Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
E-mail Michael  |  On Facebook: Comic Riffs  |  On Twitter: Comic Riffs  |  RSS Feeds RSS Feed
Posted at 10:05 AM ET, 08/ 3/2009

Are You @#$& Kidding Me? The Best Comics Curser Is...

By The Reliable Source

The a.m. roundup of today's 'toons, from the potty-mouthed to the naughty-mouthed...

'BABY BLUES' (KFS)Enlarge Image

'BIG NATE' (UFS)Enlarge Image

Up until at least the dawn of PhotoShop and the Wacom tablet, the greatest invention in comics -- some would @$%&! argue -- was the employment of a series of punctuation symbols to represent comics profanity. On a funnypage where "sucks" and "screw you" are all but verboten, many cartoonists needed some way to spice things up with implied salty language.

MAD magazine, I believe, is the first place where I encountered punctuation symbols as a surrogate for words that I probably didn't even know yet. Soon, the device seemed ingenious. My own third-grade class comics (I drew 'em; my friend photocopied 'em and kept 50 percent of the sales -- sound familiar?) were occasionally littered with these random "profanities." What was my mom going to do for using such tawdry symbols: Wash out my Rapidograph pens with soap?

Thing is, of course, ours is culture in which humorous language grows ever coarser, in general ("The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" so barely bleep out their virtually audible four-letter words, the half-heartedness of the "bleep" only heightens the joke for many). In this "post-apostrophic" landscape, comics punctuation seems as quaint as "original" cartoon art on paper -- as if the urge is: Carbon-date after laughing.

That said, the Official 'Riffs Question of the Day is: What comics, do you think, are especially artful at employing punctuational profanity?

Even today, there are strips that use punctuation ("Baby Blues"); others that block out the letters ("Big Nate"). Then again, you can always go the "Mark Trail" and simply utter the rudest, crudest obscenity allowed in your environment: "Holy mackerel!"

'MARK TRAIL' (NAS)Enlarge Image

SPEAKING OF THE PROFANE: One of the biggest obscenity-related comics blunders in recent memory still has to be DC's "All-Star Batman" gaffe last year, which prompted the comics to request that stores destroy "tens of thousands" of copies. The incident even spawned the New York Post headline: "The Caped Cuss-ader."


'DOONESBURY' (UPS)Enlarge Image

THE WORD ON THE "C STREET": Some weeks back, The Post ran an A-1 story (by Manuel Roig-Franzia) about the "C Street House," to which the recently scandalized politicians Mark Sanford and John Ensign both had ties. Now, "Doonesbury" creator GARRY TRUDEAU is turning his acid pen toward the "spiritual haven."
This Riffster will be on the lookout to see whether the week's worth of strips stirs any controversy or threats of cancellations. Let the "Doonesbury" Watch begin....NOW.

SPEAKING OF HOT-BUTTON POLITICAL CARTOONS: Earlier this year, Comic Riffs noted curious "irregularities" in how some political cartoonists -- even given the art of wildly interpretive caricature -- were depicting President Barack Obama. Well in recent days, Real Clear Politics's Tom Bevan believes the caricatures of Michelle Obama, as opposed to how Condolleeza Rice was drawn, reveal a discrepancy that's politically telling.

LAST CALL: As cartoon fodder, the "Beer Obama" could be tapped for near-limitless potential. One of the crisper ones in recent days, in This Riffster's humble opinion, was by the Washington Examiner's Nate Beeler.


STEPHEN COLBERT SPEAKS: The world's greatest fake anchor tells Comic Riffs what he and Obama have in common.

THE 'RIFFS INTERVIEW: Garry Trudeau on the state of political satire.

By The Reliable Source  | August 3, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  The Comic Strip, The Morning Line  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Geek Buzzing: 'Galactica,' 'True Blood' and...'Harvey'?
Next: Jon Favreau: How the 'Iron Man 2' Director Uses Twitter


Sorry. The Beeler cartoon is stupid.

I hope that doesn't mean I'm going to be invited to have a beer with him.

Posted by: filfeit | August 3, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

One advantage of the "&$*#!" method is that it can be quoted (and even twitted or e-mailed). The "black box" method is not "quotable", but has the artistic advantage that it can be made to appear that the EDITOR (or the syndicate) is responsible for the censorship, rather than the author. Berke Breathed frequently made used of this uncertainty in Bloom County.

Posted by: kilby | August 3, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

There is a big difference in the nature of the Michelle Obama vs. Condoleezza Rice characatures for many reasons. One of the most important is that Condoleezza Rice was a part of the administration. Michelle Obama is the First Lady. She doesn't hold any office and what she is doing isn't political in nature. She is the wife of the president vs. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. That alone means that Rice is going to be treated differently. I am also curious as to when Rice pops up in the cartoons. As the years went by and Bush and the war became more and more unpopular I think that the drawings of Rice became a little more vicious.

Posted by: elyrest | August 3, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness this is an adult blog, and we don't need any of that fershlugginer "@#%$*" HERE!!!!

Posted by: seismic-2 | August 3, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Read the Tom Bevan article, and one thing springs to mind. The main difference between Ms Rice and Ms Obama is not their political affiliation, but that one is a politician and one is a family member of a politician. People who choose to run for office are putting themselves out there for characturists to have their way with them. Their families - not so much. I don't remember any highly unflattering cartoons of Laura Bush either.

Posted by: marshlc | August 3, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, no edit function - "caricaturists". I *knew* that word looked funny....

Posted by: marshlc | August 3, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Saturday's "Scary Gary" employed one of the more creative ways to veil profanity that I've seen in a while ...

Posted by: shaungallagher | August 3, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

I remember way back when the National Lampoon had an article called "You know you're too old for Mad Magazine when..." which included the observation "you know what $#@! means".

Posted by: howiehunt | August 3, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I think "Pearls before Swine" is one of the best users of comics profanity today. Rat is usually the best at it, but Zebra is good too, and Sunday's guest, Tenured Professor Bob, was a standout!

Posted by: commish24 | August 4, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company