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Public spirited citizens such as you

Pluggers and They’ll Do It Every Time, 3/1/06

We continue our desultory romp through some new comics with two that were interactive before the Interweb make interactivity cool: Pluggers and They’ll Do It Every Time. Both start with a seemingly sure-fire plan: give their readers what they want by actually having them write the jokes. But they take this idea and run with it in radically different directions.

Pluggers aims to celebrate the simple, upstanding, stoic blue color types who form the backbone of this great country. But I’m guessing that it’s unintentional that the life of a Plugger is made by these little anecdotes to look suicidally depressing. The Plugger never complains despite the daily helping of indignities heaped upon him or her. Check out the disoriented look on our protagonist today: you can tell that for a brief moment, he thought that the good-morning kiss was coming from a special someone who’s now gone, like his ex-wife, who’s presumably left him for, I dunno, a raccoon or something. (As a side note, the fact that the anthropomorphic bear Plugger owns a non-anthropomorphic dog doesn’t make this any easier to parse.)

But while Pluggers specializes in selfless nobility as a cover for self-pity, They’ll Do It Every Time serves as a channel for its readers’ pettiest rages. Heavy on the expository matter, it presents a parade of unredeemable jerks saddled with subtle names like “Migraina” who serve as the helpless punching bags of the strip’s ire. Supporting characters exist mainly to complement the main target’s awfulness (the little girl’s “Oh, Mommy … what you said!” is simultaneously incomprehensible and revolting to me). According to Don Markstein’s invaluable Toonopedia, this panel, which dates back to the 1920s, was originally intended to illustrate “the little ironies of everyday life.” If the last couple week’s worth are any indication, today’s version illustrates the little ironies of everyday life, inflated to the subjects of hateful mean-spiritedness.

60 responses to “Public spirited citizens such as you”

  1. Liam Dillon
    March 2nd, 2006 at 2:43 am [Reply]


    Anyway… They’ll Do It Every Time used to run in the local papers in Huntington, WV, for years. I always hated it. Yet… for some reason… ‘Mommy/Daddy/Uncle Milto! What you said!’ has stuck with me for years as one of those horrifying phrases that pops into my head from time to time. I thought I’d actually seen the end of it. Thanks, Josh! :o)

  2. Len
    March 2nd, 2006 at 3:58 am [Reply]

    Poor Jeremy! He realises how lucky he was not to have lost an eye as an infant.

    Them ta-tas was SHARP!

  3. ponz
    March 2nd, 2006 at 4:30 am [Reply]

    What would make it even worse was if the pictures were only a few months old.

  4. Tim O\'Neil
    March 2nd, 2006 at 4:39 am [Reply]

    What I want to know is where the hell you go about finding a contracter who’ll so much as set foot on your property for less than, oh, $1000. $74 bucks could maybe buy you a new den in, oh, 1927.

  5. mooselet
    March 2nd, 2006 at 5:59 am [Reply]

    Plugger has this grimace on his face like he’s wet the bed during the night and has just rolled over into the cold wet sheets.

  6. Hank Kimbel
    March 2nd, 2006 at 6:00 am [Reply]

    Well, the cat’s out of the bag. Looks like Rex has only one testicle.

  7. Blog Jones
    March 2nd, 2006 at 6:24 am [Reply]

    I’m reasonably certain that you meant “blue collar” rather than “blue color.” Unless you meant to say that the “backbone of our country” is dying of oxygen deprivation. ;-)

  8. Malcolm
    March 2nd, 2006 at 7:39 am [Reply]

    “unredeemable” jerks?

    I think you’ll find it’s “irredeemable” jerks.

    Those two features must be the most obscure in the US market, surely? Tell me they don’t have fifty or more papers each…

  9. LynnyM
    March 2nd, 2006 at 8:04 am [Reply]

    Pluggers used to run in our local paper – for years. In fact, pretty much from the time I could read to just a year or two ago, when they (the newspaper staff) swapped the comics around.

    For some reason, this reminds me that a long time ago, we got Shoe.

