The Norm (comic strip)

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Michael Jantze's The Norm

The Norm is a comic strip by Michael Jantze. It ran in newspapers, syndicated by King Features Syndicate, from 1996 until 2004 when Jantze removed the strip from syndication to develop it as an online comic strip and television series. Book collections and comic books are in print in English, Spanish and Swedish.[1] The website of the comic also contains a free archive of available comic strips with Norm's daily blog.[2]

Characters and story[edit]

Norm: The title character is Norman, who, with very few exceptions, is always referred to as "Norm". The title The Norm implies that he is a typical everyman. In one strip he states that "Actually my full name is 'Theodore Norman', but I use the first 3 and 4 letters because 3 plus 4 is seven and that's my lucky number.".[3] It was later revealed that his full name is actually Theodore Norman Miller.[4] Norm is a graphic designer who is "twenty-something" and single, taking a casual approach to life. While he is not very socially adept, most people find him likable. His relaxed attitude and impulsiveness are the main source of interpersonal conflict within the strip. He has a fascination for new technology and gadgets and may be addicted to caffeine. He is also a Star Wars fan with a complete collection of action figures. Norm often breaks through the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader.

Boy Norm: A younger version of Norm that Norm reverts to at times when he is acting immature or feels like he is being treated as a child. Boy Norm particularly loves video games and lives on a diet of breakfast cereal. Boy Norm also acts as a sort of conscience for Norm, appearing to him and talking to him as another character. The advice he gives usually leads Norm toward making impulsive decisions. Boy Norm is not malicious or unkind; he is just a kid, Norm's inner child, who Norm lets out to play all too often.[5]

Reine Stark: Norm's best friend who he has known since college. She is a highly successful business woman; whose over-focused driven tendencies counterpoint Norm's relaxed attitude.[6][7] Though they have known each other a long time they were happy to just be friends; however, everyone who knew them thought they would make a good couple. Later, to please her parents Reine lied and said that she and Norm were engaged. This led to a convoluted trip to Hawaii with Reine's parents, in which Norm and Reine realized their true feelings for each other. Soon after they began dating and eventually marry.[8]

Ford: Norm's African-American closest male friend, who is slightly older and slightly wiser than Norm; and occasionally acts as his voice of reason; though more often than not he encourages and goes along with Norm's whimsical tendencies. At work he is a technical writer who works in the cubicle next to Norm's and is often seen Gophering or peering over the partition like Kilroy.[9] In an extended story arc, Ford becomes engaged to his girlfriend Jan, and then while in the process of making their wedding plans they abruptly decide to move to another state. Left without his best buddy Norm tries to fill the gap with his usual social ineptitude.

Jan: Ford's girlfriend (later wife) is a therapist who does not like Norm, but is good friends with Reine. Though Ford is fully committed to their relationship, he resorts to creative ways to evade her so he can hang out with Norm; such as offering to help with their wedding plans, which invariably gets him thrown out of the house.

Mom and Dad: Norm's parents, who are usually depicted as voices out of the cartoon frame. In some strips they are drawn as childish stick figure sketches, reflecting the fact that Norm still sees them through a child's eyes. While Norm frequently talks about wanting to be "friends" with his parent on an equal adult level, he invariably ends up being treated as a kid, often reverting to "Boy Norm" in the process. In later strips they are drawn as normal characters, but always with their faces obscured.

Reine's Parents: Reine's Mother and Father, unlike Norm's parents they actually appear in the strip and interact with other characters normally. They are a happy older couple who are quite fond of their daughter; and are quite approving of Norm as well in no small part because they are under the false understanding that Norm and Reine are dating. They have at least one other child, a son who has not appeared in the strip.

The Co-workers: Most of Norm's co-workers have no given names and are known only by their job titles, such as the President (also referred to as the CEO), the HR Director, the System Technicians (there are two), the Copier Repairman, etc.

The Boss: (No name given) An African-American woman who is Norm's manager at work. A low-level cog in the company's management who is constantly loading Norm down with work, meetings and deadlines that invariably make him work all sort of overtime hours. While she would be totally lost without Norm; she would be the last person to admit it.

Wonk: Norm's older and balding co-worker. A plain vanilla type of guy who is constantly annoyed by Norm. The feeling is mutual.[10]

Maria Elena: A friend of Reine who Norm had shown some interest in while unaware that she was already engaged.

The Neighbours Also referred to as "The Married Friends" A young married couple with a baby who live next door to Norm, usually appearing as a counterpoint to Norm's bachelor lifestyle. Their names are not mentioned. They also have a Sheltie named Chuck that Norm occasionally takes for walks.

Chuck The Shetland Sheepdog owned by Norm's neighbours. Norm likes to take Chuck for walks in the park as (according to his theory) it is a good way to meet single women.[11] As a "Chick Magnet"[12] Chuck is quite effective, but not always in a way that Norm appreciates.

Boomer: Norm's next door neighbour, and Wonk's twin brother. He is constantly borrowing things from Norm (usually without asking) and often appears in his yard in his bath robe. Boomer is always outgoingly friendly but somewhat repulsive and Norm tries to avoid him whenever possible. Since Boomer moved into neighbourhood the housing values have dropped considerably.

The XGF's The Ex-Girlfriends, a collective term for all the women who Norm has dated in the past and broken up with. Usually the breakups are due to his own foibles. These ladies frequently come back to haunt him, sometimes even as a group.[13] They include Marta, Greta, Rita (the "Über-ex-GF") and also Maria Elena who Norm never dated but was once interested in. Reine was also technically a member long before her and Norm began dating, since he had thought about it but never asked her since he did not want to lose her as a friend.

Bronte: A woman who saves Norm's life when he almost drowns on a hiking trip, and later becomes his girlfriend. This relationship is complicated by the fact that they live in different states, and they can only spend limited amounts of time together. However Norm actually sees this as an advantage.[14] They break up while waiting in line at the theatre to see a Star Wars movie when she confuses Star Wars with Star Trek.

Chris Chris is a star wars fan who first met Norm in line to see a star wars movie; and eventually filled in Norm's best friend role after Ford's departure. Chris was wearing a wookie costume at the time and unfortunately for Chris the zipper on the outfit got stuck so he was trapped wearing it for a long time afterwards. Norm got used to seeing his friend in the costume that he did not recognize Chris when he finally got out of it. Later Chris became one of Norm's co-workers when he was hired as an accountant.

The Norm at GoComics archive.[15]

References[edit]

External links[edit]