B.C. in kerosene fueled hot water


Yesterday’s B.C. comic has upset some dog lovers and has been replaced with a substitution strip on GoComics.com. The offending cartoon is a parody of the Dick and Jane (and Spot) books that ends with the dog being doused with kerosene. Animal care organizers felt that the joke promotes animal abuse.

The response was overwhelming enough to require an apology from John Hart Studios.

We have decided that today’s original strip was in poor taste. The mail we have been receiving from our readers unanimously agrees that it was simply NOT FUNNY! We agree, it was offensive. Therefore, at the very least, we have posted a previously unpublished Wiley’s dictionary, here on our web site, in it’s place. Thank you to everyone who wrote pointing this out to us. We agree. We apologize.

The strip is now written and drawn by Johnny Hart’s grandson Mason Mastroianni.

83 thoughts on “B.C. in kerosene fueled hot water

  1. I don’t know. I’m torn on this one. Certainly with a readership that large, one can only expect that their will be protests from the animal cruelty segment. Probably a bad move for a syndicated cartoonist.

    On the other hand, the joke is pretty funny, but the images it conjures (spot running off with the sticks in the background, turning around to find the kindling missing and spot sitting there innocently with tail a-wagging, slow reach for Spot’s collar and kerosene can) don’t really match the visuals given, so it doesn’t necessarily “work”.

    On the plus side, I’m a fan of stupid puns and enjoyed the substitute strip immensely…

  2. Wow… I’m surprised the editor at the syndicate let this one through. The potential for angering a LOT of readers and bombarding the newspaper with complaints is just too great to justify the gag. It’s particularly bad timing with Michael Vick being back in the news with his release from prison and seeking reinstatement to the NFL.

    This serves as a good example of why cartoonists need editors. But we need to have our editors on the ball to save us from ourselves with stuff like this. So while a good deal of the blame rightfully goes to the cartoonist on this, I think even more should be laid on his editor who let this one go through.

  3. okay, so its one that should have been read twice and tossed befored being sent out. the guy is still, technically, a rookie so lets give him some slack.

  4. I can’t find anything remotely amusing about the original strip.

    Perhaps I’m being influenced by the recent arrest of two city teens for dousing a dog with gas and setting her on fire. I can’t even imagine what darkness was in their minds to perform such an act of cruelty on an innocent creature.

    I fear that they were directed to do so by a dogfighting boss — Double cruelty. Even if they had been, where was the conscience that would have directed them to simply take the dog to a shelter?

    Unfortunately, the human-friendly and sweet dog, named Phoenix by shelter workers, had to be euthanized a week later. Her body simply could not resolve her burns.

    So you understand why I didn’t find the strip amusing.

    Perhaps it would have been funny, had Dick doused himself with the kerosene and self-immolated?


  5. See? This is why most newspaper strips suck.
    I’m a dog lover and I thought this was funny.
    OF course they have to bow to the will of the stupid, the reactionary and the mediocre!

  6. I’m w/ Pyle. I don’t even see where he was trying to go w/ it. -and didn’t help that it’s on the heels of M.Vick’s release. But I do know that inexperience is no excuse for either the cartoonist or the editor.

    “Man is a dog’s idea of what God should be.”

    – Holbrook Jackson

  7. that’s the trouble with the mainstream, the truth hurts, the society of the old cute Dick and Jane , has gotten violent
    and it doesn’t want to see it, and the gags shock factor killed me, not literally, keep practicing kindness and love..TaDa !

  8. “the guy is still, technically, a rookie so lets give him some slack.”

    No, the guy is a professional. As such, you take slings and arrows along with praise and glory, regardless of how long you’ve been in it. Still, the cartoon should have never been distributed, as it wasn’t worth the problems it caused.

    I don’t know how long his editor has been in the business, but that’s no excuse either. But being a rookie also means learning how to take a punch and learn from it. Cutting him slack doesn’t help him learn.

  9. I agree. The concept of a battle of wits between a dog and its owner works in theory, but with really only two panels to set up the gag it’s tricky. And the ending is WAY over the line.

    As a cartoonist who revels in being offensive when required, I’ve learned to detach myself when analyzing the humor in a strip/sketch/etc. Mason’s concept was strong, but the execution was poor.

