This is a pretty brilliant name for a team, right? Almost perfect. I’d prefer the Scrapbooking Martha Stewarts. Though another option, the Story Problems, is pretty scary too. I’m getting these from 99% Perspiration, the second collection of Frazz comic strips. During my recent sinus infection I read both (the other is Live From Bryson Elementary) in between more serious tomes. Frazz is my current second favorite, behind Get Fuzzy, ahead of many, many others. What’s next? Well, there’s a big drop. Simply, I have bought books for Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, User Friendly, PhD Comics, Get Fuzzy, and now this creation of Jef Mallett.
Before coming to Louisville, I was fortunate enough to live in Washington and Chicago, where the Post and the Tribune have excellent comics sections, two full pages. Smaller Louisville has one page, which for some reason must be in color. I don’t need to see that a pig is pink or skies are blue. I just want humor. I miss the good funny pages. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I don’t like the New York Times. Printed funny pages are better than online, and that’s part of a newspaper’s mission. I mean, even the Wall Street Journal publishes their humor, though for some reason they call those pages “Editorials”.
Why Frazz? Well, yes, it’s set in a school. Not a college, though occasionally my students have the self-control of those kids. More importantly, it’s a comic not afraid to be intelligent. Many comedians go lowbrow, but any perusal of what I write should indicate that’s not my approach. Others make comments with a little humor designed for a smile, not a laugh. I assume that’s the goal of For Better or for Worse.Otherwise, I’m clueless.I could go on her with examples of jokes, like the long plot line throughout two books about a date, or Halloween costumes, or such. I will point out that Mr. Mallett remembers to provide a measure of respect to all his characters, which is important; if one can’t see the positivity in each person or character, it’s a dangerous place to be anywhere, comic or otherwise.
That said, there are ways these two books could be better. Particularly in the first book, the drawing is poor, to the point of distraction. The world could be a little bigger; it needs recurring characters. Even Frazz’s training buddy, a male nurse, seems to be appearing less and less. Focusing on just the strongest characters will slowly strangle a strip; comics are more TV than movies. The best shows, and comics, expand. For instance, Get Fuzzy has been using guest animals more frequently recently. With improvement, Frazz will continue to improve. There have been claims that Frazz is a grown up Calvin, stolen from the best comic of my lifetime, Calvin and Hobbes. That’s not true; Calvin favored the scientific, not the literary and musical. Still, it’s not a terrible comparison, to the best. And these books are far better than terrible. Live From Bryson Elementary gets a quality 3 out of 5. 99% Perspiration, because of the better art and longer stories including the baseball quotes, gets a stronger 4 out of 5.