Pearls Before Swine (comics)
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|Pearls Before Swine|
|Current status / schedule||Running|
|Launch date||December 31, 2001 (The Washington Post)
January 7, 2002
|Syndicate(s)||United Feature Syndicate (2001–2011)
Universal Uclick (2011–present)
|Publisher(s)||Andrews McMeel Publishing|
|Genre(s)||Black comedy, Gag-a-day|
Pearls Before Swine (More commonly known as Pearls) is an American comic strip written and illustrated by Stephan Pastis, a former San Francisco, California lawyer. It chronicles the daily lives of five anthropomorphic animals: a Pig, a Rat, a Zebra, a Goat, and a fraternity of crocodiles, as well as a number of supporting characters. Pastis has said each character represents an aspect of his own personality and world view. The daily and Sunday comic strip is distributed by Universal Uclick as of 2011; previously, United Media's United Feature Syndicate distributed the strip.
United Feature launched the strip in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001, in The Washington Post. On January 7, 2002, it began running in approximately 150 papers. As of September 2011, the strip was appearing in 750 newspapers worldwide.
The strip has become controversial due to its use of adult humor, mock profanity, violence, drinking and drug references, and a few references to Middle-Eastern terrorism.
- 1 Origin of phrase
- 2 History
- 3 Comic strip influences
- 4 Main characters
- 5 Setting
- 6 Meaning of the title
- 7 Style
- 8 Controversial strips
- 8.1 Lou Gehrig's Disease strips
- 8.2 President Bush strip
- 8.3 ADHD strip
- 8.4 "Desperasexual" strip
- 8.5 The Midget strip
- 8.6 Rat the Babysitter
- 8.7 Washing machine strip
- 8.8 Atatürk the Llama strips
- 8.9 Alleged use of "fuck"
- 8.10 Jef The Cyclist
- 8.11 I"SIS"
- 8.12 Controversial month
- 9 Other media
- 10 Bill Watterson appearance
- 11 Technical aspects
- 12 Books
- 13 Awards
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Origin of phrase
Pearls Before Swine refers to the admonition "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." Given by Jesus according to the Gospel of Matthew 7:6.
Prior to creating Pearls Before Swine, Pastis worked as a lawyer in California. In law school, he became so bored during classes, he started to doodle a rat, eventually casting it in a non-syndicated comic strip he called Rat. The title character of Rat would later become one of the main characters in "Pearls Before Swine." The "Pearls" character of Pig also came from a failed strip called The Infirm, about a struggling lawyer.
In 1999, he submitted Pearls Before Swine to syndicates. Several expressed interest and about three accepted it, but they could not convince their sales staff that it was marketable. However, Amy Lago, an editor at United Media, saw the strip's potential and launched it on the United Media website in November 2000 to see what kind of response it would generate. Pastis recalled in 2009,
United signed me in December 1999, and they put me in development ... where the syndicate says, OK, you were funny in your submission packet, but for all we know, it took you 10 years to come up with these 30 strips. So we want you to keep drawing, and we’ll watch you. If you’re good, we’ll agree to put you in newspapers. A development period can be anywhere from two weeks to a year. Not all cartoonists have to do it, but most do.
When Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert and supporter of the strip, told his fans about "Pearls Before Swine", interest skyrocketed, and the strip was taken to print. Aiding Pastis in the artistic elements of the strip was Darby Conley, creator of the comic strip Get Fuzzy.
Comic strip influences
Pearls' style and humor are inspired by several comic strips, chief among them being Peanuts, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, Bloom County and The Far Side. Pastis regularly puts tributes to them in his strip. When asked in an interview about whether his profession as an attorney inspired the humor in the comic, Stephan said, "I was very unhappy as a lawyer, and humor is a reaction to and defense against unhappiness. Also, the law inspired me because if you dislike what you’re doing to the extent that I did, it gives you the impetus to get out." Pastis also regularly parodies comics he finds stale or unfunny, including Cathy, The Family Circus, Garfield, and others (although in the case of The Family Circus, Pastis actually is a fan). The frequent comedic jabs at long-running comic strips has earned Pastis the disdain of many comic artists, which Pastis referenced in a storyline where the Pearls cast is not invited to the 75th anniversary crossover party of Blondie.
