June 19, 2007
CR Review: Mutts, May 13-19, 2007
King Features Syndicate, single strips, May 14-19 2007, Free
Here's what runs through my mind looking at the Monday-Saturday run of daily strips reprinted above.
1. This run of strips preceded the graduation event at the Center for Cartoon Studies, for which Patrick McDonnell was the commencement speaker. So they're comics culture history as well as mainstream entertainment.
2. Each strip works on its own, but they also work as riffs on a single idea. A lot of angry, young "I could do this better" cartoon types might see the first four strips as McDonnell repeating himself in order to extend the amount of time he gets to spend on the single idea, but that kind of analysis ignores how strips are read. Newspaper strips are read by some people all the way through every day, by some people intermittently, and by some people maybe just once in a week or more. Comics need to work for all of those people. The only break McDonnell gets from this responsibility now that Mutts
is a veteran strip is that he doesn't have to explain the entirety of each character's personality in every strip. The jokes still have to work for each of the strip's audiences.
3. Note how McDonnell's written the strip so that either Friday and Saturday could serve as the ending, or the two days can work together as a 1-2 punch. Some people don't get the Saturdays, and it's the least-read of the daily newspaper even for those that carry the feature six days a week instead of five.
4. McDonnell extends the timing and impact of funny moment in the last strip by making the middle panel wider.
5. He also makes the moment last longer by switching the staging so that the podium and Mooch's body positioning stop the eye. In the first four strips the staging remains static for complete moments (the figures don't all run left to right) but complete moments with gentle stops that rattle off 1-2-3.
6. For no particular reason, I really like Earl's tail wagging in that last panel in Saturday's strip.
posted 1:00 pm PST
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