Tom the Dancing Bug

Tom the Dancing Bug

Infobox Comic strip
title=Tom the Dancing Bug

creator=Ruben Bolling
syndicate=Quaternary Features (1990-1997)
Universal Press Syndicate (1997-present)
genre=Humor, Politics, Satire
first=June 1990 (on "New York Perspectives")

Tom the Dancing Bug is a weekly comic strip by Ruben Bolling which presents critical commentary on modern life, current events, and conventional wisdom and clichés. (There are no bugs or dancing involved and there are no characters named Tom.) The strip is carried in both mainstream and "alternative" papers, as well as on The strip frequently includes sociopolitical satire, often critical of conservative politicians.

Recurring characters and segments

*Bob is the extremely average male. He sits at home drinking beer and watching scrambled porn on TV on the weekends, and tries to avoid doing chores and other household duties. During the week, he [ works in the cubicle by the elevator] . He pokes fun at our image-conscious society, especially "glamour" magazines and TV shows.

*Louis Maltby is an introverted kid with a major guilt complex. He's featured in segments like "Games Louis Plays" which describe how Louis looks at the world and "The Education of Louis" which show his confusion at the world around him. Louis is used to make social commentary by displaying how school and society treats him, and may be semi-autobiographical.Fact|date=December 2007 He also sometimes appears in other segments when a kid is needed and has an alter-ego, 'The Passive-Aggressor'.

*Charley is an australopithecine — a less-developed hominid from the pliocene epoch. He does not have some of the more advanced emotions of humans. He has a taste for grape soft drinks. He appears to be a satire of Curious George.

*Billy Dare, Boy Adventurer parodies the clichés used in boy adventurer stories. Billy is very similar in appearance to Tintin, a famous Belgian boy adventurer.

*Sam Roland, the Detective Who Dies is a Sam Spade-esque noirish private detective, except that "he" always dies.

*God-Man is the omnipotent, omniscient superhero. Placed in normal superhero situations, he fights villains like Nietzsche-lad, Dr. Moral Relativism and Blasphemy Boy to teach us something about theology, and to occasionally criticise organized religion. God-Man's "mundane identity" (when he does not want to attract suspicion) is Milton Baxter. God-Man occasionally solves problems by re-creating the universe and organizing the atoms so that the problem is prevented in the first place.

:*Billy Billings is "God-Man's Pal", a parody of Jimmy Olsen.

*Judge Scalia is an extremist version of the U.S. Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, used to criticize Justice Scalia's Supreme Court opinions and overall judicial philosophy.


*Lucky Ducky (purportedly from Wall Street Journal Comix) is a duck who despite being homeless, destitute, and working in a crummy job always manages to enrage his arch-nemesis, the very wealthy Hollingsworth Hound. Hollingsworth usually views any source of joy or happiness in Lucky's life to be too much of an advantage and does his best to eliminate it, claiming that the joy or happiness is at the expense of the rich. Hollingsworth tries to show that taxes especially hurt the poor, and demolish claims that they do not. ( [ Strips] ) Lucky Ducky first appeared after "The Wall Street Journal" editorialized against progressive tax policies, calling poor workers "lucky duckies" because they have a smaller federal income tax burden (see Lucky duckies). []

*James K. Poult, a Mallard Fillmore parody, is an "unbiased media chicken" with multiple conservative media outlets.

*Harvey Richards Esq., Lawyer for Children is about a lawyer who works for children by using the standard children's tricks for getting out of things or getting people to do things ("My fingers were crossed!" "I called no crossies!"). The point is that lawyers act an awful lot like young children. The character has been optioned for a feature film by New Line Cinema, to be co-produced by Universal Press Syndicate's AMUSE division.

*Larry Dodson is an "average joe" type character whom the art world has called "the most important artist of the 21st century."

*News of the Times and other unnamed segments poke fun at and re-conceptualize current events through analogy and comedy.

*Nate the Neoconservative is a neoconservative who refuses to admit his mistakes.

*Did You Know? points out "Fun Facts" in all sorts of things, poking fun at statistic-and-tidbit-obsessed society. The cult of celebrity is also a frequent target, with subversive trivia such as "Nicole Kidman had to work as a waitress before she became famous, and not a single person asked her for her autograph" and claiming that the Universe has never been nominated for an Oscar.

*The Impossible Squad is a military squad of stereotypical 'tough guys', all sergeants that list 'explosives' as their expertise except for one member (whose specialty is usually extremely different from his squadmates). They consider explosives to be the only way to complete any mission. However, the 'different' member will always suggest another solution based on his skills but his idea is usually shot down by the rest of the team (probably because they don't involve the direct use of explosives).

*Hollywood Tales are stories that depict Hollywood celebrities, featuring realistic (but static) likeness of their faces, in humorous situations.

*The Outer Reaches of Plot Twists parodies The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, showing stories that use multiple plot twists to the point that suspension of disbelief is difficult to achieve.

Super-Fun-Pak Comix

These collections of smaller comic strips poke fun at the typical conventions and clichés of modern comic strips. For example, they commonly make fun of stereotypical "New Yorker" cartoon settings, such as two people sitting across a desk or a husband and wife at home reading the paper. The comics can also be based around peculiar or bizarre concepts, like 'Funny Only to Six-year-olds' or 'Comic Designed to Fit Vertical Spaces'. Larger Tom The Dancing Bug comics occasionally make an appearance in shorter forms.