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Rat (debut: December 30, 2001) is a narcissistic, misanthropic rat, and is an antihero. He frequently breaks the fourth wall, as well as being aware of his existence as a fictional comic strip character. Because of this, Rat is often critical of the comic strip's style and artwork as well as the other characters in the strip and many other living things. Often self-employed, most of his businesses involve either punishing or defrauding people for their ignorance, much in the same vein as Dogbert, though with a darker humor. His political views are right-wing, especially in foreign policy, and he has a particular hatred for the nation of France. Rat is often rude, and he can usually be found criticizing or insulting someone.
Rat is an insensitive character in the strip, whose interactions with others are typically sarcastic, condescending, self-centered, insulting and sometimes violent. It's stated during a storyline where Rat dies and subsequently returns that nobody really likes him other than Pig. When breaking the fourth wall he will berate his creator on various topics, including joke writing, artwork, or the general content of the strip itself. Rat has beaten up and possibly tried to kill his creator, but has also asked him to simply retire early. In one strip, Rat makes a puppet of Stephan and mocks him.
In his spare time (almost always on Sunday), Rat writes one of four types of stories:
- The Adventures of Angry Bob: A novel series about a man who is always angry. Angry Bob stories almost always consist of Bob angry over something, finding something that makes him happy, then dying a horrible death because of his actions.
- Danny Donkey: A children's book series about a donkey who tries to teach children morals by drinking, smoking, stealing, violence, hating people, and various other methods. At one point in the strip, he came to life after Rat made a stuffed animal of him, but Pastis eventually returned him to a character in Rat's stories after it did not catch on.
- Elly Elephant: A series about a female elephant who is extremely friendly, thoughtful, and helpful toward other people, (Usually a hippo named Henry Hippo, who his her friend/boyfriend) but does not receive the same consideration. These stories sometimes end with Elly stomping on (and in a couple instances, strangling) them.
- Others: Random Picture Books or Novellas.
Pig (debut: December 30, 2001) is the character that receives the most abuse from Rat (though ironically, he is Rat's only friend). He is kind by nature, but extremely naïve. Pig's jokes generally involve his incompetence and not knowing his true surroundings; Pastis once stated that Pig is easy to write for because he misunderstands everything that's said to him, and when it's explained, he misunderstands that too. His on-again-off-again girlfriend, Pigita, who often misunderstands his naive statements. For instance when Pig and Pigita were playing Monopoly and Pig at some point said that he had cheated. She got angry only to have Pig tell her that he did not pay her the entire rent for landing on one of her properties. Her dad has also experienced Pig's naive nature in the strip when Pig and Pigita had gone to a baseball game. Their seats were located behind second second base and when talking to her dad over the phone, he said "I'm trying to get to second base." In the last frame, he said to Pigita, "He's not happy." But she stays with him despite this. Pastis says that Pig has a habit of talking to inanimate objects such as food, stop lights, bait, and various other things. His dimness is often exhibited in the strip. Pig's least appropriate characteristic is his love of pork products; He likes bacon, ham, corn dogs, and so on, making him a cannibal, although he appears to misunderstand this. He is also sometimes able to tell which member of his family has been made into the food product. Pig is one of the few characters that does not constantly utter mock profanity in the strip; however, he has done so on rare occasions. Possibly the most notable example of Pig swearing in the strip is the July 15, 2010 strip, in which he curses BP for the recent oil spill. Pig has also sworn after Rat told him that, due to the fact that comic censorship is still the same as it was in the 1950s, many topics can not be discussed.
An intellectual goat who interacts sparingly with the other characters, Goat (debut: January 18, 2002) usually appears whenever there is a small issue dealing with a character or a conflict to be mediated. Goat has an equally hard time dealing with Pig's incompetence and Rat's cruelty and occasional ignorance. Goat maintains an internet blog that, as Rat likes to point out, receives no hits. Goat in turn tends to criticize Rat's forays into writing, often telling him not to write them at all. In early strips, Goat had a beard; he first appeared without it in the March 31, 2004 strip.
