Alien Invasion by Ruben Bolling


May 28, 2015


In celebration of Tom the Dancing Bug's 25th Anniversary, I'm launching the HIVE DRIVE, which will run now through June 11.  If you've enjoyed the comic strip and want to enhance your enjoyment by becoming part of the Tom the Dancing Bug team, please take this time to join the INNER HIVE.

By joining, you not only support the strip, you get each week's comic strip emailed to you at least a day before it's published, with additional content, comics, backstory, drafts, etc.  You essentially become PART of the comic strip, helping to make it happen and receiving insider information and status.
As part of the HIVE DRIVE, I'm publishing this week's mailing, sent out to INNER HIVE members on Tuesday (the Louis comic wasn't published until yesterday, the Classic comic was published on today).  Each mailing is different; this particular one happens to focus on the backstory of this week's "Classic" Tom the Dancing Bug.
It's been my honor and privilege to produce Tom the Dancing Bug for you, my valued readers, for 25 years, and I hope you'll join me as I continue my comic strip exploration of australopithecines, giant wombats, middle school, impoverished ducks, two-fisted judges, omnipotent superheroes, and whatever else I can find to fill up my weekly rectangle of comics...




1.  Louis's ORIGINAL attempted nickname, almost an embarrassing error; and

2.  A really interesting "Classic" Tom the Dancing Bug, from 1993, never before reprinted, in which the strip revealed an ACTUAL potentially illegal practice on David Letterman's The Late Show.  (Really!) (DON'T MISS THIS!)


Originally, the nickname Louis was trying to anoint himself in this week's comic was not Flash, but Cap.

I was halfway through the pencils on this strip, using the nickname Cap, when my son happened to come in to my office and look over my shoulder.  He said, "Is this a crossover reference to Chagrin Falls?"

I didn't know what he was talking about, and he reminded me that the name of the son in the Smythe family from my "Chagrin Falls" storyline is named Cap!

Apparently my imagination is so limited, I can only think of one fictional nickname.  And my memory is so limited, I can't recall when I've already used it for a fairly major character.

I had to quickly think of another "cool" nickname (I found a website that lists NHL nicknames), and then replace all the Caps with Flashes.  And instead of a kid asking Louis, "Why would anyone call you Cap? You aren't the captain of ANYTHING," he asks about the TV show.

Whew.  It's a good thing someone is paying attention to this stuff… and wanders into my office at exactly the right time.

Here are my Cap-filled notes for this comic:


This week's upcoming "Classic" comic (to be published on Thursday on came to mind because of the retirement of David Letterman.  He used to do a segment called "Brush with Greatness," and I guess this is Tom the Dancing Bug's brush with Dave.

It comes to us from 1993, when Letterman had just moved from his Late Night show on NBC to a newly refurbished theater and new show, The Late Show, on CBS.  And, apparently, when Tom the Dancing Bug was a crusading, muckraking journalistic comic strip.  

At the time, this logo of Marlboro cigarettes, a stylized picture of their iconic cowboy, was absolutely ubiquitous on advertisements around the world.

And, as an AVID watcher (and HUGE fan) of Letterman's show, I noticed something odd about his brand new set...

I was able to find a couple of shots of Letterman's 1993 set (from YouTube) to show you guys the actual evidence:

I tried to keep things fun and lighthearted with the Larry "Bud" Melman punchline (a reference to an old character from the show), but I did genuinely think something was going on here.

I loved Letterman, but I was sure he himself wasn't behind any of this, and I actually contacted a couple of media outlets.  I spoke to The New York Times's advertising columnist, and he called back saying he wouldn't write about this because he'd spoken to their late night talk show expert, who thought The Late Show and CBS would never circumvent the law like this.  I guess he was convinced this was a purely artistic expression of a New York cityscape, and it was a coincidence that some images happened to be a boon to Philip Morris, one of the biggest advertisers in the country.

But New York Magazine did run a piece on my comic strip, which unfortunately I cannot find online to show you guys.

I believe that within a few weeks (couple of months?), these logos mysteriously disappeared in a subtle set re-design.


A couple of weeks after this comic appeared, I noticed ANOTHER instance of these tobacco advertising shenanigans, involving ANOTHER beloved (by the country, and by me) comedy star, and I did ANOTHER comic about it, in which Tom the Dancing Bug revealed that the conspiracy goes deeper and deeper!  (Really! I was surprised to look back and see how substantive I got.)

Stay tuned for the second installment in this series, next week!

So that is a sample email to the INNER HIVE, with comics in advance of publication and commentary, drafts, etc.
Note - Another reason to join now:  I've just cut ties with Amazon Payments, which caused problems with my subscribers, so the INNER HIVE no longer uses that system.  (I now use CampaignZee and Stripe, which will be much better.)



"I used to spend 20 dollars a year on TOM THE DANCING BUG collections… Happy to support him and pass the word." -Neil Gaiman


"My only argument with Ruben B. here is his apologetic tone for asking you to pay money for early access to his very good comics —- that is to say, something that YOU LIKE AND WANT.  DO NOT APOLOGIZE, RUBEN." -John Hodgman 


"I signed up the second I read about it. It's a lot of fun. I enjoy hearing Ruben tell the story behind each of his comics. Good luck, Ruben!" -Mark Frauenfelder


"Ruben Bolling is a comic genius, a clever artist, a true gentleman, a pseudonym, and and important ally in the struggle against deep dish pizza. I am happy to pledge to him my sacred honor..."  -Peter Sagal



To comment, please use facebook or twitter (#tomthedancingbug @rubenbolling).

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