One Is Glad To Be Of Service

I haven’t felt much like being funny since I heard of Robin Williams’ passing. Beyond his massive talent as an actor and comedian, he was a mainstay of the world I have always lived in. Until this week, I have never been a resident of a planet that wasn’t blessed with his frenetic, insightful and joyous energy. He was a constant, and now that he’s gone I feel his absence in a way that I had not anticipated. Robin Williams was like a song that everyone you’ve ever met knew and loved. He was a unifying force for happiness in an all too often harsh and confusing world. The fact that he was unable to find his own happiness in the very world he made so much brighter is so fantastically unfair.

There are only a handful of movies that honestly changed my life; that made me a different person than I was before I saw them. When I read about Robin’s death, I started to list them off and realized, of that handful, four were his films. I posted this list and these quick, gut reaction thoughts on Twitter and Facebook within moments of reading the news, and I want to share it with you here now.

Dead Poet’s Society, Bicentennial Man, What Dreams May Come, & The Birdcage were all films that changed my life forever, for the better. 

Dead Poets Society was the first time I thought about being true to yourself over doing what was expected of you.

Bicentennial Man was the 1st time I thought about what makes a person a person. The parts we’re born with or the impact we have on the world?

What Dreams May Come was the 1st time I questioned the concept of an afterlife that I had been raised to believe in. It took on a far more profound meaning for me after I became a father. Reduces me to a sniveling mess every time.

Seeing The Birdcage at 15 was the very first time I even considered that gay people were… people, and not monsters like I’d been taught. It was the first time I’d been presented with a positive view of homosexual love and saw how similar/same it was to what I knew.

There are maybe 12 movies that make me cry EVERY SINGLE TIME and these are 4 of them. Thank you, Robin Williams.

Our lives are ours to do with as we choose. Robin chose to do a great deal of good with his. He made the entire world smile, he made much of the world think and he was notoriously generous with his time. He gave and gave until he gave in to the depression that was assaulting his mind and the Parkinson’s that had begun to assault his body, and then he chose to stop being alive. That’s one choice I wish he had made differently.

I almost changed the title of this comic at the last minute for two reasons. One: The original quote from Bicentennial Man was last said by Andrew Martin (played by Williams) when he felt defeated and reduced to something less than human by the world he lived in. I thought this might mirror the circumstances of Robin’s death too closely. And, Two: I did not want to imply that Robin was, indeed, glad at the end of his life. I don’t know how he felt. Then I rethought what, “One is glad to be of service,” meant throughout  the film, not just at the end. At the beginning of the film, Andrew said this to the Martins because he was programmed to. Later, after becoming self aware, he said this because he loved his family and he genuinely was glad to serve them; to make their lives better. From everything I’ve read from Robin’s family, his loved ones, and those that knew him professionally, he was happiest when he was making us laugh. The world was his family, and he loved us and, at least when he was performing, he WAS glad to be of service. I thank you for that service, Robin. Now I’m going to go make sure I have Hook and Jumanji to show my daughter, because she isn’t quite old enough for the existential explorations of the films illustrated above. Rest assured that, when the time comes, I will share those with her as well. Robin Williams’ light may be extinguished, but his service to all of us continues.




Buy my book. Buy my book. BUY MY BOOK!


Why is Joel reading a newspaper? 

Perhaps you remember the treatment that Steve Jobs, a Buddhist, had at the hands of the editorial cartoonists of America. Yesterday, upon learning of Christopher Hitchens’ untimely death, my friend Josh Cagan commented via twitter:

“That sound you hear is every editorial cartoonist shitting a brick, realizing they can’t draw Hitchens at the pearly gates.”

To which I replied:  “the second sound is them doing it anyway because, hey, fuck it.”

I’m sure a lot of you didn’t agree with Hitch’s politics or views on religion, but I hope you can all at least respect that he wanted to see humanity evolve beyond the constraints of fear and doubt and better ourselves through a greater understanding of ourselves and the universe around us.

COMMENTERS: If you find anyone that actually makes a “Hitch and St. Peter” comic, please link it in the comments so I can be sad. If you find anyone that does something clever with the idea, please link that as well. If you have a favorite Hitch quote, story or a link to tribute or article, please feel free to link that as well. Please please please PLEASE do not start a religious or political flame war in the comments. Anyone doing that will be banned.

Here’s To The Crazy One, The Misfit, The Rebel, The Troublemaker…

“Winter Is Coming” shirts are now IN THE STORE!!! [based on this comic]

When Steve Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple, I made a comic about it and wrote a post about the impact Steve has has on my life and the world at large. I felt weird writing about him like he was gone, eulogizing a living man. I guess I wasn’t that far off. I’ll repost those words below along with some of my favorite Steve quotes.

