|Author(s)||Richard Stevens III|
|Launch date||April 2000|
|Syndicate(s)||United Features Syndicate (January 2007 – August 2008)|
Diesel Sweeties is a webcomic and former newspaper comic strip written by Richard Stevens III (R Stevens). The comic began in 2000, originally hosted at robotstories.com. From January 2007 until August 2008 it was syndicated to over 20 United States newspapers, including major daily newspapers like The Detroit News and Houston Chronicle.
Material from Diesel Sweeties appears in Ted Rall's Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, along with other webcomics such as Cat and Girl, Dinosaur Comics, Boy on a Stick and Slither, Fetus-X, and The Perry Bible Fellowship.
In late 2006, Richard Stevens announced that Diesel Sweeties would be syndicated to newspapers through United Features Syndicate. To replace FoxTrot by Bill Amend, which ended its daily run, some newspapers began running the strip on January 1, 2007. The regular distribution began a week later, on January 8. On June 26, 2008, Stevens announced that the print run of Diesel Sweeties would end on August 10 of that year. He had produced about 600 strips specifically for the newspapers. Stevens cited exhaustion from doing a dozen strips per week, as well as the fact that the majority of his income remained tied to the website.
For the first several years, the comic consisted of four square panels of dialogue in a two-by-two grid, with a punchline (often a non sequitur, pun, or pop culture reference) in the final panel. In 2005 Stevens abandoned this traditional form and began consistently publishing strips with more panels in slightly more varied configurations. Single panels of the strip are occasionally animated. The comic depicts a world where robots exist alongside humans, with human-robot romantic and sexual relationships commonplace. Although there is some character development and the occasional story arc, most strips are largely self-contained. Recurring themes include annual Halloween strips, featuring characters from the comic in costume.
Diesel Sweeties incorporates many characters from other fictional works, from the real world, and introduces many original characters.
Main characters (online version)
The main characters in Diesel Sweeties are:
- Clango Cyclotron, an emotional robot. Introduced as the boyfriend of Maura Glee, the relationship later ended, and he moved on to dating Pale Suzie. Pale Suzie later shot him with an orbital laser when she suspected he was cheating on her with Maura. He deliberately erased his memory so that he "can be even more innocent than (he) is now!". Unfortunately Indie Rock Pete intentionally broke the backup CD, and Clango had to be restarted with an old boot disk from his days with Maura. He thinks he is still dating Maura. He was adopted by human parents, and has several famous human aunts and uncles, including Steve Wozniak, Beck, Courtney Love, and Stan Lee. Introduced in strip #1.
- Maura Demeter Glee (full name revealed in strip 1698), an alcoholic ex-pornstar. Introduced as Clango's girlfriend, she got dumped for cheating on him. After Clango had his memory erased without a recent backup, Maura provided an old one and thus they are now back together. Introduced in strip #1. After an around the world bender, Maura was allegedly shipped back to Clango as a brain in a jar, a situation resolved as of Friday 5 December 2008. (The jar turned out to contain Billy Brainjar, a minor character.)
- Indie Rock Pete (later found to be named "Peter Gaylord Weiner", much to his disdain in strip #1241), a poseur obsessed with the idea of maintaining a façade of indie cred. Attempts to manipulate the other characters, but usually fails. Pete works as a substitute high school teacher, and developed a crush on Frieda Berger, one of his students, before finding out she was in high school. Introduced in strip #2. Apparently killed by gunshot to the head in strip #2307, but the strip's title ("not cannon"), may be a hint that it is not real, as is his appearances in strips after the incident #2309 anon.
- Lil' Sis, Maura's younger sister. Worked at a comic store for a time. Her name is generally not mentioned, but was once revealed as "Persephone Marie" in strip #1241. Was once featured in Questionable Content strip #171) as the girlfriend of a minor character. Introduced in strip #5.
- Electron Mike, an extreme technophile who listens to techno and collects iPods. Has a hate/hate relationship with Red Robot, and would rather recompile his Linux kernel than introduce effort into anything non-electronic. Introduced in strip #558.
- Metal Steve (found to have the last name "Wozniak" in strip #1819), a mullet-sporting rocker. The virginal yin to Pete's lecherous yang. He has had ongoing flirtations with both Lil Sis and Pale Suzie, but neither has successfully bedded him. Implied to be unusually well-endowed (strip #767); he was briefly recruited by Maura as a porn star for masturbation movies, but was run out of the business for refusing to work with a partner. Married Allie V. (Allison Vegetoksis) a dreadlocked vegetarian from L.A. that he "corrupted" with bacon, after his refusal for "dirty desertie" (he was saving himself for marriage), she proposed and they married (strip #2108). Introduced in strip #76.
