Another New Shoe

Posted by on January 12th, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Before I rudely interrupted myself to take the month of December off, I was midway through a short survey of the new comic strips that surfaced last fall, all scrambling to fill the slot on the funnies page left vacant when Cathy ended in early October.

Thatababy from Universal Uclick is another chapter in a long history of comic strips about babies or comic strips in which babies are the chief attraction. Without doing any exhaustive research—a lapse that blogging allows—my guess is that the earliest big success in this endeavor happened when Baby Dumpling arrived in Blondie and made Dagwood the world’s most famous bumbling father.

Then along came Trixie in Hi and Lois, making “thinking” infants fashionable and Pasqual in Rose Is Rose, making incomprehensible baby-babble fascinating.

A more recent entry into the lists is Brian Anderson’s Dog Eat Doug. Beginning on the Web in 2004, the strip was picked up by Creators Syndicate in 2005 with the November 14 release. I’ve never been attracted to the notion of dogs eating babies, but, thankfully, that doesn’t happen often, despite the title. Maybe babies think they are being eaten when dogs lick their faces. But that’s not at all the case: the dogs are merely tasting, preparatory to eating.

Anderson’s artwork is distinguished by the circles that form the dog’s head and the baby’s head and body; no other characters (or circles) appear in the strip except as adult human feet and knees.

At first glance, Thatababy is another in the circles-are-drawings school of illustration, but cartoonist Paul Trap goes considerably beyond this tedious cutesy simplistic approach, as we can see here in the strips in which the nameless infant’s father appears:

And here’s the mother in a Sunday release:

Trapp, who says he is “a freelance writer and illustrator working out of his home office in his underwear with the radio up loud,” is the editorial cartoonist for Baseball America magazine, and his cartoons also appear online at the magazine’s website, baseballamerican.com. And he is a contributor to USA Today and McClatchy News Service, producing illustrations for weekly features.

The premise of Thatababy is that it is a baby’s job to drive his/her/its parents nuts. Trapp embellishes this proposition with a drawing style that is deliciously ornate in its decorative simplicity, deploying a fluid line and a geometric sense of design. Pleasing to the eye, even if the circumstances are often predictable—but in a good way.

Friday, we’ll take a look at how Tuscon is faring with editorial cartooners. Then next week, we’ll return for the last of the new strips.

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