American Hero: Bob Belcher

Every year here on Rotten Ink, we take a break from our cook-outs and fireworks to honor an American hero for our Independence Day update, and this year is no exception.  Hi everyone! It’s Juliet, back in the blogger’s seat to tell you about an all-American hero of TV and comics; he’s a humble man, a burger man.  That’s right, this year we’ll be spending the Fourth of July with Bob and the entire Belcher family 

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Known for his work on celebrated animated shows Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist and Home Movies, Loren Bouchard created Bob’s Burgers to fit into Fox’s animation brand in the mid 2000s, the most successful shows of the time focusing on families. He teamed with King of the Hill writer and producer Jim Dauterive to develop the concept with the aim of showing being able to explore some workplace comedy tropes while keeping with the family theme.  There was one aspect of the original concept, however, that only made it into the finished product as a joke:  Bouchard actually wanted the Belcher family to be cannibals, something that gets used as a plot device in the pilot episode but only in the form of a rumor Louise starts at school.  Another switch is that there were originally two Belcher sons, but before production began, Daniel became Tina and given her popularity, that was most definitely the right choice.  

Bob’s Burgers premiered on Fox in 2011 on Fox with a special preview airing the prior Thanksgiving on the network.  The first season was met with shaky reception, but really found its stride with critics by the second season.  In 2017, Fox announced the development of a Bob’s Burgers, which, as many fans (myself included) rightly guess, would be a musical.  However, we’re still waiting to see this movie because several things happened: in 2019, Disney acquired 20th Century Fox, which wasn’t initially going to interfere with the film’s slated summer 2020 release, but then the coronavirus pandemic happened.  Like so many films, the Bob’s Burgers movie shifted around the release schedule for a while when it wasn’t certain when movie theaters would be safely reopened (and moviegoers would feel safe visiting).  Right now, it’s been delayed indefinitely, which I’m hoping is just a product of the studios having to completely redo essentially two years of release schedules.  It’s still super disappointing, though. 

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Despite being told by numerous people that I’d like Bob’s Burgers, it took me several years to give the show a try.  In fact I was rather stubbornly set on not watching because I was convinced that it was yet another show trying to be a Family Guy clone (and that’s unappealing because I’m NOT a fan of Family Guy), but what I learned is that it’s quite the opposite.  Somehow Matt convinced me to give Bob’s Burgers a try….or maybe he just put an episode on in the hopes I’d sit down and watch it, which I did, and I absolutely loved it.  In addition to being very dryly funny a lot of the time, Bob’s Burgers appeals to me because all of the characters are genuinely good people that are trying hard (even though they sometimes fail epically).  The family feels like an actual family — totally quirky but absolutely ready and able to have each other’s backs no matter what.  Unlike so many other animated and live action shows, Bob isn’t a lazy, bumbling idiot who somehow impossibly has a fairly cushy job; we get to see him as a businessman who genuinely cares about what he does (sometimes a little too much).  And then there’s Tina, who is me and I am her. It’s so great to see an utterly dorky teenage girl who isn’t a punching bag.  In fact, her family celebrates and affirms the fact that she’s into horses, writes erotic friend fiction (one of my absolute favorite details about her) and is boy crazy.  The show also has some amazing side characters from Teddy to twins Andy and Ollie to Marshmallow, who could easily be the butt of every joke as a Black trans woman but is instead celebrated and admired.  So despite my initial hesitation, Bob’s Burgers has become one of my favorite shows.  It’s utterly hilarious and is one that I both look forward to new episodes and can rewatch over and over again.  

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As Bob’s Burgers has increased in popularity and become more universally well-known, naturally, there’s been an explosion of merchandise.  The show is available on DVD (the early seasons were given proper retail releases with the latter seasons being released as “on-demand” DVDs available through Amazon).  You’ll see the Belcher family on a variety of shirts, hoodies, socks (yes, I’m the proud owner of Tina Belcher socks) and even an amazing pair of high-top sneakers made by DC Shoes.  There are Bob’s Burgers coffee mugs, a full set of Funko Pops and a variety of board games including Clue and Trivial Pursuit.  Two soundtrack albums have been released along with an awesome cookbook, The Bob’s Burgers Burger Book and its smaller companion The Bob’s Burgers Burger Box.  Check out the image below for a look at some of my Bob’s Burgers collection.

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In the summer of 2014, Dynamite Entertainment began releasing a short-run series of Bob’s Burgers anthology comics.  Each issue would follow a formula with stories and features led by/highlighting each member of the Belcher Family.  That series lasted five issues, but fans wouldn’t have to wait long for more as Dynamite released a special Bob’s Burgers issue for Free Comic Book Day 2015.  That was immediately followed by another short-run (7 issue) series that began in July 2015.  Dynamite would also continue releasing Bob’s Burgers issues for Free Comic Book Day through 2019, and I can’t help but wonder if both the coronavirus pandemic and the Disney acquisition, both of which also delayed the movie, caused the delay of further comics.  Hopefully we’ll see more Bob’s Burgers comics (and the movie!!) from Dynamite, or perhaps even Marvel, in the future. 

