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Herb and Jamaal, 10/4/04

Many people reading this blog no doubt think to themselves, “Josh, why do you always have to hate on Herb and Jamaal? Why be a player hater? When does the hating stop?” I say unto you: today is the day.

One of the great challenges of the comic artists to express a number of non-verbal cues via word balloons, whether that be surprise (see panel three here), a combination of surprise and befuddlement (see last week’s Phantom commentary and the surprisingly erudite community discussion it spawned), or belching. It’s the burping that drew me today’s strip, as you can probably guess. Sure, my friends know me as an Ivy League graduate, urban hipster, and (dare I say it) danged cultural elitist, but they also know that I appreciate a good belch — whether doing it, hearing it, or reading about it in the paper.

Anyway, I’m most intrigued not by the rather pedestrian transliteration of BRAAAPHHH for the main burp, but rather the post-belch noises on the second line of the second panel’s text. Are we to understand these sounds to be secondary and tertiary belches, or do they represent the sort of post-burp glottal events that can follow particularly noisy and satisfying releases of intestinal gas? Only extensive experimentation can resolve the issue, but consider this when planning your preliminary lines of investigation: the typeface shift in the first panel clearly denotes differing volume levels of drinking noises, but everything in the second panel is at a consistent font size, with an absence of punctuation, to boot.

Another phenomenon of note is the collection of bubbles around Herb’s head. (I’m pretty sure that it’s Herb, but there’s a small but non-zero chance that I’m wrong and that it’s actually Jamaal.) Now, normally these would symbolize some sort of chemical (or, in rare cases, romantic) intoxication, but the clearly labeled can of SODA (Hey, kids! You don’t need alcohol to have a good time!) indicates that these little roundels actually represent the expelled CO2 itself. All and all, its an interesting intersection of chemistry, anatomy, and class conflict that’s still guaranteed to get a laugh out of the all-important 8-to-13-year-old demographic.