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Comic Strip / The Wizard of Id

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The Wizard of Id is a daily newspaper comic strip created by American cartoonists Johnny Hart (B.C.) and Brant Parker. Launched in 1964, the strip follows the antics of a large cast of characters in a shabby medieval kingdom called "Id". From time to time, the King refers to his subjects as "Idiots". The title is a play on The Wizard of Oz, combined with the Freudian psychological term Id, which represents the instinctive and primal part of the human psyche.

The Wizard of Id deals with the goings-on of the run-down and oppressed mythical kingdom of Id. It follows people from all corners of the kingdom, but concentrates on the court of a tyrannical dwarfish monarch known only as "the King". The cast is large for a daily cartoon strip, and there are recurring jokes for a variety of continuing characters and for the kingdom itself.

While it's set a thousand years ago, the strip's humor occasionally satirizes modern American culture, and deliberate anachronisms are rampant. Technology changes to suit whatever a gag requires; a battle with spears and arrows might be followed by a peasant using an ATM. The general trend is that even though the personalities of the characters are well known, their surroundings will morph to allow a good joke. For instance, in some strips the King is curiously elected to his monarchial position (albeit through rigged ballots), no thanks to the Duke suggesting while drunk the first time it happened that they hold an election which became an annual event. The aspects that stay the same, however, are that Id is in the middle of nowhere, home to a large castle surrounded by a moat. The King and his subjects run an inept army perpetually at war with "the Huns", while the unhappy, overtaxed peasants (or Idiots) make little money as farmers and stablehands to keep modest lifestyles.

Brant handed art duties over to his son Jeff Parker in 1997. When Hart died a decade later, his grandson Mason Mastroianni took over both Wizard of Id and Hart's other strip, B.C., although unlike on B.C., he only handled writing duties until Jeff Parker exited the strip in 2015.

