STRIP REVIEW: LoserPalooza
First, the consumer report: LoserPalooza is a treasury-sized collection, which means it’s larger and more expensive than the usual run of comic-strip collections, and also that it collects strips from two previous smaller collections. In this case, LoserPalooza has the comics from Say Cheezy and Scrum Bums. LoserPalooza does have the Sunday strips in color, though, so it’s not entirely twice-baked beans. (It’s also rarely clear whether a strip is being reprinted in its entirety to begin with, or if all of the strips from the smaller collections make it into the Treasuries; specifically, it’s not clear in this case.)
Get Fuzzy is one of the most successful new strips of the past decade, and possibly the most successful strip launch since Dilbert in 1989. (The competition includes strips like Pickles, Baby Blues, and Adam @ Home, which aren’t as edgy as Get Fuzzy and so are probably in more papers daily. On the other hand, Get Fuzzy seems to be one of the most successful comics when it comes to selling reprint collections, so it’s hard to tell which strip actually makes the most money or has the most readers.) In any case, it’s still fairly young, for a daily newspaper strip, and it’s grown to a lot of papers pretty quickly.
As the characters note in a storyline mid-way through this book, Get Fuzzy could be seen as a Bizarro-world version of Garfield. A man of indeterminate age (Rob Wilco) lives with a cat (Bucky) and a dog (Satchel), and funny stuff ensues. Except, in Get Fuzzy, we don’t identify with the cat – Bucky is clearly insane (as all cats are). Satchel is lovable but dim, also like most dogs. And Rob isn’t quite as much of a loser as Jon Arbuckle. Well, he is a vegan rugby fan who hasn’t had a date in years, does something unspecified involving crunching numbers, and roots for the Red Sox – so maybe I should say that he’s a more realistic loser than Jon is. Get Fuzzy doesn’t have the ground-into-the-turf running jokes Garfield does – and I hope it won’t, even if it runs for thirty years – but it’s vastly younger than Garfield is, and hasn’t had time to get stale.
Get Fuzzy is a joke-a-day strip, with continuing storylines about half of the time. Conley is occasionally fond of puns for punchlines, which could be deadly. Luckily, he also likes to construct very elaborate shaggy-dog jokes to get to those punchlines, so that, even if the pun itself isn’t incredibly funny, the road to it is. But the jokes comes out of the character’s personalities most of the time – Satchel is sweet but dumb, Bucky is angry and often confused, and Rob is what passes for their anchor to reality.
Analyzing humor, as E.B. White said, is like dissecting a frog (it’s unpleasant to watch and the frog inevitably dies), so I won’t go into greater details. Get Fuzzy is essentially a humor strip, so any particular reader will either find it funny or won’t. It’s still a young strip, and as strong as it ever was – in comparison to some seventy- or eighty-year old strips still cluttering up the comics pages. Conley’s art is detailed enough without cluttering up the small space that strips get these days, and he’s particularly good at facial expressions. (His characters have very expressive eyes.)
It’s one of my favorite newspaper strips, and LoserPalooza is a giant collection of it; so I might not be entirely unbiased, but I loved this book.
LoserPalooza: A Get Fuzzy Treasury
Andrews McMeel, 2007, $16.95