Kindle Comic Strips!

Amazon’s Kindle has turned up again in a newspaper comic strip. This time it’s in Frank and Ernest, and the joke is actually pretty clever. The two characters stand in the back of a classroom while one explains that it’s teaching beginners how to use their e-readers.

“Ah,” says the other character. “Kindle-garten!”

What’s really interesting is it’s not the first time that there’s been a Kindle joke in the Frank and Ernest comic strip. Back in 2010, another strip showed the two characters sitting on a couch watching Hawaii 5-0. One of them complained that they didn’t like the way the show’s catchphrase had been updated. Now when the police investigator arrested a crook, he didn’t tell his partner to “Book ’em, Danno”. He’d say “Kindle ’em, Danno!”

Whatever you think of the jokes, it feels like an exciting milestone when the Kindle finally starts appearing in old, traditional media. (Frank and Ernest has been running in daily newspapers for over 40 years, according to Wikipedia.) In fact, in 2006 the original artist died, and his son took over writing the daily comic strip. As he looked around at the world that his generation inherited, maybe he decided now it was time to start making puns about the Kindle.

I’ve been reading comic strips since I was a kid, so I love seeing this newspaper institution finally acknowledging the Kindle. There was a Ziggy comic strip more than two years ago where a Kindle was getting spammed by the public library! And sometimes it’s not just one comic strip, but an entire series of strips. The Crankshaft comic spent five days on a story where the strip’s grumpy bus driver starts to warm up to the idea of reading his beloved Tarzan novels as ebooks on the Kindle he received as a gift.

But two years ago the Kindle made what was possibly its strangest appearance ever in a newspaper comic strip: it turned up in one of the melodramatic storylines in Mary Worth. For entire week, the grey-haired do-gooder ended up arguing with her younger neighbor about whether or not she should be reading her books on a Kindle.

“The Kindle crashed it’s way into the stodgiest newspaper comic strip of them all,” I wrote at the time. (Mary Worth was first created over 70 years ago, according to Wikipedia, and in Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum, someone suggested that by now her character must be over 140 years old!)

But it’s still really nice to see an American institution like Mary Worth acknowledging that there’s something new and exciting that’s come into our world.

Dilbert and Doonesbury – exclusive Kindle ebooks!

Dilbert and Doonesbury Kindle ebook anthologies

For the first time ever, you can read Kindle anthologies for two of the most popular newspaper comic strips — Doonesbury and Dilbert! They’re available now for Kindle Fire tablets, though you can also read them on any of Amazon’s Kindle apps. Check out the books at these “shortcut” URLs — and “These remarkable volumes represent a tremendous body of work from two exceptional cartoonists,” announced the publishing company behind the two books, “and we are delighted to make them available to a new audience.”

These exclusive Kindle editions don’t just include a few of the famous newspaper comic strips — it’s a lot of them! The Dilbert collection includes 2,000 different strips, nearly 30% of all the Dilbert comic strips that have ever been published. And the Doonesbury collection has everything — every single newspaper strip from the last 40 years. (If my math is correct, that means there’s 3,650 comic strips in each of the four editions, or nearly 15,000 comic strips in all!)

The Doonesbury collection is split into four separate volumes that each cover one entire decade, so the first volume starts with the 1970s. (There’s a famous series of strips in 1971 that pokes fun at young anti-war activist John Kerry, 33 years before he became the Democrats’ candidate for President in 2004.) Two more volumes collect all of the strips from the 1980s and 1990s, respectively, covering the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations, and the final volume almost catches up to the present, covering the years 2000 through 2010. (Cartoonist Garry Trudeau titled the collection simply “40: A Doonesbury Retrospective.”)

When the Doonesbury collection was released in print, each edition weighed almost 10 pounds, but the digital editions fit right into your Kindle apps (and each volume apparently takes just one-tenth
of a megabyte.) In a special introduction at, the cartoonist jokes that “I’ve come to appreciate that many readers prefer to forego the risk of herniation while picking up a book – no matter that the risk is slight if you push up from your knees and have someone spot you.” And he remembers the time crooks actually hijacked a truck which had been delivering print copies of the book. “I’ve tried to imagine the reaction of the hijackers’ supervisor when he broke into the trailer and discovered 13,000 pounds of Doonesbury where palettes of hi-def TVs should have been!”

Dilbert’s anthology has more descriptive titles for its four volumes, starting with “The Early Years, 1989 to 1993.” (It’s followed by “The Boom Years, 1994 to 1997,” and “The Dot-Com Bubble, 1998 to 2000.”)
But there’s seven whole years crammed into the final volume –“The Modern Era, 2001 to 2008.” “I tried to find the strips that were the funniest,” cartoonist Scott Adams explains in an interview at, “while also having some meaning, or a funny story attached.” Each strip was personally selected by the cartoonist himself, and it looks like he put a lot of care into the final anthology. In the interview, Adams remembers that “it felt like I was a mother with triplets and someone told me I could only keep one of them!”