  10. TomR
    March 2nd, 2006 at 8:20 am [Reply]

    Back in the day, when I was a wee one with more hair, our family barber had what I believe was an original TDiET cartoon hanging up.

    Scene: horse track.

    Two lines, one for the $50 Win, one for the $2 Show.

    Rich Suited-Up Rockefeller types at the $2 window.

    Bums, homeless, and less than affluent at the $50 window (including one ordinary guy in ‘office casual’ tie and slacks denoted as ‘Rip’).

    Loved it.

  11. ISBN
    March 2nd, 2006 at 8:36 am [Reply]

    POLL!! What And, what DID Mommy say? It starts with “Of all the…” and goes into curses. My guess:

    “Of all the fucked up shit that cheap pissant bastard has pulled, this sucks ass.”


    Oh, and Josh? I fucking hate that little child. “Oh Mommy! What you said!” It’s so sickening. I want to repeat it over and over until it’s out of my skull. I understand what they are TRYING to do. Like the girl’s appalled by the mom’s language. But doesn’t “what you said” usually imply agreement?

    Unless it’s said by a fat-voiced little nubbin of a punk ass kid like this one. I’m revolted.

  12. ISBN
    March 2nd, 2006 at 8:36 am [Reply]

    POLL!! What DID Mommy say? (in They’ll Do it Every Time) It starts with “Of all the…” and goes into curses. My guess:

    “Of all the fucked up shit that cheap pissant bastard has pulled, this sucks ass.”


    Oh, and Josh? I fucking hate that little child. “Oh Mommy! What you said!” It’s so sickening. I want to repeat it over and over until it’s out of my skull. I understand what they are TRYING to do. Like the girl’s appalled by the mom’s language. But doesn’t “what you said” usually imply agreement?

    Unless it’s said by a fat-voiced little nubbin of a punk ass kid like this one. I’m revolted.

  13. wendyinflight
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:00 am [Reply]

    I have always hated Pluggers with a passion that should really be reserved for Cathy. It drives me crazy and often makes no sense. Even the paper realizes its crap, because it HIDES it away from the rest of the comics in the middle of the classifieds like Family Circus. How the heck is it that really good comics are kept in the realm of the internet while these crap shows keep syndication?

  14. Ferd Berfel
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:07 am [Reply]

    RMMD – Okay, they have to be doing this deliberately. Dr. McCheesey is gong to help Rex find his ball?!? (Yes, Rex has an undescended testicle. It’s the reason he went into medicine.)

    9CL – So, a nun questioning her devotion to her faith is the same as a homosexual coming out of the closet? Okay…

    Luann – I thought the Brad-Toni-Dirk story line got milked. We’ve just spent 3 weeks giving away a cat.

    MW – Is Mary the ‘Typhoid Mary’ of platitude spewing? Everyone she comes even remotely into contact with spends panel after panel mumbling one banality after another.

    SF – Ted naturally flubbed his job interview bringing an end to that brief story arc. (You knew he would goof it up because he’s utterly incompetent and wholly dependent on the divine wisdom his Bitch-Wife-Goddess, Sally.) Now we’ve got a series of one day ‘joke’ strips. Are Ces & Co. on vacation? If so, I hope they’re having a wonderful time! Send us a postcard!

    MT – One of the ‘Mark Trail Eight Man Theatre Troupe’ appears today in an orange wig like strongly resembles a tomcat road pizza. Either that or its an homage to Donald Trump. Remember, keep kitty inside for his safety!

    Popeye – Olive’s fiance the King owns a fishing fleet. Curiouser and curiouser…

    Gasoline Alley – The nostalgia fest between the 85yo Skeezix and the 100+yo Walt ended without Walt’s death. Too bad, I’d thought it was a hint that this strip was returning to its roots. In the new arc, the oddly real looking Gertie has suffered a flat tire and has no spare. For a strip centered around a car garage, there sure are a lot of auto-related mishaps in ‘Gasoline Alley’.

