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Forever Nuts: The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff
posted August 29, 2007
Bud Fisher; Jeffrey Lindenblatt
NBM, hard cover, 192 pages, July 2007, $24.95
Jeffrey Lindeblatt's presentation of Bud Fisher's seminal comics strip might frustrate the casual comics fans who by now have grown accustomed to complete runs and larger than life -- or at least nearly as large as original publication -- presentation of older strips. This is definitely more survey than slab; the editors pick and choose sequences from several years in the run. For those of us that like to drop in and are interested in the strip's historical significance, Forever Nuts
ends up being a smart, extremely well-illustrated essay on character development and comics' sometimes uncomfortable dialog with tone. You can see both characters develop, and what makes each one special, the way that figure design not only reveals character but almost guarantees this person or that person's ultimate fate. By fusing the anything goes nature of cartoon with the proscenium-focused staging of vaudeville, Fisher was one of the first to envision the tightly-wound tensions that would help drive interest in the medium for years to come. And when Fisher relaxed into his characters a bit and developed skill with shading to match the humor of his direction, Mutt & Jeff
was as readable and entertaining as anything out there.