Monday, March 26, 2018

Mooz Boosh: More Spinadoodles From Sam Spina

There's never a question that any autobio strip that Sam Spina happens to put down is going to be full of goofy humor, and his new collection of his "Spinadoodles" strips, Mooz Boosh, is no exception. He and his wife Samantha are often depicted as acting like big kids for comedic effect. What's changed over the years is that each year's collection of new strips has become slimmer as he is now a full-time writer and artist working for the Cartoon Network. Instead of writing a strip a day, every day, he's only doing them as inspiration strikes, and the result is a consistently funny personal narrative with an undertone of personal dissatisfaction. That's actually been a running theme, first when he was an aspiring cartoonist/animator who worked a waiter job and now that he got a job as a pro. The difference now is that there's a self-awareness of the #firstworldproblem nature of his unhappiness: he has a great job, a great wife, a nice apartment, etc--why should he complain? The answer is that one's dreams matter, and his dream of having his own show was dashed twice (off-panel) in the course of the year. There's a sense of him struggling with negative emotions in general as a subtext in these strips, but that sense of feeling that he's not entitled to his emotions is palpable.

Spina's always used a cluttered approach to the page, filling up any negative space with a gray wash. What's changed over the years is his growing confidence as a draftsman. In "Stung", for example, his over-the-top foreshortening of his thumb getting stung has images of bug-eyed Sam freaking out, but also a perfectly-rendered hand in one panel. Indeed, there are plenty of pages that can be navigated solely from a visual perspective, especially when Samantha and her many expressive faces are involved. Spina also threw in some sketchbook doodles to fill up space but also to give the reader a sense of the sort of thing he's working on. One gets the sense that Spina has once again come to a betwixt and between portion of his life, where he's an adult but hasn't yet punched every square on the adult bingo card (own a house, have kids, etc), but he's way past being a young adult. There's career ambitions being thwarted but also a sense that he has plenty of time. One also gets the sense that he hasn't forgotten how much joy he gets out of simply drawing, and that really comes out in his Hourly Comics Day strips.

Doubling down on cat jokes and fart jokes is both consistent with everything Spina has done to this point and a sense that he may well feel compelled to write about other things in the future. In the meantime, Spina's depiction of his job and his relationship are both quite compelling and illustrative. Not only do we get a sense of what Samantha is like, the reader also comes to understand their chemistry and bond. And while there's plenty of goofing around at work, there are also meetings about redoing a script that he's been working on for a year with someone. One almost doesn't notice when Spina actually dwells on something serious, because he's so good at the structure of making virtually any kind of anecdote into something with a comedic structure. I hope he keeps doing these strips forever.

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