Tom the Dancing Bug

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Tom the Dancing Bug
Author(s) Ruben Bolling
Current status/scheduleWeekly
Launch dateJune 1990;30 years ago (June 1990) (on New York Perspectives )
Syndicate(s) Quaternary Features (1990–1997)
Universal Press Syndicate/Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication (1997–present)
Publisher(s) HarperPerennial, NBM Publishing, Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre(s)Humor, Politics, Satire

Tom the Dancing Bug is a weekly satirical comic strip by cartoonist and political commentator Ruben Bolling that covers mostly US current events from a liberal point of view. Tom the Dancing Bug won the 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, [1] and 2009 [2] Association of Alternative Newsweeklies Awards for Best Cartoon. The strip was awarded the 2010 Sigma Delta Chi Award for editorial cartooning by the Society of Professional Journalists [3] and best cartoon in the 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Book & Journalism Awards [4] In 2017, Bolling won the Herblock Prize for his work on the strip, [5] [6] and was a finalist in the Editorial Cartooning category for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize. [7]


Publication history

As Bolling recounted in an interview:

I started Tom the Dancing Bug in 1990 in a small New York newspaper. It was called New York Perspectives, then it was called New York Weekly, then it was called "bankrupt." But before it went bankrupt, I was able to sell the strip to a few other papers. For seven years, I was sending packages out and following up with phone calls, trying to get editors to run the strip. I ended up selling it to about 60 newspapers [under the name Quaternary Features]. I was surprised at the success I had, especially in selling to daily newspapers. I didn't think it would be my market. In 1997, the Universal Press Syndicate approached me and asked if we could work together. That came at just the right time, as I was starting a more serious day job, and I was about to have my first baby. I just didn't have the time and energy to devote to the selling of the strip. I decided that whatever job they did would be better than whatever I could put forth at that time. [8]

The strip appears in mainstream and alternative weekly newspapers, as well as on the Boing Boing website. At its peak, it was syndicated in print in over 100 newspapers. [9] It ran on from 1995 until March 18, 2010. [10]

In 2012, Bolling launched a subscription service, the Inner Hive, [11] which he credits with keeping the comic going amid declines in print newspapers. [12]

Recurring characters and segments

Tom The Dancing Bug has no real narrative continuity. The title itself is a dadaist non-sequitur, as there is no character called "Tom The Dancing Bug" ever seen or referred to in the strip.

Some individual strips are one-shot "stand-alone" presentations, but certain recurring features within the strip are seen regularly on a rotating basis. One of the most popular recurring segments, "Super-Fun-Pak Comix", appears roughly once every month or two, and is dealt with in a separate entry, below. Other features currently seen on a fairly frequent basis include:

Super-Fun-Pak Comix

A recurring feature, Super Fun-Pak Comix consists of four to six smaller strips, grouped together. These collections of smaller comic strips poke fun at the typical conventions and clichés of modern comic strips. For example, they commonly make fun of stereotypical New Yorker cartoon settings, such as two people sitting across a desk or a husband and wife at home reading the paper. Individual comics can also be based around peculiar or bizarre concepts, like 'Funny Only to Six-year-olds' or 'Comic Designed to Fit Vertical Spaces'. Many Fun-Pak strips are one-offs, but there are also numerous recurring strips, and occasionally, some Fun-Pak space is taken up by a fake ad for unlikely products. As well, some recurring long-form Tom The Dancing Bug comics occasionally make Fun-Pak appearances in a shorter format, and a few recurring Fun-Pak characters (Percival Dunwoody, Dinkle) have made appearances in a long-form strip.

Super-Fun-Pak Comix also appears as a daily strip on [15]

Currently recurring mini-strips (not always seen in every Fun-Pak) include:

After September 11, 2001, Bolling used the Super Fun Pak Comix format to acknowledge the events — the punchline to each one of the comics was "Terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, killing thousands". [16]

As of May 12, 2014, Super Fun-Pak Comix will be seen daily on


Five book-form collections have been published:

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  2. Xerexes, Xavier. Onward Into the Webcomics Breach. Comix Talk (July 1, 2009)
  3. "Tom the Dancing Bug Blog". Retrieved 2014-02-22.
  4. FULL LIST: 2018 Robert F. Kennedy Book & Journalism Award Winners (May 3, 2018)
  7. "Finalist in editorial cartooning: Ken Fisher, drawing as Ruben Bolling, freelancer". Pulitzer Prize. 2019. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  8. 1 2 Pikul, Corrie (2005-01-14). "The mystery man behind "Tom the Dancing Bug"". Archived from the original on 2006-07-19.
  9. Tweet by @RubenBolling (March 21, 2020)
  10. Bolling, Ruben (2010-03-22). "Salon, so long" . Retrieved 2010-03-29. has informed me that they have canceled Tom the Dancing Bug.... I was told that the cancellation was made because of 'severe budget constraints,' and that traffic for the comic continued to be good.
  11. Bolling, Reuben (May 9, 2012). "Come on and join Tom the Dancing Bug's INNER HIVE!". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  12. Roth, Stephen (November 26, 2018). "Politics Through the Compound Eyes of 'Tom the Dancing Bug". GoComics. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  13. Bolonik, Kera (2006). "The world according to Ruben Bolling".
  14. Manjoo, Farhad (2002), "March of the "lucky duckies"", Salon, retrieved 2010-05-13
  15. Bolling, Ruben7. "Super-Fun-Pak Comix by Ruben Bolling". GoComics. Retrieved 2020-04-27.
  16. Bolling, Ruben (2001-09-29). "Tom the Dancing Bug Comic Strip, September 29, 2001 on". Tom the Dancing Bug. Retrieved 13 May 2010.