From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma-Rays, No.151
Welcome back to another week of our all-ages column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma-Rays! This week we have a mega-sized column, also known as a FFGTR with cheese! Between prepping for my wedding coming up and being limited to what I can do with a fracture, it gave me some time to be stuck in bed and catch up on things (when I’m not addicted to playing Puzzle & Dragons of course, which has become the top-grossing app game in the world recently). So let’s get down to looking at stuff!
Euro-Comics Invade Netflix
A little while back after the Tintin film invaded theaters, Netflix added both the 1990s The Adventures of Tintin animated series to its selection (which if you’ve never seen check it, ranks up there on most lists with Batman: The Animated Series for the greatest animated television series ever), as well as a bunch of great old UK-dubs of old 60s/70s Tintin animated TV movies! It kept catching fire, for after that Netflix added the recent Moomins animated series (still waiting for the Japanese produced Moomins series that used to air on HBO to show up), and the movie The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (which isn’t the Hanna-Barbera cartoon but the original European animated film). All of these, Tintin, Smurfs, and Moomins, as you know are adapted from some of the most acclaimed Franco-Belgian comics of all time. These characters swept the world and with the exception of the Smurfs, who only broke through here because Hanna-Barbera licensed them, many never broke through to our shores which were controlled by things like Disney, who made sure they wouldn’t arrive or just receive limited exposure here (while the rest of the world frolicked with these characters). A few days ago Netflix continued the streak of coolness by adding more Franco-Belgian comics made into animated series with Spirou & Fantasio, Yakari, and Cedric! So fans and curiosity seekers of this material unite, if you have Netflix you have hours and hours of material to watch and enjoy (now Netflix just needs to get the Asterix cartoons up and we’ll be all set)!
So 2013 will be the year of cartoons in all-ages titles. True, cartoon adaptations have been part of comics since Mickey and Donald became strips, however, there is something notable about things like Adventure Time, My Little Pony, and Regular Show all selling really well across the boards. This week we take a look at three titles that came out earlier this month, but I didn’t get a chance to spot light.
True, this wasn’t actually a cartoon first like many Joe-Americans would assume, and Smurfs has been going since 1958!
Papercutz has started The Smurfs Anthology series to print the stories in original order on nice large pages for all of us to enjoy (the current Smurfs series which we have reviewed several times here is the same thing, but the books are smaller, have less pages, and the stories have not been presented in original order; that aside they are still some of the finest works of European comic art so don’t let that deter you from buying them, just noting the difference here between the two versions). Volume one collects major stories “The Purple Smufs” (more on that below), “The Smurf King,” their first appearance in Johan and Peewit‘s “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute,” and some other shorter material.
As we’ve raved over the years on this column, the material is great. If you have never read the magic of a Peyo comic on the page, Papercutz has given us it on nice glossy pages and wrapped in a hardcover, and there is plenty of entertainment for all ages. “The Purple Smurfs” feels like a zombie movie. “The Smurf King” is a witty World War II parable in disguise and executed with grace and precision. The first appearance of the Smurfs ever in “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” builds up to their intro, while enchanting us with Johan and company in the mean time (making us want to read more of their comics here). Grade-A stuff from these stories we covered here before!
The issue with the collection is it’s not 100% the real deal for adult collectors, just 95%. Papercutz puts out an outstanding edition, no argument on how nice it is, but the material still is changed and stupid-proofed for Americans on the art side. Back in 2010 Papercutz changed the black Smurfs to purple Smurfs, as Hanna-Barbera did back in the cartoon version to stupid-proof for the U.S., fearing the folks here would see it as a race issue, when really that isn’t the truth behind the black/purple story (Peyo actually was referring to the black plague that destroyed Europe)! Now in the small editions aimed at kids from 2010 it didn’t bother me. Play it safe, don’t cause unneeded drama, get the comics to sell, stupid-proof, I get it. However, here in this edition aimed at the adult collector, after a lengthy intro on the black Smurfs and the changes over the years, Papercutz still decided to present the art with purple Smurfs! Somehow this was shocking they stuck with the change. We live in a world where things that were racist (even though again, this wasn’t ever racist) are still presented uncut/unaltered in historical context and a warning note is given, such as Dark Horse at the start of their Tezuka books or Leonard Maltin giving an intro on several Walt Disney cartoon collection DVD sets. Honestly it’s shame it is still edited. The other odd thing about the set is the Smurfs stories are in original order with the exception of their appearance in the Johan and Peewit stories (which came before their solo adventures). Those original appearances are being presented in the anthology but as back-ups at the end of the books, so they’re close but not truly in order of comic appearance.