In a few strips, he is seen telling Rat and Pig about various philosophical, political, and social issues. However, Rat and Pig don't pay attention, instead usually starting to talk about something else such as baseball or The Apprentice.
Goat dislikes conversing with the other characters at all; he much prefers reading. However, it seems that he most tolerates talking to Zebra; he is least tolerant when talking to Rat (although he tends to be equally hostile towards Pig). It is actually debatable if he dislikes talking to Rat or Pig more, Rat for his ego and self-centered remarks, which anger Goat greatly; however, Pig's stupidity has, on multiple occasions, equally driven Goat over the edge, particularly when he attempts to explain something simple to Pig, and Pig continues moving further and further into the wrong direction and misunderstanding everything Goat says. Goat's real name is revealed as "Paris" in the September 21, 2007 strip, claiming "Goat" is his stage name.
He is the only character that has catchphrases, which are "I give up", "Never mind", "Check please", and "I'm leaving/going", usually at the very end of the strip in a resigned sort of mood or "Let's start over" usually to Pig.
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Zebra (debut: February 4, 2002), also known as "zeeba neighba" (zebra neighbor) by the Fraternity of Crocodiles next-door (Zeeba Zeeba Eata), is a zebra who is often seen trying to patch up relations between his herd back home and its predators, lions, crocidiles, and sometimes hyenas. Pastis has also stated that the only goal of Zebra is to avoid being eaten by his inarticulate next-door neighbors, the Fraternity of Zeeba Zeeba Eata crocodiles.
Because Stephan Pastis was once unable to draw lions, these particular predators were not shown in the strip until May 31, 2007, when two were shown moving next door to Zebra, on the opposite side from the crocodiles. Prior to their appearance Zebra has been seen corresponding with them via letter, attempting to give them more culture than just eating zebras and to establish a friendship between their species. Instead, the lions' replies are always terse responses, often featuring them taking his advice the wrong way by eating a zebra. Zebra's lion neighbors, however, are male lions, which do not hunt, and they seem to like Zebra, often giving him advice on how to avoid their wives, who actually would hunt him down if given the chance. However, the lion neighbors also caused some bad things to happen to Zebra (albeit unintentionally), such as suggesting that Zebra redecorate his house with "Girls gone Wacky" ( a parody of Girls Gone Wild) merchandise to be more macho when his mother comes over to the house once.
One time, the crocs sent a cat to Zebra, but in the first years, the cat, which was named Snuffles, was harmless to Zebra. However, in spring 2008, Zebra was arrested by the FBI because of the cat's terrorist activities, although Snuffles loves Zebra, and he didn't mean to put his owner mistakenly in jail. In one strip, he was revealed to be a big fan of Peanuts (a strip Pastis cites as one of his many influences), which the crocs attempted to exploit, without success.
In the Pearls Sells Out collection, Pastis explains that Zebra has three neighbors: The Zeeba Zeeba Eata fraternity house, Larry the Croc and his family, and Max and Zach, the Lions. Larry's house is, in fact, behind Zebra's house (the houses are next to each other via backyards) while the Lions and the Zeeba Zeeba Eata are on either side of Zebra's house.
The Guard Duck is, as his name implies, is the "guard duck" for Pig and Rat's home. Pig has described him as "very sensitive and having an anger management problem". He's known for a short temper and a violent streak. He has gone to several anger management seminars, but he leaves with more issues than he had before.
His first appearance was March 14, 2005, when Pig bought him instead of a more expensive guard dog for the house. In Guard Duck's early appearances, a running gag was that Pig would introduce him to one of his neighbors. The neighbor would then laugh at the idea of a duck being a guard animal, and the strip would finish with Guard Duck responding with violence. He often suggests militaristic solutions for neighborhood problems, often getting him locked in a clothes hamper by Pig.