He also reveals that he’s hoping for a Dilbert movie (though “A lot of elements have to fall in place.”) And he has big plans, some of which involve the comic strip’s web site, and even distributing the comic strip directly to mobile devices. “It’s an exciting time to be a cartoonist,” But in some ways, Dilbert has already made a very grand entrance for the Kindle. Dilbert himself makes a special appearance on the ebook’s page at — explaining exactly how to read the comic strip on touch screen. (“Hi, Kindle Fire Users,” the strip begins. “Double-tap on any panel to enlarge it…”)

By the end of the strip, Dilbert’s joined by his pet dog — Dogbert — who asks an even more important question…

Dilbert and Dogbert explain Kindle Fire ebook

Does Mary Worth Hate the Kindle?

The Amazon Kindle appears in the Mary Worth newspaper comic strip

In December I started a list of all the newspaper comic strips which had already mentioned the Kindle. Frank and Ernest had swapped the word Kindle into the phrase “book ’em, Danno,” while Ziggy complained that his Kindle was getting spammed by the public library! I even discovered a whole five-day series where the grumpy bus driver in Crankshaft finally discovers the advantages of Amazon’s reader.

But last month the Kindle turned up in the strangest place of all: the daily soap opera comic strip Mary Worth!

Mary Worth comic strip and Jeff with Kindle

And I think this comic strip actually set a new record for just how long they talked about the Kindle. For eight consecutive strips, I stared in amazement as Mary’s enthusiastic boyfriend (Dr. Jeff Cory) continued thoroughly explaining all the benefits of owning a Kindle.

I love it! It’s light and easy to carry! And buying books is an almost instant process!


I can easily read several books at the same time without anything have to lug around.

What about bookmarking pages?

It does that! See? What do you think? Do you want one?

I don’t know…

“I love Mary’s ‘Hmm…’ in the second panel,” someone noted online. “You just know she’s going to find a way to disapprove of instant books, and someone will wind up having a drunken rant in a library or Barnes & Noble about it…”

But it still felt like a milestone, as the Kindle crashed it’s way into the stodgiest newspaper comic strip of them all. (Mary Worth was first created over 70 years ago, according to Wikipedia, and in Amazon’s Kindle discussion forum, someone suggested that by now her character must be over 140 years old!) Suddenly in local newspapers all across America, one of the most traditional comic strips ever was launching a detailed debate about the pros and cons of reading ebooks on a digital reader. As a Kindle lover, I was delighted to see the Kindle finally getting some new attention!

And by the end, they’d spewed out over 350 words about the Kindle, all spaced into short little bursts throughout the two-panel comic strips…

Sorry, Jeff! A portable reading device is not my cup of tea!

What? Why not?

I like the way a real book feels…holding it in my hands, flipping its pages with my fingers…

You’re just not familiar with this yet!

I can’t believe you wouldn’t want an e-book reader too! I love it!

That’s great, Jeff! It’s just not the same experience for me!

Maybe you just need to use it for a little while! You can borrow mine if you want!

No. I know myself! I like reading something that doesn’t rely on batteries of electricity!

Fortunately, I found another great way to laugh about it – and without having to read Mary Worth! One of my favorite blogs is now available on the Kindle — and it’s all about newspaper comic strips. “Why is Mary resisting the 21st century so strongly?” teased The Comics Curmudgeon “Does she fear that she might accidentally subscribe to this very blog, read about her adventures, and implode into paradoxical nothingness when she realizes she is fictional, and ridiculous?”

And ironically, I was reading that blog on my Kindle — so I was seeing Mary’s stern face staring back at me, from within the Kindle’s screen — as she looks out over a picture of a Kindle. (I wonder if she’s afraid now?)

Mary Worth comic srip inside a Kindle

Maybe this is another small moment when our culture suddenly makes another tiny shift forward. But if so, it’s really fun to see that moment being dissected by hundreds of funny comments from the blog’s online readers.

“Today in Mary Worth…oh, snap, it’s ON!”

“Go, Mary, go! Save Dr. Jeff from the evils of new technology!”

“Using the e-book reader would require Mary to put down her coffee, and dammit Jeff, that just isn’t going to happen.”

“That night, Mary discovered that the Kindle is, indeed, sturdy enough to bludgeon someone to death…”

What I love about that web site is that it takes ordinary daily comic strips, and gives them a really fresh perspective. And of course, it’s also a place where you watch other comic strip readers as they share their own personal reactions to the strangely old-fashioned funnies page. After a few minutes on the site, it makes me feel like I’m part of an invisible club of smart-allecks who are all reading the newspaper comics page together. It’s one of my favorite things about the internet — and it adds a whole new level of interest to reading Mary Worth’s final speech about the Kindle.

I’m not afraid! I just prefer the traditional method of reading books!… instead of from a screen!

Suit yourself!…your Luddite self!

I am not a Luddite, Jeff! I use a computer!… I have a cell phone!…

Then why not an e-book reader too?