- Pale Suzie, a cheerful goth chick and occasional furry who went on a date with Clango, while he and Maura were "on a break". She dated Clango for several months, but after she accused Clango of cheating on her with Maura (after they had been playing Wii together), he had his memory erased so that he "can be even more innocent than (he) is now!". Indie Rock Pete broke the backup CD and Clango is unaware he dated Pale Suzie. She is in a relationship with Charles. Introduced in strip #436.
- Red Robot #C-63, a robot dedicated to the crushing of human (written as "hu-mans"), although he has also been known to date them on occasion. He is wealthy after making a deal with Maura. Introduced in strip #24.
- OtaKate, a blue-haired otaku girl introduced in strip 1711 as a result of Pale Suzie's online dating mishap (Suzie thought Kate was a man pretending to be a woman). Probably bisexual. Through her profile on "DeathwishDamsels.com" (a play on SuicideGirls, she meets Indie Rock Pete. Later she becomes involved with Electron Mike, but dumps Mike hoping to bed Pale Suzie. After Suzie rejects her, she decides on "stuffy older men" and starts dating "Uncle Larry", a philatelist-porn producer.
- Freyja Tryggvason, a tall, dark-haired girl ("The Strongest Woman on Earth") introduced in strip 1973 answering Indie Rock Pete's ad for a drummer in his band. Her background is explained in strip 1976 where we are told she is "The daughter of a Norwegian Diplomat and an all-star women's basketball coach, raised on genetically modified corn in Nebraska, she has always been the tallest girl around". She is Red Robot #C-63's current girlfriend.
- Allie Vegetoksis, a vegan, non-violent, dreadlocked, trustafarian hippie. She is Metal Steve's wife.
Minor human characters
Generally in the order of appearance. Also includes some animals.
- Collin, a technician who occasionally repairs Clango. Introduced in strip #16.
- Joel, a computer programmer. Introduced in strip #21.
- Charles, the token Canadian. Introduced in strip #63.
- Eve, a bisexual girl, she dated Lil Sis briefly, as well as Red Robot. She also went through a Christian phase. Introduced in strip #163.
- Pretty Carl, Maura's annoying but handsome ex-boyfriend. Introduced in strip #325.
- Nipples the Bear, a weird furry who always wears a blue bear costume with nipples. Nipples is implied to be a stand-in for Rich Stevens, the author. Introduced in strip #338.
- Ghost Zack, a goth boy who sometimes hangs out with Pale Suzie. Does not like Suzie's generally cheery disposition. Introduced in strip #442.
- Super Raoul, a shiny Hispanic who shows up occasionally. Introduced in strip #617]m.
- Kevin, a heavy-metal friend of Metal Steve. Introduced in strip #1244.
- Myspace Girl (Kaitlyn), a hipster who is into marine biology for the seahorses, and living the sheltered college life. Engages in witty repartee and has been known to hit on Indie Rock Pete, though has recently married a man she met while on holiday in England, much to Indie Rock Pete's chagrin. Introduced in strip #1477.
- Library Anne Winowiecki, a lesbian librarian that Pete hits on. An ex-lover of Maura's. Introduced in strip #2395.
Minor non-human characters
- Roger, Clango's orange cat. Introduced in strip #68 (and first mentioned by name in #128).
- John Stamos, Clango's black kitten. Although named after the male actor John Stamos, the kitten is a female. Introduced in strip #856.
- Johnny Toaster, a toaster of few words. Introduced in strip #7.
- Menace-11, a robot who is even more sinister than Red Robot. Also gay and sometimes a cross-dresser (when she prefers to be called Menace-Ellen). Introduced in strip #225.
- Menace-10, Menace-11's father. Introduced in strip #352.
- Uncle Grandpa, a Macintosh SE computer, and Clango's Uncle Grandpa. Once ran for office. Introduced in strip #235.
- Torpor, a polite friendly robot who likes to lift things. Torpor is often a target of abuse for Red Robot and Menace-11—although once in a bit of turnabout he tore Red Robot's head off (strip #954)—and has been dismantled and rebuilt at least once. Introduced in strip #670.
- Bango, Clango's robot double. Introduced in strip #434.
- Adrianne, an automated teller machine. Introduced in strip #784.
Cameos from other comics and fiction
- DIV from Penny Arcade in strip #42.