Originally, Guard Duck was a violent duck with anger management problems, but he eventually transformed into a duck associated with the army, seeing the world as his battlefield. He has occasionally referenced the Vietnam War and war movies such as Apocalypse Now. In one of his "missions" that he was given, he teamed up with Zebra's cat Snuffles to invade Cuba, but mistakenly invades Jamaica. While in Jamaica, he also shoots a sheriff. The moment he gets to Cuba, he and Snuffles are arrested, but released. He is also a member of the Order of Panelwalkers and taught Pig how to panelwalk. In a series of strips, Guard Duck is seen training gophers to use grenades which causes problems in the neighborhood. Most recently, the Grenade Gophers went renegade and joined the Crocs as assassins.
It is also mentioned that Guard Duck has a girlfriend, Maura, who leaves him from time to time and once in particular (after a trip to Paris) to become a corporate spokesperson for Aflac.
In the treasury The Crass Menagerie, Stephan Pastis remarks that the Guard Duck has become so popular that he's become a sixth main character (after Rat, Pig, Goat, Zebra, and the crocs).
The Fraternity of Crocodiles are the main antagonists and villains of the strip, described by Pastis as "inept and inarticulate neighbors" of Zebra and while they are indeed on very poor terms with all five main characters (with the possible occasional exception of Rat), they are usually involved in various attempts to kill and eat Zebra, all of which fail. The fraternity name is "Zeeba Zeeba Eata" (although one of them called it "Zeta, Zeta, Epsilon" in their first appearance in a botched attempt to fool Zebra). They have very bad grammar, speak in upper- and lower-case captions (most Pearls characters' captions are in all-capitals) and also have an expanded and a slightly smaller font size.
The Crocodile Family
In addition to the Zeeba Zeeba Eata fraternity of crocodiles, there is a separate family of crocodiles that live in the neighborhood and are also neighbors to Zebra. The family consists of Larry, his wife Patty, and their son Junior (originally named Billy). Larry and his pals [such as Burt, Bob etc.] are a group of typical dumb crocodiles in the strip, speaking in the same language as the fraternity ("Croc-ese", which is actually the reader's own language spoken with exceptionally improper grammar and spelling), which he is often seen with plotting to kill Zebra. By contrast, both his wife and son are intelligent, with Junior being particularly gifted. Also, Larry seems to have come from a well to do family because his parents speak impeccable English. In one strip, it is shown they had spent a huge amount on Larry's education [52000 for his tuition fees] which he instead spent on a closet full of beer. Larry is (or at least was) a huge fan of the Wii and tried to encourage his son to drop out of school so he could play with him. He is also very childish, appearing when ever Simon says to do so, and is easily convinced to do stupid things such as when he stapled his head to a wall on a bet and shut off Zebra's water pipes in an attempt to force Zebra to drink from the fraternity's swamp, unaware that Zebra bought his water from Sparkletts. Sometimes he is shown not to care about his wife Patty because in one series of strips, Zebra kidnaps Patty for a peace proposal with Larry and he is shown happy because of this (although Zebra did return her). Larry was "eaten" by dolphins on January 18, 2013 and secretly escaped. He was later eaten by a shark on May 21, 2013. He was reincarnated as a crab and eaten by Zebra on May 22, 2013. He was reincarnated again as Jeffy from Family Circus on May 22, 2013 as well. He reappeared on May 4, 2014
Patty is a housewife with a bob haircut (originally an Afro, then a beehive) who loves both her husband (although she did once leave Larry because she thinks he's a failure because he has not killed Zebra) and son, although she is continually frustrated with her husband's failed attempts to kill Zebra – which more often than not, result in Larry being forced to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken and purchase food, which he eats by himself in shame (although Patty does do some grocery shopping and Larry once stole a frozen zebra from a pair of male lions that also moved into the neighborhood, which he claimed to catch). Also she, like Junior, does not speak Croc-ese (although, she used to at the start on the strip). She claimed she cut her hair to better express herself, as she demonstrated in a strip where her beehive interfered with her speech bubble.
Junior is the most intelligent and perhaps most refined member of his family. He is a vegetarian who can't understand why his father constantly wants to kill Zebra, believes that crocodiles should wear clothes because being naked is undignified, and is friends with his neighbor. Despite all his faults, Junior loves his father as well as his mother, but infuriates them with one small action - his love for a zebra (specifically, Zebra's niece, of whom he dated). Surprisingly, despite her attitude, Patty is much more offended about this than Larry, considering it an embarrassment to her family and believing that simply grounding him will cause him to stop (although all it did was cause Junior to run away) However, it is expressed that Larry and Patty do not like Junior being a vegetarian, with Larry telling Zebra that Junior was "a big disappointment".
