1. He’s bad at math, bad at geography, bad at science, etc.

    She’s probably no Nobel Prize recipient, either.

  2. While I never experienced one being used, I do recall from pop culture and literary references that dunce caps were used to punish classroom misbehavior as much as they were used to shame a poor performing student. That seems to be what this is grasping at.

  3. I’m curious… What’s with the little dude skateboarding away?

    That’s unfortunate placement (because I don’t think the artist meant to be crude). Butt still, I don’t get the point.

    Maybe it’s just a freebie, meant to be enjoyed and pondered over by sharp-eyed readers.

  4. @ J-L – McPherson has been inflicting that idiotic character on his cartoons for several months now. It’s a crudely drawn, pathetic imitation of Piraro’s “secret symbols”. Since nobody (except a few CIDU readers) has taken any heed, he’s decided to put the thing on wheels, just to make sure everyone notices how he is willing to detract from his comics for the sake of a calling card.
    P.S. The distinction of whether the clown in the dunce cap is “stupid” or “bad” is immaterial: this comic is both.

  5. It does miss the essence of the “she goes for the bad boys” cliché, in which the guy may be incidentally not doing well in school, but mostly that he is a rule-breaker, so a girlfriend can expect adventures and excitement.

  6. I don’t think it misses the essence of the cliche, I’d say that’s the joke: Usually the “bad” of “bad boys” means rebelling against authority, but here it just means “stupid” (“bad” at school).

  7. In this world of horribly-deformed people it is buck teeth/overbite that signals mental defect.

    If they want to show him as dumb, why draw him looking like stereotypical nerd? That then requires the dunce cap to show he’s dumb because he is drawn in a way that makes us assume he’s smart. Dumb.

    If you really want us to know he’s a bad boy, she should have a black eye. Or two.

  8. I’m not sure WHAT signifies “looking weird” in the Closetohomeverse. Maybe it’s like that Twilight Zone episode where normal-looking people are considered ugly.

  9. The biggest drawback to “Close to Home” is that McPherson really cannot draw. Some bad art in comics has a certain charm to it, but his just looks like preliminary scribbles that got printed instead of the final version..

  10. @ beckoningchasm – Disregarding his skill level (or lack thereof), think McPherson’s main problem is that he insists on using an inadequate set of tools. If you look closely at the stool cushions and table legs in this drawing, it is obvious that they have been blackened by repeated tracing and retracing with a fine-tipped instrument. If he’s using a physical felt-tip pen, any other person would invest in a wider magic marker. The alternative hypothesis (that he uses a mouse or tablet) is even more illogical: every single graphic drawing program (even PC Paint) offers a range of tooltip widths, not to mention an “area fill” feature. Since he seems to go to such great lengths to avoid using tools that would improve his artwork, I think he should be rewarded by going to great lengths to avoid reading his comics.

  11. @Kilby – good insight. I don’t know if the proper tools would improve anything though–look at the three female characters’ faces. They look like third-rate Muppets that were left out in the rain.

  12. “Dunce” and “Nimrod” are two words that ruined the reputation of real people.
    In the Bible, Nimrod was a mighty hunter. In the 19th century, “Nimrod” was used to refer to a mighty hunter, such as Edward Elgar’s friend who made it into the Enigma Variations. Bugs Bunny sarcastically called Elmer Fudd a “little Nimrod” and ever since then a Nimrod is someone who is terribly inept.
    Duns Scotus was a great Medieval scholar, theologian and philosopher. But theology and philosophy have their trends, and the new replaces the old. Some scholars stuck with Duns Scotus’ theology after it went out of fashion and those were the original dunces. Making “dunce” and “nimrod” practically synonyms now.

  13. McPherson was never a good artist, but I think he’s actually gotten worse over the last few years. Maybe that’s why he’s added his stupid little aliens: to detract from the totality of the panel. He got lucky when he entered the business. Larson had announced his retirement, and papers were desperately looking for a single panel, surreal strip to replace The Far Side. He started out as a cut-rate Larson and it’s been downhill ever since.

  14. Thanks, Mark. I knew the Nimrod story, but not the Dunce one. A bit ironic since in the last year I got to know a little more about Duns Scotus (and admire some of his thinking) after the coverage by Peter Adamson on his History of Philosophy (Without Any Gaps) podcast.

  15. I was quite amused by yesterday’s Close to Home, despite the usual badly executed art, and almost sent it in as a LOL. Maybe if I run across it again I’ll link it here, just to say drawing failure is not a complete bar to comic success.

  16. So there’s a joke about the Supreme Court of the United States being the original dunce waiting to be made here…

  17. Kilby, I’m glad we both can enjoy at least the idea behind the “undressing with his eyes” panel. I agree that the Rapunzel/drain CtH is is weak, so the idea doesn’t overcome the deficiencies of the art.

  18. The 1/24 CtH suggests a solution to the art problem: If McPherson sticks to aliens from now on, the fact that he can’t draw humans becomes moot.

  19. I dunno. Is it possible that the artist is making a play on the word “bad” itself – i.e. using it ironically to mean something more like “defective” (*) than “evil”? That still wouldn’t make it funny, but it might make it at least borderline comprehensible.

    * – as in what we used to call “retarded” (or, if we were feeling unusually kind that day, “slow”), way back in my day, back when the roads to school ran uphill both ways…

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