    Now, if the fourth panel had been “See dick douse Spot’s doghouse with kerosene,” he might have pulled off the gag. Still approaching the line but certainly not over it.

  10. What an terrible cartoon! I’m not even sure I get the joke. Just for the record, unless you’re Geoffrey Dahmer, setting animals on fire is never funny.

  11. dosing the house , the boat ,the ,car, the dog, the sleeping bum…
    entertainment , has become extra extreme, to make the dumbed down ,feel involved, the gag is reality … ( let us entertain the Rome’s by dosing folks with bone crushing football,and no laughing please ) TaDa !…

  12. It wouuld help if the punch line was really, really funny.
    Sometimes a really witty, brilliant belly laugh can cover for some sins. I think that’s how Pastis gets away with some of the things he does.

    Remember in ‘Animal House’ when Flounder killed the horse (by heart attack) by unknowingly firing a gun at it? And then the groundskeeper fired up a chainsaw with the obvious intention of dismantling the dead horse?

    Could that scene be filmed today?
    Just wondering…

  13. I think the problem is that there is no real gag. What’s the reason for Spot hiding the kindling wood? If there’s no reason for it, there’s no irony.

    If the last two panels were,

    “See Dick Cook Food.”

    “Where’s Spot?”

    It would be funny, because it insinuates that he ate Spot and a bit of irony because the reader’s not expecting it. And not entirely cruel because it never flat out says he ate him.

    Alright, nevermind….

  14. Mason may have been going for a pun on “Spot.” In the olden days, kerosene was frequently used as a spot remover.

    But that’s a pretty far fetch, and needs more careful wording of the punch line to make it work (e.g., “See Dick reach for the Spot remover”).

  15. Maybe it was a social commentary on the role models that children are reading about nowadays. That might have worked as a good defense, but the apology makes me think it wasn’t the case here.

    Which makes me wonder, “What WAS the joke?”

    Camping trip … dog … fire … Dick wanted a HOT dog?

    Perhaps a good ol’ play-on-words groaner would have been the safer route …

    “See Dick yell not so kindling.”

  16. It started off with Dick and Jane which no one under 45 would even get, and then went downhill with an unintentionally cruel punchline. I’m sure it’s one that they wish they hadn’t released.

    An very old joke went something like “See Dick work. See Jane help Dick work. See Spot watch. Spot is no dummy.”

  17. I learned early on with LIO…don’t mess with doggies…don’t even HINT at it. It almost stopped my career in its tracks.

  18. Wow. One of the few days B.C. made me chuckle out loud, and people get offended about it. Don’t like it? There’s a new cartoon tomorrow. Read it then.

    I wonder if those same people went out to see “Saw”, or listened to a George Carlin bit, or laugh at jokes about Catholic priests during the whole mess there. I mean, after the trials, Leno did an entire DAY on Michael Jackson jokes, and how many of them involved young boys? By the same token, that means that everyone who laughed at that joke supports pedophilia. Doesn’t that sound stupid to you? Seriously, I can think of so many more offensive things other than a burning dog. We have to stop getting offended over every little thing.

    I agree with John S. I’m an animal lover myself, and this strip made me laugh. Am I going to douse my dog with kerosene, just because I laughed about it? No.

  19. It mentions nothing of setting Spot on fire…

    Who knows, maybe Spot had fleas..

    I am 45 and remember neighborhood kids I grew up with getting “Doused” with Kerosene when they had lice.

    Society definitely needs to lighten up.

  20. One of my earliest mentors drew a toon once of a doctor and nurse standing in an exam room with a large hole in the wall. The caption read….’you don’t tug on superman’s cape…and apparently, you don’t check his prostate, either’. He told me that it had been rejected numerous times because people LOVED superman and thought it offensive. That toon brought the same reaction this BC toon did….I laughed out loud…repeatedly.
    For goodness sakes people, lighten up. I agree that this one probably should have been caught by the first editor who saw it and not printed…..still….it WAS funny! I’d love to have a nickel for all the truly funny toons each of us has drawn that ended up in our own ‘just plain funny’ file.

