07 February 2007

Strip Club: Lust & Marriage

Opening Lines, Pinky Probes, and L-Bombs: The Girls & Sports Dating and Relationship Playbook
By Justin Borus and Andrew Feinstein (Santa Monica Press, 2006; $14.95)

While I was vaugely familiar with the Girls & Sports comic strip from the Daily News, thanks to the main crossword puzzle appearing in the comics section, it was never one of the handful of strips I typically seek out for a chuckle to brighten my bleary-eyed morning commute. (Those would currently be Dilbert, Rose is Rose, Mutts, One Big Happy and, periodically, Doonesbury.) As such, I'd most likely have never thought to pick up Opening Lines, Pinky Probes, and L-Bombs: The Girls & Sports Dating and Relationship Playbook, the strip's first collected edition, which G&S co-author Andrew Feinstein graciously sent me a copy of for reviewing purposes.

Eschewing the traditional format of a sequential collection, Feinstein and co-author Justin Borus have smartly reconceived their strip as an endearingly sarcastic self-help guide to dating for guys, aiming just above the heads of the average Maxim reader to skewer the lighter side of male and female stereotypes without resorting to juvenile potty humor. They manage to get a lot of entertaining mileage out of what is effectively a one-dimensional joke, largely thanks to the many, many, many sports metaphors they employ to cover every imaginable base, from "The Art of Conversation" to "The Break-Up" to, of course, "Watching Sports With Girls" -- and they cover a lot of ground, leaving almost no stereotype unexploited.

Much of Opening Lines...'s humor is admittedly frat boyish, and on occasion, unexpectedly politically correct (making for a couple of awkward moments where it feels like they pulled their punches a bit), but overall it's good clean fun -- sometimes laugh-out-loud fun -- and would make a great gag gift for Valentine's Day as a "How-NOT-To" for your single friends, male or female.

You'll Have That, Volume 2
By Wes Molebash (Viper Comics, 2006; $4.95)

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Wes Molebash's You'll Have That, an unexpectedly sweet take on marriage that got more knowing grins than laugh-out-loud guffaws from me. Focusing on newlyweds Andy and Katie, it's like a CBS sitcom before the husband gets fat and the tone becomes cynical.

Each strip is concise and punchy, filled with understated observations about relationships that favor character development over stereotypes. What I enjoyed most about Andy and Kate's relationship is that it feels sincere; they're snarky and loving, with Andy frequently ending up the butt of a joke, and Molebash's clean artwork and expressive faces perfectly communicates that feeling.

The webcomic returned to its regular daily schedule this week, so I'm looking forward to following it and, if there's any justice in the world, newspapers will eventually pick it up because it's much better than a lot of more established strips currently running.