The History of Grawlixes

While reading The Amazing Captain Casual you might have noticed certain words that have been replaced with a series of symbols (ex: &@^#). If you are an avid comic book reader then it is likely you have come across this trope before: if so, feel free to skip this history lesson, content in your superiority. This section is dedicated to all of those people who spent the entire book wondering, “What the #*^% is up with all these &@^# symbols?”.

Grawlixes, also called Obscenicons, can be found throughout the history of comics and function as a method to imply profanity or anger, while still keeping things “family friendly”. The first Grawlix showed up in 1909 in a newspaper strip called The Katzenjammer Kids, which was written by Rudolph Dirks. Since then it has been employed by various writers and artists, even making its way into series like Mickey Mouse and Richie Rich. This is an especially popular device in superhero comic books where they often feature adult characters in situations so unfortunate that they would encourage any person’s inclination towards profanity, but also still want to keep the series accessible to its younger fans. Basically, Grawlixes are a comedic and visually expressive way to keep the emotional emphasis of maledicta without setting off the warning bells of well-meaning parents everywhere.

Now at this point you might be thinking, “Sure, that’s some cool history, but if these Grawlixes are only ever used in comics, why are they showing up in a novel?”. To answer your question, I wrote The Amazing Captain Casual with the intention of both poking fun at and paying homage to the superhero comic book world and in that world, Grawlixes are a recurring theme. More than that though, I thought it would be funny.