The strip contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Bung, the court jester, is almost perpetually drunk, although that apparently doesn't (usually) stop him doing his job competently. In one strip, the King describes the most remarkable part of Bung's act as, "he sobered up."
  • Anachronism Stew: Many things pop up from time to time. For instance: At one point the Wizard invents a Television set.
  • Animated Adaptation: In The '70s, Abe Levitow and Chuck Jones produced a five-minute long animated short with the Wizard of Id characters. Voices were done by Bob Holt, Don Messick and Paul Winchell. Watch it on Youtube.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Robbing Hood, when Sir Rodney calls him one.
  • Art Evolution: The King's appearance changed over the years. During The '60s and The '70s, his nose was longer and pointy. By the start of The '80s, his nose was round and bulbous.
  • Asian Buck Teeth: One strip features a stereotypical Asian person (in order to do a Japanese Ranguage joke); he has the big teeth.
  • Aside Glance: In seemingly every single strip.
  • Bad News in a Good Way: The King, aware that his useless knight Sir Rodney is bringing news of his defeat, reminds him of the old Roman custom in which the bearer of bad tidings was put to death. A sweating Rodney replies with the 'joyous' news that one of the King's more awful provinces with its rebellious peasants, stinking swamps (etc, etc) has been given to the Huns to worry about.
  • Balcony Speech: The King normally addresses his subjects from his balcony.
  • Bearer of Bad News: See Bad News in a Good Way
  • Berserk Button: Cursing the Kingnote  or drawing attention to the fact that he is comically short are surefire ways to earn a stint in his dungeon, or worse.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Several different variations over the years, including one that goes something like this:
    Frog: Alas! A wicked witch has turned me into a frog!
    Passerby: You used to be a prince?
    Frog: No, a tadpole.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: One strip had the Turnkey blowing smoke rings. When the Spook compliments him on his, he comments that he had an uncle who could triangles and squares, but that his face exploded trying to do a parallelogram.
  • Book Safe: The lawyer uses his thick lawbooks to store drink.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: A group of the King's soldiers dashes into an old war museum.
    Guards: We need that catapult over there!
    Curator: More budget cuts?
  • Chain Letter
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: For a brief time in the late 1960s there was a character named Yakko Saki. His disappearance was never explained in-universe (although behind the scenes he was likely removed because he was a racially-insensitive Asian stereotype, complete with broken English and buck teeth).
  • Court Mage: The Wizard of course.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rodney has become one in recent years, accompanied by an increase in intelligence (but still not much luck in battle).
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • The King is known to throw people into the dungeon (or even execute them) for relatively minor crimes, but it's especially the case whenever you call him a fink, or mention that he's short.
    • Inverted in one comic where the King agreed not to hang an editorial cartoonist for drawing a comic mocking him, because he drew him tall.
  • Dragons Versus Knights: The Wizard adopts a dragon in the 2019 strips, and keeps it as a pet. In many ways the dragon behaves like a dog, but turns fiery at the sight of gleaming steel. The knight Sir Rodney rarely removes his chainmail outfit, so he routinely incurs a toasting from the Wizard's dragon.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The King (the back of one of the books calls him King Id), the Wizard, the Duke, Turnkey, Lackey, and many others.
  • Exact Words:
    • This example:
      Man: I want a potion that will add forty years to my life!
      Wizard: Try this.
      (Drinks it - flash - man is now old and bent)
      Old Man: ...Let me rephrase that.
    • And another instance where Sir Rodney is participating in an archery tournament.
      Rodney: Give me a potion that will make me hit the bull's eye.
      Wizard: Here. [Gives potion]
      [Rodney Drinks potion and proceeds to take his shot]
      [Cut to Rodney now impaled halfway through the target].
    • The King declares in a speech "My door is always open". Someone goes to visit and finds the door open — and the room empty.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: Abra Cadaver
  • Gag Nose: Although almost every male character in the strip (except for the Wizard and the Duke) is drawn with an absurdly large nose, only Rodney's is typically commented on in-universe.
  • Good News, Bad News:
    King: Fellow Idians... I have some good news and some bad news...
    Peasant 1: I bet we get the bad news first.
    Peasant 2: You're on.
    King: I'm not going to be able to speak very long today...
    Peasant 2: Pay up.
  • Greasy Spoon: Even in a medieval setting, this comic strip staple is present. Here's a typical example:
    (Sir Rodney notices a sign behind the counter reading, ASK ABOUT OUR TUNA SALAD .)
    Sir Rodney: How's the tuna salad?
    Chef: It's poison.
    Sir Rodney: Then why the sign?
    Chef: Sometimes I forget.
  • Happy Harlequin Hat: Bung, being the court jester, always wears one.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: The Wizard and Blanch; Subverted since the Wizard who happens to be the kingdom's resident old, bearded Mad Scientist of a wizard that brews magic potions isn't exactly handsome himself.
  • I Ate WHAT?!: One strip had the King touring the kitchens. He tastes something in a pot, spits out and yells "You call that soup?!". One of the chefs replies "No, I call it dishwater".
  • Imagine Spot: In the comic for 24th of July 2019, an applicant is asked by the King where the applicant might see himself in five years time. The applicant has a thought bubble of himself as the king on the throne, which the King sees and is shocked by. The applicant is then seen in the dungeon in irons muttering, "Stupid thought bubble."
  • Jail Bake: A recurring gag involves the Spook's mother attempting to send him a cake with a file in it (or, in one strip, a crosscut saw). In one case it fails because he wears out the teeth of the saw by trying to cut the cake with it.
