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Webcomic / The Adventures of Joe the Circle

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The Adventures of Joe the Circle was an early Science Fiction Web Comic by Mike Shapiro. Originally printed in Shapiro's college newspaper in the early '90s, it first appeared online in 1995. It followed the adventures of Joe, a violent, gun-toting circle, along with his companions: Ronnie, an even-tempered triangle; Bob the Boobian, a dimwitted . . . thing with a gaping maw and limited vocabulary; Franko, a clairaudient flying fish; and Bert Smert, a laid-back gearhead who provided the crew's transportation.

The comic was rather crudely drawn, but made up for it with freewheeling storylines, goofy humor, and extremely quotable dialogue. Most of the comics can be found at, with a few older issues accessible through

Incidentally, you may have encountered Shapiro's work in another form. He's a composer in Real Life, providing music for films and Video Games, at least one of which can be found on This Very Wiki.

This webcomic provides examples of:

  • The Conscience: Ronnie and Franko try (and usually fail) to be this to Joe.
  • Couch Gag: For a large part of its run, the comic had a different alliterative byline (such as "Arthritically Ascribed by Mike Shapiro," "Raptly 'Ritten by Mike Shapiro," etc) on every page.
  • The Ditz: Franko comes off this way, combining a childlike personality, frequent hallucinations, and occasional actual prophecies, seemingly at random.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: The Planet of Unmanageable DOOM, obviously. Once the doom becomes manageable, it's incorporated into consumer products such as Doom Hedge Clippers and Doom Cola.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Franko's name is spelled "Frank-O" in the earliest comics.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: The message board was called the "mOb" ("m" for "message," "b" for "board," with Joe's silhouette in between). Posters sometimes referred to themselves as "mObsters." "Circlefriends" was also sometimes used.
  • Kick the Dog: Invoked and lampshaded by the commander of the Anti-Joe Armada, who drops an anvil on a subordinate to demonstrate his evil.
  • Kudzu Plot: Lampshaded and averted at the beginning of Volume 3.
    The story so far: WHO CARES? That's right! Last year's storyline has been abandoned due to its horrible complexity. We now present you with something considerably more violent and acerebral.
  • Missing Episode: Everything before the "Joe Dies" storyline is lost to the mists of time.
  • Mundane Utility: Once managed, the Unmanageable DOOM is put into consumer products like Doom Lawnmowers and Doom Cola.
  • My Beloved Smother: Joe's mother constantly nags him about his career and family choices, and compares him unfavorably to Ronnie.
  • Noodle Implements:
    • How "DOOM" can be used as a soft drink ingredient is never explained.
    • Besides the normal cards and chips, Zorgellian Mega-Poker is played with a compass, tidal chart, and anvil.
  • Only Sane Man: Ronnie's sanity checks are always ignored or overruled by the rest of the cast.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Joe makes it past the AJA with nothing but a beard, an accent, and a Suspiciously Specific Denial. Not that he needs anything better, since all circles look more or less the same.
  • Schedule Slip: It was not uncommon to go weeks, months, or even years between updates. In fact, the series never officially ended - it just hasn't updated since 2007. Lampshaded in Shapiro's bio:
    "Mike continues to produce Joe to this day, pausing only for occasional three-to-four year stretches of indolence and ennui."
  • Self-Deprecation: Often showed up in the Couch Gags.
  • Space Is Noisy: Averted and lampshaded early on with a footnote explaining that the giant "WOOOSH!" behind a spaceship is actually strange graffiti that follows it around. Otherwise played straight.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Joe's preferred problem-solving method.
    "Deep within every problem is a solution involving explosives."
  • This Isn't Heaven: It's Purgatory.