My Granddaughter Has Fleas!! by Cathy Guisewite, 1989

I’m not putting in picture books, and cartoon collections are borderline, but reading Cathy prompts enough thoughts to make an entry. I will never forget Bill Griffith (Zippy the Pinhead) describing Guisewite’s style as “dropping string on the floor and photocopying it.” But the fact that she can’t draw terribly well doesn’t make it a bad strip, because she doesn’t aim beyond what she can execute. In the service of what she’s trying to accomplish, her art is exactly what’s needed. Although in many ways I’m the antithesis of the stereotype of the American woman, and I find most of Cathy’s hangups and insecurities kinda….stupid, still I like the strip. I recognize a lot of people I know in her, and yes, parts of myself too–mostly the family relationships. I acquired most of the collections available in the early 90s, and I wondered whether they would still hold up or whether I might be able to make some shelf room. Well, I still really like this one, which features Cathy getting her dog, Electra. I guess part of what makes Cathy-the-strip so appealing is its obvious autobiographical element–making it sincere where most other mainstream lowest-common-denominator strips like Garfield feel totally calculated. Sure enough, Guiswite had a collie-shepherd cross (which is exactly what Electra looks like!) named Trolley. She said Cathy waited 13 years to get the dog because that’s how long it took her to learn to draw the dog well enough–and the result is pretty cute. I also absolutely love Andrea’s 2-year-old daughter, Zenith, the encapsulation of toddler anarchy and destruction (“EEYAA!”)

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