing the strip, there was much more species variety; elephants, bison, walruses, alligators, hyenas...but under Brookins' pen, outside of the core five it's pretty much just dogs and bears, with a smattering of cats, pigs and birds.
- This Loser Is You: A strange case, as the traits depicted are supplied by readers of the comic. Possibly Self-Deprecation in many cases.
- For reference, common recurring themes in the comics are "Pluggers are fat", "Pluggers are dumb", "Pluggers are afraid of modern technology", "Pluggers are couch potatoes", "Pluggers are slobs", "Pluggers are fat", "Pluggers have no sex drive", "Pluggers drive rattling junkheaps", "Pluggers have terrible diets", "Pluggers require constant medication to stay alive", "Pluggers are fat", "Pluggers are cheapskates", "Pluggers have to use the bathroom constantly", "Pluggers are old and out of touch", "Pluggers are always broke", and "Pluggers are fat".
- An alternative interpretation is that Pluggers are sincerely meant to be Working-Class Hero types, but end up being seen as losers and hicks by more "sophisticated" and/or snobbish readers.