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Opening Lines, Pinky Probes and L-Bombs
posted May 24, 2007
 

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Creators: Justin Borus, Andrew Feinstein
Publishing Information: Santa Monica Press, softcover, 144 page, 2006, $14.95
Ordering Numbers: 1595800158 (ISBN), 9781595800152 (ISBN13)

Newspaper comic strips can be a horrible grind, and there's something about the effort required in simply getting one out while working within restrictive creative parameters (nothing that offends, no strip can count on knowledge of previous strips, etc.) and recurring tides of self-doubt that makes me want to tip my hat in the direction of anyone who tries it no matter what I think of their work. Complicating matters, strips are like Congressmen in that while they may stay in office for years based on momentum, getting elected in the first place means they had to connect with somebody somewhere in order to overtake somebody else's hard-won calcification. Many armchair critics step over the line into idiocy when they go past applying standards to a strip and assuming those standards could be adopted by the artist working within very special parameters. In my own strip experience, I had one very smart person tell me they thought the strip I was working on at the time would be a lot more like Maakies. Would that we lived in a world where every gig that presented itself to us brought with it that kind of freedom.

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I'm saying all of that because while I'm sure that Justin Borus and Andrew Feinstein are nice guys who make certain people laugh, I hated this book. This is a presentation of several strips from the feature Girls & Sports, a feature that claims 200 clients, a number that indicates both men might be making a living from their work -- an achievement, not an avenue for mockery. Rather than a straight-up presentation of the strip work, Opening Lines, Pinky Probes and L-Bombs is more of theme book that uses the strips as context or to illustrate a point being made. The humor on display proves to be kind of like a less cutting-edge According to Jim. Guys love sports and are good-natured and blustery and probably don't know how to function in a relationship. Women are desirable, frequently inscrutable, and sometimes outright illogical. Let the mild wackiness begin. It's sort of like an early Fox sitcom, something that might star a Lawrence twin, but it's hard to compare it to anything other than exactly what it is: a surface-oriented observational humor strip. There are lot of jokes like the following, which really aren't jokes but a kind of statement of comedic concept passing as a joke.

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The presentation is done in a super-garish rainbow of colors and confusing layouts that read like 1970s film strip supplementary material. This manages to make the book uglier than it might have been just using the super-crude strip art. Visually, the feature recalls Bill Amend's Fox Trot as drawn by Scott Adams. It offers nothing in the way of expressive content. There are almost no laughs due to visual bits, and all the artwork manages to do in most installments is identify the speakers and communicate the basic situation. Adams gets away with this level of crudity in Dilbert because his designs are simplistic but compellingly weird, and his take on the general subject matter of office inanities is uniquely his own in a way that the approach seems a logical extension of his satiric point of view. Girls & Sports fails to provide interesting design or a unique take on its subject matter. I was never surprise the way great serial humor provides hidden delights and revelations. I'm certain the book makes some people laugh because of the size of its client list and the fact a publisher is rolling the dice on a color softcover. I wish them all the best. This first collection failed to do a thing for me, except make me feel grumpy and despairing.

*****

please note the work picture is from recent strip offerings rather than that presented in the book