Darby Conley’s strip Get Fuzzy is fun for reasons other than that its fictional head-of-household Rob Wilco is a fanatic Red Sox fan, though that helps. Rob is an advertising geek with two anthropomorphic pets: Satchel Pooch is a kindly and responsible dog, but his memory isn’t so good and he frequently misunderstands what others are saying. Bucky Katt is a nasty-tempered siamese cat with a long, deadly fang. He’d greedy and self-centered, and often tries to run scams past Rob and Satchel, but he’s pretty naive about how the world really works.
This, as they say, is their story.
The episodes mostly revolve around Rob and Satchel trying to deal with Bucky’s shenanigans: Trying to con or extort money out of Satchel (or, less often, Rob), his ongoing feud with the ferret next door, or just being generally offended at things around him. Better yet, it often comes with clever wordplay, sometimes feeling like some twisted version of a Marx Brothers film. For instance:
(Click to view the strip)
The latest collection (which came out at the beginning of the year) is Get Fuzzy: Scrum Bums. Though the strip doesn’t change a whole lot over time (Rob stopped wearing glasses a while ago, and the Red Sox haven’t won the World Series for a few years now), it’s still quite funny. I think I enjoy when Rob gives Bucky his comeuppance the most, especially when Bucky doesn’t quite realize that he just pulled a fast one on himself.
Despite his clean linework, Conley’s art reminds me more of some of the odd styles from the early days of MAD Magazine: His characters are distinctive and usually kind of funny-looking, with a wide variety of facial expressions. He also makes extensive use of forced perspective, which puts the animals on equal footing – at first glance, anyway – with Rob. Conley’s style is not the sort that I’m usually into, but he’s certainly capable enough, and his writing and characters more than make up for the strip’s sometimes-repetitive panel style. And his art style is certainly distinctive on today’s comics page.
He manages to mix moments of pathos in with the silliness, too. For instance, Satchel learns that he’s actually Canadian, and Rob takes the pair on a trip to meet Satchel’s parents and see where he came from. The trio shares a quiet moment once they’re there:
That’s about as quiet as Bucky gets. Really.
Get Fuzzy has accreted a huge supporting cast over time, many of whom are hilarious. A recent strip sequence featured many of them gradually moving in with Rob and company, until Rob finally put his foot down. Since many of the animals tend to be on the dim side, they all had bizarrely ineffective ways of dealing with each other. My favorite relatively-recent addition is Mac Manc McManx and his impenetrable British accent; although I wonder whether he might offend the occasional British reader, he also demonstrates how the spirit of Chico Marx continues to influence our culture. (Kidding! I’m kidding! Sorta.) I think he embodies the strip’s fundamental zaniness and tendency for its stories to veer out of control in bizarre ways.
Overall, Get Fuzzy keeps me coming back to see what ridiculous plan Bucky’s cooked up this week, and how it goes wrong and throws everyone out-of-sorts until things settle back to normal. Silliness unleashed is how I like my comic strips, and hardly anyone wears a leash in Get Fuzzy.