Stephan Pastis appears self-reflexively in the strip. He is often seen with Rat, who makes him the target of criticism about his artwork and jokes involving puns. Pastis also is subjected to Rat's antics from time to time, such as when Rat poured beer on one of his drawings and caused it to blur (an effect Pastis said he could only achieve on a computer) and stole all of his clothes. In the strip, Stephan expresses common sense, unlike Rat and some of the other characters. His character has also expressed his hate of being an attorney, which was his former career. As the strip went, his personal appearance on the strip changed from an unseen character, an arrogant, successful cartoonist, and a version of himself that chain-smokes. Stephan in the strip is separated from his wife, Staci.
In the strip of Sunday, February 7, 2010, the Pastis character mourned his real-life father-in-law, Rick Daniels, and received a hug from Pig.
Snuffles (also known as Mister Snuffles) is Zebra's cat. Originally, he was adopted by the crocodiles on September 30, 2007, to kill Zebra because he was the cat at the shelter who scratched and bit the most, but the plan backfired and Snuffles grew to like Zebra. This has not stopped Snuffles from getting into trouble, as he hid weapons of mass destruction for the Syrians and Iraqis, concealed Osama bin Laden in his kitty tree, used Zebra's credit card to binge purchase beer, fenced stolen property, ran an illegal booking operation, scalped tickets, and various other illegal doings. Snuffles is often seen with Guard Duck.
A few strips shows a group of Lemmings [count is 4 or 5, usually 4] on the edge of a cliff speaking out their purpose just before they are about to commit their mass suicide. The confessions and feelings spoken out during these gossips bring humour to the strip .They are usually on top of each other and had sworn on an oath that each would jump once the suicide session is initiated by the topmost member [named Fred]. Apparently, he does not seem to be entirely faithful as shown in one strip where he opens up a parachute just after the jump.
- Jef the Cyclist - An arrogant cyclist who says he's better than everyone. He is based on Jef Mallet, the creator of the comic Frazz
- Pigita - Pig's on and off girlfriend, who will beat him up when he says the wrong thing, which is often.
- Andy - A chained up dog who wants to be unchained. Stephan wrote that he gets complaints for having Andy on the chain.
- Staci Pastis - Stephan's wife, who kicked him out of the house.
- Neighbor Bob - Pig and Rat's next-door neighbor, who Rat frequently fights with.
- Farina - Pig's sister, a germaphobe who lives in a plastic bubble who Rat has a crush on and used to go out with. Farina has dated some other comic characters, including Dilbert (who went inside her plastic bubble and left behind his tie) and Hagar the Horrible (who also entered her bubble and left his helmet behind). Farina has also dated Ziggy.
- Viking Figurines - Two Viking action figures owned by Pig that collect daises and watch Oprah and Ellen.
- Max and Zach - Two lions that live from the other side of Zebra, but do not hunt because the female lions hunt.
- Comic Strip Censor - A man who will get mad when a character (Usually Rat) says something inappropriate. Stephan says he likes using this character because it lets him get away with inappropriate things.
- Gary - The manager to Joe's Roastery, a Starbucks like cafe which Rat frequently will get a job at.
- Pig's Mom - Another Pig which Pig writes letters to. She appears from time to time in the strip.
- Bombast Cable - Rat and Pig's cable company which Rat will call in frustration about outages, which happen frequently.
- Inanimate Objects - Random inanimate objects (usually food) that Pig will become friends with.
- Neighbor Nancy - Rat and Pig's neighbor (usually seen with Pig) who has random problems.
The strip is set in a fictional suburb in Albany, California. Places where the characters can be found at are: a brick wall, a beach, a curb, a bar, and a diner.
Meaning of the title
The title Pearls Before Swine refers to the admonition "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." that Jesus gave according to Matthew 7:6 in the Bible.
