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Good Read Column for January 24, 1999


By Jonathan Rosenberg
online daily strip - FREE

3 ½ smileys(of a possible five)


I figured it was about time to do another online strip, since I haven't done one in a while. I have a backlog of strips I want to get to, but I really don't want this to turn into an online-comic-strip review column, so I'm rationing them out.

If I had realized from the beginning that Goats was an independent online-only strip, I might have done it first. Even before I discovered Bruno the Bandit, I was already reading Goats. But the basic appearance of the site is somewhat similar to what one of the syndicate sites was using at the time, and so I just assumed it was one of theirs, even though I was getting to it using "" as a URL (after all, Dilbert is "").

After I discovered my mistake, I kept finding other sites and forgetting Goats. So I'm making up for it now.

One more time, in clearer language: Goats is the first daily strip online I found that was worth reading. I've been remiss in not reviewing it before.

Goats is so much funnier than most of what's in the funny paper that it's obvious why it's been rejected from every major syndicate (one of them twice): it's just too good. Actually, like most of the online strips, it's humor is too edgy, too narrow in its appeal to be comfortable for middle-brow editors who want to put strips in that will please everybody - or at least not offend anybody. I still don't know how Sylvia manages to survive.

Much of the action in Goats, such as it is, takes place in a bar. Most of the rest takes place in the apartment Jon and Phillip share with Toothgnip and Diablo. Toothgnip is a goat - and despite the title, he's the only one. Diablo is an evil genius chicken who makes that mouse on television seem like a kindhearted uncle.

Other characters include Neil and Bob (two space aliens), Lynda, Lori, and Jay.

It's kind of hard to explain the appeal of Goats, but it's always up among the "Top 100 Homepages" over at WorldCharts. (They don't have a separate category for "comic strips," which is odd because five of their top ten "Homepages" - plus #11 - are all strips as of this 01/24/1999.) It has been #1 a couple of times and rarely dropped out of the top ten. I say this to show I'm not the only one who has this baffling attraction to this strip.

I mean, it's not smart and erudite like Nukees or quick with witty parodies like Sluggy Freelance. It's not as well drawn as Bruno the Bandit, although it is better drawn than most other comic strips - online or in the paper. It's just a couple of computer geeks - who we rarely see doing anything with computers - hanging out, getting drunk, trying to pick up women and getting dissed by their animals.

So why do I like it? Beats me.

No, I'm kidding. I know exactly why I like it. Because when it's on, which is more than half the time, Goats has a twisted sense of humor that just tickles my funny bone in just the right place.

For instance, Rosenberg once introduced a series of strips with Diablo offering Phillip cookies made in the shapes of 20th Century Presidents.

"I baked them myself," he says. "Soon, they will be sold in stores across the country. Children will eat them, and I will gain their trust and allegiance. Soon after, they will join my satanic cult."

OK, that's mildly whacky. But the real kicker came the next day, when Diablo offered Jon a cookie.

"Ooh! It looks like Millard Fillmore!" says Jon. In the last panel, he holds his stomach, saying "Mmm . . . what a strange aftertaste. What's in these?"

"Mrs. Truman's first grade class," answers Diablo.

Lest you think he's kidding, the next strip opens with Jon telling Diablo he's gone a bit too far (a bit?), brutally slaughtering an entire first grade class and baking them into tasty yet morally ambiguous cookies.

Of course when Jon asks why he used a first-grade class to make cookies, Diablo's answer was that girl scouts would have been too cliche.

OK, it's over the top. But quick. What did you have for lunch today. Was it perhaps - chicken? Then why shouldn't Diablo bake children into cookies?

Of course, when the police come, Diablo tells them it was Jon, and he's the one who gets arrested. (No, I won't tell you how it all turns out. The website has a complete archive. Go read them yourself.)

You can see why it's been rejected, and will probably always be rejected, by the mainstream media. I can't imagine a newspaper editor in the country who would put comic strips about children being baked into cookies in papers for people to read at the breakfast table.

But hey, if you have a twisted sense of humor like me, Goats just may be right up your alley.

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