The latest in the series of comics starring Los Angeles Trombone reporter Charles Fitzgerald, otherwise known as Chip McFitz, Matt Greaves’ Chip McFitz: Joint Fever sees the old school journalist investigating the world of marijuana. Due to his constant diet of coffee and cigarettes throughout his career McFitz hasn’t slept in many years, giving him a rather distinctive worldview and approach to the job.
After seeing a Reefer Madness-style educational film (or propaganda film depending on your perspective) McFitz decides to begin his exposé into drug culture by befriending the privileged Hampton boys. His pursuit of the truth will take him to dingy nightclubs and dodgy dealers before the effects of the nefarious weed have a surprisingly life-changing effect on the hapless hack…
No previous knowledge of the character is necessary to enjoy this one-shot send-up of the intrepid newspaper reporter figure and Greaves does so with a clearly fond regard for a character who is nonetheless portrayed as a splendidly clueless protagonist. McFitz doesn’t so much act with agency in pushing his narrative forward as simply bumble through it; events happening around him as stumbles ever onwards.
Greaves’ clean line and clear cartooning style often diverts into more experimental sequences. I was particularly taken with a page displaying the passage of time in the nightclub where a wired McFitz enjoys the music (below left). It creates a feeling of motion, melody and rhythm that is almost synaesthestic in delivery. It’s a fantastic piece of visual storytelling and while the changes to page structure to reflect the altering perceptions of a stoned McFitz (below right) aren’t anything we haven’t seen before in similar stories they’re still well executed.
Thought Bubble is, of course, the perfect opportunity for new discoveries and the Chip McFitz series’ set-up will appeal to readers who enjoy a certain style of streamed animation (hardly surprising given the strip’s creator’s cross-media creativity). Fun, escapist fare with an eccentric personality all of its own.
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Review by Andy Oliver