November 11, 2011

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Power Lunch, Sketch Monsters and Unico!

Hey ya’ll, and welcome back to another fun filled edition of your source for all-ages comics here on the net, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week I have been busy around the clock directing a version of the novel Animal Farm that uses all masks and puppets, and by the time I’ve been getting in I’ve wanted to do nothing but crack open a bottle of Asahi and watch The Fantastic Adventures of Unico on my 56″ inch TV set in all its glory! But wait, that can’t be all I want to do! There’s comics out there, and kids’ ones at that for your reading, Mr.Reviewer, and review I must! Luckily Oni Press released two new titles that are a blast, so let’s just quit with this babble and get down to it!


Out Now: Power Lunch: First Course
Publisher: Oni Press
Story and Art By: J. Torres and Dean Trippe

Power Lunch tells the story of Joey, a new kid at his school who dreams of joining the soccer team but is a nerdy outcast. The only person who befriends him is the “old weirdo” (since Joey is now the “new weirdo”) named Jerome at lunch. Joey is forced to eat a special diet of food because normal everyday foods have a reaction inside him and give him special powers. Jerome is being bullied by a bully named Bug who takes every chance to try and make Jerome’s life a living hell. Joey begins to eat a variety of food and use his special powers to help Jerome dodge Bug as their friendship grows. One day, though, Jerome gets cornered without Joey around and gets a beat down from Bug, which leads Joey to become concerned, because suddenly Jerome stops coming to school. Now it’s up to Joey to give his friend a little hope and figure out a responsible way to use his powers to help out.

Power Lunch, created by J. Torres and Dean Trippe, is an important little 40-page comic for the young folks. I use the term “important” simply because I think now is the right time to have all-age comics that deal with the subject of bullying, as it has become prevalent in the national eye due to a small wave of suicides caused by bullying. Comics have always from time to time dealt with the subject, but many of these have been buried in the back bins of time by now as the comic industry over-all has become aimed more at adults with kids second, pretty much. Power Lunch: First Course brings the topic front and center in a great way with its heightened reality. The writing is solid and the messages that it’s not cool to bully and friendship is important come through in an entertaining way. The art has a simpler feeling, like it has the slight vibe of a flash animation show on Cartoon Network, but the style mixed with the great writing works together in this package.

Power Lunch: First Course is out on stands now from Oni Press.


Out Now: Sketch Monsters: Escape of the Scribbles
Publisher: Oni Press
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Vinny Navarrete

Sketch Monsters: Escape of the Scribbles is a fun title which tells the tale of 8-year-old Mandy who as her sister goes away to school, gives her a sketchbook to draw in and express herself. Mandy draws a variety of creatures to deal with her feelings. Then one night while she sleeps, her notebook comes to life and all the sketch monsters escape. Mandy awakens to find this and tries to get the monsters back in the notebook immediately. With the help of the very odd monster named Happster (who’s like a cross between a cat and Fozzie bear), they track down the monsters and get each one back as Mandy deals with her own feelings about her sister being away.

I thought Sketch Monsters was a pretty book. It had a good message for the young folks about dealing with their range of emotions as they get older and people go off on their own ways, and the variety of lovable monsters was awesome. Navarrete’s artwork was really, really great on this title, and I love how he tackled the sketchbook-drawn look of the monsters and how they looked different artistically compared to everything else in the art style of the comic’s real world. His style was cool and I’d love to see more things drawn by him in the future. Overall it’s a solid 40-page all-ages book for everyone to enjoy, which also includes a little behind the scenes work pages as a bonus for you.

Sketch Monsters: Escape of the Scribbles is out now from Oni Press, check it out.


Something To Watch: The Fantastic Adventures of Unico

In 1976, godfather of Japanese comics Osamu Tezuka created a manga called Unico, about the adventures of a small magical unicorn. The comic would complete in 1979, and a TV pilot would be made for Unico but would not be picked up by the networks (however, it was released on video in Japan’s booming video market at the time). Still not giving up on a good idea, Unico finally transitioned to the big screen in 1981 with The Fantastic Adventures of Unico, produced by Tezuka Productions and Sanrio Productions (the minds behind Hello Kitty; in fact she makes a cameo in the movie) with animation by now famous Mad House Studios. The Fantastic Adventures of Unico would receive an English dub and be released here in 1983, gaining a huge cult of both anime and non-anime fans as its video spread across early Blockbusters and the like in the States. The film tells the tale of Unico, who is born with magical powers that can grant wishes for others if they truly love little Unico. The gods, however, are not pleased with this, for surely no one should have the power to make one’s wishes come true except them, and so they summon the West Wind who sweeps Unico away to an empty island. However, the island turns out to be inhabited by a small devil named Beezle, whose naturally mean-spirited demon ways are slowly changed by Unico’s magic. Once again, we can’t have this, and so off again Unico is swept away. This time Unico meets a small cat named Kathy who dreams of becoming a magical witch’s cat. The plot develops quickly from here, as in the process of Kathy thinking a harmless old woman is a witch and wanting to please, she gets turned into a human. Kathy being naive to the ways of the world falls under a magical spell of a handsome yet evil land baron, and it’s up to Unico and friends to save the day. It’s a great film for everyone. There’s laughs, there is adventure, and the mythology world Tezuka chose is cool and has a very westernized feel to it. This one wins on all accounts and should be checked out. You can hunt it down on video and certain import DVDs, but to my knowledge there is still no official U.S. release (I believe we came close about three years back, but it never came to fruition).


That’s it for this week, see you next week! Sending you some kaiju-love from the U.S!

Drew McCabe




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