I honestly feel that Steve Jobs, and his singular vision for his company, have done more to increase the acceptance of technology by the general public and the integration of that technology into our daily lives that any other single person in the last 50 years. Like his products or hate them [for whatever arbitrary reason] they have consistently strived to make high end, seemingly “magic” devices accessible to technophiles and n00bs alike. Your mom has an iPad. A device that wasn’t even on the horizon 5 years ago. Steve helped bring us [that] much closer to the future, and for that I will always be grateful to him. Not to Apple, but to him directly. Ever since he returned to Apple in the 90′s, Steve’s drive, commitment, integrity and borderline certifiable insanity have directly influenced how we interact with technology. He’s a total nutter, but great men often are. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any one person that REALLY changed the world (for better or worse) that wasn’t at least a little unhinged. Here’s hoping he’s in better health than I expect he is, and that his input will continue to lead to wonderful shiny gadgets for years to come.

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” – Wikiquote, as quoted in The Wall Street Journal (Summer 1993).

“I want to put a ding in the universe.”

“Click. Boom. Amazing!” – Macworld keynote 2006

“We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and every one should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.” – Fortune

“Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Think Different, narrated by Steve Jobs

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address

I have made 100% of my comics (save the very first one),and all of books, t-shirts and other merchandise on Apple computers. I’ve even made comics on the iPad. I owe a large part of my career to Steve and for that I will always be grateful. You can read more comics I’ve made about Steve Jobs here, if you need some cheering up.

NOTE: I was halfway through a comic about the iPhone 4s yesterday, when I heard about Steve. I decided to hold off on it for a day or two. I will backdate it in the archive and post a link HERE when it’s done. [update: it’s done and linked]

COMMENTERS: Feel free to post any thoughts or fond memories of Steve, or links to tributes, etc. Did the products he created change your life? How? Anything he said or did that made YOU think differently?  No negativity or Apple fanboy bashing. Please be respectful.

A 21 Face-Rubber Band Salute

You actually have to pull the face-rubber bands while they’re on your face to properly (and respectfully) launch them.

A lot of you are too young to remember Captain Lou Albano, but to us children of the late 70’s and early 80’s he was a pop-culture fixture. The 1980’s stood in such stark contrast to the 2000’s in that a big, fat, hairy, sweaty dude with rubber bands stuck to his face could be a pop icon. It’s not like Captain Lou has constantly been on my mind for the last 25 years, but his recent passing unlocked a flood of memories of being 8 years old and him being EVERYWHERE. He was freakin’ MARIO for Toad’s sake. The Super Mario Super Show seemed less like a scripted children’s show and more like a late night public access affair (but with a MUCH lower budget). Captain Lou portrayed what seemed to be a pre or post mushroom kingdom Mario that lived and worked as a plumber in a big city (presumably New York) with his brother-in-overalls Luigi. I lean towards “pre “because he wasn’t constantly waking from night terrors shivering and screaming about carnivorous fungi and flame belching, man-sized lizard people. In between Mario’s Earthbound hijinks, they would show Super Mario Bros. cartoons that seemed to be set in the universe of Super Mario Bros. 2. It was never clear how the cartoons and the live-action show were supposed to be related but 8 year olds typically don’t ask those sort of questions. We just watched the show, ate our Ninja Turtles cereal and occasionally did “The Mario” for hours on end.

In remembering how Captain Lou affected my childhood, I would be remiss to leave out Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling cartoon. Captain Lou didn’t actually voice himself in this short-lived animated ridiculousness (neither did any of the other WWF wrestlers for that matter) but I absolutely LOVED this show. The idea that all of my favorite wrestlers were driving around in giant Cadillacs and monster trucks and having adventures and doing good deeds appealed to my… gullibility.

So, rest easy Captain Lou. I don’t know if you were a great man, or even a good one but you entertained me as a child and for that I am grateful.

But Wait, There’s More

[reddit-me]Of all the recent celebrity deaths, the only one I’ve really cared about is Billy Mays. As the comic states, I was in sales for 10 years and I did fancy myself an inventor when I was younger. I have notebooks full of “inventions” that I hoped would one day be sold on TV or in stores. Both of these aspects of my past made me instantly respect Billy Mays. From a sales-guy perspective I recognize that he busted his ass traveling with trade shows to make a living for his family and eventually, through perseverance and perfecting his craft, he made it big. I appreciate the “self made man” entrepreneurial spirit that he epitomized. From a wannabe-inventor stand point, I have to praise him for giving average workshop and garage tinkerers like me the opportunity to bring their products to market and make their fortunes.

These sentiments might seem odd coming from me if  you only know me as a webcomic artist, but you can’t do a job for 10 years without learning to love it (or aspects of it) just a bit. That’s a side of me people don’t often see, but it’s there. I guess I feel like Billy and I were kindred spirits in that respect. Plus I tend to “project” when I talk, which he made into an art form.

I’ve really been enjoying his show Pitchmen” on Discovery. I would assume the show’s future is uncertain at this point, but I encourage you to watch the first season to see what a kind and talented man Billy was.

If you have any warm thoughts to share about Billy Mays, I also encourage you to share them with his son, Billy Mays III on twitter at @youngbillymays. He’s obviously having one of the worst weeks of his life, but he’s been saying that the kind tweets from Billy’s fans are cheering him up.

Godspeed, Billy.