Rob has done an amazing job here of playing out another of Joyce’s jokes, this one rather elaborate, about high and low culture and Joyce’s own identity as an author–as well as taking on the interesting artistic challenge of depicting someone taking a crap in comic book form.
The penny-weekly Tit-Bits would publish a “Prize Titbit” in each issue, and the author would get the payment quoted here; at one guinea a column, Bloom calculates a total payment of 3 pounds 13 shillings sixpence (now this would be worth about $367.50, a lot for a little sketch but almost as much as what Stephen makes as a teacher). Again, as with “Bath of the Nymph,” art is cast entirely in commercial terms.
Furthermore, Gifford points out the following: “Matcham’s Masterstroke” is a reference to a story Joyce himself submitted to Tit-Bits as a teenager, for which he very much hoped to get paid. Phillip Beaufoy was a real person who contributed to Tit-Bits, although like Paul de Kock, he was not the author of the actual piece referenced; his posh London address is somewhat at odds with the cheap publication he writes for.
But it’s that last thought bubble and the lower panel that adds another layer to the joke; unlike the “Prize Titbit,” Ulysses itself is monumental: we hope it’s not too big. Rob’s paralleling the narrator’s text boxes elaborating Bloom’s bowel movement point for point alongside Bloom’s thought bubbles on his reading illustrate beautifully Joyce’s playful attitude towards high and low culture. Art and shit: it’s all the same. And we don’t have to worry too much about what to do with Ulysses: if we look at that last thought bubble and the final text box of the page on the lower right hand side, it seems the bigness and possible overwhelmingness isn’t the problem we thought it might be.