  15. pengoons
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:07 am [Reply]

    Did They’ll Do It have another name years ago? I’ve been looking at it trying to decide if it’s the same strip that – also using the low-tech version of interactivity – used to credit contributors with the phrase, “Thanks and a hat tip…”, but I can’t get the name to line up with the memory.

    Is this the strip I’m thinking of, or is there a different one with a similar gimmick?

  16. Marc
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:10 am [Reply]

    Pluggers is a blue collar comic strip, and basically Dinette Set except with more obese animals taking their places.

  17. RBF
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:18 am [Reply]

    Shocker alert! In today’s A3-G Margo shocks Alan so much that his hair turns WHITE!

    Apparently he’s outraged at LuAnn’s promiscuous past in having been engaged before. For Shame, you !&#!!*# Whore!

    And Hank (#6) I agree. Wouldn’t it’ve been great if June had said “balls” instead?

  18. BigJoe
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:20 am [Reply]

    #14: Click on Josh’s link to Toonpedia. It states there that the original author used to give a “Halto Hat”, the person who took over after he died did not continue the phrase.

  19. BigJoe
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:22 am [Reply]

    #17: That should have been “Hatlo Hat”.

  20. Cyn
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:44 am [Reply]

    I’m glad it was pointed out that the Plugger is a bear. I thought it was another dog, and I just stared blankly at the panel for way too long trying to figure out why one dog kissing another in the morning would be funny. Um, because everyone gets morning breath? Whaaa?

  21. Marc
    March 2nd, 2006 at 9:44 am [Reply]

    Oh boy, for once Mary Worth is boring. Let’s get on with the definitions and horny sea analogies and get to the part where we find out Mr. Electric Blue Slacks is bi polar/has suicidal tendencies.

  22. Chet McCord, Wildlife Defender
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:00 am [Reply]


    I wonder if you’re thinking about “There Oughtta be a Law,” which I haven’t seen in a really long time. Same basic approach of griping about stupid people. I seem to recall that these often had “Thanx and a tippo to…” whoever gave the idea. But I might be confusing that with another similar strip.

  23. Smitty Smedlap
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:12 am [Reply]

    If I’m not mistaken, “Pluggers” was originally drawn by Jeff Macnelly, the originator of Shoe.

    Not that that information makes “Pluggers” even one iota less sucky.

    Who feeds the doggie while the bear hibernates? Gonna be a long, cold, hungry winter for Fido there.

  24. Anonymous
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:20 am [Reply]

    They’ll do it everytime.

    Talentless blog people will sit around with nothing better to do and criticize the artists and writers who put out publishable work each and everyday.

    However, if you criticize any little thing they do, they get their knickers in a twist and go crying to their mama.

  25. dlauthor
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:23 am [Reply]

    Pluggers (once, I might note, drawn by the late Jeff MacNelly) makes me roll my eyes pretty much every day. More so than usual when the X in “A Plugger X” is something so ubiquitous in today’s society that any blue-collar person who actually buys a newspaper probably has the real thing. Like “A Plugger remote control is really his grandkid.” No, a plugger remote control is probably a REMOTE CONTROL. This isn’t 1982 any more; such things haven’t been newfangled in literal decades.

    Plus, of course, it reinforces the weird perception in this country that cheap and unsophisticated is somehow “real.” To which I say: bite me. I “plug” too, even if I do drink more wine than Coors Light.

    Also, the weirdness of the dog-as-dog gets even weirder when you consider that one of the animals commonly anthropomorphized into female form (along with kangaroos and rabbits) is … yup, a dog. Plus sometimes kids are dogs, too. Sometimes the strip even has a dog-person with a dog-dog. Which I guess is no different than a person with a monkey, but still.

    Also, re Mallard Fillmore: I stand corrected about Wednesday’s strip getting repeated for the rest of the week. I failed to take into account that Tinsley would get distracted, as he often does, by some Right Wing Noise Machine screed. This time, the inimitable Michelle “Japanese internment camps were a good thing!” Malkin.

  26. dlauthor
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:28 am [Reply]

    24: Hey, Anonymous! Isn’t that one of those big woodpeckers?

