What's the deal with Heathcliff, anyway?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2024/02/12/whats-the-deal-with-heathcliff-anyway.html

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Yes, a lot of Heathcliff comics are bizarre, seemingly random, which has made them a subject of discussion for years, but stick with 'em long enough and patterns emerge. They still may not make sense but there’s clearly something going on. And there are occasionally what most people would consider jokes. Recently there even seem to have been more “traditional” punchlines than usual.

Then there’s this one from last week that, I think, may be Gallagher’s clearest statement yet that he knows what he’s doing.

image

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I have a friend who has dubbed me her Heathcliff whisperer. She asks me to explain Heathcliff comics to her. It’s easier to follow if you view it as a species-swapped version of Wurthering Heights.

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Children do love the Meat Tank.

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I’m not sure much higher praise that you can give a deli other than wearing a giant foam finger that says “ham” and giving an approving burp after finishing a spicy Italian.

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as the adopted caretaker of an orange cat, I am here for all of it. They are quirky and loveable but still an absolute murder machine.

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The cartoon was in the eighties, back when Heathcliff was just an anodyne fixture of the “mischievous creature single panel gag” corner of the comics page. You had Dennis the Menace, Marmaduke, and Heathcliff, all being drawn by former assistants to their original creators, and they were all pretty much the same five fundamental gags over and over again, for eternity. You also had Family Circus, whose single panel child gags would regularly venture into those five fundamental gags, but largely felt like a slightly different flavor.

Gallagher’s time on the strip began in the end of the nineties, well after that corner of the comics page had been transformed by the appearance of The Far Side and its imitators; the “single panel gag about a mischievous creature” looked increasingly staid next to the new “single panel gag about whatever the fuck came out of the cartoonist’s brain” formula. Really I want to say he’s doing a pretty good job of reviving this fifty year old Mischevious Creature strip by hybridizing it with the “what the fuck did I just read” nature of the Far Side.

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Admittedly there were times when both Dennis The Menace and The Far Side were improved by having their captions swapped.

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Heathcliff - the other orange cat.

Bill the Cat gave Garfield and Heathcliff a pretty good run for their money back in the 80s even though he was initially conceived as a disgusting, unmarketable satire of both.

bill-the-cat

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Either you wear the Ham helmet or you live long enough to become the Garbage Ape.

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Do you use Cow Tools to fix the Meat Tank?

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I’m tempted to put that cartoon on a wall and tape a banana to it.

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Yet another great 80s/90s kids show intro by Shuki Levi. His list of TV shows he did the music for is insane. Some of my favorites by him that still get stuck in my head 40 years later are:

And those are just the ones I can personally remember from when I was growing up (or a little after growing up for some of the later ones). It might actually be easier to list the cartoons and kids shows that he didn’t write the theme songs for…

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