A Bug’s Gift is a comic ‘one-shot’ produced by the educational comic publisher Discovery Comics in 1991. It’s written by Scott Deschaine, who is best known for writing 12 page educational comics for the Discovery Comics publishing company. His other works include Screaming Eagle, a 291 page graphic novel that was illustrated by comic industry veteran Mike Roy, and Blue Block, an independent comic published through Kitchen Sink Press.
When I first flipped through A Bug’s Gift, I thought it was a comic book about sexual abuse. That’s not a big stretch of the imagination considering Discovery Comics has produced quite a few PSA (Public Service Announcement) comics over the years.
Here are some of the classic titles from Discovery Comics’ library, as described on their website:
Moving With Mr. Mouse: A comic about moving and relocation for young children. (I actually wish I would have had this one when I was growing up. My mom was a gypsy.)
Mcgruff’s Surprise Party: Substance abuse prevention for elementary children. (Most people I knew who grew up in the 80s became more interested in drugs after reading these types of anti-drug comics, essentially causing more drug-use than they prevented. That’s just been my personal experience.)
Way to Grow: A comic about adolescent menstruation for late elementary and middle school girls (no comment).
So, was A Bug’s Gift a comic telling the horrors of a sexually abused child? I’m not really sure. I have no idea what this comic is about. Actually, come to think of it, this is the most messed up comic I’ve ever read. That’s saying a lot. From the best of what I can gather, the story’s a vague and morbid tale of life and death.
The story opens with a short comic strip about a boy who saves a man from drowning, and as a result, ends up dying himself. The title of this heartwarming tale is One Who Saves a Drowning Man is Doomed to Take His Place. Yeah, and that’s just the first four panels. After the first page, the story takes one dark turn after another.
What’s so bad about this comic you ask? Well, let’s start with the cast of the book. There’s a boy, his dad, and a centipede. The story opens with the young boy sitting alone and reading a book about death. He’s interrupted by his dad, who runs out of the bathroom in a towel, with an unconscious centipede in his hand. He then asks his son to help him revive it.
The scene that follows is a very awkward sequence of a half naked man (wearing only a towel around his waist) and a little boy crouched on the floor. The dad demands that his son “blow on him gently.” Eventually you realize that he’s telling the boy to blow on the centipede to dry him off, but the artwork doesn’t effectively deliver this point. The child begins to debate with his father, saying that they should just “let it die.”
His dad argues that they should save the little bug, and it doesn’t deserve to die just because it’s ugly. After some hard blowing, it starts to wiggle, and they put it in a box before going to bed. They wake up the next morning, and the dad is still sporting his towel. I’m thinking maybe he’s getting out of the tub again, or maybe he’s just compulsive. No, and no. He wears that towel throughout the entire comic like it’s an outfit.
The dad (wearing nothing but a towel around his waist) takes his son outside to let the bug free. As the little thing scampers off, they smile, wave, and say goodbye. The comic should have ended here, but it doesn’t. What follows is one of the most gruesome chain of events ever.
As the centipede is shuffling off, you think everything is going to be fine. Think again!
First, a giant spider comes out of a hole, bites the bug on its back and eats it. Then a wasp flies down and stings the spider and kills it. As the wasp is buzzing away, a bird swoops down in an attempt to eat the flying insect. Before the bird gets a chance to devour his prey, a truck drives by and kills the bird and the wasp by crushing them both on the windshield. At that very moment, the little boy crashes his bike in the middle of the street, and he’s momentarily trapped underneath it. The guy driving the truck swerves and has a wreck, narrowly missing the boy.
I’m gonna stop right here and ask the question: How the heck is a child supposed to process this much death?! Basically, the comic had a lot of cute little creatures that were viciously killed one by one. All the while, dad is just prancing around in his bath towel!
So, dad comes running out with a towel still wrapped around his waist, asking if his son is okay. What follows is yet another uncomfortable scene with the dad hugging his son in a bath towel. Now maybe I was just raised in a loveless home, but I’ve never so much as shook hands with my dad while he was naked. Much less, give him a firm embrace. It’s just weird. Dude, put on some clothes, stop hanging out in the bathroom, and keep an eye on your son for a change! He’s hanging out in the street and reading books about death. There is something seriously wrong here, and you’re too busy ‘bath toweling it up’ to notice.
The last panel shows the little boy looking at the crashed truck with a big grin on his face. I think the intent was to make the ending lighthearted, but it comes off as really creepy. The comic leaves me with an empty feeling inside, like I just listened to a passionate lecture on existentialism. This book freaks me out, and I imagine that it would easily scar a child for life. I find this comic more disturbing than entertaining.
On Discovery Comics’ website, the mission statement reads: “One of our main goals is to present a positive view of the world for children.”
Wow. Really? Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to buy some wrist bands from Hot Topic, because this comic has convinced me that I’m an emo.