Rube Goldberg - Writer, Storyteller, Comic Creator and Impact in Cartoons.


Rube Goldberg was not just a cartoonist but he was also a writer. He wrote stories that were considered popular during his time. This was the time when he gave up cartooning for writing. He did come back to editorial cartooning soon when he worked for the New York Sun. The fact that he could write stories should not be surprising because each of the comics that he had produced needed a story. What make comics special are the stories, or at least the dose of humor, in them.


It was evident in Rube Goldberg’s Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts character that he loved cartooning. He was able to create a character that appealed to a lot of people. The character is placed in a setup that is not only comical but also comes with scientific and inventive ambition.

An Enduring Character/ Alter Ego

Maybe people best loved Goldberg’s Professor Butts character because he was the one character that is closest to what Goldberg was all about. After all, Rube Goldberg was a tinkerer and the Professor always gets involved with all kinds of strange inventions. Of course, the very fact that the cartoon offers a lot of ingenious ideas should already catch the attention of many fans.

If you look at the character’s name closely, you will realize that Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts is actually the anagram of the artist-scientist’s full name, which was Reuben Lucius Goldberg. So, the association with Goldberg is not at all imagined but very real. Goldberg has identified with the character he himself created. Through this creation, he was able to use and pursue his engineering knowledge and combine it with art. Goldberg did not, however, build the inventions in real life. These inventions were only created in his mind and later on through ink on paper.


The inventions that were created and illustrated by Rube Goldberg followed the same basic model: the creation of a complicated machine that will actually only perform simple tasks, which can even be accomplished with something non-technological. A great example of this is the contraption he designed to be used to wipe the face. You can obviously just wipe your face with a napkin. However, with Goldberg’s invention, it takes fourteen steps out of a complicated machine for your mouth to get wiped by the Self-Operating Napkin. It all just sounds very sophisticated and advanced. In the end though, what could have been a very simple task has become very complicated for no other reason than to show how one process can affect the next to create a domino effect.

Of course, this particular nature is only referring to the innovation comic designs. Goldberg was able to deliver other comic strips. In general though, the comics displayed clean but detailed lines.


As said earlier, a Rube Goldberg invention follows the same principle. All of the comic strips that involve the famous Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts come with a new complex comic invention tasked with a simple role. Because of this, Rube Goldberg’s name has become synonymous to any simple task that is accomplished by going through complex steps.

Making a Literal Mark

The coining of the phrase “Rube Goldberg” shows just how important the artist-scientist was and had become. The phrase also makes it possible for such a precise definition to be made about making simple things complex. The Merriam Webster definition mentioned during the discussion of his early career showed how official this phrase had become. If you have studied literature then you might compare the term “Rube Goldberg” to the term defamiliarization. Something familiar has somehow become strange but the experience becomes a lot more fun as a result.

The Rube Name in Screenplays

The term “Rube Goldberg” has actually been used in reference to trivial plots in screenplays that somehow manage to expand to the point that it has become the most vital part of the whole story. So, the engineer-cartoonist-journalist also has left some traces of his influences on literature.

Humor is the Name

Rube Goldberg has, therefore, devoted a career to making mundane experiences a lot more strange and exciting. Professor Butts’ over-complicated way of handling tasks also made for a high dose of great humor. That is added fun. While Butts was certainly earnest with his inventions, we know just by looking at those contraptions that we could have accomplished the task with no problem even without their fancy bolts, switches, wheels, gears sockets and whatever else made them up.


Having been born in 1883, a few years before the turn of the century, Rube Goldberg was highly influenced by the machine age. During the turn of the century, more and more inventions had been introduced to supposedly make life a lot easier. It was a time when there were rapid contributions to science and technology. The speed of those developments could be compared to today’s rapid developments in computer technology.

Goldberg was born at the right time. He was also a natural artist with engineering training. So, he was able to really appreciate the introduction of running water, electricity, automobiles and telephones.

There were several inventions that were getting their patents during that time. Some of these inventions were the most similar to Goldberg’s own creations. Examples of such were motorized shoe polishers and automatic hat tippers. During the moment of discovery, not everyone was able to come up with relevant and necessary inventions.
Those inventions, which were made for the sake of simply showing what science could do, were the ones that Goldberg was poking fun of in his cartoons.

Generally, there was the rising dependency on inventions. Today, we could easily relate to this because we had also become dependent on the conveniences offered by modern inventions.

During his time, Goldberg was not only able to appreciate the new conveniences offered to them then but he was also able to find the humor in the situation. This helped him become a master satirist.


Goldberg’s cartoons had become even more popular and relevant as time went by. The invention cartoons, which feature the inquisitive professor, show how modern technology can be bought beneficial and debilitating. Modern technology is supposed to make things a lot easier, simpler and faster to the point that people have become over-dependent on all of the new contraptions that inventors are introducing to the rest of the world. In many cases, we have to admit, the inventions are important and necessary to the society’s move towards a more prosperous and more technologically advanced future. Continue to next page.