  21. “I learned early on with LIOâ?¦donâ??t mess with doggiesâ?¦donâ??t even HINT at it.”

    So then you went and messed with Winnie-the-freakin’-Pooh and Piglet! Geez, Mark …

  22. @Trevor Kent-
    I think you miss the point. It’s not a matter of whether you and others think it’s funny, it’s that the cartoon, which is marketed to a general audience readership, is too easily read as making light of animal abuse. The gag, as it was presented, simply didn’t warrant the sure-fire attraction of anger by animal rights activists and just regular pet owners.

    We all know that he wasn’t actually advocating abuse of dogs, but this cartoon can be too easily read by many who would. And they’re the ones who are most likely to bombard the newspaper with complaints and potentially get the strip cancelled. Editors today really don’t want to be bothered by comics that evoke angry readers, so, again, this gag simply wasn’t worth that risk and the editor at the syndicate should have realized that.

  23. I have to wonder if there would have been the same uproar if Dick had gone camping with Jane and set her afire.

  24. I have to wonder if there would have been the same uproar if Dick had gone camping with Jane and set her afire.

    Stir, stir, stir … 🙂

  25. Are you kidding, John? Didn’t you see the other article last week on the cartoon by the cartoonist at the NY Daily News and the reaction by the New York chapter of NOW? If they went nuts over THAT cartoon, imagine how they’d react if B.C. had alluded to setting Jane on fire! Holy……

  26. Maybe we need govenmnet control of comic strips. The USDOC (The US Dept of Offensive Comics) would have prevented this type of malfeasance.

  27. @Mike Beckom
    Now, that Superman thing…that was funny.

    I’ve never found QV offensive. Envelope-pushing, occasionally dada, but not offensive. Keep trying!

    @Robert Gidley
    “See Dick reach for the Spot remover” — that would have been a better choice, as well as a standard BC bad pun.

  28. I’m with Wiley. This should have been picked up in editing.

    There was a story this week in Melbourne about a border collie pup who had his ears and tail cut off with scissors (http://bit.ly/3kaofl). I don’t think the perpetrator got that idea from a cartoon, but you don’t need to put any more ideas like that in sickos’ heads.

  29. Government control of comics? That’s as funny as getting doused with kerosene. Mason made a mistake that fell through the cracks at the syndicate. The uproar caused is what will control comics–boos when you are trying to be funny makes you a better funnyman. Mort Walker tells of not being able to put dirty socks on a chair in his strips many years ago, or having bellybuttons removed by an editor. At least his editor was awake!

  30. Wiley,

    I see this in the same league as your KKK chicken cartoon (“It only lays white eggs”). Not at all endorsing the KKK, yet people freaked out over it I assume? Was your editor to blame? (I certainly hope not). It brought a smile to my face, yet did not make me want to put on a white robe.

  31. @Wiley
    “Itâ??s not a matter of whether you and others think itâ??s funny…”

    Wait a minute! Isn’t that why cartoons are made? Shouldn’t the cartoonist care more about whether the joke makes people laugh, rather than if a small group of people will make a big fuss about it? I mean, I don’t necessarily agree with some of the things said in comics like Andy Capp and Doonesbury, but I never would have called up the paper and push my agenda.

    Did you make someone laugh with your cartoon? If yes, take that to heart, and let things like that drive cartooning. If you are afraid of offending even one person, you’ll make the same jokes as everyone else (and even THEN someone will be offended), and comics just won’t be enjoyable anymore. We push everything else to the edge, why can’t we at least push comics up far enough to get a good view?

  32. Waaaaay back in E. C. Segar’s day, hardly an eyebrow would be raised by Popeye beating the living tar out of someone and/or Olive Oyle getting accidentally smashed up during this process. Now, I’ve read the whole darn series enough times to know at least a quarter Segar’s brilliant strips probably would never see the light of day in today’s anemic, lily-livered 98 lb. weakling newspapers. And that’s too bad for America. But I have a feeling that whatever the modern newspaper morphs into, there might just be room for Popeye style no-holds-barred battle-with-teeth-and-elbows fights to the near death…. Maybe each paper will be uniquely populated with only the comics the subscriber desires, much like the web… I look forward to the day when comics that offend (oh noes!) just keep on offending right into the bright dawn of a new day!

