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27 Years Of Shoe
posted December 28, 2006
 

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Creators: Jeff MacNelly, Chris Cassatt, Susie MacNelly, Dave Barry, Mike Peters
Publishing Information: Andrew McMeel, softcover, 210 pages, $16.95, 2004
Ordering Numbers: 0740746669 (ISBN)

I read a lot of Shoe when I was a high school student and worked at the local paper; my dad, a newspaperman for about half of his adult life, enjoyed the feature. MacNelly seemed like one of those naturally funny guys whose work kind of emanated good humor more than it killed with a punchline or storyline. Shoe kind of nailed the boring part of working at a newspaper, where most of what you do is fill up a blank screen, read things, and make marks on paper (you do this on computer now, too, I'm sure -- I doubt anything gets sent up in a tube anymore). He also pretty much understood the schlubby sense of humor all those Silent Generation guys had, this way of enduring a world that just didn't work, in an identifiably absurd way. They all made great drinking partners, and it sounds like MacNelly was one, too.

The twist on this greatest hits collection is that personal photos and papers are brought into the layout mix, including some one-pagers on important events like the unfortunate climbing death of MacNelly's son. This only gets weird every once in a while, and sometimes it's downright touching -- Mike Peters' end note about palling around with the late cartoonist is as good as a buddy reminiscence as I've read in year. The strip itself is its usual solid self. I felt like I was watching re-runs of, say, Barney Miller, a show that I also used to watch and know that it's amusing and competently done but have no special desire to revisit. I'll be happy to have this book in my library as my one sample from the feature. It's also clear that despite the family focus of Team Shoe, which is directed by the cartoonist's widow and run by his right hand studio man, the strip just doesn't have much life to it past a certain point, that its strengths was a kid of spirit that fades and may not be transferable.