- Red Robot from Explodingdog in many strips, starting with strip #24.
- Roger from When I Grow Up in strip #79.
- Shelley Winters and Fallon Young from Scary Go Round in strip #245.
- Shockwave from Transformers in strip #223.
- Tycho from Penny Arcade in strip #85 and #131.
- Weedmaster P from Overcompensating in strip #1338.
Cartoons of real people
Diesel Sweeties often shows pixelated versions of real people in the strip. Some of these people include:
- Richard Belzer in strip #1471.
- Ann Coulter in strip #803.
- Glenn Danzig in strip #666.
- Sabrina Eldredge in strip #39.
- Beck Hansen (Beck) in strip #578.
- Adolf Hitler in strip #368, #536, #693, #782, and #809.
- Richard D. James (Aphex Twin) in strip #260.
- Xeni Jardin in strip #1471.
- Stan Lee in strip #715.
- Scott McCloud in strip #187.
- Barack Obama in strip #1685.
- Joe Biden in strip #2134.
- Ozzy Osbourne in strip #154.
- Jonathan Pater in strip #183 and #1244.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger in strip #748.
- Richard Stevens (the author himself) in strip #1525, #1805, #1806, #1807, #1925, #1983, and #2424.
- Corin Tucker in strip #150.
- Steve Wozniak in strip #138 and #1471.
- Jeffrey Zeldman in strip #37.
- Wil Wheaton in strips #2209 and #2210.
Main characters (newspaper version)
Comics.com described the strip as "reformatted" for family newspapers.
- Clango Cyclotron is a robot, a nice guy, and as red-blooded a male as a robot can be. He has been dating Maura Glee for some time and trying his best to understand humans.
- Maura Glee is a retired dot-com investor (or porn star) who cashed out before the market went south in, presumably, 2000. She is bored, but loves Clango, to the exclusion of others, especially human males. Her hobbies include drinking and more drinking.
- Indie Rock Pete composes music that nobody will hear. He manages a video store that refuses to rent movies that have been released on DVD. He discusses matters of the world with Clango.
- Lil' Sis is Maura's younger sister. She has recently moved in with Indie Rock Pete, but alas, it is platonic. She longs for Pete, but he's not buying.
- Metal Steve is a real musician, a true rocker. Lil' Sis is interested in him as well.
- Red Robot #C-63 has a mission, which is to kill every human on the planet. This, however, does not prevent him from exchanging bits of philosophy with the others in the pixelated crew, human and otherwise.
- Mr. Bear appears infrequently.
Other new characters for the newspaper version included TV, Coffee Maker, and Kitten. Together, they rule the household.
- Creasy, Cindy (27 January 2007). "Comics lineup gets new guest". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Richmond, Virginia. pp. E.3.
... will run through Feb. 24. ... Stevens started Diesel Sweeties in April 2000 and has built a thriving Web merchandising site He's one of the few Web cartoonists to make the jump to print
- Rall, Ted (2006). Attitude 3: The New Subversive Online Cartoonists, New York: Nantier, Beall, Minoustchine. ISBN 1-56163-465-4. p. 17-20.
- "Olympian, The : 'Diesel' strip gets audition". The Olympian. 12 March 2007.
this year it became available also in print
- "Q&A: Comic Artist Rich Stevens". Red Herring. 6 September 2006. Archived from the original on 20 June 2007. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
entered into a contract with United Feature Syndicate, which will allow his strip Diesel Sweetiesto appear alongside Peanuts, Dilbert, and Get Fuzzy in newspapers nationwide.
- Lloyd, Christopher (15 March 2007). "Laugh online: Edgy comics paper the Web". USA Today. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
In February Diesel Sweeties, a 7-year-old webcomic by Richard Stevens was picked up by United Feature Syndicate and now appears in at least 20 newspapers, including the Detroit News and Houston Chronicle.
- Sjoberg, Lore (27 July 2008). "R. Stevens Steers Diesel Sweeties Back to Its Roots". Wired. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
I've been making my living online selling merchandise since 2002 ... How long did you do the strip for the papers? ... a year and eight months, so about 600 comics ... I made less money than the last year that I wasn’t syndicated
- Astor, Dave (January 2, 2007). "'Lio' and 'Pearls' Among Comics Replacing Daily 'FoxTrot'". editorandpublisher.com
- "Maybe Not So Much". Fleen. 26 June 2008. Retrieved 26 June 2008.
- diesel sweeties: 8-bit robot webcomic and geeky t-shirts : Demeter's Running