    Oh, a man can dream….

  33. “If you are afraid of offending even one person, youâ??ll make the same jokes as everyone else (and even THEN someone will be offended), and comics just wonâ??t be enjoyable anymore. ”

    You are straying away from the issue here with theoretical hyperbole. This is about one particular cartoon that has raised the ire of a great many people, and did so unnecessarily. It could have been a good gag without invoking a clear image in the mind of the reader of animal abuse. It’s simply a matter of dealing with the reality of the business and what market you’re dealing with. It’s a matter of being smart, not a matter of “being afraid of offending even one person”.

  34. People are too sensitive.

    It’s a cartoon, for goodness sake. (Not a particularly funny one, that is.)

    Is this strip running in the same paper as, oh I don’t know, articles and photos about murders, Airbus disasters, hijackings, racism, etc?


    That’s good, then. At least it’s consistent.

  35. my apologies, I’m being sarcastic about the pants comment.you are right-it’s not that simple. Depends on the gag but I usually don’t blame the cartoonist 100%…after all who’s doing the screening? remember the Sean Delonas panel depicting the two police officers and the monkey in the new york post in February? they wanted his “spaldings” on a plate.

  36. “It could have been a good gag without invoking a clear image in the mind of the reader of animal abuse.”

    Disagreed. What’s wrong with invoking clear images of animal abuse?

  37. “Disagreed. Whatâ??s wrong with invoking clear images of animal abuse?”

    I don’t know if you’re being serious, Jeremy, or just trying to stir the pot, but consider this …

    Like it or not, the comics section is the ONE section of a newspaper that is supposed to be “family friendly.” This has nothing to do with yours or my own personal tastes. It has to do with offering a selection of humorous cartoons that any child to any senior can read and enjoy without requiring a disclaimer.

    The rest of a newspaper may and can be filled with the latest murders, rapes, abuses, and other human atrocities. If a cartoon wants to invoke a clear image of animal abuse, it had probably have a darn good reason and valid point … This is why editorial cartoons are usually published in the Opinions section.

    But the comics section of a NEWSPAPER has a tradition of being the one section where every reader should feel welcome … Like it or not.

  38. “But the comics section of a NEWSPAPER has a tradition… ”

    …that should be doused with kerosene.

    Censorship is a slippery slope. Thankfully, this strip was kind of not censored.

  39. Again, it has nothing to do with your personal tastes, and it certainly has nothing to do with censorship. As Wiley has already tried to make clear, you have to deal with the realities of the market you’re selling to.

    Every market has it’s on standards regarding subject matter. This what separates a Playboy cartoon from a Reader’s Digest cartoon.

    If YOU want to draw cartoons depicting the humorous side of animal abuse, go find a market that will pay you for them.

    Good luck!

  40. If you don’t understand the market you’re dealing in and the audience of that market, then you are doomed to failure. This is true in any business, and this IS a business.

  41. “Again, it has nothing to do with your personal tastes”

    But rather the tastes of a collective such as an animal rights group.

    Because there is safety in numbers.

  42. …. as the Neville Brothers once said, “… there is freedom speech, as long as you don’t have to much to say..”
    so long liver jaundice editors of old…TaDa !

  43. ..but add one more needless comment in the form of a question? Oh, and automatic gainsay of that which I disgree with. AND ALL CAPS TO ENSURE EMOTION IS CONVEYED!!
    And once more, a repetitive comment underscoring only those I agree with. Oh, and straw man statement to knock down something because the real point is too clear to deal with.

    Reaffirmation of the depth and stinging truth of my thesis.

    And insipid joke here!

    Ha ha ha.

  44. My vote goes to Wiley on this thread.

    I’m sure it’s one Mason would have wanted back and would probably agree that he should have realized it was not appropriate. It wasn’t even a gag worth trying to modify to save it … the Dick and Jane gag alone could have been the show stopper. Given that these gags supposedly go through a heavy filter of the whole extended Hart family … they were either all too close to it or just missed it. Shouldn’t have even made it to the editor … but once it did, it should have stopped there.

    At this point, its time to bend over, take the well deserved kick in the pants and move on. I don’t think its a “jump the shark” moment for BC.