  27. Pontiste
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:28 am [Reply]


    For TDIET, at first I thought the little girl was saying, “…what YOU said.” (As in, “Yo, yo…I do certainly concur.”) I thought that was pretty hip–curiously hip, you might say, given the source.

  28. Dennis Jimenez
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:31 am [Reply]

    Oh Anonymous – What you SAID!

  29. mk
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:45 am [Reply]

    I’m glad to hear that I am not the only one who finds Pluggers depressing.

    Meanwhile Prince Valiant has me on the edge of my seat. The V man has been carried off by vikings! What will happen? Once a week is not enough.

  30. Smitty Smedlap
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:59 am [Reply]

    #29 — mk

    A few weeks ago, Prince Valiant and son got every single viking so drunk that they passed out. If I’m Val in that situation, I very quietly go around and slit all their wretched throats while they sleep. Not Val, though — he goes and nicely ties himself back to the mast and waits for the vikings to wake up. Doofus….

  31. yellojkt
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:03 am [Reply]


    Anyone that uses Michelle Malkin as their primary source of news has already drunk so much Kool-Aid, it’s pointless to nit-pick.

    Gee, government works go on thinly disguised vacation/business trips just like people with real jobs. Are you only allowed to sceduled conferences at desolate hell-hole places? Hey, I got sent to Stillwater, Oklahoma last year. I have the t-shirt to prove it.

  32. King Dogmeat
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:08 am [Reply]

    #24: Amen.

    BTW, I’m glad to see TDIET getting some recognition in the Curmudgeon pages. TDIET’s been around a long time. It’s on its third artist, and each artist has flavored the strip with his own peculiarities. The present (Al Scaduto) has a flair for descriptive names (Annoya, Migraina, Ragmop,, and a strong preference for the number 1753. As long as this strip has existed, it’s not the first to harp on the annoying traits of humans. There was “The Outbursts of Everett True,” popular 100 years ago. It’s easy to find on the internet. The difference is, Everett did something about annoying people—he beat the living crap out of them (the sole exception being Mrs. True, who routinely turned the tables on Everett).

  33. Benicillin
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:16 am [Reply]

    This TDIET strip…it depresses me. It’s not really funny. It just points out something I don’t need pointed out, that people offer things that they don’t really mean, like a trap. I don’t need to see this. There is no wit involved here. It doesn’t illuminate through humor, but merely informs. What next, a cartoon of a guy who complains that his soup arrives at the same time as his meal? Do I blame Paul from Jersey or the cartoonist who has faces deadline pressures coupled with probably 8 phone calls a day from Paul in Jersey “Did you make a cartoon out of my life? Did you huh huh did you huh?” I would rather see that strip, where TDIET illustrates the lives of people who would actually take the time to submit this. I feel like that guy in the Steve Martin movie “The Jerk” who slaps his name down in the phone book to find out who to randomly assassinate. Paul Cassano in East Meadow, New Jersey, you’re only a day and a half drive for me.

  34. Sassy_Rocks
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:30 am [Reply]

    As Dr. Troyser Trout firmly grasps Sex Organ MD’s scrotum – “Cough Rex, that testicle will descend if you keep coughing”.

  35. Wilco
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:34 am [Reply]

    16.: You’re totally right, except opposite. Dinette Set pokes fun at middle america’s obliviousness, while Pluggers embraces them and says it’s OK to be completely out of touch. My brother and I used to come up with alternative Plugger comics. Unfortunately the only ones I can remember are filthy.

  36. Marc
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:38 am [Reply]

    Why hasnt anybody said anything about Zits? I would imagine it would be hard to breast feed with those babies!

    Momma Zits breastfeeding…….shiver!

  37. Old Fogey
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:45 am [Reply]

    TDIET was originally written by Jimmy Hatlo, who gave a “tip of the Hatlo hat” to readers who sent in ideas that were used.

    I read it as a kid, but usually didn’t understand it. Turns out I still don’t understand it.

  38. dlauthor
    March 2nd, 2006 at 11:53 am [Reply]

    #36, have you met #2?

