Getting Fuzzied

About once every 5-10 years a truly great comic strip comes along. My list may not exactly match yours but I bet it comes close. Note that some of these comic strips were great in their prime then quickly became stale, mediocre or evolved into something downright bad. Sometimes they emerge with new flashes of brilliance then disappear again into mediocrity. Some like Calvin and Hobbes just disappear – the artists knew they had no more to give.

Starting arbitrarily around 1970 I would say these great comic strips were (in chronological order): Doonesbury, The Far Side, Bloom County, Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert.

Of course there have been lots of other really terrific strips. Current strips that I really enjoy include Zits, The Piranha Club, The Boondocks, For Better or For Worse, Tank McNamara (and I don’t even like sports), Mutts, and Rhymes with Orange (not for the artwork, but for the ideas). Even when I am very busy I will make the time to read these strips.

I am amazed by how some strips have withstood the test of time and how others haven’t. Classic Peanuts, for example, shows Peanuts strips from the 1970s and 1980s when the strip was no longer funny. Truly classic Peanuts cartoons can only now be found in anthologies. Between 1955 and 1965 the strip was brilliant. Unfortunately back then the daily strips were in four panels. Newspapers won’t show four panel strips anymore … they consume too much real estate. On the other hand Blondie should have flamed out at least thirty years ago. Yet I still find it regularly funny even though the original artist died long ago. It is the same yet always fresh. Amazing.

I think a new comic strip has joined the league of truly great comic strips. A few more years will tell for sure. The strip is Get Fuzzy.

It’s almost in every newspaper now so chances are you are already reading it. If you aren’t reading it you can read the daily strip online. You won’t want to miss a single day.

The humor of Get Fuzzy is hard to explain. A lot of people don’t get Zippy the Pinhead. (Frankly even I am sick of Zippy’s talking to statues and fascination with diners.) Get Fuzzy grew on me. I read it for weeks and thought, “What’s with that weird cat Bucky Katt and that dopey dog Satchel Pooch? Why does their owner Rob Wilco always wear a backwards baseball cap on his head? What does he do for a living anyhow? He hardly ever goes anywhere. He looks like some college guy whose apartment consists of stacks of pizza boxes.” (According to the web site Rob is an ad executive … go figure!)

And then one day I tittered a little bit. The next day I tittered a little more. Then I started laughing. Then it became hilarious. There were times when I laughed so hard I really was ROTFLMAO. Now it’s a home run out of the ballpark at least three days out of five.

Why do I love Get Fuzzy? Mostly it’s because of the cat Bucky: the heart of the comic strip. Readers may remember my reminisces about our difficult cat Squeaky who passed away in June. There was something inherently evil in Squeaky — something very disturbing. But occasionally she could be a sweet cat. There is none of this ambiguity in Bucky. Bucky is the sort of cat you are grateful is not a human being. If Bucky were a human being it would make Hitler look like an amateur. But Bucky is not just a nasty and evil cat. Bucky is cat with an acid tongue that makes the most startling observations.

Satchel the dog is Bucky’s polar opposite: sweet, unassuming, wholly trusting, so naive that if it were run over by a car once it would gladly do it again if so directed. Satch is totally transparent. Bucky is diabolical. It lives to sin. But Bucky cannot sin in an ordinary manner. It must sin in extraordinary ways. Everything Bucky does is to bring more and more attention back on itself and demonstrate it is the nastiest, orneriest, meanest, most twisted cat that ever lived. Both Dogbert and Catbert can take lessons from Bucky.

Rob plays the “whatever” pet owner who seems to accept his fate with these two animals. He carries a look of resignation on his face most of the time. Satch of course utterly adores Rob and Bucky. Bucky wants to see both of them dead in the most horrific way possible and for no reason whatsoever … it is never treated meanly. Rob though knows how to return zingers to Bucky’s comments that skews this bizarre little world inside their apartment in a compelling kaleidoscope of weirdness. It’s a synergy of a sort between the man, the dog and the cat that ricochets in the oddest directions.

The author and artist Darby Conley can pull humor from the most mundane things. Rob’s precious collection of Star Wars figurines, for example, is of course sold by Bucky behind Rob’s back to some ferrets it hates down the hall. Bucky does it for money but the ferrets start turning the action figures into little Bucky voodoo dolls. Hilarity ensues. Bucky of course has the attitude from Galaxy Quest: “Never give up! Never surrender!” And so it tries to compound the evil deed, always with a kicker rejoinder than often has me ROTFLMAO.

It is my considered opinion though that this is not a Republican comic strip. This is a Democratic comic strip. Although both parties can be very evil a good Republican would be too sanctimonious to read the strip, let alone enjoy it. Democrats though are allowed to be multidimensional. It’s okay for us to revel a bit in our evil side. And what better way to do so than to project our nasty feelings into Bucky, our innocent sides into Satchel, and our weary “I don’t give a flying f***” sides into Rob.

I hope Darby Conley can keep it up. I have a feeling he won’t be able to sustain this level of energy very long. That’s often the way it is with the best comic strips. So perhaps we must enjoy this spectacular firework of a comic strip while we can. Its ascent may be into the stratosphere but it may flame out quickly.

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