Today on the blog we’re going to look at that first series of Bob’s Burgers comics released by Dynamite.  Matt and I have had our copies for quite a while, but I think the majority of them came from Bell, Book and Comic here in Dayton.  As a reminder, here on Rotten Ink we grade comics on a star scale of 1 to 4 and are looking for how well the comics stay to the source material, their entertainment value and their art and story. So grab another Hit Me With Your Best Shallot Burger and get another helping of fries (NOT sweet potato fries though, as according to Bob, they’re not real fries) and let’s visit Ocean Avenue and get a booth at our favorite family-owned restaurant.

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Bob’s Burgers #1  ***1/2
Released in 2014     Cover price $3.99     Dynamite    #1 of 5

This anthology comic features the following stories:

Tina’s Erotic friend Fiction Presents: My So-Called Life as a Horse showcases Tina as “a horse in a people world,” going to school and spending time with her human family.  However, Tina Belcher the horse aka Tinasus Belcher has a secret life as a member of the Equestranauts, and the team needs her as their secret weapon against the evil Xander, who’s stolen the Electric Leash of Doom, retrofitted to control horses. 

Burger of the Day Ideas: TV Catch Phrase Burgers & Hits of the 80s Burgers brings us a pun-tastic look at possibilities to grace the famed Burger of the Day board. I think some of these did actually make into the later years of the show

Louise’s Unsolved Mysteries and Curious Curiosities: takes on Picture Day as Louise tries to avoid having her brain stolen by an alleged alien photographer.

Letters From Linda: this one-pager features a modest proposal from Linda about a new wine pairing system: pairing the quantity of wine with an activity.

Gene Belcher Presents: The Boy in the Burger, a Musical: After Gene passes out from hocking samples in his burger suit on a hot day, the suit fuses to his body. Unsure of what his life will be as a burger boy, Gene disappears into the suit ala a turtle until a wintery day when his sisters need help for some snow fun.

Each member of the Belcher family gets to shine in this inaugural issue of the Bob’s Burgers comic with the kids getting longer stories and Bob and Linda each getting a one-pager.  I think this formula works well though I’d love to see Bob and Linda get featured just a tad more in future issues.  Tina’s story was, perhaps predictably, my favorite of this issue because I felt that of all stories, it was the closest to something you’d see on the actual show.  That’s not to say, however, that others weren’t good.  The entire comic is extremely well-done, and the fact that writers from the show worked on this really shows in terms of the quality of each section and the attention to getting each character’s voice spot-on.  The interior artwork also fits with the look and feel of the show, making this a quick, fun read for fans.  The exterior covers (there are several variants) get a little more experimental in terms of style, but keep the spirit of and vibe of the Belchers while being very eye catching. A special bonus for this first issue were some joke ads for businesses in the show, and a cut-out that would allow you to recreate the Bob’s Burgers Food Truck from season two.

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Bob’s Burgers #2  ***1/2
Released in 2014     Cover price $3.99     Dynamite   # 2 of 5

Following the same formula as issue 1, we get 3 main stories from the kids and one page features from Bob and Linda.  The book opens with Battleship Galac-Tina, another installment of Tina’s Erotic Friend Fiction Presents that features Tina as the admiral of a starship during a robot war.  After an epic space battle, a robot hostage helps teach Tina and the rest of humanity how to dance.  Louise seeks out a fellow history book defacer in Louise’s Legacy and ends up discovering that her unseen partner in crime was librarian Mr. Ambrose.  Gene’s story, Genemadus, the Musical, pits him against Peter Pescadero in a keyboard battle ala Salieri and Mozart in the classic film.  For their features, Bob explores The Ten Commandments (well five of them at least) in burger form, and Linda pitches a raccoon playground turned disco turned apop turned reality show in a letter to her local trash collection service.

This is another really solid, fun installment of the Bob’s Burgers comic that showcases each character well and once again feels as if it could have been part of an episode or two of the TV show.  My favorite story this time around was Gene’s, which is surprising because in general he’s my least favorite of the Belcher family.  However, the way they took on Amadeus and twisted into a story for Gene was really smart and funny.  I also loved Linda’s letter this time around because the escalating absurdity of it was perfect. This time around, we see many more of the supporting cast including Andy and Ollie, Regular Sized Rudy, Daryl, Peter Pescadero, and of course we get several sketches of Little King Trashmouth in action as part of Linda’s letter. The cover and interior art are once again fun and well-done and fit into the vibe of the show.  This time around, we didn’t get any fake ads, but there was a nice pinup in the middle of the book.

