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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #227: Jim

An existential crisis in slow motion.

Nothing ever happens to Jim, at least, nothing interesting. Jim's Journal by Scott Dikkers (a co-founder of The Onion) has been running more or less since 1988, openly mocking the four-panel comic strip format with its documentation of the monotonous and boring life of dull protagonist Jim. The strips depict in mind-numbing detail the minutiae of Jim's daily activities, such as feeding the cat or working at McDonald's or attending college classes. They're not funny, or heartwarming, or exciting, or insightful, and the spare line drawings are intentionally bereft of any artistic merit. Quiet, reserved, and lacking any detectable ambition in life, Jim goes about his squiggly business, observing and recording the goings-on around him almost entirely without comment or judgment. He is a piece of human flotsam.

And yet, there's something compelling about it. When presented with a large collection of these strips some years ago, I found myself unable to stop reading them. I wanted so badly for something, anything, of import to happen to or even near Jim, and kept manfully plowing through page after page thinking that maybe by dint of my own effort I could help him. The smallest events take on seismic (and yet unremarked) proportions - the acquisition of a cat (Mr. Peterson, who would later prove to be female). The onset of a supposedly romantic relationship with hefty co-worker Ruth. The addition of a roommate. Through it all, Jim remains blandly, frustratingly, unchanged.

Dikkers set out to poke fun at comic strips. And yet I can't shake the feeling that he's making fun of us, too.

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