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Comic Strip / Tom the Dancing Bug

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Tom the Dancing Bug is a weekly satirical Comic Strip by Ruben Bolling (Pen Name for Ken Fisher). It mostly deals with current events in American politics from a left-wing viewpoint, but sometimes it also ventures out into parody of pop-culture, and even straight-up Postmodernism and/or absurdist humor.

The comic features a wide range of recurring characters and segments, some of the most notable include:

  • God-Man: Grandpa God as a Superhero. His solutions to His problems tend to be either overly complex or overly simple and, quite often, not all that well thought out. He is omnipotent and completely untouchable. On the rare occasions he fails, it's because he chooses to.
  • Billy Dare, Boy Adventurer: An Affectionate Parody of Tintin, which spoofs Action/Adventure Tropes.
  • Dinkle, the Unlovable Loser: A subversion of the "lovable loser" archetype. Nothing goes right for Dinkle, but he is not the least bit sympathetic for it because he's a horrible person.
  • Lucky Ducky: A poverty-stricken Duck, often without a job or healthcare or even a home. He unintentionally enrages his Arch-Enemy and Unknown Rival, the obscenely wealthy businessman Hollingsworth Hound, who views the fact that Lucky Ducky survives on benefits and state-run charities as a personal slight because Hollingsworth's taxes pay for them.
  • Charley: A Fish out of Temporal Water australopithecus. How he ended up in modern times is never explained.
  • Louis Maltby: An ordinary teenager with self-esteem issues. Most of the parts featuring him focus on his internal conflicts.
  • Percival Dunwoody, Idiot Time Traveller from 1909: Self-explanatory, really. While Percival tries to right terrible past wrongs (primarily killing Hitler), he's too much of a scatterbrained fool to even come close, and mostly makes things worse through paradoxes or his own stupidity.
  • Harvey Richards, Lawyer for Children: A failed attorney who has become a "Lawyer for Children" by specializing in the areas of parent-child relations and playground law.
  • Super-Fun-Pak Comix: Parodies newspaper comics.

In 2015 the spinoff The Comic Strip That Has a Finale Every Day was launched. This is based on an old Super-Fun-Pak Comix strip.

Tom the Dancing Bug provides examples of:

