- Posted by Johanna on February 5, 2013 at 7:39 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott
- PUBLISHER: Andrews McMeel Publishing; $35 US
Baby Blues is one of those comic strips that I like reading in spite of it not relating to my life at all. In fact, that’s why it’s enjoyable to me — it’s got all the humor and goofy weirdness of having kids without actually having to clean up after them. It’s much more fun to watch other people have to deal with all that.
This oversized hardcover celebrates the strip’s twentieth anniversary, and it’s an excellent overview of the comic, based on a subject with universal appeal and infinite possibility. The creators have selected their favorite strips from 20 years of the comic, both color Sundays and black-and-white weekdays. The book also contains capsule histories of how the strip came about (from writer Jerry Scott) and short comments on particular strips. (I love annotated comic histories. It’s so valuable to hear what the artists remember about the work, or which strips are important to them and why.) The recurring theme here is “were we the first people to use that word/topic in a newspaper comic?” Short creator biographies, character design sketches, background art and photos, and a gallery of title panels that reference pop culture also are included.
Baby Blues is the story of Wanda, Darryl, and their children Zoe, Hamish, and now Wren. Rick Kirkman’s style is wonderful at capturing the stress of parenthood; the adults always look frazzled, no matter what they’re doing, and the kids aren’t adorably put together but frayed around the edges, as though constantly in motion. The art has always been important in this comic, with the environment and what the kids are doing providing context beyond dialogue. It’s interesting to note, as the years go on, how the strip switches from four panels to sometimes three, to better match the shrinking size of the newspaper comic page.
The strip began in January 1990 with the birth of Zoe. The creators’ aim was to tell readers, “You are not alone” in child-raising, much of it based on their own experiences, from breast-feeding to the uncertainty of new parents. I also found it fun noting the changes in technology, from super-sized video cameras to phone cords and choosing a long-distance carrier. Hammie came along in 1995, as Zoe had become a toddler and begun speaking. Wren debuts in 2002 to keep the baby humor going, and the book ends with selections from 2009.
I found this an excellent introduction to the comic, as well as a fun collection of “new to me” strips from before I started reading. (The publisher provided a review copy.)