40 Comments

  1. If we are going to say that cartoonists, and humorists generally, cannot use references that go over the head of part of their audience, that’s going to be a significant constraint.

    For anyone for whom this was a CIDU: Zaphod Beeblebrox is the President of the Galaxy in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a series of humorous science fantasy radio programs and novels by Douglas Adams, as well as adaptations of those works. Within that universe, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a travel guide, and it has the words “Don’t Panic” in large friendly letters on the cover.

  2. But . . . would Lunker have read ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’? He’s always been portrayed as someone with all brawn and very little brain, so this is, to me, a real stretch.

  3. I agree with Lost in A**2’s assessment. Lunker has trouble with pronouns, but otherwise seems perfectly competent. Autistic people often have problems with pronouns.

  4. Thanks Usual John. I guess I’m one of the few who hasn’t read it.

    I suppose my first thought upon seeing this strip should have been maybe the name means something so I should search on it, but my brain didn’t even go there. It just seemed like a random funny sounding name.

  5. Why “only works if every reader. . .”? Not every reader has to get the joke.

    Lunker has been portrayed as not just having some hidden intelligence, but really being insanely smart. Strips have shown him doing things like working on some quantum physics theory, writing novellas, etc. . .

    And while I like THGTTG, I wouldn’t rate it as requiring an immense amount of brain to read, anyway.

  6. @Andréa: Lunker listens to the radio episodes- they way a *real* fan would.

    And for some reason this quote seems very timely:

    .”..but the qualities he is required to display are not those of leadership but those of finely judged outrage. For this reason the President is always a controversial choice, always an infuriating but fascinating character. His job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it. On those criteria Zaphod Beeblebrox is one of the most successful Presidents the Galaxy has ever had — he has already spent two of his ten presidential years in prison for fraud.”

  7. “this only works if every reader knows who Zaphod Beeblebrox is …”

    The reader only needs to know that Zaphod Beeblebrox is not one of the recognized contenders, the Douglas Adams source just enhances the gag.

    Marla just got off the phone with shelf-for-brains – she’ll have a duh moment later.

  8. abwx: To play Devil’s advocate, there are lots of elections other than for President. Not recognizing the name doesn’t tell the reader that Z.B. is fictional (or supposed to be fictional within the Retail universe).

  9. Certainly we have to know; and certainly Marla has to not know. But to what extent must other characters be in the know or out of it?

  10. “to play Devil’s advocate, there are lots of elections other than for President. Not recognizing the name doesn’t tell the reader that Z.B. is fictional (or supposed to be fictional within the Retail universe).”

    I’m going to play minor irritating imp advocate and go back to Usual John’s initial comment and CIDU Bill’s comment that having a specific reference that not everyone will understand, or even deliberately make an obscure reference that very few will understand is perfectly valid. …. If the reader hasn’t read Douglas Adams and doesn’t understand what the joke is then…. the reader won’t understand what the joke is. And your point is?

  11. “Lunker fails to go for the easy comeback line… “But Zaphod’s just this guy, you know?””

    That would have turned this strip from a “meh… I appreciate the Hitchhiker reference but what’s the point” to a LOL for me.

  12. woozy: “…having a specific reference that not everyone will understand, or even deliberately make an obscure reference that very few will understand is perfectly valid.”

    Yes, I already said that as well. I’m just saying that the joke probably doesn’t make sense if you’re not familiar with Z.B. Whether that’s a problem is a different issue.

  13. “I’m just saying that the joke probably doesn’t make sense if you’re not familiar with Z.B. ”

    Fair nuff. But I think most would say “Zaphod Beeblebrox? That’s a weird name. It must be a reference to something I don’t get”.

    I *don’t* think anyone would assume it could be a *real* election button. So I think everyone (HGTG ignorant) would assume it’s not a real election but have no idea what it actually is

  14. I thought it was a made-up name ’til I googled it (which – again – I should’ve done first, but look at all the conversations we’ve had). Knowing who Z-B was doesn’t make the comic any funnier, tho.

  15. Obviously, a Zaphod Beeblebrox joke is only for the trendy insider. For people so hip they have trouble seeing over their pelvis.

  16. One good reason for choosing Zaphod is that there are re-elect Zaphod Beeblebrox buttons. That’s not true of most fictional characters. (Though I have seen buttons in favor of Darth Vader or Cthulhu as “Why pick the lesser evil” choices.)

  17. That is EXACTLY why I don’t think this comic works. You cannot portray a character as ‘brawn, not brain’, then suddenly give him a ‘brain, not brawn’ scene and expect us [ME] to think it amusing. This isn’t a ‘Flowers for Algernon’/’Charly’ storyline.

  18. Again, HHGttG was a radio play before it was a book. And it was a telefilm and a movie after it was a book. There are many ways to know the name without having read the book.

    Or maybe Lunker just likes a candidate who’s smarter than you, and better looking too.

  19. I wonder how many write-in votes he’s received.

    It must be ‘reference a book/movie’ week at the comics . . .

    (I added a .gif just to see if it would work, as it does for GoComics.)

  20. ignatzz/Andréa: As mentioned above, Lunker has been portrayed as being brainy for a long time now. And I’m not sure that he’s been portrayed as being dumb, other than through his way of speaking.

    And I like the books, but I wouldn’t characterize HGTTG as requiring an immense amount of brainpower to read anyway.

    woozy: If the button has said a weird name I wasn’t familiar with, like “Re-elect Aloysius Acramatis,” I would either think it was a reference to something I hadn’t heard of, or that the author had made up a silly name for the comic.

  21. Technical aside — Andrea, there are a couple giveaways in the formation of that URL as to why it doesn’t qualify to embed the image. The problem is that it involves a query. To cash that out, it’s the question mark that shows that; and secondarily, the equal signs.

    Sometimes, using “inspect” , a working-to-embed URL can be extracted from the Comics Kingdom source; but I can’t find it for this one. Your choice to just post a link for the reader to follow seems to me the best recourse.

  22. Does this perhaps count as a geezer reference? I know that the most recent movie came out when I (a Millennial) was in undergrad, but I got the impression that the books had been really big back when my parents were in undergrad.

    And it is definitely a running joke that Lunker is not only smart, but smart in a nerdy way. (The fact that he’s into advanced physics is a good shorthand for that too.)

  23. There was a Smothers Brothers skit with the Presidential race as a Sword in the Stone parody. None of the actual candidates pulls the sword, but Nixon convinces everyone to make him king. Later, Paulsen as a janitor comes by, pulls out the sword, and tosses it in his trash cart. I tried to find it online, but didn’t succeed (yet).

  24. Christine – the books are still available and the movie does run on TV. We gave husband’s older niece a copy of the complete set for a Christmas gift a couple of years ago (now she is 17) and she liked it and seemed to know about it.

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