Stuck in the mid-eighties newspaper comic landscape between Ziggy and Beetle Baily was Arnold (1982-1988), a strip by Kevin McCormick about the ultimate weird kid whose awful social skills bordered on Asperger’s territory. The strip’s characters were Arnold, his only friend, Tommy, and their junior high teacher, Mr. Lester. Peripheral characters were represented by text bubbles. A recurring peculiarity of Arnold’s was his aversion to mayonnaise, which he referred to, very loudly, as “WHITE DEATH.” Arnold was also fond of screeching “AIEEE!” whenever his buttons were pushed (however, Arnold did most of the button-pushing himself). In a 2008 interview, McCormick explained, “Whenever a paper would run a readers poll on comic strips, Arnold would always be on the “most hated list” and the “most loved” list. There didn’t seem to be any middle ground. Most editors hated the strip. One reason they gave me was that the strip “didn’t show the best of human nature” if there is such a thing.”
So how did Arnold end? Arnold was carried away and presumably eaten by a large bird—a strange and wonderful end to a strange and wonderful comic strip. Arnold’s demise left a fairly large comic-nerd void. Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County, and the Far Side were enjoyable but lacked the oddball charm of Arnold. Kevin McCormick no longer draws comics; he became a Christian and teaches at his local church’s school. Baking the Baker conducted the above-mentioned 2008 interview, you can (and should) read it here.
And now, from the vault….full color scans! AIEEE!