Artistically, Pearls is extremely simple. Pastis stated, "People say that they like my strip's simplicity, but I'm doing the best I can to just to get up to that level. I'm not dumbing the art down."
Pearls is also a meta-comic in that it often satirizes the comics medium, and allows its characters to break the fourth wall and either communicate directly with the author or with characters from other strips. Pearls will often also mock older strips, such as Cathy and Family Circus. Pastis will often employ a shaggy dog story, using a great amount of dialogue to spin an elaborate yarn often resolved with a character's unforeseen death or near death. A variation known as a feghoot builds to an intentionally bad pun in the penultimate panel, with the final panel showing the cartoon version of Pastis as the target of criticism, hostility, or even physical violence from the characters, usually Rat. The characters also frequently acknowledge the fact that they are in a comic strip published in newspapers; the strip published on January 14, 2008, had "roof fish" sitting on top of the panel fishing for the characters, and other strips have had such events as smeared newsprint or beer affected the appearance of the strip or strips in which it seems as if the paginators had laid out the strip wrong. Other comic strips are often the butt of punchlines, and several cartoon characters from outside Pearls have appeared,
Pearls uses dark humor, at times involving topics such as death, depression and human suffering.
Lou Gehrig's Disease strips
In an introduction on one of his books, Pastis wrote that the March 3, 2003 strip was hated by Lou Gehrig fans. In the strip, Pig thought it was a coincidence that Lou Gehrig would die of a disease that had the same name as himself, not knowing that the disease was named after Gehrig.
President Bush strip
The August 17, 2003 strip featured Rat writing a letter to then-president George W. Bush, telling him that if he is to bomb every country on Earth before leaving office, he must bomb three countries every month and bomb France more than once, if there's extra time. Goat warns Rat that if he sends the letter, the government will see him as a "whacko" and investigate him. However, in the last panel, Bush seems to accept Rat's plan to bomb three countries every month, saying, "Okay... October is Mexico, Canada, and Hawaii," unaware Hawaii is part of the United States. Pastis writes in Lions and Tigers and Crocs, Oh My! that many people were offended by the negative depiction of Bush and criticized the strip, while an apparently equal number of people appreciated the mockery and praised the strip.
The strip for November 9, 2003, featured a "'Pearls' Walk Through Alternative History." In it, the parents of musicians Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Miles Davis, and Paul McCartney are shown accepting medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to give to their children. In the final panel, Rat and Pig are shown at a record store, sighing because the only records available are those of Pat Boone. Pastis said many readers sent him emails both praising and criticizing the strip.
The July 2, 2004, strip showed Rat introducing his friend Bennie to Goat. Rat explains that Bennie is physically attracted to both men and women. Goat says that this means that he is bisexual, but Rat says that Bennie is attracted to both sexes only because he is lonely. Because Bennie does not choose to be attracted to be both sexes, Rat does not consider him to be a bisexual and instead calls him "desperasexual." Some readers were offended by what they perceived as the strip's assertion that a bisexual chooses to be attracted to both sexes, taking it as a comment on the political aspects of homosexuality.
The Midget strip
On November 15, 2005, a farcical strip in which Pastis pretended to be on hiatus ran. In his stead, Rat "wrote the comic" that day, promising to avoid any offensive material. In the strip, Rat decides to throw a midget off a pier to see how much distance he could get. The strip ends with Stephen Pastis asking his wife why angry short people are holding signs on their lawn. Despite the general idea of Pastis attempting to parody his history of offensive comic strips, an angry letter ran in an Oklahoma newspaper (The Stillwater Newspress), outraged that it was supposed to be considered humorous that someone would propose throwing a midget off a pier. Pearls Before Swine was canceled from the paper a few weeks later.
