Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The product-placement edition

First things first: There's another great interview with me out there. This one is on the delightfully named "Steve in a Speedo" blog. Not only is it chock-full of great questions - I'll let you judge the answers - it features a contest. Comment on the interview and/or sign up to follow my Twitter tweets (which, note to self, probably time to start sending out some of those tweets) and you're in the raffle hopper to win a signed copy of Trizophrenia.

Onward from there:

Frazz is a triathlete. Readers of my comic strip know this because - duh - I make triathlon jokes from time to time. Readers who are triathletes, or runners, or swimmers or cyclists themselves, are in tune with a more subtle and yet just as solid clue: Frazz's t-shirts. People who pay good money to get up early, drive somewhere and go race under their own power tend to amass t-shirts like the pizza guy amasses parking tickets. We're unlikely to be seen in a t-shirt that doesn't tout an event or a product. Thus whatever shirt Frazz is wearing under his coveralls is likely to have some kind of logo on it.

What started as mere attention to detail has become a fun sideline for me and a lot of dedicated Frazz fans. Those shirts are a great way to nudge friends, indulge in a lame visual pun, or both. Or neither. Readers love to scratch their heads trying to figure out what shirt is wearing. And, given the fact that there's a certain gap between drawing and publication and a similar chasm between my short-term and long-term memory, I'll confess to occasional puzzlement myself. I'll try and remember some of my recent ones, and then I'll try to use this blog with future t-shirts to confirm your guesses, correct your errors or broadcast my own bad memory.

The series on Gourmet magazine coming a cropper had Frazz wearing - fuzzy enough that I'm probably the only one who knows this - a Zingerman's shirt. Zingerman's is a deli in Ann Arbor that must be visited to be believed. Belief, hell. It simply must be visited. New Yorkers travel to Ann Arbor to visit this deli.

Jane's running jacket says "ARC," which is A Runner's Circle, which is a store in Los Angeles. While my cramps and I were hobbling through the last few miles of Ironman Louisville, I met Derek, one of the owners, who was having similar issues. Instant friends. Sure hope his store is as cool as he is, or I'm going to feel silly. Somehow I'm not worried. Frazz is wearing a vest from Schwab Cycles. I met Bruce not limping in Louisville but riding in Italy, and we've been friends since. And I know for a fact his store rocks.

This features no t-shirt, but it's worth posting because it appeared the same day I got to slide down the fire pole (see previous post). I love it when things just fall into place.

53x11 is a brand of coffee AND a bicycle thing. Double whammy! Cycling and coffee have long been intertwined, and 53x11 (the numbers refer to what's the top gear on most road bikes, meaning the chainring with 53 teeth on it and the rear cog with 11 teeth; trust me, it takes some drumsticks to get that ratio up to speed) continues that tradition in style - they sponsor a strong racing team - and deliciously. Also, they have the good sense to hire a friend of mine to do some very fun illustration work for them.

And I don't know why Frazz is wearing a Speedo shirt in today's. Sometimes you just grab what's in the top of the drawer. Or maybe I had a premonition about Steve-in-a-Speedo's interview.

One last series of notes on Frazz's shirts: Yes, I've met some great people after I've nudged them via shirt. Yes, some of those have developed into lasting friendships. Everybody should have a job as good as mine. Yes, most shirts could be an endorsement of sorts; I likely have used, own, have raced in or would love to have owned or raced in whatever shows up there. No, the absence of a logo is not a condemnation of any given product. It may simply be the wrong shape for the opening in Frazz's coveralls. (For example, my longest-running favorite bike shop is called Assenmacher's. I do occasionally fit it into the strip, but I have to wait until I can put it on a bike jersey or jacket.) And while gifts of art and swag have been known to change hands - that's one thing friends do, after all - I never use the strip to troll for favors. Much to the dismay of my father-in-law, who thinks I ought to dress Frazz in sailboat and sports-car shirts until something works. I mean, I'm no Bill Watterson, but neither am I any given pro golfer.

Also, I'm a lousy driver and a little scared of boats.


veloben said...

O'Grady sent me.

Seeing how you are my favorite cartoonist and the only reason I still get the Chicago Tribune it's a great pleasure to find your blog. Just more of the work day shot on bike stuff or is it more of the bike day not shot on work?

As a cyclist/Public Library Director your recent Velonews panel on reading and trainers struck very close to home. While we do not have a special cyclist loan policy I am guilty as depicted.

In sharing that cartoon with both the library staff and my riding friends I dicovered the humor was not bidirectional so to speak.

100% of the cyclist got it right away (several have placed on the fridge door), but only two of the librarians (out of 10) did. The cataloger who does children's books and the Head of the children's department.

Thank you for your efforts to close the gap of understanding between cyclist and librarians.

Steve Stenzel said...

Thanks for the link, Jef!

And I love the second one - that partially IS the reason I do triathlons! I LOVE to eat! ;)

Noel said...

You forgot to mention that Frazz's shirts have been known to support a few nonprofits as well.
Let me take this chance to thank you again for featuring Tour de Cure and the American Diabetes Association.

La Professora said...

And then there's the traveling to exotic locations as evidenced by a Santa Barbara CSA shirt in a strip a couple of months ago.

While you're not using the strip to troll for favors, the shirt "placement" might be a way of starting a collection of 'laundry abatement', as my romantic partner calls T-shirts, à la Bill Cosby and his collection of college pullovers. Want a SJSU tee?

(from a previous entry)
"I think I’d love taking his classes. Wouldn’t be easy. But I tend to screw up the easy stuff anyway."
Like gender?

Jacob said...

While I don't pretend to know even a little about the comic strip-syndicate-newspaper relationship, there is one aspect of Watterson's speech that I can appreciate: the idea of comic strips as an artform. I don't know who wrote your introduction for "Frazz: Pi," but I agree with everything that person said, e.g. the visual accuracy of the strip and the fact that I have to consult a dictionary when reading your strip more often than I'd care to admit. I also love your use of parallel lines for shading; they remind me of Thomas Nast cartoons.

As I’m sure any triathlete would agree, I love Frazz’s t-shirts. Sometimes I’ll find brands that I know, like Speedplay and Crank Brothers (which I have on my tri bike and mountain bike, respectively). Other times I won’t recognize the logo (thanks for pointing out the Zingerman’s shirt). What I like most about Frazz is…well, I guess that sentence was easier to start than it will be to finish. ONE of the things that I like most about Frazz is that I seem to get smarter after I read ever strip. Keep up the good work!

P.S. I love the iambic pentameter title panel conversation on page 35 of “Bryson Elementary.”
P.P.S. Where can I buy your second book? I ordered it a while ago and it never came in.
P.P.P.S. Thanks for introducing me to Lyle Lovett.
P.P.P.P.P.S. The jersey you designed for the MMBA is my favorite jersey.

Jim Smith II said...

I always feel like the t-shirts are a bit of an inside joke with the athlete readers of Frazz. While the strip is very approachable, the t-shirts, jackets, etc. are just a little nod to those of us who put in the miles. I don't mean that in a negative way, and it doesn't detract from the strip, it's just a little added fun for those "in the know".

Plus, it's a blast trying to figure out where they're from...