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Ants and turtles and cavemen and (of course) Jesus

B.C., 12/3/04

For me, one of the surprises in Jonathan Franzen’s Peanuts essay (yes, I’m plugging it again; you really should read it) was that his favorite comic in the newspaper he read as a kid was B.C. Since I refuse to actually spend good money on a B.C. anthology, or even risk being seen thumbing through one at the bookstore, I must pose this question to you all: was Franzen a little kid with no taste (not a crime; even I, current culture snob that I am, was under the spell of Garfield until I hit puberty), or was B.C. at some point in the distant past actually, you know, funny?

Since all I have to go on is what I read in the funny pages, though, I must humbly assert that B.C. is not, in fact, funny. Do I harp on this point? Well, it’s true. It also has too damn many characters, and it seems to arbitrarily introduce and get rid of them, and maybe if you’re Jonathan Franzen you’re familiar with them all, but I swear I’ve read this strip every day for years and this Queen Ida is new to me. I mean, yeah, ants have queens, and she’s a real queen, with a crown and a, um, robe and everything, but really: What the hell? I ask you.

This strip also offers a good example of a common comics misconception, which is that if you put two half-funny bits in a row in the same strip, you get an actually funny strip. Though “half-funny” might be too kind a description of the “Yankee Stadium” gag, or of the “then dig one” gag, which, I assume, against all logic, is the punchline.

And one last thing before I move on: What’s the deal with the “HBQBJ” thing at the bottom right of the third panel? Is it a secret code? A private joke? A Jesus thing? It’s a Jesus thing, isn’t it?

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