Rat the Babysitter
In a series from March 20–25, 2006, Rat was hired to babysit Zoe and Hammie from the family-oriented strip Baby Blues. Instead of responsibly watching the children, Rat drinks alcohol and has Zoe and Hammie go to the liquor store to get him more. On the way, Hammie runs over Jeremy from the comic Zits, killing Jeremy, and then crashes the car into a gas pump, causing a massive fire. Rat then left baby Wren alone so that he could catch a movie, causing the infant to nearly be attacked by the two of the Crocodiles, whom she ultimately kills. she then calls her mother, addressing her by name and swearing, asking for pillow feathers to use for stuffing the aforementioned dead crocs. Some readers sent angry letters to Pastis, as well as to Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott, the creators of Baby Blues, for letting Pastis use their characters. According to Pastis, "Mixing kids and alcohol and having Rat babysit while drunk just threw some uptight readers over the edge. Many of them responded like I had actually endangered real kids, making no allowance for the fact that the Baby Blues kids are pen and ink. In the next Monday's Baby Blues strip, Rick drew a beat-up crocodile on the floor of the kids' living room, proving to everyone that Rick and Jerry knew about this in advance. I think that quieted down some of the outrage toward me."
Washing machine strip
On September 26, 2006, alternate strips were provided to newspapers due to that day's strip involving Pig playing in a washing machine. Concurrent news involved the Jimella Tunstall case, in which her children were allegedly murdered by a friend and hidden from the authorities in a washing machine. Despite the fact that Pastis works 10 months ahead of time, the majority of readers did not know this, so many papers and websites that syndicated the strip ran the alternate strips instead.
Atatürk the Llama strips
Two Pearls Before Swine strips (January 9 and 10, 2007), which showed a llama named Atatürk, caused the Turkish ambassador to the United States to send a letter to George W. Bush, demanding an apology. In these strips, Atatürk is a United Nations diplomat, whose form of diplomacy is to spit on other diplomats. Many readers of Turkish descent were offended, seeing it as a mockery of former Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Their interpretation of the strip was supported by the fact that Pastis is of Greek descent, and Greece and Turkey have historically been enemies. Pastis denied that the strip was mocking Mustafa Atatürk, saying that he knew almost nothing about Atatürk and used the name simply because he liked the sound of it. He received angry, hate-filled emails (some of which contained death threats), and even received a letter from the Turkish Ambassador to the United States demanding an apology. Pastis calls it the single biggest controversy he has ever experienced in the history of Pearls.
Alleged use of "fuck"
An editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri told local TV station KMOV-TV that he or she believed Pastis inserted the word "fuck" in the August 11, 2009, strip, within a panel containing a garbled array of typography. Pastis responded on his blog, "Apparently, certain readers think they see the 'f' word appearing twice in this panel. Personally, I can’t see it, and I know it was not in the strip as I created it. The only thing I can think of is that the way in which certain newspapers compressed the strip resulted in the 'f' word appearing.
Jef The Cyclist
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The strip of February 8, 2012, with a previously introduced character named Jef, generated controversy for Rat's line in the last panel, "And that's why I try to run them over." Pastis said he did not know he had stumbled upon a sensitive subject in the world of cycling, drivers who try to scare cyclists by purposefully trying to run them off the road. In "Pearls Falls Fast," Pastis says he believes that this strip caused the most anger since the "Atatürk the Llama" strips.
The strip on July 27, 2016 consisted of Pig talking to his sister on the phone. When his sister says, "My friend and me are going to the movies", Pig tries to correct her saying "I, 'sis' " but the conversation catches the attention of the NSA (via wiretapping). Thinking he is a terrorist, Pig is arrested by the FBI.
The strip was censored in newspapers and online, causing Pastis to release the strip on Twitter without problems. In other platforms the strip was replaced with a 2006 redrawing of the popular January 31, 2002 strip ("One person living or dead").
Almost the entire month of December 2003 caused controversy to Pearls. Here are some of the strips from that month:
Jerusalem Bus strip
On December 28, 2003, the Pearls Before Swine strip shows a television set on which a news program is being aired. The news program describes a bus that exploded that day in Jerusalem. The announcer talks about the humanity of the children who died in the explosion, emphasizing small characteristics of their lives that show them as normal children. The announcer strays off topic while attempting to convey that the children have similarities to the people watching the news program. In the final panel, however, the announcer reminds those watching the program that the children are now dead. The strip is sad and sympathetic, in that it laments the loss of the children, and unusual in that it does not attempt to be funny and shows none of the strip's regular characters. Pastis says that some readers were angry because it (apparently) showed only Israel's side of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. However, he also says that many more readers loved the strip. In all, the strip prompted around 2,500 emails to Pastis.