  45. Hey, this stuff happens to all of us. That’s life. The trick is to learn from it, which I’m sure Mason has. My thoughts on this come from experience of having missed the mark on my work in the past, and my editor’s mea culpa for not having caught it. In their defense, they have to edit several features, so once in a while, something like this slips through. But don’t blame readers for getting upset over a misfired joke.

  46. … what is being said is,”readers have rights too,” yes they do, but editors should have go-nads, if some one has sum-tin to say let it be said, and take the heat, that is free speech and press, we shall over come, and not just question authority, ALWAYS question authority , opps there are some of those pesky caps, that grab attention, ” on with the show, this is it…” TaDa !

  47. Jessee – I write my posts the same way I do my taxes.

    I just hit keys until the comment box seems comfortably hefty with little letter thingys.

    I want a shirt with a new clever saying by Frankie. I’ve ‘relaxed’ all I can. I need new instructions!

  48. Alright then, if you don’t want animal abuse on your comics page, then Garfield can no longer kick Odie off a table. Nobody complained when a snake got beaten up in B.C. What I’m trying to say is that there’s always going to be someone who will try to find fault with anything, and the fear of that is what keeps the comics page stuck in “tradition”, and it alienates any young adult readers. Those readers are now turning to indie comics and webcomics instead.

    Also, in reading that B.C. cartoon, you can see that the character is completely shocked, like he’s thinking “Oh my God, how did this book get printed!?” It’s not like the character is advocating animal abuse by actually saying “See Dick douse Spot in kerosene,” as if he’s making his own comment on the book.

    Wiley, if a business doesn’t change and grow based on the market, then they will fail. It’s like if Microsoft just made Windows 3.1. Would they be as successful as they are today? If the video game industry was happy with games as they were, we wouldn’t have the Wii, which sold a ton of units all because it was something different. With both of those sample companies, there were people whining about the newer products. Without progress in art, we wouldn’t have gotten brilliant artists like Dali and Picasso. Without progress in writing, we wouldn’t have Orwell or Kasey.

  49. “Alright then, if you donâ??t want animal abuse on your comics page, then Garfield can no longer kick Odie off a table.”

    There’s an interview out there (it may have been the behind the scenes documentary of The Simpsons that was produced in the UK), but the cartoonist being interviewed said something to the extent that when a cartoon character is the victim of some type of physical violence (on screen or implied), the audience needs to be reassured that the character is okay.

    For example, when Homer Simpson falls off a cliff and his beaten and torn to shreds, the audience feels his pain all the way down, but since he’s a cartoon character, the audience is also relieved when he survives.

    The B.C. example above doesn’t get the audience that reassurance. They are only left with the implied violence.

    On the other hand, we all know that Odie survives all of Garfield’s antics. He’s right back in the strip, good as new, if not the next day, then after a few days in the hospital.

    That said, Trevor makes a good point …

    “Nobody complained when a snake got beaten up in B.C.”

    … And what does the serpent represent in Christianity?

    ‘Nuff said.

  50. that’s right ! The snake ain’t just beaten, he or she was pulverized. Tradition, schmission , keep improving the product, with something to say, misinterpreted or not, and as far as
    running off young readers,I’m old, and these say-nothing “toons” have been running me off for years, and I draw them professionally… power to the press that has something to say…… and the poor serpent gets my abuse support, letz keep practicing kindness and love, Quote Jonathan Livingston Seagull… can’t standz Garfield so to bad for him, and we have had twenty-two cats at one time, and they loved us, as we loved them back, the gag is still funny…TaDa !

  51. “â?¦ what is being said is,â?readers have rights too,â? yes they do, but editors should have go-nads, if some one has sum-tin to say let it be said, and take the heat, that is free speech and press, we shall over come,”

    Absolutely. And you can put that bold comic strip on the pages of the Rocky Mountain News, run it in Ann Arbor, print it in the Seattle PI, there are all sorts of markets for newspaper features that readers don’t want. Power to the geniuses, baby!

