Welcome back, gang, for this year’s final edition of your source for all-ages comics, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! If you missed out last week, we did our Top 15 All-Ages Titles, so click here and check it out! Did you ever notice on the sides of the seventeen volumes of the American run of Dr. Slump, Dr. Slump only appears once on the binding and the other sixteen volumes have Ariel? He’s the title character (although I know the main-main character to most folks is Ariel)! Weird, even most the Japanese editions have usually all the main characters like Dr. Slump, Ariel, and Gatchan. Oh well, that has nothing to do with our column. This week we have some good issues to check out before the year is up, so here we go!
Princeless is an intriguing take on an old concept. The comic spins the tale of a Princess, who growing up doesn’t understand why one day she should be locked in a tower for a knight to save her; in her words, “it’s even more expensive than a dowry.” As fate would have it, her teenage years would come and she would be locked away in a tower guarded by a man-eating (but lovable to her) dragon to fight off knights, until one day the right one can free her from the tower, “earning” her. After knight after knight falls, she gets a better idea: she decides to disguise herself as a knight and flies off on her dragon to free her sisters who are under the same fate in other towers.
I like the twist with this “Princess takes control” turn; it works for me and gives the plot a little sprinkle of something different. The other element to note in this is our main character is a princess of African American ethnicity, something to note as she angrily brings up in the plot when she is called fair, which means white, and as she notes, she obviously is not. I think Princeless does it right with this twist. Disney has tried an African American princess with The Princess and the Frog, but in that film’s case I don’t think they tried to embrace it, and it was only for a hopeful cash-in of that audience. I think Princeless is trying to boldly embrace the lead’s ethnicity and in a safe yet comical way everyone can dig, and I can appreciate that.
The art by Jeremy White is good and suits the material well. The real strength of the book is the writing by Goodwin, who wields a good tale with some witty dialog that keeps the pages moving and enjoyable. The first issue here is a great start to the mini-series, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of the series rolls out.
Issue six of Reed Gunther takes a slight break in the main story of the series (which made our number one pick of 2011 for all-ages titles) to give us an origin story for our heroes. The issue tells the tale of Reed’s birth, his love of mustaches, and how while racing to get some medicine for his sick father, he saved Sterling from a bear trap and creepy forest demon which started their friendship. We get a little fighting and a lot of laughs. There is also a short back up story which is pretty cool, and a moment that is perhaps more important than the origin of Reed and Sterling’s friendship, the origin of Reed’s mustache (which put a huge smile on this reviewer’s face).
The writing is solid, from our boys waking Starla up, to the whole hilarity about young Reed wearing a fake mustache because he wanted one so bad; good stuff in these pages. As always, Shane Houghton builds up the story nicely, his sense of pace and delivery for these characters always on par. The art by Chris Houghton was fantastic as usual, too, proving this brother-duo knows what they’re doing.
While I don’t know if an origin story is necessary for Reed and Sterling, I most certainly didn’t mind a break in the action to find out about their start, and flying babies always make this reviewer laugh. Also, this is a great jumping on point for new readers. Sometimes with all the comic book melodrama I think two problems keep happening; A.) Books are designed to be collected as stories or super serialized issues, making it hard to jump on, and B.) Everything has to have this epic arc because of the collected editions being the true target. You know what is cool about Reed Gunther? Each individual issue feels like its own thing, BUT if you do put them all together you still get this sense of a fun cowboys and monsters epic that does build over the issues. Why can’t all comics feel like that? You can jump onto any issue of the series and enjoy it, and of course there is no better issue to jump on than this one.
Reed Gunther #6 gives us a moment to reflect before its next set of stories, as well as plenty of laughs. On stands now.
I have endless plastic storage bins with DVDs or books that I keep stored away as kind of an archive, where my current stuff or things I read frequently are out on my book shelves. Going through my archives to look for something odd for you to watch to finish off the year, I came across this little title - Kore ga UFO da! Soratobu Enban, or roughly translated That is an UFO!: The Flying Saucer. This weird animated short was produced by Toei Animation and released on March 21, 1975 to cinemas. Oddly, this short is more of an animated docu-piece. In about 17 minutes or so, the film talks about several real life reported cases of UFO encounters or alien abductions in the United States through the 1940s and 50s, animating the creepy situations that took place. It then gives us some sci-fi diagrams on the theory of what the insides of UFOs look like and slightly how they work. Odder still, Toei also mixed in real life photos of UFO sightings, and even shots of the real sketches a couple did of the aliens and what they saw after their reported abduction. The animation is better than their TV animation at the time, but still a little odd. Most of the film is narrated to perfection with a creepy sci-fi score playing underneath. Possibly even odder still is that for some reason this short is included on a collection of Taiwanese DVDs, which collect all the theatrical films of manga artist Go Nagi’s Mazinger-Z. The only sense I can make of why this was included was because the original advertising material’s one tag-line was “From The Makers of Mazinger-Z,” which Toei was doing the popular animated adaptation of at the time in Japan, and it was billed with several Toei Anime films for the spring which included a Mazinger-Z flick. Other than someone making a mistake and including it in the collection accidentally to our benefit, I don’t think Go Nagi worked on this at all; not that it matters, because we have it. If you can hunt this down, you are in for 17 minutes of unique oddity from Japan. Your final something watch before 2011 is up is That is an UFO!: The Flying Saucer! The teaser is below (but doesn’t do it justice…it’s just weird).
That’s it for this year! We are on break from the column for a few weeks and will return the first week of January!