"You stupid fairy!"
On December 30, 2003, in a series where Pig was teaching his plastic army men toys not to fight, Rat called him a "stupid fairy." Pastis thought the word was simply another word for "sissy", not realizing that "fairy" is often a slang term for a homosexual man. United Feature Syndicate requested that Pastis replace the word "fairy" with "sissy", but the two later agreed to send out both the original strip with the word "fairy" and another with the word "sissy" and the subscribing papers could choose which one they decided to run. One newspaper did not get the alternate strip on time and instead ran a blank space in the comics where Pearls was supposed to be.
In an interview on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch that aired February 7, 2008, Pastis mentioned that he had been approached by producers about an animated TV series based on Pearls.
In 2009, a line of Pearls plush dolls was released by Aurora World, Inc., featuring four characters (Rat, Pig, Zebra and Croc) from the comic, to which Pastis jokingly said he would use for reference when unsure how to draw the characters.
Bill Watterson appearance
From June 2–6, 2014, Bill Watterson collaborated with Stephan Pastis to make a series of comics centered around a girl across the street named "Libby", later shortened to "Lib". This was exciting to both fans of Pearls Before Swine and Calvin and Hobbes because it was the first time Watterson had made an appearance in comics since his own had ended 20 years before. Stephan met Libby when she knocked on his door, telling him that she needed to interview a cartoonist for a school project. The comic ends with Libby insulting Pastis by asking if he knew a cartoonist. Later in the week, she continues to blatantly insult him (she tells him he writes and draws like @#*#), and then tries her hand at drawing "Pearls" for 3 days, where she continues to insult Stephan by drawing better than him. At first, Pastis is annoyed and just wants her to leave, but then he changes his tune when she draws him as a hunk surrounded by scantily clad women. After that, he wants her to keep drawing his comic strip, but she tells him that "there's a magical world out there to explore" (a direct Calvin and Hobbes quote) and never returns again. Those three comics that "Libby" drew, however, were drawn by Bill Watterson. Stephan tells his story of meeting with Watterson in his blog and how shocked he was to collaborate with him.
Cartoonist Darby Conley, creator of Get Fuzzy, helped teach Pastis the technical aspects of cartooning. The two remain friends, sometimes poking fun at each other in their strips. In Pearls Blows Up, Stephan says that he replaces some of the usual squiggle-marks indicating swear words with a poorly drawn picture of Darby Conley's head. In a Get Fuzzy strip, Rob asks Satchel if an annoying lawyer named Stephan called. Satchel has a Pearls book next to him. Conley also drew Pastis in his strip twice during a week where the two cartoonists decided to play a prank on their syndicate by having Conley copy and paste Get Fuzzy characters over Pearls strips. In the story Conley accidentally receives some unpublished Pearls Before Swine comics in the mail and decides to use them after running late with his strips. Later Pastis calls up Conley wanting to talk about how his strips are similar to his that week. First Conley pretends not to speak English and later he tells Conley to call him back but blocks his number. Pastis said that the prank fooled readers of both Get Fuzzy and Pearls, with fans of his strip writing to him saying that "some jerk" (Conley) was ripping him off.
There are more than a dozen Pearls Before Swine books, mostly collections of strips published during a specific nine to ten-month period.
Pearls Before Swine won National Cartoonists Society Award for Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and 2006, with nominations in 2002 and 2008 as well. Pastis was one of the society's nominees for "Cartoonist of the Year" for 2008,  2009,  2010,  2011, and 2012. Pearls Before Swine also won the 2015 Reuben award for best newspaper comic strip.
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- Pastis, Stephan, Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004; ISBN 0-7407-4807-6), p.5: "Pearls was supposed to launch in newspapers on January 7, 2002. But just prior to the launch, the Washington Post bought the strip and wanted to start running it a week early. Thus, this week of strips [dated beginning 12/31] was quickly put together just for the Post, and this [12/31] strip became the first Pearls strip, published in exactly one paper".
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