  39. James Schend
    March 2nd, 2006 at 12:00 pm [Reply]

    Oh man, the Outbursts of Everett True comics were awesome. We don’t get comics like that anymore, what a shame.

    Here’s a reprinting of a ton of them:

    And here’s a nice sample:

    Everett True would BEAT PEOPLE WITH AN UMBRELLA for not having the right brand of medicine. Awesome.

  40. Lazlo
    March 2nd, 2006 at 12:27 pm [Reply]

    Big ups to all my talentless blog people! TBP in the house!

  41. katya
    March 2nd, 2006 at 12:36 pm [Reply]

    My usual newspapers don’t carry Pluggers so I’ve always been confused by the strip whenever I stumble onto it. I’d never heard a definition of “Plugger” (is it a common definition or just to this particular comic strip?), so I’d read Pluggers and then big question marks would appear above my head. I thought every Pluggers comic strip should be entered in the Comics I Don’t Understand website (like Mr. Boffo and Zippy the Pinhead) because that’s how much sense it made to me.

    So in conclusion, thank you for illuminating me as to what a Plugger is, and for letting me truly know how awful a comic strip it really is.

  42. Smokey Stover
    March 2nd, 2006 at 1:07 pm [Reply]

    Don’t forget Hatlo’s other classics, Little Iodine and Hatlo’s Inferno:

  43. Marc
    March 2nd, 2006 at 1:40 pm [Reply]

    dlauthor: Hah, I just realized I glanced at the comments to quickly to realize that number two was about Momma Zits Ta-tas.

    Katya: I think a plugger is a no-frills, sentimental, blue color worker in middle america. That’s what I’ve thought what a plugger was for the past five years.

  44. Anonymous
    March 2nd, 2006 at 1:47 pm [Reply]

    A plugger is a person who reads and responds to meaningless blogs. I guess the true term should be blugger.

    Now blugger off.

  45. Concerned Citizen
    March 2nd, 2006 at 2:07 pm [Reply]

    Good to see the legacy of Jimmy Hatlo lives on. Unfortunately, the characters look contemporary. Hatlo was another cartoonist that was apparently under house arrest for decades. I do miss lil Iodine, I like characters named after elements. I think her last name was Tremblechin, and her dad was an archwimp.

    #15 – That other strip was There Oughtta Be a Law, by toonist unknown. Same degree of pettiness, but it didn’t have Hatlo’s weird looking people in it. In fact it made They’ll Do It Every Time look classy.

  46. MotoMike
    March 2nd, 2006 at 2:22 pm [Reply]

    Re (#45) :
    art Al Fagaly 44-63
    (Warren Whipple 63-71)
    Warren Whipple 71-81
    Frank Borth 81-83
    wr Harry Shorten 44-64
    Frank Doyle 65
    Sy Reit 69
    Frank Borth 71-82

    Toonopedia calls it “…a knock-off of They’ll Do It Every Time”.
    I’m not sure I remember it.

  47. Dave Matthews (no, not that one)
    March 2nd, 2006 at 2:53 pm [Reply]

    Re. number 32: I like They’ll Do It Every Time’s retro feel; it always seems like 1946 in that strip, despite the very occasional reference to modern stuff like home computers. I also like the descriptive names; my favorites include Barfo and Rotunda.

    And if you haven’t seen Everett True, do so, buddy!!

  48. rich
    March 2nd, 2006 at 3:44 pm [Reply]

    RMMD is clearly in on the joke. Not that they’ll follow through on it – just as the last story kept dropping hints that it was about to take a bold stand on the war, then wimped out and made the story all about gambling addiction and post-traumatic stress.

    The strip is designed to operate on two levels – for those paying attention, Rex is gay, Troy is gay, and the “s” that dare not appear in print was meant to be supplied in the reader’s mind: “Maybe he can help you find your balls!” – What else could her comment mean?

    While on the “official” level the outcome of the hot golf date will be something suitably dull, such as Troy attempting to recruit Rex to join his practice…not that kind of practice, though!

