December 28, 2006


Baby Blues: Framed. By Rick Kirkman & Jerry Scott. Andrews McMeel. $16.95.

     Let us now praise Baby Blues, the only comic strip to bring you both the lines “Tadpoles in the toilet!!  Nobody flush!!” and the trip to the zoo for two parents and three kids, where the father says, “We’d like five tickets – two roundtrip, and three one way.”

     Real life was never like this – except that it is like this every day for parents of young children…only not so funny.  Baby Blues is something very rare: a comic strip that reflects family life, year in and year out, with unerring accuracy plus utterly endearing amusement.  With one calendar year on the way out and another on the way in, this is as good a time as any to consider just how well the realities, or near-realities, of modern family life are presented by Jerry Scott (who also writes Zits, a family-oriented comic that is equally wonderful in a different way) and Rick Kirkman.

     Baby Blues: Framed is an oversize “Treasury” volume, which means it contains previously published strips – in this case, from the smaller-size collections Our Server Is Down and Something Chocolate This Way Comes.  As usual in Andrews McMeel “Treasury” books, you get a few things here that were not in the original volumes: color Sunday strips and, in this case, a refrigerator magnet suitable for framing your favorite Baby Blues strip (or cutting them out day after day and framing each one).  Despite these extras, it is hard to justify buying this book if you already have the two smaller-size ones – unless you cut up the smaller ones to put those strips inside the magnet included with this one.  How’s that for subtle but effective marketing?

     If you don’t have the previous collections and do have children, this “Treasury” is a treasure that’s definitely worth having.  The adventures of the MacPherson clan – parents Darryl and Wanda, children Zoe, Hammie and Wren – continue to mirror daily family life with an eerie combination of reality and surreality.  There’s sibling rivalry: baby Wren has a fever, so middle child Hammie demands loudly, “If she got one, I get one too!”  There’s the art of apologizing: Zoe says, “If this is about the footprint in the pie crust, I said I was sorry!”  There’s the plight of staying at home to raise children: one strip is drawn sideways to accommodate the huge size of a pile of laundry, and one Sunday entry has Wanda waking up from a nightmare, “the one where I give up my career to become a stay-at-home mom with three ungrateful kids, a big mortgage, flabby thighs, and no time for myself.”  There’s the art of finding parent-alone time: in another Sunday strip, Darryl tries to watch TV, Zoe and Hammie bicker constantly, so Darryl starts explaining baseball to them in detail and they get bored and walk away – leading Wanda to say, “Teach me this.”

     Kirkman and Scott are unerringly on-target in their focus on life with kids.  Wanda wanders through a clothing store until she comes to the section called “Throw-it-on-and-hope-for-the-best-wear.”  The MacPhersons visit an enormous pick-a-melon patch, where Zoe and Hammie both choose the same melon and fight over it.  Wanda and Darryl spot a toy marked “NEW and even more annoying” – it’s called “Grandma’s Revenge.”  And Wanda sits quietly with Wren, thinking, “I’ve witnessed every burp, smile, hiccup and whimper this baby has ever made, at the expense of my personal interests, career and social life.  Good trade.”

     That’s what it’s all about: kids, families and Baby Blues.  Bravo – again.

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