While newspapers and comic strips continue to struggle to attract the attention of younger audiences and the general public in this digitally inundated world, cartoonist Matthew Foltz-Gray’s Spirit of the Staircase strip has managed to find eager readership in the Knoxville Mercury, and the collected volume of this popular comic strip, Tap Water and Tuna Party, recently published by Karate Petshop, is charming, chuckle-worthy, and may even draw some lapsed newspaper readers back into the funny pages once again.
MINOR SPOILERS BELOW
Foltz-Gray’s strip, Spirit of the Staircase, follows the bizarre and quirky misadventures of Matt, a human (or potentially a grasshopper who thinks he’s human), and Mumford, a furry something-or-other with a sideways understanding of the world, unstoppable curiosity and enthusiasm, and a love for corndogs and hotdogs. With a crow, a pair of raccoons, and other oddballs rounding out the cast of characters, Tap Water and Tuna Party is a delightful mix of Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County (minus the heavy political bend), the adventures of Uncle Traveling Matt (yes, that’s a Fraggles reference), and the off-the-wall programming one finds on Adult Swim during the middle of the night.
The unique and humorous tone of Foltz-Gray’s work is clearly a large part of the comic strip’s success, and Tap Water and Tuna Party will surely be enjoyed by anyone who has a soft spot for kooky outsiders and weird, yet heartfelt, stories. The characters are all incredibly charismatic and lovable, and audiences will grow attached to Mumford in a way that will surely, eventually, demand a plush version of the little guy, so that fans can have their own spirit of the staircase to inhabit their home.
When it comes to the artwork and visual style of Tap Water and Tuna Party, Foltz-Gray excels once again. Like a combination of Foltz-Gray’s work on the Kipling-inspired Rikki graphic novel (Read my review here.) and dash of Tim Burton’s early drawings, Tap Water and Tuna Party’s art is full of fun and energy, while at the same time feeling original and soulful in a way few comic strips ever reach visually. (Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County comes to mind again.)
FINAL VERDICT: As Foltz-Gray says himself in the opening pages of Tap Water and Tuna Party, “Do you like corndogs or hotdogs? If you hate both, this book isn’t for you.” But, if you don’t hate both (and I assume that should be a lot of you), you should definitely pick up a copy of this endearing and enjoyable volume. Your life will be better for it.
You can find out more about Tap Water and Tuna Party by visiting the official Karate Petshop website.