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Bob’s Burgers #3  ***
Released in 2014     Cover price $3.99     Dynamite   #3 of 5

We begin this issue with another installment of Tina’s Erotic Friend Fiction, entitled Trick Shot Tina that has the titular character teaming up with another gun slinger, Jazz Hands Jimmy Jr., to win back a shiny belt buckle. Bob’s Burger of the Day Ideas is an attempt at a Fortune Cookie Burger, while Linda writes to Smellopolis.com to suggest new fragrances including Pinot Noir. Louise builds the ultimate cardboard box fort in Who Forted? In Guys & Frogs, Gene adopts and promptly forgets about a bunch of tadpoles, while six weeks later overrun the Belcher’s apartment and the restaurant. 

As with so many great series, this one lost a little steam with issue #3, but only a little.  There were some super fun touches like the Uncle Pennybags (aka the Monopoly Man) cameo in Tina’s story.  Once again, Linda’s letter was great because you could absolutely read it with her voice in your head. This time around my favorite story was Louise’s, although it took a more bizarre turn than you’d normally see in the show, it felt like a sequel to the season two Halloween episode Fort Night (though that episode isn’t referenced at all, which I felt like was a missed opportunity).  Some of the interior art in this issue strayed a little bit from the style of the series, but still fit the overall vibe of each story so it was distracting at all.  

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Bob’s Burgers #4   ***1/2
Released in 2014    Cover price $3.99     Dynamite   #4 of 5

It’s a (mostly) Halloween issue this time around as Tina’s Erotic Friend Fiction presents Franken-Butt, the story of a girl scientist and her creation…but who’s really the monster of this tale?  After her science teacher warns of the dire consequences for doing an experiment wrong, Louise of course plans to capitalize on those consequences and turns herself invisible.  She wreaks havoc on her family and the restaurant, but then realizes she doesn’t know how to make herself reappear.  The Belcher kids go on a hunt for a chupacabra and meet the mystical creature only to learn that it wants to be a children’s magician.  So Gene, Tina and Louise set out to make their new friend’s dream come true at the restaurant.  In our non Halloween features, Bob creates a list that explores “If Heartwarming 80s Movies Were Burgers,” which includes the She’s Having a Bay Leaf Burger (cooked with bay leaf, comes with baby romaine), and Linda writes to the president of Super Sounds Records to inform them that she’s ready to record her long awaited sola album “Appetite for Lin-struction.”

Issue #3 may have been a slight disappointment, but issue #4 absolutely delivered.  Bob’s Burgers is known for its stellar Halloween episodes, and this issue delivered that spirit in comic form.  All three of the main stories felt like they could have been part of an anthology episode of the show, and the artwork and writing supported that.  It’s hard to even pick a favorite story because they were all so solid and each was special in its own way, but if pressed I’d choose Louise Is Invisible.  The other two elements, though not Halloween themed, were extremely well done too making this such a great entry in the series.

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Bob’s Burgers #5  ***1/2
Released in 2014     Cover price $3.99     Dynamite    #5 of 5

In a world filled with 14 to 16 year old boy zombies, Tina is the last person on Earth or so she thinks until she meets and saves the life of Jimmy Jr.  Together they realize that the zombies aren’t actually out to make them part of the hordes of the undead; they just want to play ping pong. Louise tries to get to the bottom of a boy band conspiracy in The Faux Boo Boo, and Gene takes a musical journey to Robot College. Bob works on ideas for Book Burgers including the Brine and Bunishment Burger, and Linda writes to Ginger about her revelation that somewhere in the world there’s another Linda whose family runs another restaurant.

What a fabulous way to wrap up this first run of Bob’s Burgers comics.  This issue’s stories are stellar with The Faux Boo Boo being my favorite (Louise’s obsession with Boo Boo is so funny), and Robot College being a delightful expansion of a tiny scene in season two’s “Bob Day Afternoon.”  Like the prior issue, everything in this one feels like it could have come right from an episode with great writing and artwork.  We also get a bit of bonus content with several pages of pinup artwork wrapping up the issue.  

Comics based on TV shows are super tricky.  It can be hard to translate beloved characters to the page and capture their voice and humor, but this series proves it can be done well.  If you’re a fan of the show and looking for a quick, fun read, check out this miniseries.

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Well it’s time to shut down the grill for the night and get ready to watch some fireworks.  I hope you had a safe and happy July 4th, however you spent it.  I’ll be handing the blog back to Matt for our next update which will focus on Satanic bicycle safety…..yes, really.  In the meantime, read a comic or two, make a delicious burger (meat or veggie depending on your preference) and support a family-owned restaurant.  Join us next time for Danny and the Demoncycle.

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