Three Word Answer: ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’s’ Ruben Bolling (Part II)

On today’s “Three-Word Answer” it’s Part 2 of our chat talking with social/political/pop-culture/jack-of-all-genres Ruben Bolling. Ruben is the cartoonist behind the weekly comic “Tom the Dancing Bug” that can be seen on such august sites as BoingBoing, Daily Kos, The Washington Post and GoComics.

If you’ll remember the format of this Q&A, we ask, oh 20 or so, questions and the answers MUST MUST MUST not be longer than three words or the interview terminates.

You’ve been penning “Tom the Dancing Bug” for 30 years now, that’s amazing. Congratulations! Over the course of the feature’s history you’ve used a variety of business models: newspaper syndication, digital clients, subscriptions, book publishing, Hollywood dabblings, etc. Newspapers are obviously struggling, but are you seeing any business trend lines that encourage you/discourage you on the future of your comics and your category of comics? 

Thanks! I’m so thankful to my clients, partners and readers in every type of market; the key to this game for me has always been to have lots of sources of income from the strip.  But the most encouraging for me by far has been the growth in subscriptions to the Inner Hive.  I came up with the idea because Tom the Dancing Bug was losing its newspaper clients at an alarming rate, many were canceling all comics or just going out of business.  I felt backed into a corner.  The day I announced the Inner Hive, I didn’t know if it would be a humiliating failure, but literally that day it instantly became my biggest single weekly source of income from the comic strip.  It was a very emotional day for me because it was the day the comic strip was saved by its readers.

The Inner Hive has become a great weekly source of joy for me too — each week I send out the comic to members the day before it’s published anywhere online, and I include information about the comic, including pencils and sketches, extra comics, gossipy other stuff, and/or giveaways, etc.  And having a direct relationship with the strip’s readers has been fantastic fun.

[Editor’s Note: information on how to join is at ]

Have you ever thought of doing a tip o’ the hat installment of “Tom the Dancing Bug” called “The Day the Readers Saved Tom the Dancing Bug”?

I Have Not.

You’re born and raised in New Jersey. There’s so many talented people to come out of the Garden State: yourself, Frank Sinatra, Nathan Lane, John Travolta, Judith Light, Ice-T, Jerry Lewis, Jon Bon Jovi, Lou Costello, Jack Nicholson, Lauryn Hill. Is there something in the water there?

I’m pretty sure that this is the only list of talented people who come from New Jersey that I made but Bruce Springsteen did not.  I’m sure Judith Light is similarly surprised and delighted. Take that, Boss.

Years ago, you pitched a “Banana Splits” type animated variety show to Nickelodeon with an ocelot as host. And while the show never went into production, you have to feel like you were one of the pioneers in starting the ‘whole ocelot thing’ we’re so deep into now.  Yes?

I did have a development deal with Cartoon Network for a “Gibbon the Ocelot” animated variety show.  I loved the pilot script I wrote, but the project ended up being shelved.  18 years later, I did just resurrect “Gibbon the Ocelot” for a couple of Super-Fun-Pak comics, so I guess if you call that America being “deep into the whole ocelot thing,” then: Yes.

Don’t forget ….

 Two new “Dancing Bug” books are available now. Here’s Ruben to tell you how to order. 

Tom the Dancing Bug: Into the Trumpverse collects four years of Tom the Dancing Bug comics, from 2016-2019. The plan is that this is Volume 7 of The Complete Tom the Dancing Bug, with previous volumes published over time.  This volume happens to have a particular focus on the unlikely story of a lowlife real estate grifter who became president and destroyed a nation. So that’s fun stuff.

The Super-Fun-Pak Comix Reader is every Super-Fun-Pak Comix installment of Tom the Dancing Bug I’ve ever done, through 2019. If you have to ask what Super-Fun-Pak Comix are, this might not be the book for you. I’m not sure who Super-Fun-Pak Comix are for, but The New Yorker has called them “great and long-running.”

Both books are published by Clover Press and ordering information is at


2 thoughts on “Three Word Answer: ‘Tom the Dancing Bug’s’ Ruben Bolling (Part II)

  1. Once again, you thugs flaunt the SACRED TEXT of “Three Word Answer” and ride roughshod over the rules like an mob of hooligans! THIS is why our streets our own fire! THIS is why we can’t have nice things!! Why next you’ll be saying the President doesn’t have to follow the Constitution of the United States of America, or that people can vote as many times as they want to make sure there’s no voter fraud! At long last sir, have you no sense of syllables?

  2. This is one of the few times my bitter sworn enemy JP Trostle and I agree: “three words” means three words. Not two. Not four. Not a hundred. I am outraged that this interview was not immediately terminated, as specified in the fine print of the user agreement that I carefully read every word of. Please don’t let it happen again.

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