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In a time of nuclear politics and tragedies like THE EMOJI MOVIE, it’s important to have something to lift our hearts. What could be better than a nostalgic favorite like THE POWERPUFF GIRLS? As I’m sure many of us have, I’ve long since surpassed the simple days when I thought I was a Bubbles and have now embraced my inner Buttercup. That’s okay. People change, and fortunately, THE POWERPUFF GIRLS comics keep the laughs coming after all these years.

While the comics are recent, the humor is the same absurdity from the original television show we all know and love. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS manages to deliver off-the-wall ridiculous humor that is simultaneously brilliant. The franchise’s comedy has always loved to play with expectations. Most importantly, though, it’s never afraid to be silly, and it doesn’t talk down or condescend to its audience. In celebration of that, here is a countdown of the top 5 gags in THE POWERPUFF GIRLS!

READ: Check out this article on the love affair between Millennials and absurdism!

5. One Sick Gerbil

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #4 (2016) opens with Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup facing down a giant gerbil with a runny nose — referred to as a “germbil.” Blossom declares that they need to “knock the germbil out cold.” After a punch and a kick from Blossom and Buttercup, respectively, we see Bubbles helping the big guy slurp down some chicken soup. Then, the germbil gets all snuggly on a pillow to sleep. The Mayor appears, thanking the girls for making his pet get some rest, as he gets unruly when he’s sick. Somehow the whole incident reminds the Mayor that the Health Fair is the next day and thus propels us into the storyline of the girls’ desperation to learn how to ride a bike for the event.

Image from THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #4, courtesy of IDW.

This great gag seizes the opportunity to play with expectations. The easy assumption is that a giant sick gerbil is terrorizing Townsville. As crime fighters, The Powerpuff Girls use a lot of action-packed catchphrases. This leads us to expect that the girls need to beat the germbil up because he’s a bad guy. In reality, the “knock him out cold” phrase leads to a kindness — the girls take care of the germbil, helping the poor guy get some rest by tiring him out with a fight. A fake out like this is comedy gold. Surprises allow for a joke to have a more sincere reaction from the audience. When someone sees a joke coming, their reaction isn’t as strong. I suppose the only question remaining is, why does the mayor have a germbil in the first place? Well, sometimes a lack of explanation only makes things funnier.

READ: Need more girl power? Check out PAPER GIRLS vol. 1!

4. Zombie Mimes

In THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #2 (2016), the comic begins with the girls on the couch watching television when a commercial comes on for a horror movie. The film features the ultimate camp cliche: a couple of teenagers throwing around urban legends. Then, alas, the teenagers break out in horrified screams that the zombie mimes have come to attack. You read that right — they’re not normal zombies, no. These zombies are much worse by virtue of being mimes. The victims don’t stand a chance against the zombies’ invisible lassos. The movie is so terrifying that the villain du jour, Harold Richter, puts out a challenge to The Powerpuff Girls. He challenges them to go and see the movie in the commercial. Really, the whole thing is a plot to turn the girls into chickens, but let’s stay on the topic of those mimes.

Image from THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #2, courtesy of IDW.

Zombie mimes are a toe dip into the pool of absurdist humor. Some people might read this and throw their hands up in the air, declaring it to be utterly stupid. There’s no defense here from me — it is stupid. That’s the point, though. Absurdity is a great staple of wholesome humor. It doesn’t have to rely on vulgarity, and it also doesn’t insult or victimize people for laughs.

Furthermore, this gag allows for a smaller scale play on expectations. You have the set expectation that these monsters are scary because they’re zombies. However, no one is screaming about getting their brains eaten. They’re afraid of those invisible lassos. Thus, the true horror comes from their mime status. That’s hilarious because let’s be honest, who doesn’t hate mimes?

READ: We love our heroines here at ComicsVerse! Check out this article on the modern female protagonist!

3. The Sassy Ray

In THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #6 (2016), our heroes face off against The Fashionistas when the villainesses attempt to steal a pair of diamond studded shoes. Unfortunately, The Fashionistas hit the girls with a blast from their ultimate weapon: the Sassy Ray. Once affected, anyone who’s been shot can’t help but respond to everything with endless sass. This gets The Powerpuff Girls into a lot of trouble with Professor Utonium and the Townsville citizens. It even hinders their ability to fight crime, as Professor Utonium grounds them, so they can’t leave the house.

Image from THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #6, courtesy of IDW.