  • Japanese Ranguage: Yakko Saki gets tossed into the prison, and strikes up a conversation with perennial inmate Spook. Yakko remarks that he's "hungly", and would "rike big dish of flied lice". Spook tells him the food's bad enough already, don't go giving them ideas...
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Robbing Hood carries this to absurdity. The ex-poor he gives to can expect him to come back and rob THEM now that they are rich.
  • Literal Metaphor: A strip involves the King responding to an opponent's claims that the kingdom is going down the drain. Suddenly there's a loud gurgling sound, which turns out to be the North Tower.
  • Longer-Than-Life Sentence: The Spook is serving one, although the exact details vary depending on what is needed for the joke.
    • In a story arc from the early years, when Spook asked Turnkey the jailer why he was in the dungeon, Turnkey mentions that the Spook insulted the King when he called him a "two-bit, four-flushing, dirty, rotten, low down, indiscriminate clod."
  • Lovable Coward: Sir Rodney gets most of his humor out of being a complete chicken.
  • Magical Barefooter: The Wizard Prefers Going Barefoot.
  • Magic Mirror: The King asks one "Who is the tallest of them all?"
  • Meaningful Name: Bung, the almost perpetually drunk court jester, is named for a wine cask's stopper.
  • Mister Big: The King is comically short, but is also a ruthless tyrant whose word is law.
  • Monster in the Moat:
    • The strip features a moat around the castle which is filled with Stock Ness Monsters. The King has at various times either regarded them as pets, or presented the moat itself as a Fantastic Nature Reserve.
    • One strip showed a sign next to the moat reading "beware of frogs" and two kids laughing at it, until a giant frog's tongue shot out and snapped up one of the kids.
  • The Napoleon: The King is comically short, and is very sensitive about his height. Casting real or perceived aspersions on it is one of the most efficient ways to draw his potentially deadly wrath.
  • Ninja Prop: A strip has a guard in a tower with a Z over his head. The invaders report that the guard is asleep, and go to attack. Cut to the tower, where the guard is holding up a fake speech bubble with a Z on it.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Larsen E. Pettifogger is a caricature of W. C. Fields, with the character's name derived from the Larsen E. Whipsnade character from You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.
  • Overly Long Name: Spook's full name is Wellington J. Farnsworth Spookingdorf the Third.
  • Parody Magic Spell: The Wizard's signature all-purpose spell is "Frammin' on the jim-jam, frippin' at the krotz!" Cartoonists Parker and Hart derived this from the Chris Sharp jazz instrumental, "Frimmin' on the Jim-Jam."
  • Phrase Catcher: "The King is a Fink!" Also, when the King dangles a straight line in front of one his courtiers, they anxiously tell themselves "Lips, don't unpurse".
  • Political Overcorrectness: An old strip had the King of Id threatening to imprison anyone caught telling ethnic jokes. When Rodney quips, "We don't have a Chinaman's chance of making that stick," the next panel shows Rodney in the dungeon.
  • Prison Escape Artist: The Spook is always escaping, but he's always caught again soon afterwards, usually because his plan backfired on him.
  • Prisoner's Last Meal: Often Played for Laughs. For example, in one Sunday strip, Turnkey asks a condemned prisoner what he wants to eat before he's hanged; "a helium sandwich", says the guy. In another strip, Turnkey tells spook that a hoagie about twenty feet long is for "Dirty Dirk", who hangs tomorrow, although the sandwich will clearly take a week to eat.
  • Real Joke Name: The former Trope Namer with the unfortunately named Mulligan the Headsman.
  • Regal Ruff: The Duke started out wearing a ruff, but this feature vanished to reduce pencil mileage in a daily syndicated strip.
  • Road Apples: The primary duty of the stablehands is a Running Gag.
  • Saint-Bernard Rescue: Usually involved in rescues of Bung and depicted with the stereotypical brandy barrel.
  • Shark Pool: The moat around the castle filled with Stock Ness Monsters.
  • Shout-Out: Trouble with bandits? Cast Summon Bigger Fish.
  • Single Malt Vision: When a guard tries to arrest Bung for public intoxication, Bung claims "You can't make an arrest if I can walk between these two white lines!" Of course, there's only one line there.
  • Smithical Marriage: Subverted. The couple are married and named Smith, and the wife suggests using a different name because they always get sniggered at.
  • Splitting the Arrow: In one strip, Sir Rodney puts an arrow in the bulls-eye during a tournament. The King asks him if he can do it again. Rodney responds by splitting the arrow. When the King congratulates him, Rodney mutters that he had been aiming at the apple in the King's hand.
  • Stealth Pun: A visitor to the untrustworthy King's castle notices that the King's flag consists of a pair of black X's on a white background. The visitor asks for the name of this emblem. The king moves on to another pun before it mentioned the king is represented by Double Crosses.
  • Stock Ness Monster: The moat monsters.
  • Suicide Dare: Played for Laughs. The Friar comes across a crowd of people chanting, "Jump! Jump! Jump!" at a suicidal man on a ledge.
    Friar: What's the matter with you people? Can't you see this poor man needs help?
    Crowd: Push him! Push him! Push him!
  • Time for Plan B: The King asks his knight Rodney why the battle plan is called Plan B instead of Plan A. Rodney replies that they always end up having to go to Plan B anyway.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: In the comic for September 10th, 2011.
  • Truth Serums: The Wizard once invented a truth serum. The King then put it into the water supply.
  • Tunnel King: The Spook. He can tunnel out of prison relatively easily, he just can't keep from getting caught again
  • Unsound Effect: The strip is fond of this trope, using such sound effects as "Deliberate deliberate deliberate" for a jury. Or (from the underground press) "Print print print".
  • Unwilling Suspension: Usually a prisoner ends up hanging from his wrist chains.
  • Vote Early, Vote Often: Yes, even in a medieval kingdom they have elections, and the King always makes sure he wins every time.