Minorities in cartoons: Oliver Wendell Jones

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Oliver Wendell Jones, a character introduced in 1983 in Berkeley Breathed‘s popular comic strip “Bloom County.”

Background

Similar to “FoxTrot”‘s Jason Fox, and unlike fellow “Bloom County” costar Ronald-Ann, Oliver spent much of his time engaged in geeky or scientific pursuits. This was to the dismay of his parents, who wished he’d emulate someone (in their words) “normal.” Michael Jackson was a favorite celebrity of theirs, though much less so for Oliver.

Oliver would spend a lot of time using his computer to hack into places such as the New York Times. (He once rearranged the paper’s headlines to read “Reagan Calls America’s Women ‘Lil’ Dumplings’.”) He also once hacked into HBO’s feed to air his own pirate broadcasts.

At one point, Oliver’s computer was the “Banana Jr. 6000,” a parody of the then-brand-new Macintosh computer. Oliver’s Banana Jr. was capable of moving on its own, and at one point even attempted to offer household appliances to its “god” (a TV set).

Oliver also spent time creating various inventions, many of which would inevitably go wrong. One such invention was the “Electro-Photo-Pigment-izer,” which was capable of darkening light-skinned individuals’ skin pigmentation. Oliver had planned to use it to change the complexion of the Caucasian ambassador from South Africa in an attempt to end the then-current apartheid regime, but his plan backfired.

Another invention of Oliver’s was a hair restorer made from Bill the Cat’s sweat. This ended up in a storyline where the government bans cat sweat and treats it similarly to narcotics, resulting in a “War on Drugs” parody.

Later appearances

After “Bloom County”‘s end, Oliver went unseen for years, until Breathed started to bring back his old “Bloom County” characters for his then-replacement 90s-era strip, “Outland.”

In “Outland,” Oliver’s shown embracing (too strongly) the technology of the day, including CD-ROMs and the early World Wide Web.

Oliver also made an appearance in Breathed’s last strip to date, “Opus.”

(Updated 11/23/16)

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