I have a feeling that grawlixes were designed for comedy cartoons used in newspaper columns (although I can't find its exact origin; not talking about the term "grawlix" which I believe was coined in 1964). I am interested to know when SFF comics adopted grawlixes (which can be much before 1964).

There are several examples. Yes, our Deadpool is in the list:

Deadpool grawlix

Other examples:

Grawlix 2

Spider-Man cursing

Which SFF comics first used grawlixes?

  • We need a precise definition of "SFF comic" seeing as the first instances were probably in mainstream comic strips with SFF elements.
    – user14111
    Jan 4, 2018 at 23:53
  • @user14111 It is difficult to see how superhero comics can be considered not SFF: certainly the prevalent space opera, super powers, mutants and magic fall under fantasy as a literary category.
    – Lexible
    Jan 5, 2018 at 0:40
  • @user14111, but surely a SFF comic is SFF. :) Also: no idea about the Katzenjammers (I know what they look like, but have never read them. :) Now if it was Krazy Kat I would give a resounding "YES!" to the question of SFF. :)
    – Lexible
    Jan 5, 2018 at 1:28
  • 2
    Hardly the earliest, but there is a grawlix in the 3rd panel of the Li'l Abner daily strip for 11/27/51. Of course the Li'l Abner comic had lots of SFF, most famously the shmoos.
    – user14111
    Jan 5, 2018 at 2:22
  • Unrelated but where is that second panel from? Because there's the almost same exact one in Venom: Lethal Protector #2 (1993) so I'm wondering if that's a homage?
    – Jenayah
    Oct 20, 2018 at 10:18

1 Answer 1


TL;DR: 1936. Answer goes from describing the one I found, how I found it, what could be an earlier instance, and ends on a treat for nitpickers.

I've done some research (see below) and the earliest one I can trace is this panel from "The Secret Ray", also known as "Manitoba no reply", the first issue of The adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko by Belgian author Hergé, which was originally pre-published in the French weekly newspaper Cœurs vaillants.

The panel is dated from February 2, 1936. Full page here, if you're curious.

Coeurs Vaillants

From where I stand, "The Secret Ray" qualifies as SFF in the sense that while Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko can feel like classic 1930s action-adventure stories for children, this particular story features:

  1. An evil scientist who created a taser-like ray, as well as the title "secret ray", which he uses to put ships' crews to sleep and steal from them.

    Taser-like ray

  2. A killer robot, creation of aforementioned scientist. The robot is remote-controlled, but is intended to be fully autonomous, the "first living being ever created", elevating its creator as a God.

    Robot from "Manitoba no reply"

Research done

I meant to randomly browse 40s-50s Marvel/DC comics at first, but I grew up with Franco-Belgian comics, and the grawlixes are recurrent in those. I found several in Tintin issues, which were also written and drawn by Hergé. Not all Tintin issues qualify as SFF though, so I went for "Manitoba no reply" which I knew was SFF.

Bingo, just had to trace back the original one from the 30s to make sure the grawlix wasn't added in the later reprints. Jackpot, it wasn't. :-)

So what could be an earlier instance?

  • For the sake of completeness, let's mention this Slate article which provides a 1902 grawlix from Katzenjammer Kids (not SFF as far as I know).
  • The Hergé panel being dated from 1936, most classic comics franchises are out (Superman for instance debuted in 1938).
  • user14111 mention Li'l Abner in a comment, with a grawlix dated November 27, 1951. I've been through a good bunch of the 1934-1935 Li'l Abner strips (available on this website) and found none, though it's possible I missed one. However, the SFF element in this comic is apparently the Shmoos, which if I am to believe Wikipedia were only introduced in 1948.
  • I don't have access to early Tarzan and Mandrake the magician comics, but grawlixes usually are a "comedy" thing, and from the little I know of these, they don't seem to qualify.
  • There's a comic titled The Adventures of Patsy which involve a magical kingdom and a magician, and looks cartoonish. It debuted in 1934 though, so it's a narrow period to catch up to Hergé's 1936.

For nitpickers

Someone wants to argue that the 1936 panel isn't exactly profanity, and just the ship's captain's confusion (though it could be profanity - the captain's confusion was already depicted in the panel before)?

Fine, here's my second best. It's the earliest grawlix in Tintin's issue "Prisoners of the Sun" (1948). Not the first grawlix in all Tintin issues, but the first in a SFF one.

Haddock awoken by an anteater

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.