Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Little King of Everything

I'd like to think that most sane people can agree that the best comic strip ever was either Calvin and Hobbes or The Far Side. Really, it's pretty clear it has to be one of those two, and I suppose it just depends on what your preference is: one-panel absurdist humor (The Far Side) or multi-panel, story-based humor (Calvin and Hobbes). Both were genius, so while I side with Calvin and Hobbes I can understand why someone would pick the other. Well, in my not-so-humble opinion, there is one worthy heir to both of them still in circulation: Get Fuzzy. Drawn and written by Darby Conley, it tells the story of Rob Wilco and his two pets, Bucky Katt and Satchel Pooch, both of whom can speak. And oh, what funny things they have to say. In fact, in the universe of the strip, all animals can talk and frequently interact with the humans, usually to very funny results.

While there are many recurring characters--such as Shakespug, a pug who tries to speak only in Shakespeare allusions; Foodar, a cat who can sense even the smallest crumb of food anywhere, unless of course it's a fruit or vegetable; Mac Mac McManx, Bucky's British cousin who speaks in a nearly impenetrable mix of British slang; Fungo Squiggly, the neighboring ferret who is also Bucky's sworn enemy; and Chubby Huggs, the very large and very friendly cat who lives in the same apartment building as Bucky and Satchel, and just wants to love and hug everyone he comes into contact with--the three main characters are Bucky, Satchel and Rob.

Bucky Katt
Bucky is always scheming ways to make money off of Rob, humiliating Satchel, fantasizing about eating monkeys and just generally acting like a little tyrant. He is under the illusion that everything that Rob and Satchel do is done to serve him, and frequently threatens to maim, kill or otherwise harm them when they challenge his ridiculous assertions. Like a real cat, he hardly pays any attention to things that he deems beneath him, and usually doesn't even look directly at anyone he's speaking with unless he's threatening them. He has an unfortunate addiction to rubber bands which has led to more than one-stomach pumping. Conley was fascinated by the idea of a cat so mean that his ears were always laid back against his head in an aggressive manner, and they only ever go up when he gets frightened (which happens much more than he tries to let on).

Satchel Pooch
Satchel is a half-Shar Pei, half-Labrador Retriever mix, a sweet but somewhat dim dog who thinks of Bucky as his best friend even though Bucky is almost never anything but mean to him. Satchel often delivers punchlines in the final panel, either in the form of a surprisingly shrewd observation or a question that reveals just how lost he is. His dog buddies (referred to as his "playgroup") think he's soft for chumming around with a cat, but Satchel is so kind-hearted and oblivious that it all bounces right off him. He's also friends with Fungo, much to Bucky's chagrin, and seems to be the only person/animal the ferret will actually speak to. He often gets involved in Bucky's schemes, unwittingly setting himself up for disaster, sometimes appearing as if he thinks he has no choice but to go along with them. In the end, though, he maintains his good nature and positive outlook no matter what Bucky or anyone else throws at him.
Rob Wilco
Rob is the human foil to all the animal shenanigans that go on, though many times he finds himself right in the middle of it. Bucky may actually be meaner to Rob than he is to Satchel, but Rob hurls insults right back. He doesn't do himself any favors, though, being a huge fan of Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons, video games in general, and rugby. He's also a die hard Red Sox fan, which seems to be the inspiration for Bucky's support of the New York Yankees, and Rob's perceived leftist leanings also clash with his cat's conservative and sometimes dictatorial attitudes to politics. He is fond of saying, "Why do I let myself get sucked into these stupid conversations?" and when the nonsense gets to be too much he tends to get squinty and twitchy. Still, his love for his "guyzos" is clear, and he's obviously a stand-in for the author.
I love these characters too much to be able to tell if anything I just wrote sounds appealing, but if you've ever owned and loved a cat or dog you will enjoy this, I'm almost certain of it. It had to have been voted Best Comic Strip in 2002 for something, right? And it's only gotten better since then. There are several collections you can find at most bookstores, it's in the LA Times and OC Register, or you can read it online.

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