“Billy, it’s time you learn about money” is a meme which started as a template created by SrGrafo, a redditor who posts exploitable comics primarily on Reddit. The Billy meme was first posted on Reddit on March 1st, 2019, as part of a comic template contest, where users would submit edits to the template and SrGrafo would judge the entries. This particular template depicts a 3-panel interaction, where a father is handing his child a bill, telling him “Billy, it’s time you learn about money and the importance of…”. The third panel is intentionally left blank, and has a white speech bubble coming from the father as Billy inserts the bill into a similarly blank-screened machine, looking back at the father with a blank stare.
Memes like this one are not necessarily new and the format, known as exploitable templates, have been around since the 2000’s. Although image memes are typically characterized by the ability to reproduce by giving a creative user the ability to add text or paste images over the original image and are usually pulled from popular cultural references (such as movies and paintings), exploitable templates take it one step further and and are produced specifically with missing parts to let another person fill them in. To aid in this purpose, SrGrafo in his comics also uses simple shapes and easy-to-draw characters, further allowing his followers to modify the comics and create new memes.
Who exactly is SrGrafo then? SrGrafo is the online handle of Andre Rojas, an Argentinian artist. His online presence started in 2010 with postings of pixel art and animations related to his job as a video game artist. His popularity on Reddit exploded in early 2019, and since then he has continued to produce comics with repeat characters (including himself) and new meme templates. One of Grafo’s trademarks that possibly made him popular is his reluctance to actually write anything. Instead, SrGrafo responds almost exclusively with little doodles, which are always captioned with the same text “EDIT” each time. SrGrago’s profile, which lists all of his comments and post submissions, is overwhelmingly populated by these “EDIT” doodles.
Whether intentional or not, SrGrafo’s comics have the effect of being easy to read in one glance while also being easy to reproduce. The characters are mostly simple lines, hair is drawn as squiggles, and eyes are usually dots. Color is used primarily to highlight certain things like bits of replaceable text or in some cases, characters that are not Grafo. Grafo, however, always represents himself with the same character, always drawn in black ink.
At first, it seems that Grafo did not intend for his work to be consumed as memes. One of the first instances of his comics being used as a meme came from a comic he posted on Reddit in January, 2019. It rapidly gained popularity, and later that day, another Reddit user, ShiningSquid1291 posted a variant of the comic with the panels reordered and declared it as a meme template with high potential for users to modify. That also gained popularity quickly, and it resulted in SrGrafo posting a cleaned-up version the very next day.
Ever since then, it seems that Grafo took a liking to meme culture in general, and while he tends to post content that is highly memeable, he took it one step further with his exploitable template formats, which the “Billy” comic is one of. In a May 2020 interview with SrGrafo, Zach from knowyourmeme.com asked Andre Rojas if he intentionally creates comics thinking they’ll become memes. Grafo responded by saying that his comics are easily memeable because of the way he expresses the characters and ideas.
Last year, someone told me that it would be fin to have a contest where I make a meme [format] and they create their version, so I did it. […] Things kept going, and now it’s actually a tradition in r/SrGrafo to do that. It’s called the “Weekly Submission Challenge,” and every week I create a comic with empty bubbles or no text, and let users create their versions so I can check them on Fridays.https://knowyourmeme.com/editorials/interviews/webcomic-artist-srgrafo-talks-about-his-art-game-development-and-why-so-many-of-his-creations-wind-up-as-memes
So now, if you ever encounter a random “EDIT” comment somewhere on the internet or see the recognizable comic characters that Grafo draws, you’ll know where it came from. People have been emulating his unique art and comment style for quite some time now on Reddit, and the denizens of many meme-related subreddits know the name SrGrafo very well. It remains to be seen if this format will evolve even more, but for now, it has been fun seeing these memes pop up around Reddit every week.