Fanlee and Spätzle Make Something Perfect is anything but what its title claims. The collection of webcomics from cartoonist Pseudonym Jones published by Silver Sprocket, is messy, inconsistent, and wildly leaps from comedic to tragic sometimes within the same strip. Thankfully, this is precisely what makes the collected five years of comics special, raw, and absolutely worth reading.
Fanlee and Spätzle Make Something Perfect
Pseudonym Jones (cartoonist)
November 15, 2019
Fanlee and Spätzle have been a focus of Jones’ output since they first debuted in 2014. Fanlee is a small blue bear with impressive eyebrows and an equally impressive level-headed cool demeanor while Spätzle (originally going by Guatemala in the early strips) is a bright yellow bird with a love of dresses and a complete lack of emotional subtlety in all things. The pair of friends have starred in strips ranging from everyday workplace encounters to heart-wrenching break-ups, and it is a credit to Jones’ skill as a writer that their growth from one-off gag strips leads to genuinely compelling characters feels as natural and earned as it does.
A recurring and important focus of the collection is Spätzle’s journey as a trans woman. In the first handful of strips, Spätzle has not yet come to terms with her identity as a trans woman, leading to a series of short stories following her exploration of herself and eventual coming out to friends and family. Jones is trans herself, and her experiences shine through in Spätzle’s journey, lending them a sense of authenticity that goes beyond what many would expect from a comedy webcomic about a couple of talking animals. As a trans woman who is starting estrogen shots the week of writing this, the multiple spotlights on that specific process have hit particularly close to home for me, and are very welcome.
Fanlee and Spätzle is funny. Very funny! Fanlee’s deadpan straight-laced attitude is the classic comedic foil for Spätzle’s manic energy, a familiar formula that Jones deploys well. Where it excels beyond well-executed sitcom structure, however, is the art. Jones’ evolution as a cartoonist during the five years covered by the collection is fascinating and delightful to witness. Simplistic but adorable characters evolve over the time into dynamic and expressive figures that hammer home both laughs and tears. Equally noteworthy is Jones’ skill at naturally incorporating everyday objects, like dozens of chapsticks in a purse or a text conversation, into the comics, strengthening the storytelling.
The tears do come, of course, mainly from Spätzle’s relationship with her partner, (and later ex) Lentil. The pair’s relationship is initially played for laughs and is mostly very sweet and adorable. The cracks begin to form; however, the first being a particularly painful moment where Spätzle incorrectly genders her own, non-binary, partner. She quickly apologizes, but the incident is brushed over before the end of the strip. This new wrinkle casts Spätzle’s formerly wacky and endearing behavior in a new light with Lentil, one that is not particularly flattering. Antics like drinking half a bottle of Lentil’s wine without asking or channeling her depression fueled relationship thoughts through a funny comic are shown to have a cost, one that is painful but genuine for everyone involved.
Make Something Perfect ends on this melancholy note. Instead of laughs and smiles, the series’ leads are left sad, confused, and vulnerable. The narrative has continued on Jones’ Twitter in the years since those strips, but this collection ends with a simple message: “What do you do when something bad happens? You keep going.” That message is what drives Fanlee and Spätzle, in both comedy and drama, and pushes it to the consistent heights it achieves. Neither the comic not its characters may be perfect, but that won’t stop them from trying.