From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No. 146
Hello and welcome back to another week with our all-ages column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! I’m your columnist, Drew McCabe! The weather is getting nicer, the sun is shining more, and as we start approaching the second half of 2013, a ton of all-age comics are on the radar to be released shortly by this fall! IDW is going to be doing everything from kid versions of rock band Kiss to a ton of Cartoon Network adaptations; Viz will be rolling out Ugly Dolls, Hello Kitty, Ben-10, and more; Boom is upping its kids game further with the return of Hero Bear; heck even Dark Horse is getting in the act with Itty Bitty Hell Boy (from Art and Franco, no doubt)! Surely this is best time for all-ages titles in comics since the numerous TV tie-ins of the late 1980s/early 1990s, but this time the bulk of it is coming from every other publisher but the Big-2! DC has some great stuff with Lil’ Gotham and Scooby-Doo, but Marvel is just…well…Marvel continues to really have no great all ages titles, outside their wonderful Oz books and the occasional Disney/Jim Henson tie-ins. Their two TV tie-in titles are quite forgettable. Marvel may have a solid grouping of titles going for itself on the main line, but on the all-ages side of things one thing is for sure: for a company owned by Walt Disney, frankly, they are a laughing stock when it comes to how poorly they have handled producing an all-ages title (once again, with the exception being their line of solid Oz mini-series). There is nothing more I’d love to see than Marvel get its act together on this, but then again if it wasn’t for them pretty much being so terrible on the all-age titles side, maybe we wouldn’t have such quality stuff at so many other publishers coming out. Just food for thought. Let’s get down to the reviews this week, where we have two awesome titles everyone should go pick up!
There is something completely fascinating about Benny Breakiron. Artist/Author Peyo is best known here in North America for his fantastic work as the creator of The Smurfs, a title that Papercutz has delighted us with by bringing them into the English language these past few years. With The Smurfs we get this fantastic fantasy world, full of lush forests, old castles, and little blue folk that just make us smile. With Benny Breakiron, we get to see the author draw a long-form story that fills the entire volume’s span, set in modern France, reminding us how good of an artist he is and mixing it up from what we have grown use to seeing from his pen these past few years, as he renders everything to cartoon perfection for the reader’s pleasure, telling the story of a young French boy with superhuman strength!
The first volume, “The Red Taxis,” finds Benny going about his normal life as he accidentally breaks pretty much everything due to his super strength (tough for him, comical to us). A new taxi company, The Red Taxis, has made a good splash in town, and Benny notices his friend Monsieur Dussiflard is out of work with his old Taxi due to this. After Dussiflard’s taxi is damaged, him and Benny go to the corporate offices of The Red Taxis to complain. Monsieur Dussiflard suddenly disappears and it’s up to Benny to use his super strength to get to the bottom of things, which turns into a hysterical globe trotting adventure!
Over the past few years we have seen some great titles finally come our way from the Franco-Belgian scene, like The Smurfs and Gil Jordan (Gil published by Fantagraphics). Benny Breakiron happily joins those ranks of awesome comic art that has finally come our way, presented in an affordable yet stellar looking edition from Papercutz for all to enjoy. There is nothing not to love about the details Peyo has packed in here, between his perfectly executed comic timing and bright colors that pop off the page. Certainly fans of all ages will enjoy this first volume, and not just Smurfs fans either. Something about Benny and his innocence and super strength crosses over to those who love cape-comics like Superboy, while the crime-solving aspect will appeal to manga fans of things such as Case Closed; the comic brings a little something for everyone.
The first volume, “The Red Taxis”, of Benny Breakiron is available now in hardcover from Papercutz, highly recommended!
Sesame Street #1
Publisher: Ape Entertainment
Story By: Jason M. Burns, Jay Fosgitt, Paul Morrissey, and Patrick Storck
Art By: Scott Ball, Amy Mebberson, Jay Fosgitt, Scott Underwood, James Silvani, Ryan Davis, and Misseri Studio
So many things come to mind when one says “Sesame Street.” Perhaps it is a favorite character. Perhaps they think of the “which one of these things is not like the other” game. Perhaps the Grouch National Anthem that opens the feature film Follow That Bird begins to play in their head. No matter what it brings up in one’s self, the one thing that rings true is that it’s been a staple in the childhood of most children in North America from its debut in 1969 and up until today (although five or six years back, viewers started growing with Nick J.R. shows like Yo Gabba-Gabba and Wonder Pets instead). As surprising as it may be to some that Sesame Street is now a comic, it may not be as surprising as that it took this long for it to become a comic, or even more surprisingly to a reader’s delight, the fact that it’s a really great comic!
Ape’s army of writers and artists have done a spectacular job translating these characters to the page, doing it with care for the source material while making its own thing. The book opens with a tutorial by Elmo on how to read a comic, which also encourages the comic to be read out loud. While this sounds odd to some, it’s genius. I think a lot of folk in this industry have forgotten that with the way page layouts and such have evolved since the 90s, comics aren’t “user friendly” for a good part any more. Part of the lack of readers for the modern comic book has nothing to do with folks not wanting to read about superheroes, it also has to do with somewhere along the way, comics became tough for a common reader to just step in and know where to look and read, when they stopped being set-up like comic strips. Luckily here, Elmo can guide the young reader (and the parent buying the comic if they have not picked up an issue in the last 20 years) so they they know what to do and how to follow.
From there, we go through a volley of stories, all with little touches and a lot of heart. “The Anatomy of a Hero”, by Burns and Mebberson, is the longest story in the issue, but starts us off on a great note, both writing and art wise, as Super Grover and Super Elmo find out what it truly means to be a hero. We get a Cookie Monster comic, a Snuffy comic (which will be much embraced by the old school fans who loved him), and finally an Ernie and Bert tale, with this fascinating claymation photo art by Misseri Studio that adds just a little something different to this book.
The bottom line is Ape scored big on this title. Jim Henson fans can chalk this up with some of the better titles that have adapted his material in recent years.
Sesame Street issue #1 is out now in print from Ape Entertainment.
That’s it for this week! See you next!