Still, if the order doesn’t bother you and slightly altered art doesn’t either, the edition is wonderful to check out if you haven’t seen what Papercutz has been doing with the comics over the past few years. Out now in print from Papercutz!
The good thing about all-age titles these days is, well, if I was using farming terms, I’d call it a plentiful harvest (let’s blame video game Harvest Moon for me writing sentences like that). The bad thing is doing columns like this I’m sent a ton of stuff and there’s only room to highlight so much (or in some cases you wish you were sent x-title more often). Last week I enjoyed the SpongeBob annual so much that it dawned on me I haven’t given this title much love, but never fear, because I am today as I talk about this month’s issue #21!
Twenty-one, a good age for some where they make stupid choices, however, SpongeBob #21 makes no stupid choices, unless it is on purpose to get a laugh, in which case it’s really not a stupid choice but a calculated choice (unlike the fake-calculated choice you made at 21, which turned out to be a bad choice), and mightily packed full of laughter this issue is (I’m sure my editor is shaking her head somewhere at my column this week with sentences like this)! In “The Krusty Nabbed!”, SpongeBob shows up to work one day to find the Crusty Krab…gone, which leads him on a mission that takes the gang all the way to King Neptune’s castle. In “The Landquarium,” SpongeBob and Sandy visit the museum that has the world’s “strange and terrible” land animals in it, like the deer, a creature who loves to steal your identity and ruin your credit rating! After showing Sandy all the land animals and the horrible things they do, she puts her foot down, which leads to an awesome final punch line! We also get short comics by Travis Nichols, David McGuire, and cult-favorite James Kochalka!
There is nothing not to love about this issue, and there wasn’t a page that didn’t go by without at least getting a chuckle out of me, let alone a huge laugh, especially that “The Landquarium” story, greatest hits material right there. This all around solid issue is funny enough where it reaches beyond the target audience of fans, and really can appeal to anyone with a sense of humor, which is a key factor in what has created some of the best all-age books over the past few years.
Twenty-one issues in and SpongeBob Comics is surprisingly fresh, high recommendation. In print now.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? issue #34 came out this month from DC. It’s a title that DC gives a soft push to market, because the character pretty much markets himself and the title sells. Not only does issue 34 have a cool cover, but to cut to the chase, a pretty off the wall weird opening story. How weird? Not as weird as the chicks in that 1990s American video for the Macarena (yeah, I went there, reader), but pretty odd stuff.
The opening story “The Case of the Hi-Fi E.T.s” starts out when the gang goes to a science fair in the desert. Things go from zero to 60 in a matter of seconds as they get separated, a scientist goes missing, aliens show up, and their van is stolen! However, the panel pacing, the unusually lengthy but well written dialog, the way something keeps happening every 5 seconds, the kinda anti-climatic and odd ending, all makes you feel like you’ve been in the desert for hours with them. Combine all that with really awesome art from Scotty Gross and you have one of the most intriguing Scooby-Doo comics recently printed. I’ll be surprised if Gross isn’t scooped up and put on a title like Adventure Time at Boom! if he keeps doing crazy stuff like this.
The issue also includes “Ghosts In The Mystery Machine” in which our gang drops off their van and the mechanics have to deal with a ghost who haunts the van; and “Carnival Of Fate” in which Scooby and Shaggy have to go up against some crooks hypnotizing folks at a carnival through stuffed bears. “Ghosts In The Mystery Machine” provides us with a great break from the normal cast and set-up of the book, and “Carnival of Fate” supplies us with a great old B-Movie setting and feeling that is much loved in a title like this. Add it all up with the wack-a-doo opener and it’s a great issue (not just good, like high-fives across the boards here)!
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? #34 is out now in print from DC Comics.
That’s it for this week, see you next!