Webcomic Weekly: ‘Tom The Dancing Bug’

by Richard Bruton

Webcomic Weekly, one webcomic every week, sometimes short, sometimes long, sometimes by a brand-new creator, sometimes someone huge… but they all have two things in common – they’re online and they’re damn good.

Today, one of the big boys of webcomics; Tom The Dancing Bug:

Ruben Bolling (Ken Fisher) has been syndicating Tom The Dancing Bug since 1990, but as things have changed in the newspaper and print business, it’s been more and more a digital presence, initially at Salon.com (1995-2010) and then through its presence on Boing Boing and latterly through Bolling’s Patreon.

The thing about Ruben Bolling and Tom The Dancing Bug is just how damn funny it is and how consistently, wonderfully different it is. It can be whimsical, it can be sharp, it can be silly, clever, witty, and so much more.

It’s not what a lot of people would think of when we talk about webcomics, having its roots in print political cartooning, but Bolling has increasingly moved to digital distribution in the last decade and it looks as though everyone’s favourite Bug will be dancing for many years to come.

Bolling simply describes Tom The Dancing Bug as, “an unusual comic strip because it’s totally free format; it can deal with australopithecines and giant wombats, or real-world politicians and topical issues.”

But that idea of the totally free format doesn’t really come close to describing just how readily Bolling shifts topics, content, format, and styles, frequently pastiching other strips, comic book art styles, or specific artist’s styles. You’ll see him adapt his work in the style of the likes of Kirby, Eisner, Herge, Barks, Curt Swan, and it’s just part of the genius of what Bolling can do with Tom The Dancing Bug.


As the years have gone on, Bolling’s work has been an increasingly political thing. And the Trump era has seen that political aspect of Bolling’s cartooning become the primary focus of Tom The Dancing Bug, with Bolling explaining the change as a conscious choice

I made a decision early in 2016 that Trump was the political phenomenon of my lifetime and just about devoted the strip to that.

And that shift in focus to skewering all the evil and ridiculousness of Trump and his ilk has really focused Tom The Dancing Bug, driven Bolling to new heights of creativity and comedic brilliance, something that’s been recognised with multiple awards over the last few years; 2017 Herblock Prize for editorial cartooning, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2018, and a place as a finalist in the Editorial Cartooning category for the Pulitzer Prize in 2019.

One of the particularly popular threads that Bolling has explored repeatedly and successfully is his wonderfully well-constructed pastiche of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes in ‘Donald and John, a boy President and his imaginary Publicist’, a magnificent and hilarious series of flights of fancy so ridiculous they can only really be topped by the actual ridiculousness that came out of the mouth of the now ex-President Trump.


You can join the Tom The Dancing Bug Inner Hive through Patreon, You should also be following Bolling on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and probably plenty more of that social media stuff.

And you can see all the modern Tom The Dancing Bug strips at Boing Boing.

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