  49. Sassy_Rocks
    March 2nd, 2006 at 3:50 pm [Reply]

    June Gale seems really butch now compared to a few years ago. Rex is a flaming poof-dah now himself. Although there is nothing wrong with that, Rex and June both used to be straight before the new artist took over. Is it mere coincidence or did they grow apart after the birth of their downs syndrome child?

  50. Concerned Citizen
    March 2nd, 2006 at 4:01 pm [Reply]

    #46 – One of the rigors of old age is remembering There Oughta be a Law. I believe that it had a recurring character named Carbunkle, who had one of those weirdass wavy Steve Ditko haircuts. If you were from St. Louis, TDIET ran in the Post and TOBAL ran in the Globe. Say, I like the idea of similar comics running in competing papers. It’s like Bizarro world. You could have a Rex Morgan knockoff where the character was hetero and a Mary Worth lookalike where she minded her own damn business.

  51. anonymous
    March 2nd, 2006 at 6:16 pm [Reply]

    #49 – do you remember the “old” June and Rex years ago before the new artists took over? Talk about poorly-drawn and dowdy!!! They looked like a couple of characters out of an old black-and-white thirties movie drawn with a shaky pencil by a simpleton!

  52. Ferd Berfel
    March 2nd, 2006 at 6:33 pm [Reply]

    #39 – Omigod! Tahnk you, thank you, thank you for those links! I am a new Everett True fan! He’s better than Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman. Check out this one:

    Now tell me that cop is Dubyah’s great-grandfather!

  53. lilybdcsa
    March 2nd, 2006 at 8:34 pm [Reply]

    Ooookay…that has to be about the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Everett True sounds alot like my abusive psycho brother.

  54. randomdude
    March 2nd, 2006 at 10:40 pm [Reply]

    I have never even heard of either of these strips.
    I also do not understand what “a Plugger” or “the Plugger” means.
    Is a Plugger a race of bear-people or something?
    Why do newspapers waste space and materials printing dumb stuff that makes no sense?

  55. Anonymous
    March 3rd, 2006 at 3:07 am [Reply]

    I find this strip
    particularly interesting, because it actually looks like to poor guy’s head is smashed like a melon.

    You DO NOT want to irk Everett, man. He’ll mess you up but GOOD.

  56. Smitty Smedlap
    March 3rd, 2006 at 12:17 pm [Reply]

    54 — randomdude

    Not sure if you’re serious or not, but for the record, a “plugger” is basically a hard-working blue collar type — somebody who keeps “plugging away.”

    Those of us who sit in offices, playing with spreadsheets and attending meetings rife with powerpoint presentations are most assuredly NOT pluggers.

  57. Pantsman
    March 3rd, 2006 at 2:01 pm [Reply]

    I have always considered “Pluggers” to be a cartoon version of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if…” routine, as acted out by anthropomorphic animals. Though I am still disturbed by the interspecies relationships…As you can see here, the bear sleeps in with a kangaroo!? For all we know their child is a baby rhino.

    When unfortunately reviewing the archives of this strip, it dawned on me the only way to submit a top-notch idea for this strip is a P.O. box, no e-mail in sight…which might help to explain the types of ideas that show up in the strip.

    Perhaps we could have a contest to see if we can get anything published…”A plugger’s wife…is also his sister!” OK, maybe not.

  58. randomdude
    March 3rd, 2006 at 4:25 pm [Reply]

    Let me ask this:
    Does anyone use the term “plugger” in normal conversation unrelated to this strip?

  59. Pantsman
    March 3rd, 2006 at 6:44 pm [Reply]

    With the possible exception of “Plugger?? I hardly even know’er!”, no. Nobody sane should ever use that word in a normal conversation.

  60. Steve Sturdevant
    September 6th, 2006 at 2:40 pm [Reply]

    Hatlo also did a strip that appeared on Sunday called Hatlo’s History, in which he described some historical event the way it “actually happened”.

    For example, when Longfellow wrote “The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere”, he actually started out using another character:

    “Listen my children, while I pause
    Of the midnight ride of William Dawes”

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