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It's A Girl; It's A Boy
posted January 21, 2010
 

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Creators: Rick Kirkman, Jerry Scott
Publishing Information: Andrews McMeel, hardcover, 80 pages each, February 2010, $9.99 each
Ordering Numbers: 9780740791673/9780740791666

For someone who writes two of the most mainstream American comic strips of the last quarter century, Jerry Scott of Zits and Baby Blues happens to be -- through what agency I'm not certain -- one of the more aggressive comics creators when it comes to format. I know that Zits runs on a not-uncommon two-book series track, with a certain number of subject-appropriate novelty books thrown in for good measure. I'm less familiar with Baby Blues, but this latest project suggests that both of Scott's strips stand to benefit far more than most from multiple platforms. The two books featured here are well-packaged gift books of the kind you used to see with Peanuts and, if memory serves, a few other strips in the 1960s and 1970s. Each features a run of jokes, slightly reformatted from their newspaper presentation, on the specific subject of bringing a new kid into the house (it's the second, Hammie, and third, Wren, in the strip). It seems like a smart way to present this material, during a time when people want new ways to sell comics but seem trapped by a completist reader's mentality that may or may not describe the bulk of any feature's potential fans. In fact, these book can be presented to someone with no familiarity with the parent strip at all.

Granted, there's nothing groundbreaking about any of the jokes being told. They're the kind you can find in abundance on many TV shows: harried parents, a father that may overstate his importance in specific processes, kids that want to exploit the new family addition. There's a reason for that, not to mention an appetite for that kind of material. The natural audience for newspaper strips and cartoon books might not even go for the drop of pee shooting from the lap of little Hammie there in cover #2. As for as the visuals, I still look at Rick Kirkman sideways for his design on the male lead in Baby Blues, for that gigantic nose that when the strip was briefly animated made it the fifth dirtiest show on television. But Kirkman's kids are cute, and his style is such that it can encompass everything, an entire world, even if I'm not enthusiastic about all of the flourishes. The strip I found most interesting featured the male lead talking about wanting to have a large family, which was a fundamental statement of character I'd never felt expressed through the feature and wish I had. I'm not sure the strip would be as successful as it is through that kind of earnest exploration, but I'd welcome it.