December 2nd, 2011

You Like Us! You Really Like Us!

by Jerry Scott & Jim Borgman

Here’s a review from the esteemed blog infodad.com that’s got us all pink-cheeked and smiley.

START WITH ART, STAY FOR STORY

Sunday Brunch: The Best of “Zits” Sundays. By Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. Andrews McMeel. $19.99.

For a comic strip whose art is a major attraction day after day, week after week, year after year – and, more to the point in this case, Sunday after Sunday – there is Zits, the teens-and-parents exploration whose artistic range is immediately clear from the 70 or so small drawings of characters’ expressions on the back cover of the latest compilation, Sunday Brunch. Jim Borgman is an editorial cartoonist as well as a comic-strip artist, and his finely honed depictions of 15-to-16-year-old Jeremy Duncan, parents Walt and Connie, girlfriend Sara, friends Hector and Pierce, and all the other Zits characters, are a constant delight. Even more wonderful is the way Borgman brings an editorial cartoonist’s sense of the absurd to suburban family life: Jeremy staring at Sara and getting so “lost” in her eyes that he goes through them, into the world and universe beyond; Jeremy and Walt as sumo wrestlers, battling over taking out the trash cans; crowded high-school hallways interpreted as a cattle drive (with Jeremy’s and Hector’s faces on two of the cows); Connie turning into Edvard Munch’s famous 1893 painting, “The Scream,” while Jeremy drives and she sits in the front passenger seat; and on and on. Of course, no matter how striking the visual representations, the ideas have to come from somewhere, and that is where Jerry Scott (also the writer of Baby Blues) comes in – constantly feeding Borgman material that lends itself to personality delineation with a great deal of artistic license and a fine eye for the surreal. Sunday Brunch, a thoroughly wonderful collection, not only includes hundreds of full-color Sunday Zits comics but also presents commentary by multiple cartoonists, including remarks by Scott and Borgman on specific episodes – and, in one revelatory three-page sequence, an extended discussion of “The Process of Creating a Zits Sunday strip.” Here, Scott explains that “it’s not like [sic] I write and he draws” because “Jim has a lot of input on the writing end” while he, Jerry, will “also generate pencil roughs of each strip for Jim to show him what I’m thinking.” So the writer-and-artist separation in Zits is a somewhat false (or at least overstated) one, and in fact there is a third team member who gets due acknowledgment here: colorist Ben Peters-Keirn, “with whom I also now share a brain,” Borgman writes. Also part of the Zits team is the publishing syndicate, says Jerry, where “a squadron of highly-trained linguists will pore over every pixel of the strip looking for the word ‘sucks’ so they can reject it.” Now, didn’t you always want to know that? Sunday Brunch is a real fount of information – in fact, it is sort of like one of those chocolate fountains, where all this gooey and sticky deliciousness emerges so you can dip a finger in and suck…err, lick the lusciousness off. And if that image is disturbing, wait until you see the one of Jeremy in the kitchen, 15 minutes before dinner, with his mouth open so wide that his lower jaw is actually on the floor. The visual impact of Zits is as great in its own way as the visual impact of Mangaman, and well beyond that of Li? and Pearls Before Swine. And the melding of narrative and pictures in Zits is on such a high level that it is remarkable to realize how long Scott and Borgman have been producing something of this quality – in fact, since those ancient, deep-in-the-dim-past days of 1997.

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