Caulfield, Miss Plainwell, and Frazz
A daily comic strip by Jef Mallett about Edwin Frazier, nicknamed "Frazz" by the kids at Bryson Elementary School. He works there as a janitor, but is also very wealthy due to having written several hit songs. Most strips feature the day-to-day interactions between Frazz, the students, the teachers and the staff, though some will focus on Frazz's off-hours activities, particularly his triathalon training. Frazz is a well-read Renaissance Man, so strips will often include references to books, music, history, art, and pop culture, among other things.
Regular characters include:
- Frazz - the star of the strip, a successful songwriter whose janitor job has turned from keeping himself alive while he writes to a source of further inspiration. He is respected by the kids and the school's staff, and regularly dates Miss Plainwell.
- Caulfield - an eight-year-old kid who regularly challenges Frazz and Mrs. Olsen with his literary insights. He's smart, but tends to get detention because it doesn't challenge him. Caulfield chooses a literature-themed costume every Halloween and regularly stumps the teachers.
- Jane Plainwell - a first-grade teacher and Frazz's romantic interest. Outside of school, the two frequently run in marathons together.
- Mrs. Olsen - a third grade teacher and a regular foil for Caulfield, who distracts her with insightful questions and comments in class.
- Mr. Spaetzle - the principal of Bryson Elementary. He is a kind-hearted man who enjoys the admiration Frazz gets, and strives to be like him.
- Mr. Burke - fourth-grade teacher and friend of Frazz's. They regularly shoot baskets—except that neither of them ever makes one. Several years into the comic, he also took up running.
- Coach Hacker - the physical education teacher, interested only in team sports. A former star athlete, he is now horribly out-of shape; he likes to compete with Frazz by comparing his favorite sports (football and hockey) against Frazz's (running and cycling).
- Almighty Janitor: Frazz.
- Apathetic Teacher: Mrs. Olsen, at times.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: In one strip◊, Frazz claims to have "Attention Defi-Hey-Look-A-Squirrel."
- Author Avatar: Some readers see Frazz as one for Jef Mallett.
- Author Filibuster: Frazz is so fanatical about bicycling, swimming, and running that he (and by extension, the cartoonist) sometimes seems contemptuous of any adult who doesn't regularly participate in triathlons and the like.
- Banana Peel: Realistically depicted, to the disappointment of the girl who tried to slip on a fresh one.
- Best Years of Your Life: the child actually manages to counter that that probably springs from her father's career. On another occasion, a child asks for and gets assurance it's not true.
- Black and Nerdy: Caulfield.
- Bluebird of Happiness: One child's bad mood is underscored by having her ignore a bluebird.
- Book and Switch: One strip has Caulfield hiding Shakespeare inside his primary reader book... on read-aloud day.
- Brilliant but Lazy: Caulfield.
- Calvinball: One week of strips was devoted to "Bedlamball".
- Can Not Spit It Out: Frazz and Ms. Plainwell to each other, for quite a long time, and despite the fact that Everyone Can See It.
- Child Prodigy: Caulfield again.
- Drives Like Crazy: Mrs. Olsen. She routinely runs into signs and cars in the parking lot.
- Embarrassing First Name: Why do you think he calls himself "Frazz" instead of "Edwin"?
- Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Frazz's original motive. Resulting early strips where he explains why he keeps it now that the money is not an issue.
- Funny Answering Machine: A Sunday strip has Frazz and the kids recording a song with some nonsense instructions for the caller.
- Halloween Episode: Every year there's a week of Halloween-themed strips in which Caulfield dresses up as a character from literature, challenging the teachers to guess his identity. Frazz usually figures it out long before any of the others (if they get it at all).
- A couple of times, he's referred to an entire literary work through his actions, such as taking a new route to school for "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost, or sitting on the swings with his dog for "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Edgar Allan Poe.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Subverted with Caulfield's swimming
- I Just Like Saying The Word: This is why Frazz eats kumquats.
- Intergenerational Friendship: Frazz is Friend to All Children, but especially to Caulfield.
- Jerk Jock: Coach Hacker.
- Little Professor Dialog
- Love Floats: When Frazz and Miss Plainwell finally get together for a (running) date. Lampshaded:
You know, the traction's terrible up here.
I hadn't noticed.
- Medium Awareness
- Metaphorgotten: Caulfield's playing with this leads to a discussion of metaphor and simile.
- Nature Lover: Frazz, running and biking in the Great Outdoors. And commenting on the kids who never go out.
- Object Ceiling Cling: Done here with pickles.
- Official Couple: Frazz and Ms. Plainwell, once Frazz gets the courage to ask her out.
- Painting the Medium: This strip, where Frazz literally paints the medium.
- Picture Day: One story arc where Caulfield draws a goatee on himself in permanent marker the day before picture day. Resolved when the photographer uses a computer program to cover the goatee.
- Pretty Butterflies: A viceroy. (Frazz gets to explain why it looks like a monarch.)
- Renaissance Man: Frazz is described as a modern version of this trope.
- Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue
Roses are red
And violets are blue
Take care of that sciata
Down by your (wazoo) note
- Santa Claus: Discussed. Frazz even explains how he can afford all the gifts: he licenses his image.
- Scantron Picture: Caulfield does this as a Running Gag. He uses the dots to write out music notes, and later recreates the Mona Lisa.
- Shout-Out: Countless references to literature, art and music. Not mention that Bryson Elementary is named after author Bill Bryson. Then there's Caulfield's name.
- Sistine Steal: An early Sunday comic had Frazz painting the cafeteria in kid-oriented versions of various famous paintings, including the Creation of Adam featuring a cafeteria lunch lady spooning food onto a student's plate.
- Snowball Fight: Frazz and Caulfield, more than once.
- Spiritual Sequel: MANY people have noted the physical similarities between Frazz and Calvin, the similar personalities, the general feel of the comic, The fact that Frazz shares several hobbies with Calvin's dad, and (most importantly) Mallet's art style being nearly indistinguishable from that of Bill Watterson. Though every theory has been Jossed to death - that Mallet IS Watterson, that Mallet intended for Frazz to be a sequel/alt-continuity to Calvin and Hobbes - most fans, regardless, consider it a very-fitting, even if accidental, spiritual successor to Watterson's Magnum Opus.
- Splash of Color: One strip is shades of gray, except for a colored egg.
- Spoiled by the Format: Frazz intends to avert this for his first novel.
- Stern Teacher: Mrs. Olsen is this underneath her general meanness.
- Straw Loser: Coach Hacker exists solely to magnify Frazz's virtues through his own flaws.
- Sturgeon's Law: Featuring a real sturgeon!
- Through His Stomach: One teacher wins the secondgraders with food.
- Too Dumb to Live: Coach Hacker, on at least one occasion.
- Unit Confusion: Parodied when Caulfield points out loudly that light-years are a measure of distance, whereupon Mrs. Olsen tells him to quiet down because he's "making a ton of noise."
- Viewers Are Geniuses: Jef Mallett has stated that he believes his readers to be among the smartest in the world.
- Volumetric Mouth: The kids especially, but sometimes the older characters too.
- X Called; They Want Their Y Back: Frazz once took a long bike ride on a chilly day, ending up with only the lower half of his legs windburned.
Caulfield: (pointing to Frazz's white-and-red legs) Poland called. They want their flag back.