Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Mutts" and Zappa

I'll admit I don't (yet) know much about the comic strip Mutts. I'd seen it a few times a long time ago, I have some friends who have posted some favorite panels to forums I frequent. Shoot, quite a few years before I was even really very aware of Mutts as a daily strip I redrew (using resolution-independent vectors in Adobe Illustrator-click on image at left) one of the main characters—a cat named Mooch—uttering an iconic line from the strip..."YESH!!!" for a cousin who wanted to use it for a birthday card for her friend. I'm a newcomer to the comic, having only started reading it regularly when—a couple months ago—our local newspaper consolidated their morning and evening editions into one publication per day. I always got the evening paper, it was in the morning paper. Now, we get the comics from both editions. Nice!

On the surface, I find it to be a cute strip. I like the minimalism of the art, and the stroke styles are simple and sublime. The gags are usually pretty basic (and thankfully absent of the inane smarminess of a strip like Fred Bassett or the cloying precociousness of Marvin). Upon first glance, that is. Despite the seeming simplicity, though, every once in a while I've noticed some pretty clever and well disguised cultural references that might belie the superficial sweetness and light of the strip's appearance. I don't really know much about Mutts creator Patrick McDonnell, but I have a feeling we may like some of the same music.

Why do I make that claim? Please read on and I'll explain...

So, I'm eating lunch today and reading the paper and I come across the Mutts strip, below:

'Mutts' Troutmask reference image

For those of you who know me—and even for those who don't—I'll remind you that I'm a died-in-the-wool fan of Frank Zappa. So when I saw those lines in panels 2 and 3, I was certain McDonnell was a fan as well. Because, you see, "Help, I'm a rock!" is a notable reference from Frank Zappa's 1966 debut double album Freak Out.

Now, you may figure that those words in the comic strip are just a coincidence, but I know they aren't. How do I know? Because about a week ago I was doing some heavy research on some obscure Captain Beefheart info on the Captain Beefheart Radar Station fan site, when I ran across the following:

(Click image for full size, or go here to see where I grabbed it from)

Now, anyone who knows much about Zappa and Beefheart knows that they are inextricably linked in the annals of musical culture. The color image is an homage to the landmark 1969 Zappa-produced Beefheart album Troutmask Replica, and the actual comic strip references at least 3 of Beefheart's songs, as far as I can discern. Given that Mr. McDonnell has made these two references (and probably more, I'd bet, if I looked through his Mutts archives), I'm willing to bet that the guy would probably be pretty fun to hang out with at a pub for an evening.

Maybe I'll shoot him an email and see what he's doing this weekend.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is there a bar stool for a third?