This joke implements the perfect blend of absurdist and character humors. The absurdity comes from the idea that sassiness would be a detriment to life. We’ve all been there, right? Obviously, Buttercup has. When it comes to Buttercup, no one can tell when she’s just being herself or when she’s displaying side effects of the Sassy Ray. This is where the character humor comes into play.

In comedy, one often wants to have three instances of a joke. The first two times set up an expected pattern, and the third time subverts that pattern. In the comic, Blossom indicates twice that she can’t tell if Buttercup is just being herself or if she’s being affected by the ray. In the third instance, Professor Utonium has just cured the girls, but Blossom thinks it didn’t work because Buttercup is still sassy. Fortunately, all is well for the girls, and Buttercup is just being her same old spunky self. One sassy heroine is manageable, but it’s all too clear Townsville isn’t ready for three.

READ: Want more clever children’s comics? Check out GLISTER!

2. No Time for Nonsense

In THE POWERPUFF GIRLS: THE TIME TIE (2017) #1, things go awry when Mojo Jojo crashes a New Year’s Eve Party. The villain sends the girls back in time to three separate periods. Blossom finds herself in the Wild West. To return, she has to get a chronogem from a group of cowboy bandits. But first, an old-fashioned man on a train is going to make sure Blossom knows he’s not impressed. When Blossom sits down and tries to tell the man her story, he finds her to be self-centered. He wants a chance to talk about his life. After a wild series of events where Blossom fights the bandits and becomes sheriff, she has to leave for her own time. She bestows her recently earned sheriff status upon the man from the train who just casually turns out to be the legendary real-life figure, Wyatt Earp.

Image from THE POWERPUFF GIRLS: THE TIME TIE (2017) #1, courtesy of IDW.

The best part of this joke is that the humor stems from a necessary story function. Readers need to be brought up to speed on how Blossom got to where she is and that calls for exposition. It’s not uncommon for exposition to be woven into conversation to make it feel natural, but those conversations are often one-sided. Mr. Earp’s annoyance is hilarious because it comes from the understanding that, while this of exposition might appear natural to readers, it’s not typical real-life behavior. Wyatt Earp is a historical figure, thus blending reality with fiction. As such, it’s all very clever that a real person would refuse to accept the self-centered devices of storytelling. 

READ: For another legendary Earp, check out the character history and feminist evolution of WYNONNA EARP!

1. Donny Gets a Job

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #3 (2016) opens with the girls playing badminton with their friend Donny (from the current THE POWERPUFF GIRLS TV series). Donny happens to be a unicorn. As a magical creature, he doesn’t have the clearest understanding of how the world works — he brings a waffle to use as a racket. This leads to the girls suggesting he buy an actual racket, which of course leads to the realization that he needs a job to pay for it.

Donny goes to the Waffle Barn first in search of employment. Unfortunately, the man at the counter says his boss refuses to hire mythical creatures ever again. The last time a mythical creature worked there, it was a sasquatch, and he got hair in all of the oatmeal. Donny complains that sasquatches ruin everything. In the next panel, we see a newspaper declaring that a sasquatch has spoiled a movie for an entire audience.

Image from THE POWERPUFF GIRLS #3, courtesy of IDW.

This gag brings us absurdity in its purest form. Workplace discrimination against a mythical creature is some next level of comedy. It feels like this issue was custom made to appeal to the millennial audience. For starters, the fact that sasquatches are accused of ruining everything is vaguely familiar. I seem to recall millennials being the scapegoat for the apparent collapse of society. Proclaiming that a sasquatch spoiled a movie on the front page of a paper is ludicrous, because in what universe is that news? That this is the most realistic part of the gag makes it all the more funnier. As for Donny being turned away, is it really a surprise with the current state of the job market? Maybe the real mythical creatures were taking our jobs all along.

READ: Check out LADYCASTLE for more female comedy!

The Significance of Humor in THE POWERPUFF GIRLS

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS franchise deviates from the norm when it comes to both strong female representation and humor. It isn’t afraid to be different and that’s what makes it so special. Multi-faceted, sharp humor like this is so important in children’s media because it cultivates a generation of thinkers. Beyond that, as clever as the comedy is, it also teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously.

That this smart and fun humor comes from protagonists that are little girls is so incredibly important. Women are constantly discouraged in the field of comedy. I believe, too, that there is a societal expectation for young girls to become serious sooner than young boys. A show like this is a great encouragement for little girls to grow up to be goofy, amazingly smart people who bring laughter to their own life and others’. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS certainly played a role in who I am today, and because of its mass appeal across age groups, even the new content holds a special place in my heart.

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