Typical mini-strips include:

*Marital Mirth is about two married people who "really" hate each other and always have sex with other people, presumably making fun of married-people-hating-each-other jokes. It's [ supposedly drawn by bitter Rex Feinstein] . Apparently it's a parody of The Lockhorns.

*Uncle Cap'n is an old lazy pirate who swears and makes you do his work for him through supposed 'puzzles' and 'fun' (but usually illegal) activities. He is a parody of Cappy Dick.

*Selfish Gene is about a boy named Gene who only acts in ways that are beneficial to him under the framework of sociobiology. This is a reference to Richard Dawkins' "The Selfish Gene".

*Doug is a bunny who refuses to do much of anything.

*Classix Comix/Comix Playhouse is an extremely shortened comic form of famous plays and novels. This is apparently a reference to Classics Illustrated, a series that provided classic books in shortened comic form.

*Elevator Ride of the Damned is dreadful elevator conversation in comic form.

*Stock Sitcom Gags Presented in Comic Form is just what you'd expect.

*Comics for the Elderly (formerly "Hey, Old People! Comics!") shows old people giving ornery advice to young people and the young people quickly accepting it.

*Funny, Funny Celebs shows celebrities saying inane things as a parody of the respect we give to celebrities and actors.

*Chaos Butterfly parodies the butterfly effect. Each strip features a butterfly in Brazil flapping its wings and indirectly causing something unpleasant to happen to a man in Chicago some time later.

*Dinkle, The UnLovable Loser is a parody of such characters as Ziggy or The Born Loser, with the catch being that his status as a loser is completely justified because he is truly un-lovable; he is narcisstic and typically exhibits mendacious attitudes, such as anti-Semitism, and sociopathic behaviour, ruthlessly exploiting everyone he encounters.

*Science Facts for the Immature presents a scientific fact which is either a double entendre or is followed by a punchline based on bodily humor.

*Killjoy was Here features Killjoy, a man that ruins any attempt at a funny dialogue by spouting out depressing facts on global issues such as poverty.

*Percival Dunwoody, Idiot Time Traveller from 1909 is in awe of the modern age. Unfortunately, he is also amazed by things that exist well before 1909 including dogs and lightbulbs. He is aware of his own idiocy, though.

*The Epic/Brutal Report is a two-panel comic based on the good news/bad news gag. The first panel has a teenager relaying the 'good news' to his friends, which then exclaims 'Epic!'. In the second panel, he will tell them the 'bad news', to which his friends exclaim 'Brutal!'. The 'bad news' is always extremely unproportional and/or outlandish relative to the 'good news'.

*Larry is a bespectacled man that converses with sight gags usually found in comic strips such as 'Flying Sweat' or 'Flying Feet'.

*Superhero comics, featuring superheroes with names and traits that parody superheroes in general. Examples include 'Talk-Up-His-Secret-Identity Man' and 'Garish-Skintight-Lycra-Outfit Man'.

*This Is Not A Comic Strip are instead metacritical deconstructions of the typical newspaper comic strip.

*Oh That ! are parodies of the 'mischievous pet' comic strips, but with the pets replaced by stranger characters such as a wolverine or actor Matthew Modine.

*Hillbilly Bill, of The Hills is a very stupid hillbilly.

*Yuks are one-panel comics that show a character talking to others using very long dialogues.

After September 11, 2001, Bolling used the Super Fun Pak Comix format to acknowledge the events - the punchline to each one of the comics was "Terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, killing thousands".


Bolling told

:I started "Tom the Dancing Bug" in 1990 in a small New York newspaper. It was called New York Perspectives, then it was called New York Weekly, then it was called "bankrupt." But before it went bankrupt, I was able to sell the strip to a few other papers. For seven years, I was sending packages out and following up with phone calls, trying to get editors to run the strip. I ended up selling it to about 60 newspapers [under the name Quaternary Features] . I was surprised at the success I had, especially in selling to daily newspapers. I didn't think it would be my market.

:In 1997, the Universal Press Syndicate approached me and asked if we could work together. That came at just the right time, as I was starting a more serious day job, and I was about to have my first baby. I just didn't have the time and energy to devote to the selling of the strip. I decided that whatever job they did would be better than whatever I could put forth at that time. []


Three book-form collections have been published:

* 1992: "Tom the Dancing Bug" ISBN 0-06-096949-0
* 1997: "All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned From My Golf-Playing Cats" ISBN 1-56163-183-3
* 2004: "Thrilling Tom the Dancing Bug Stories" (oversized treasury) ISBN 0-7407-4737-1


Best Cartoon from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies: finalist in 2001 and 2004, First Place in 2002, 2003, and 2006.

External links

* [ Tom the Dancing Bug] comic strips at
** [ Tom the Dancing Bug blog]
** [ News and commentary on the strip from the author]
* [ A free index of all comics]
* [ Latest strips] (requires paid subscription for or viewing an animated advertisement)

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