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Jump Start

A book by Robb Armstrong

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Desirable schmaltz

  • Oct 5, 1999
Pros: Laugh and cry simultaneously, everything that's right about black America, nearly universal appeal

Cons: Slight inconsistencies mean a shaky transition from newspaper to book

I want to succumb to the urge to call Robb Armstrong a 'black American Lynn Johnston' (of 'For Better or For Worse' fame), but can't. He's not. Apart from the obvious differences (FBoFW is suburban, Canadian and white; Jump Start is more urban, American, and black), Johnston has the 'jump start' (sorry) vis-a-vis age and experience. It barely shows, though -- JS is well-drawn and reasonably consistent; a solid strip with the rarity of aging characters.[*]

After too many hip 'alternative' comix (see Ted Rall) and too much dreck in the newspaper (see Dilbert, which has just been recycling the same gags since 1997 without anybody noticing, see 'Rose is Rose,' which just makes most people gag, see 'Funky Winkerbean,' which hasn't made sense since 1977...you get the idea), Robb Armstrong's 'Jump Start' strip is a huge relief. The 1997 'A Collection' opens with the birth of Sunny, the family's first child, and she is the focus of the book and in many ways raison d'etre for her parents. An ideal gift for new parents, I suspect.

The book is sentimental and sweet as all get-out. Even in minor disaster (the moving truck spills its contents on the highway) it manages to be sugary (it's okay; it's just stuff, the family is still intact). I have no idea how, but this works.

Not recommended for those in unhappy relationships, I think, though virtually anybody can identify with some part of the strip, be it through their work, family, or social life. There is a lot to be said for that -- it would be very easy to over-politicize 'Jump Start' and alienate part of the audience. Which see one of the few other predominantly black strips, 'The Boondocks,' a clever but at times too in-your-face strip for a wide audience. Nobody is getting irritated at 'Jump Start,' but I suspect a few people are being educated without noticing it. A tip of the pen to Mr Armstrong for that.

The only problem, which is the reason this gets four stars and not five, is that a few inconsistencies in the strip make it suffer in book format: mostly, Sunny doesn't stay the same age from week to week, to the point of distraction -- I found myself squinting at he dates to see if they weren't in the right order. This is fine for a newspaper format, but a bit trying in a book. The strip seems a little bit more consistent at present, and the first collection didn't suffer too much from this; this is a purely persnickety complaint. Final note, to chintzy publishers: I would also have liked to see the weekend strips in colour.

[*] Entertaining note: aging, and especially fear surrounding ~ , is a recurring theme in the strip. Both of the 'Jump Start' anthologies I have feature the same very young-looking pic of Armstrong, which gave me a moment of amusement.


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K. Mennie ()
Ranked #694
Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
Last Login: Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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About this book


The first collection of cartoons--many new and previously unpublished--from comic artist Robb Armstrong: "Jump Start" concerns Joe and Marcie, a young African-American couple with careers, a baby, and a strong and sustaining love.
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ISBN-13: 978-0836236613
Author: Robb Armstrong
Genre: Humor
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Pub
Date Published: September 01, 1997
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"Desirable schmaltz"
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