Norm Magazine #1

By Michael Jantze
48 pages, black and white
Published by TheNorm.com Publishing

I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that more and more comic strip artists are using the comic book market to collect their strips. There’s a real crossover in terms of audiences these days, and self-publishing isn’t the anathema in comics that it is in the book industry. More importantly, it gives the creator a real freedom they might not get with other companies, making sure it’s presented however they want it. That’s definitely the case with Michael Jantze’s The Norm, which he’s managed to make even funnier the second time through… without changing a thing.

Norm’s your average, ordinary guy. He works at an office in a job he doesn’t particularly like, he can’t cook, he’s always broke, and he is in desperate need of a date. Don’t worry, though. Norm’s also got a good sense of humor, and it’s the one important factor in turning what could be a depressing story into an amusing one.

Jantze’s decided to go back to the very beginning of The Norm strip and collect them all. That alone is a decision I applaud; it’s always fun to see characters when they’re first introduced and pick up on long-running jokes that show up later on. On their own, The Norm strips are pretty funny. It takes a familiar comic strip theme—trying to survive in the world—and makes it interesting because of Jantze’s off-beat take on the world around him. What I really like about The Norm Magazine #1, though, is that Jantze has included Norm’s “journal” attached to each strip. It’s a couple of sentences underneath each strip that adds a lot of extra amusement without taking away from the original strip. Reading Norm get defensive about his life or futilely trying to explain something is an absolute riot; you can see him fumbling around to keep from making himself sound stupid and usually just landing on his face even more. It’s a smart addition to The Norm and while I wouldn’t want everyone to try it, it’s something I definitely want to see more of when it comes to The Norm.

The art in The Norm is a very cartoonish, stripped down style. Jantze isn’t trying to draw your attention to the art, he’s trying to keep your eyes on the jokes. Even in this early stage of his cartooning, though, Jantze keeps the art easy to follow and nice to look at. Norm has a wonderfully befuddled look on his face most of the time, the better with which to deliver a punch line. This may sound silly, but I also really love the way that Jantze draws Norm’s hair; there’s something about the partially shaded in squiggle that just works so perfectly I can’t begin to explain it. Best hair in comic strips.

For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to get The Norm in their local paper, it’s great to get to see this far too fun strip from its early days. With its squarebound format, I look forward to having a nice strip of these on my bookshelf before too long. Between it and my regular doses at TheNorm.com it’s enough to send you into The Norm overload… not that there’s such a thing as that. As regular readers of the strip already know, The Norm is anything but normal. And that’s a good thing.

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