Because I like what I like! And reading regular books works for me! I like manually flipping pages and sticking a bookmark in between them! I like looking at the books lined up on my shelf!

I still think if you gave it a chance you’d love a portable reading device like this!

No thanks, Jeff!

Alas, Mary, resistance is futile…

Mary Worth on the Kindle in a Kindle on a Kindle screen

Subscribe to The Comics Curmudgeon on your Kindle!

Kindles in the Comics

Newspaper comic strip characters Frank and Ernest react to the Amazon Kindle

In October, the Kindle actually appeared in a newspaper comic strip — the one-panel classic “Ziggy”. (A bewildered Ziggy complains that his Kindle is now receiving spam advertisements — from the public library.) It was a milestone — of sorts. But it turns out that the Kindle has also appeared in several other newspaper comic strips.

In fact, just four weeks ago, the Kindle turned up in “Frank and Ernest”. The pair is watching Hawaii Five-O, but since it’s the new version, detective McGarrett’s trademark line has been changed from “Book ’em, Danno,” to… “Kindle ’em, Danno.”

And the Kindle actually appeared for a whole week in the comic strip “Crankshaft.” (At first the curmudgeonly bus driver misunderstands the name Kindle, and says “You shouldn’t have wasted your money… I still haven’t burned all the pine cones yet.”) But in touching a moment, his girlfriend explains that he can finally read all the Tarzan books that he never got to read as a kid. And apparently his Kindle has a magical feature that’s apparently available only in the comic book universe. His girlfriend explains that “If you press here while you’re reading your Tarzan books, it emits a musty book smell.”

There is one mistake in the comic strip. The series end with Crankshaft announcing later that he’s downloading 60 years worth of Reader’s Digest. Then he says “Don’t wait up” — and heads into the bathroom.
In real life, it’s not possible to download back issues of Reader’s Digest, as far as I can tell (though it is possible to subscribe to the magazine). But one part of the comic strip is gloriously true. Not only can you read the original Tarzan books on your Kindle — every single one of them is absolutely free.

Tarzan of the Apes
Return of Tarzan
`Beasts of Tarzan
Tarzan the Terrible
Son of Tarzan
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar
Jungle Tales of Tarzan

Bloggers were impressed that even the cranky bus driver was enjoying his Kindle. “It’s mainstream now for sure,” wrote a blogger at BookChase — though he immediately received a follow-up comment that wondered whether the bus driver had really overcome his technophobia.

“And then he discovers that the battery occasionally needs to be recharged, and that’ll be the end of that.”

A Cartoonist’s Secret Kindle Joke

XKCD cartoonist talks about his comic strip on Amazon's Kindle

I’m a fan of the comic strip XKCD. So I was delighted when the cartoonist did a special edition that was all about the Kindle.

“Even if I spend months broke and drunk in a strange city, I’ll still be able to use Wikipedia and Wikitravel to learn about anything I need…”

Ironically, it’s very hard to read that comic on your Kindle (though its dialogue is almost legible if you surf straight to the image.) But, to give away the punchline, the female character decides there’s something suspiciously familiar about the idea of being able to learn anything anywhere. And when she examines the Kindle more closely, she makes a startling discovery: it’s actually The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, it describes a near-magical, all-knowing guidebook that would be crucial if, say, your home planet Earth was destroyed, and you had to navigate through all the other strange alien civilizations. It’s the perfect metaphor for the Kindle’s unlimited (and free) internet access, though I first read that cartoon before I’d even purchased my Kindle. But I still remember it every time I switch to Wikipedia to look up crucial context for the classic books I’m reading. (“Was this book popular in its time? How old was its author…?”)

I even added this capability to yesterday’s list of my favorite Kindle tips and tricks. (It’s possible to instantly search Wikipedia for any topic just by typing @wiki after hitting the Search button.) But the cartoonist’s joke has a special resonance for me, because I’d interviewed Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just a few weeks before his death in 2001. He’d lived long enough to see a wonderful sight — his six-year-old daughter, pushing her doll’s baby stroller while mimicking the voice of the GPS system in her daddy’s car. And I sometimes wonder what he would’ve thought of the Kindle. “Anything that’s invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things,” Adams had joked, while introducing, of course, a contradicting corollary. “Anything that’s in the world when you’re born is considered ordinary and normal.”

I’ve always assumed that Adams would eventually come around to the idea of using a digital reader. But regardless of Adams’ opinion, the magic of the internet at least lets us peek into the thoughts of the cartoonist who draws XKCD. If you hold your mouse over his cartoons, you’ll discover that the cartoonist leaves behind an extra personal statement for every cartoon. (For example, “Now that the Apple Store is getting rid of DRM, Cory Doctorow will get rid of his Steve Jobs voodoo doll…”) So what was his message for his Kindle cartoon?

“I’m happy with my Kindle 2 so far, but if they cut off the free Wikipedia browsing, I plan to show up drunk on Jeff Bezos’s lawn and refuse to leave!”

Visit Amazon’s Page of Douglas Adams Kindle books.

Or check out the Kindle version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.