Friday, May 19, 2023


Firsts and Lasts: Ernie Debuts


One of the best strips (in my humble opionion) to debut in the latter quarter of the 2000s was Ernie. Above find the first week of the strip, published the week of February 1 1988. The strip never got the sort of tremendous fan following it deserved, but it lasted for thirty years so it obviously kept readers happy in the places it did run. 

A strip about a bunch of losers and cads living in a dark world of stupidity, callousness, ennui and casual violence may not seem like a great launchpad for daily fun, but creator Bud Grace takes such naked glee in putting his characters through this hellish world that unless your disposition is so incurably sunny that you consider Hallmark Cards a harsh dose of reality, you're going to laugh along with him. 

If you missed out on Ernie (later renamed The Piranha Club) during its initial run, the good news is that Grace has recently self-published the entire run as a series of downright cheap books. Check them out here on Grace's website.


I recall that "Ernie" was downright popular overseas, especially in Scandinavian market, which likely helped keep the strip going for 30 years.

I personally loved the comic, having read it every day in Japan in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. I'm glad that Bud Grace has reprinted the entire run. The strip barely got any reprints during its original run, so better late than never.
FWIW, I loved it too.

Hello Allan-
On 6 September 1998, Grace showed his cartoon self being outwitted by Ernie's scheming Uncle Sid, and forced to hand over control of the strip, who changed the name in favour of his lodge, which is filled with other low life leeches and con men.
Not just one of the best strips of the last etc., as you say. I'd call it the last strip (probably ever) in the tradition of the golden age of comic strips, and with the artistic and comedic chops that go with it.

Thanks for the tip about the reprints!
I'm about four years into the reprints. The San Jose Mercury News had the strip when it debuted and eventually dropped it, for reasons unknown; I would later find it here and there on the net. Indeed, great stuff.
As an expression of the human condition, "urk urk urk" should rank with "Aughh!"
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