  52. sum-times wez too smart for our own good, giving in to the approval – acceptance- domesticated mind set, don’t mean no ones reading you, it just means your not being controlled by” said” culture, lettuce unlearn some… and abandon this stand in line, read what you are told, do what takes to be accepted, domestication … peace & Love baby (the gag was still funny, in an un- bond kind of way)

  53. “the audience needs to be reassured that the character is okay.”

    How retarded we have become, that we require reassurance about a cartoon character.

  54. Barbecue… I miss the discussions on the more intelligent and far more interesting topic of which region has the best barbecue and what ingredients make the best barbecue.

  55. Well, first, the dead horse must be tenderized… so well beaten that it’s no longer recognized as a horse. After that, it depends on what region of the country you’re in. For instance, North Carolina prefers the vinegar base, while other regions will prefer a sugar or molasses base.

    Then we get into the spices and rubs…

  56. I agree. Take 20 pounds of ‘web comic v. print comic’ and apply a nice dry rub consisting of:

    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
    1 1/2 tablespoons salt
    1 1/2 tablespoons ground black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder

    Apply the rub until all involved are raw. Then, using mesquite or hickory, start a hot fire in the smoker by ripping web cartoonist as Heineken guzzling wannabes from State U. that have more money invested in their Wacom Intuit than they have actual talent.

    Alternate fire starting methods can include accusing NCS members of being old farts standing on the decks of the Titanic that is the newspaper industry driving golf balls and screaming “We’re the flagship!” while sinking and refusing to accept young hipsters.

    Hang argument in smoker for appx. 3 1/2 to 4 hours while occasionally posting on cartoon forums.

    You are done when all sides are smoked black, hot and blister upon touching.

    Serve and enjoy.

  57. I don’t eat the the Pig or the Cow, but I will eat the Chicken, oh yeah ,I never seen a mad Cow, but I have seen a lot’ta
    pissed-off chickens, have to look around for one of those
    wing holder things, molasses based horse sounds interesting , and take this ol’ hippies word, rattle snake tastes like salt and pepper, or what ever it is bar-be-Qed with, watch out it doesn’t turn around and bite it’s self, after you take a club or shovel, what ever is close and handy, to kill it with, no real taste though…TaDa…

  58. I don’t eat the the Pig or the Cow, but I will eat the Chicken, oh yeah ,I never seen a mad Cow, but I have seen a lot’ta
    pissed-off chickens, have to look around for one of those
    wing holder things, molasses based horse sounds interesting , and take this ol’ hippies word, rattle snake tastes like salt and pepper, or what ever it is bar-be-Qed with, watch out it doesn’t turn around and bite it’s self, after you take a club or shovel, what ever is close and handy, to kill it with, no real taste though…TaDa…

  59. hey ! What hipster mutant put me on twice, and Shane’s recipe is good, accept don’t touch me, I’m the Star, old hipsters should be heard and not scene in the cartoon forum
    but then eating your foot is all part of maturing , let Youth lead, for the times they are a changing…TaDa ( hey! is for horse’s Woody, this is the mutant speaking, hello,hello, is this mic on ? )

  60. …a huge high five to Ben, and a tri-tip from the Bar-be-Q to
    you also , as B.C.’s motives have been questionable for a long time, so lettuce question authority always, and Christian propaganda always , and thank the universe for spell check…TaDa !

  61. Family friendly fare in the funnies – nothin’ spicy, nuthin’ hot and nuthin’ much and don’t douse Odie in kerosene nor have truly violent fights like Dick Tracy in the olden days…. Yes, yes, yes. It’s a business, first and foremost, very true, but if you can help it, don’t let the foolish and fearful make business decisions for you, you know, editors who listen to special interests like PETA who claim to represent ordinary people – don’t let THOSE humorless people get the upper hand, please. But if your Syndicate caves, hey, it’s a business over which you have limited control – Them’s the breaks in modern times. And modern times suck mightily – thank GOD (or Zeus or Allah or whatevs) for the internet where such a “mistake” would probably add to the viewership and sales of t-shirts, books, mugs, etc.

  62. … at least Dave’s paying attention, I’m so broke I can’t afford to pay attention, on with the show, we know every part by heart, on with the show this is it… TaDa

  63. I’m glad every little group has it’s spokespeople that write in about every *little* thing. I’m looking forward to the world of Fahrenheit 451.

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