Sam and Fuzzy is not a comic that is easy to review. While it has always had some degree of continuity it starts out life as a gag-a-day style comic without any real story line per se. However over time storylines developed, adventures were had and the comic adopted an episodic sort of style but without connections between episodes. Then finally it evolves into its final form, a more considered, less comedic, graphic novel style comic.
It has also run as three different series; “The Classic Series”, which ran from 2003 to 2006 and saw its initial evolution into some limited storylines. It was followed by the “The Noosehead Series” (2006 – 2009) which is pretty much a self-contained story but mostly done in the same style and tone of the classic series. Then finally there is “The NMS Series” (Ninja Mafia Services) in which the characters get more back story and the story gets a bit more serious.
This review is for all three sections, I’ll try to distinguish in the categories where comments apply to just one of the series, otherwise they apply to them all.
The characters and comic concept
Sam is one of life’s nice guys, always finishing last. Emotionally insecure, and somewhat needy, none the less he has a resilience and humour that sees him through.
His best, close to only, friend is the freeloading Fuzzy. Fuzzy is a small, obnoxious, immoral bear with criminal tendencies and eyebrows that inexplicably hover over his head.
Sam could have been a bit of a blank space, being a bit of every-man sort of a character. But he comes out with quite a distinct personality, a fatalistic outlook and emotional neediness, which works well against the over-the-top confident, yet often naïve, Fuzzy. Fuzzy, likewise, could easily just be another “look at me I’m crazy” style character but as flawed as he is devious he ends up being an interesting character with a fair amount of depth (though it’s only in the later series you start to see the bigger picture with him).
Secondary characters are introduced fairly slowly in the early series and are moderately well developed, there’s not generally a huge amount of depth in these characters as it’s not that sort of comic. It gets a bit more hectic as they accumulate over the last two series, and particularly the current series where the cast explodes in numbers and some corners are necessarily cut on some minor characters but equally some of the more pivotal characters get a bit more development.
Sam and Fuzzy is fundamentally the story of Sam’s life, his dead end jobs and business ventures. Interjected into this are large quantities of random, crazy silliness – sometimes courtesy of Fuzzy but there’s plenty of other interjections from ninjas, demons and other oddballs.
The original series is pretty much a sit-com “slice of life” comic and largely deals with Sam and Fuzzy dealing with mostly everyday life stuff and the odd demon possessed refrigerator. As with all comedy based comics your value for money may vary depending on your personal taste but there are some great, laugh out loud, non-sequiturs and absurdism’s dotted amongst the “Classic” and “Noosehead” series that still make me smile whenever they happen to come to mind.
Not so much smiling in the “NMS” series where everything gets a bit more serious. In a sense it was sad to see the funnier stuff take a back seat but the gag-a-day style of comic has a finite life and it is a case of either evolving, ending or a slow degradation in quality so I’m happy Sam and Fuzzy made the leap into a longer, more serious, comic. Now when I say “more serious” please be clear that this is still a very silly comic, there is just more a focus on character based drama and emotional turmoil among the craziness of the Sam and Fuzzy world.
There are interesting story concepts in the “NMS” series, revolving around co-dependency, just how long should you stick with someone you care about, and how good intentions can truly be the road to a very bad place. It gets a little “angsty” in places and perhaps takes itself a little too seriously for what is fundamentally a non-serious comic, but it continues to deliver some neat storylines and mayhem based fun along the way.
It will be interesting to see if it has a “serious” ending or if it will just reset (e.g. return the characters to their status quo so that the series can continue in the same format). It’s hard to know what to root for as the former would be more satisfying but would perhaps hasten the end for Sam and Fuzzy. There hasn’t been a reset yet in the current series so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to drop one in but a series can only survive so many before it all starts to get a bit old and the quality inevitably begins to drop – there are only so many stories that can be told about the same characters and personally I’d always rather something ended on a high rather than slowly degrading over time.
The art is black and white sketch art, starts out a bit rough but evolves and improves over the life of the comic.
Author, publishing and timeline
Sam and Fuzzy is written by Sam Logan who lives in Vancouver, Canada and works as an illustrator and cartoonist.
Print editions of Sam and Fuzzy are available via Topatoco or via link on the ‘Online Shop’ link on the comic’s main page. There was also recently a Kickstarter for a Sam and Fuzzy RPG which has now finished but might be available for purchase at some point.