Sunday, November 04, 2007

Jef Mallett

Jef Mallett does the comic strip Frazz on a daily basis. It is, in my opinion, one of the funnier strips on the comics' page today. But what has struck me about Mallett in particular is that he's often willing to play with the sequential art format within the confines of his strip. Here's today's example...
The balloon that is launched in "panel" 3 flies backwards through "panels" 1 and 2 before landing in "panel" 4. The flight path breaks the invisible boundaries we, the readers, have placed within the illustration. If we were to follow the artwork in a more literal/traditional sense, we would be forced to believe that either a) the balloon's path takes it back in time or b) there are in fact four identical sets of characters standing next to one another. Yet the "obvious" reading of this strip really suggests neither of those. We merely see the balloon take an extremely erratic flight after having been blown up and let go by a single character. It's a clever use of the space, and plays against the norms of the Sunday strips.

I've seen references, not made by the creators, that Frazz is an adult Calvin from Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes. This was highlighted in a series of strips in which Frazz played a variation of the classic "Calvin-ball." But people often point to a similar illustration style in the characters. Whether and/or how much influence Watterson had on Mallett, I don't know, but I think what is the greater honor is that Mallett has tried to push the boundaries of comic strip storytelling in much the same way that Watterson did. (See The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book for Watterson's account of how he tried to push the artistry in the funny pages.)

Good on you, Jef, for playing with comic strip format. Always a pleasure to see something besides the standard panel layouts!

2 comments:

Matt said...

The resemblance to Calvin, at least in the reduced-version image, looked way beyond coincidental. I'm amazed that a cease-and-desist hasn't gone out from Waterson.

Though, of course, as everyone knows, the real story of the adult Calvin was made into a film. It was called "Fight Club." :)

Britton said...
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