  • All Cavemen Were Neanderthals: Averted with Charley, an Australopithecus afarensis.
  • Alternate Universe: When God-Man arrives too late to stop a man from being shot, He solves the problem by transporting the man into an alternate universe in which he wasn't shot. His wife points out that this doesn't change all the other universes where he was still shot.
  • Author Tract: Just see the premise of Lucky Ducky and guess whether the author is conservative or liberal.
  • Awful Wedded Life: One of the Super-Fun-Pak Comix is "Marital Mirth", which is essentially The Lockhorns with its thin veneer of jocularity removed.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: The basic concept of Hollingsworth Hound, wealthy antagonist of Lucky Ducky. He has made so many claims about why the poor don't need help because they're actually lucky that he's come to believe them all, resulting in his constant infuriation at the hands of Lucky Ducky.
  • Canis Major: Parodied in Super-Fun-Pak Comix with a succession of strips about increasingly large dogs, starting with "Hoagy, the funny dog that is big, but not freakishly big, just quite large within the normal range of dogs" and culminating with "Dooker, the dog that's so huge it creates a gravitational field from which no matter can escape".
  • The Cat Came Back: The strip for January 4, 2003 had Lucky Ducky trick Hollingsworth Hound. Lucky Ducky had died, but the wealthy dog found him alive in more than one place, consuming too many government services. It turned out that Lucky Ducky was a group of identical ducks.
  • Comically Invincible Hero: God-Man.
  • Complexity Addiction: The "How to draw Doug" segment always features an absurdly over the top complicated way to create an image of the titular character.
  • Create Your Own Villain: God-Man invokes this by subtly influencing somebody from his birth onward to become a crook, just so God-Man has a villain to fight.
  • Deus ex Machina: Lampshaded in "Deus ex Machina", with God-Man teleporting Billy Dare away from Spikes of Doom. "I've been suddenly rescued by some force utterly outside the context of this narrative!" After this, God-Man invokes a Distant Finale and Billy Dare is suddenly many years older.
  • Evil, Inc.: Nerrex is the comic's go-to fictional soulless corporation. It typically only receives passing mentions, to show how corporate evil is easily ignored.
  • Expy: James K Poult is a satire on Mallard Fillmore.
  • Fetus Terrible: Bad Fetus, a remorseless cop killer and terrorist.
  • Flight, Strength, Heart: According to one comic, God-Man's superpowers as omniscience, omnipotence and "master of martial arts".
  • "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome and Phlebotinum-Induced Stupidity: Both tropes appear in "Flowers for Trinitron". A television causes stupidity. A man is watching NYPD Blue when the cable goes out. The man, cut from TV, becomes gradually smarter over the next six days. He reads East of Eden, volunteers at a homeless shelter, and shifts his handwriting from print to cursive. He is about to destroy his TV, when the cable comes back and Wheel of Fortune comes on. The man soon reverts to stupidity.
  • Furry Confusion: Tackled in this comic (strip at the bottom), where an anthropomorphic dog takes a regular one out for a walk.
    Anthro pig: I don't understand. Aren't you both dogs?
  • Gay Conservative: A panel from this strip is the current page image. The strip argues that the "new gay stereotype" for men is middle-aged, married, conservative, and Armoured Closet Gay.
  • Genre Savvy: Billy Dare uses his knowledge of the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality to keep his sidekick alive by asking him to have unresolved backstory. The villain attempts to copy this, but only manages to come up with sympathetic backstory, which gets him killed.
  • God-Mode Sue: Invoked and parodied with God-Man, who is God in a superhero costume. Omnipotent, omniscient, and able to defeat His enemies by slightly moving His elbow. It is the page image for a reason.
  • Grooming the Enemy: Parodied. The character God-Man, an Invincible Hero who is literally God, molds a criminal from whole cloth, interfering with his conception and giving him DNA increasing his propensity for violence, removing the boy's father so he will grow up angry and become a bully, then as an adult puts him in situations where he will be tempted to resort to crime, all so he can have a bank robber to punch into next week.
  • Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act: Played for Laughs in a Super-Fun-Pak comic, "Tim Tripp, Time Traveller". Tripp appears from the past, reporting that he successfully killed Krauss in 1932 Germany, preventing him from starting WWII. The person he's talking to asks if he means Hitler, causing Tripp to sigh and head back in time for the 8th time, wondering how many of these guys he has to kill.
  • Hostile Show Takeover: One issue of Super-Fun-Pak Comix has Donald Trump hijacking every comic and talking about how he has been elected President. This issue is actually a slightly altered version of an older comic made right after 9/11, with every reference to 9/11 replaced by Trump.
  • Hypocrite: Hollingsworth Hound will do anything to prevent Lucky Ducky from getting free benefits, benefits which Hollingsworth generally benefits from himself.
  • Insane Proprietor: Parodied with "Crazy Morty", who's adverts are a collection of insane rambling and nonsensical prices, and an included note from his doctor that Morty actually is clinically insane. Followed up by "Medicated Morty", who offers "low, but still sane prices".
  • Logic Bomb: The Paradoxer tries to defeat God Man by convincing him to create a rock that even he cannot lift. But then God God Man shows up and saves the day!
  • Loser Protagonist: The titular character of "Dinkle, the UnLovable Loser", who really is such a highly unpleasant and malevolent person, that it is probably for the better that he never wins.
  • Muggles Do It Better:
    • Brutally Parodied in one God Man comic. Human Man decides that God Man is too powerful and attacks him. Human Man boasts that he has the power of cutting edge technology like his Human Man Bazooka. Meanwhile, God Man counters by using his omnipotent powers to destroy and recreate the entire universe.
    • Interestingly God Man did lose to a human once when the Paradoxer managed to trick him into creating a rock too heavy for him to lift... but than he was rescued and the Paradoxer was defeated by the even more powerful God God Man.
  • Nipple and Dimed: Parodied in a Billy Dare strip. A breastfeeding woman is told to leave the panel because "...this is a family comic strip." Meanwhile, Billy is shooting a bunch of Mooks to death in the background.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • No, it's not about a dancing bug called Tom. Far from it. The story goes that when Ruben first started doing the comic for a small New York newspaper, he didn't intend to give the comic a name, but was told he had to, so he gave the comic a name that had absolutely nothing to do with its content.
    • All of the Billy Dare strips are supposedly part of an ongoing story titled "Smugglers' Cape", but very few of them feature any smugglers (or any continuity between strips, for that matter).
  • "Not So Different" Remark: The "The complex Irish-man" strip points out that despite his vocal complaints of superhero movies recycling their plots, Martin Scorsese's own films also tend to recycle themes, character templates and settings.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: God-Man strips are usually religious or social satire. In a post-9/11 strip, however, God-Man goes to straight-out punch Osama Bin Laden, with no satirical undertones. There's still a meta spin, though — through a combination of God-Man's dialogue and narration boxes, Bolling admits that he knows his venting won't change anything.
  • Parody Product Placement: God-Man stops a robber by compelling him to love Tay-Stee Fruit Pies. When the arresting officer questions this, he is forced to love them as well.
  • No Endor Holocaust: Parodied in "The Nefarious Nucleo", where Billy celebrates disarming all but one of the nuclear bombs planted in major American cities, and is already stumbling upon the plot for the next episode as we happen to catch a glimpse of Chicago being destroyed on a monitor in the background.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: Parodied in "Roshomon Comics". Max's Tale and Doug's Tale disagree. The Bird's Tale is no help, because the bird only saw the top of the speech balloons, matching both previous tales. The Toaster Oven's Tale provides nothing, as the toaster oven was in an entirely other location.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: As a satirical comic, this is to be expected, but of particular note is the fact that one of the main recurring characters, Lucky Ducky, was originally this — a response to a Wall Street Journal editorial calling poor people "lucky duckies" because they pay less taxes.
  • Superhero Gods: God-Man.
  • Super Zeroes: God-Man's sometimes partner, Human-Man. His powers include five senses, opposable thumb and walking, among others.
  • Techno Babble: Mercilessly parodied in the November 18, 2000 strip. Bonus Hypocritical Humor!
  • Unreliable Voiceover: In one Billy Dare strip, the narration obviously does not match what we see in each comic panel. At the end, Billy Dare murders the narrator.
  • Word Salad Title: There are no characters named "Tom", nor are there any dancing bugs. Word of God says it's because the newspaper editor said the strip needed a title, so he came up with the most nonsensical name he could think of.