Masculinity comics 5

Start with the Zippy strip of 6/29; focus on the second panel:

(#1) A generic diner setting, plus Nancy‘s cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s three rocks, unaccountably numbered for reference (see my 9/22/17 posting “Three rocks”)

Double dactyls for boys

Snarfity-barfity, Grossout and Slapstick, those
Champions of ick, masters of pow:
Boys by the age of six, nix on the feminine,
Slam with the Stooges, shout it out loud

Background. From my 10/6 posting “Masculinity comics 2”:

I’ve been accumulating comic strips having to do with boys and masculinity, in particular about what they’ve picked up about normatively masculine behavior and attitudes by the age of 8 or so: the age of the character Joe in the comic strip One Big Happy … At the moment I have 5 strips (4 OBHs, plus a Zippy), overing a wide range of themes in normative masculinity for boys. [The OBHs have now been treated in my postings 1-4 on “Masculinity comics”.] To judge from the comics (and my recollections of boyhood), an 8-year-old has an extensive and pretty fine-grained command of the cultural norms of masculinity within his social group.

This is the fifth and final posting in the series, with the Zippy above (and another later), several Calvin and Hobbes strips, and a Bizarro. On related themes in the manifestation of normative masculinity in modern American culture: gross-out displays, ostentatious violations of feminine (in particular, maternal) injunctions to cleanliness, neatness, respectfulness, and clean language (as in Michael Kimmel’s discussions of the Boy and Guy Codes); and slapstick comedy, stylized (stereotypically masculine) violence or aggression, played for laughs — the physical counterpart to playful verbal aggression, like the ritual insults in “Masculinity comics 2”. Gross-out humor and slapstick comedy are natural companions, as in the movie National Lampoon’s Animal House. (Other aspects of positive, rather than avoidance, masculinity, besides violence / aggression: activity; strength, power; dominance, control; assertiveness, expansiveness, claiming space and attention; self-assurance, confidence; independence.)

Meanwhile, boys (from elementary school through the teens) tend to be the core fans of both gross-out humor and slapstick comedy: The Three Stooges, the American Pie movies, and so on.

splort, in response to bodily effluvia. The onomatopoetic verb splort in #1 is apparently an invention of Bill Griffith’s, at least in the sense in #1, which seems to be something like ‘exude, secrete noisily’. (There are Urban Dictionary reports of a verb splort ‘ejaculate noisily’.)

For reference, the “bodily excrescences” (that is, effluvia) at issue are:

fluids: sweat, saliva [spit], human milk, vomit [puke], urine [piss], feces [shit, crap], semen [cum, jizz, spunk], vaginal fluid, blood

accumulations or discharges: toe jam, nasal mucus [snot], eye discharge / sleep in the eye, navel lint, earwax, smegma [dick / cock cheese]

and smells: especially those resulting from bacteria in the armpit, in the crotch, on the feet, in the mouth

Cotton on the nasty trail. From my 7/7/17 posting “What will become of me?”, a Bizarro cartoon listing a cotton boll’s fears about how it will end up being used:


The bolls seem especially wary of sweat, snot, smelly feet, and dirty underwear (implicating sweat, genital discharges, urine, and feces).

In the 20th century, artists ventured boldly into effluvia territory. Especially notable: Gilbert & George. [with examples]

Gross-out humor. Incorporating effluvia into an assaultive genre. From Wikipedia:

Gross out describes a movement in art (often comic), which aims to shock and disgust the audience with controversial material such as toilet humor and [f]etishes.

… The label “gross-out movie” was first applied by the mainstream media to 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House, a comedy about the fraternity experience at US colleges. Its humor included not only explicit use of bodily functions (like projectile vomiting), but also references to topical political matters … Since then, gross-out films increased in number, and became almost the norm for American comedy films. Some films of this genre could be aimed at teen audiences (such as Superbad, Porky’s, American Pie or Eurotrip), while others are targeted at somewhat more mature audiences (such as Borat, The Hangover or Wedding Crashers). [The genre then spread to tv in the 1990s. And to the theatre.]

(Art:) Controversial American cartoonist and vaudeville performer Basil Wolverton invented his trademark “spaghetti and meatballs” style of artwork.

Various artists helped create a flourishing gross-out art scene, which began mainly in the 1990s, the most famous of which were Damien Hirst … and Tracey Emin …

(Music:) Gross out themes are common in popular music genres, such as hip hop and hard rock, where shock value helps create marketable notoriety. Bands include Blink-182 famous for including breast and fart jokes in their songs, while bands such as Cannibal Corpse and Agoraphobic Nosebleed write extremely revolting lyrics designed to induce nausea and shock the music world.

Probably the biggest gross-out shock to the music world was the act of GG Allin. Allin was infamous for his transgressive music act, which included eating excrement, mutilating himself and attacking audience members.

A gentler shade of  gross-out: Calvin and Hobbes. Much gentler.

In Bill Watterson’s comic strip, Calvin is a 6-year-old boy, and Hobbes is his toy stuffed tiger, appearing as a human-sized companion to Calvin who functions as a playmate, an older brother, a detached adult observer, and an intelligent tiger, depending on the moment. Meanwhile, Calvin behaves like an 8- to 10-year-old boy, old enough to be beginning to flirt fitfully with girls, but still generally plugged into normative boy masculinity, keeping girls at a distance and doing his best to gross them out at school lunches.

From the Calvin and Hobbes Wiki:


G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy GirlS) is an exclusive club created by Calvin and Hobbes, with the primary purpose of excluding and bugging girls, the only members being Calvin and Hobbes. However, Calvin has been heard talking to Susie when she’s mad about Calvin excluding girls as the primary G.R.O.S.S. goal, Calvin replies, “I know it’s redundant, but otherwise it doesn’t spell anything.” Which could suggest that the name is partly just to spell something [AZ: it’s a backronym]. Susie Derkins is frequently the target of the club’s activities. The club is famous for their extremely long password, which is known to have at least eight verses. All the verses, moreover, are devoted to praising tigers, since Hobbes is the only one who can climb to the treehouse without a rope ladder. One of the verses is poetically said as “tigers are nimble and light on their toes, my respect for tigers constantly grows,” and it is accompanied by a dance of some sort.

And then, also from that Wiki, is Susie Derkins:

Susie unwillingly sits by Calvin during lunchtime at school, but Calvin always decides to sit next to her anyway. In many situations, Calvin would talk about his lunch, portraying it as something disgusting and unappetizing. The first instance of this was when Calvin described his supposed “squid eyeball sandwich”, stating that he likes to “suck out the retinas.”


Another example would be when he told Susie that he mashed some flies into a paste onto two pieces of bread, and called it “bug butter”.

Two further When Calvin Met Susie examples:



Notes on slapstick. Stylized violence, played for laughs. Two earlier postings.

on 11/22/19, in “On the rubber fowl beat”, on rubber chickens as an alternative to slats of wood and inflatable bladders for stage beatings in slapstick, with quotation from Wikipedia on slapstick:

Slapstick is a style of humor involving exaggerated physical activity that exceeds the boundaries of normal physical comedy. Slapstick may involve both intentional violence and violence by mishap

on 6/22/17, in “The Three Delfts”, a Zippy strip combining  the subjects of Vermeer’s paintings with the Three Stooges:


The Three Stooges in action:

(#8) The Three Stooges were an American vaudeville and comedy team active from 1928 until 1970, best known for their 190 Columbia short-subject films that are still syndicated on television. Their hallmark was physical farce and slapstick. (from Wikipedia)

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