November 02, 2006


Scrum Bums: A “Get Fuzzy” Collection. By Darby Conley. Andrews McMeel. $10.95.

Brevity. By Guy Endore-Kaiser and Rodd Perry. Andrews McMeel. $10.95.

     Darby Conley’s Get Fuzzy has become something of a phenomenon, even though Conley still has some very strange habits.  One is cartoonist “in” jokes: the latest Get Fuzzy is dedicated to Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) and features a cover in which Bucky Katt and Satchel Pooch are scrimmaging over a rugby ball marked “Dilbert.”  A little of this goes a long way.  So does a little of Rob Wilco, the human in Bucky’s and Satchel’s life, who is drawn in a genuinely ugly style and frequently made to appear as if he is one step from being deranged: in one panel, a slice of pizza fills his entire mouth as he talks about Bucky and stares at nothing with popped eyes…and that’s only one example.  So why does Conley’s work earn a (++++) rating?  Because much of it is genuinely clever, and much of it appears to be intentionally strange – in addition to the parts that seem to be strange because Conley doesn’t seem able to help it.  Conley gets the byplay between aggressive (and aggressively stupid) Bucky and overly nice, thoroughly self-unaware Satchel just right – maybe this cartoonist just has problems with humans.  For instance, Bucky becomes fascinated with Garfield in this collection, thinking that the strip may be an unauthorized Bucky biography.  Rob takes the cat and dog to visit Canada, where Satchel was born, with predictable (and some unpredictable) weirdness.  Satchel, in one of his unending misunderstandings of language and of Rob, determines that Napoleon was a monkey.  Bucky continues his campaign against the ferret living in a nearby apartment – and continues to lose out every time.  Get Fuzzy is an odd sort of strip: part funny-animal comic, part standup-comedian shtick, part pets-and-humans story (Bucky and Satchel speak to people all the time, and the people understand them and talk with them), part character comedy (Chubby Huggs, a cat that hugs everyone, is introduced in this volume, to good effect).  Maybe someday, Conley will do as well with the humans in the strips as with the animals – or maybe the point is that he simply can’t, or simply doesn’t want to.

     What Guy Endore-Kaiser and Rodd Perry, who sign themselves “Guy & Rodd,” want is clear enough: to create another single-panel hit along the lines of Close to Home.  That is one of the cartoon series that Brevity resembles, although it also draws on everything from Non Sequitur (which is occasionally in single-panel format) to The Far Side.  It is a derivative strip, although it is clever enough to earn a (+++) rating.  There is no particular pattern to Guy & Rodd’s panels, and there are no particular recurring characters.  The best panels are genuinely funny, such as a machine with the warning “CAUTION! DO NOT TOUCH! Extreme danger of electric shock!!!” – repeated below the words in Braille.  But most panels are not at that lofty level.  “Newton discovers anti-gravity” has an apple rising from the ground to hit him.  Parents tell their daughter, “Now that you’re 10, we can tell you the truth: beauty isn’t actually in the eye of the beholder.  There are international standards – and you haven’t met them.”  One young woman tells another, “I’m looking for a man who enjoys long walks on the beach – so he has something to do while I’m shopping.”  Most of the jokes are rather blah, and so is most of the drawing (Guy is the writer, Rodd the artist).  There is potential here, because some of the panels require a moment’s thought: crew members of an ocean liner look into the water ahead of the ship and say, “Oh no! Loose lips!”  But for now, Guy & Rodd take the easy way out too much of the time.  In brief, Brevity can be better.

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