From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No.96: A fine week to be a kid again!
Welcome back to your source for all-ages comics goodness, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! Before we jump into the column, I just want to say that the state of Saturday morning cartoons is alive and well if you check out Cartoon Network. I feel like some place in the early-otts that Saturday mornings were laid to rest, shortly after the Pokemon/Digimon boom period. Well last weekend I couldn’t stay asleep in the morning and flipped on the TV, only to be delighted by the new Thundercats cartoon, followed by the DC Nation block with the new 3-D animated Green Lantern and Young Justice, finally followed by the new MAD cartoon show (based off the magazine). I was completely entertained by this line-up, plenty of quality animated storytelling in multiple animation styles, it was great! Could this be a return to great “must see” Saturday mornings that rocked the 1990s (when many shows like Pinky and The Brain, X-Men, etc., got so popular they even showed them prime-time)? Too early to tell, but is this the best Saturday morning routine in about 10 years: Yes. Tune in to Cartoon Network yourself on Saturdays and check it out. Now, onto the reviews this week!
This is a good year for a lot of classic newspaper strip characters becoming comic books. It is not as huge of a boom as it was over 40 years ago when King Features Syndicated created King Comics (which gave everyone from Flash Gordon to Beetle Bailey their own books), but it is still substantial to note that this year we first got Peanuts from Boom!, then Popeye from IDW, and now we get Garfield. Even more interesting, this is the first time in the fat cat’s career since he was first drawn so many years ago under the pen of Jim Davis, that he has his own comic book. So how does it hold up in long format? Amazingly well, actually.
The first issue of Garfield gives us two great tales (or tails if you, dear reader, wanted a pun there). The first tale is titled “Collectors Classic,” where Garfield is awoken from a dream as Ultra-Powerful Guy fighting the Lasagnanator, by Nermal, whom he launches out of the house into a garbage can. This turns out to be lucky, as Nermal finds in the can a copy of the first edition of Ultra-Powerful Guy #1 (this universe’s Superman #1 basically), which leads to dreams and hilarity as John takes the gang to see what they can sell it for. The second story, “Big Mouse Meal,” has Big Mouse show up asking why Squeak is hanging out with Garfield. After Squeak explains their cat-mouse relationship is different, Big Mouse tries to prove him wrong by inserting himself into every meal Garfield is about to chow down on, in an attempt to prove he will eat mice.
This team has done a great job, and why not? Jim Davis himself oversaw the whole thing and hand picked who would do this book. The best choice that could have ever been made was choosing Mark Evanier as its writer. Evanier has written an endless amount of the Garfield TV show episodes across multiple shows and specials; it may even be bold to say considering the amount of long-form writing he’s done, he may have written as much Garfield as Davis himself. Evanier, obviously no stranger to long-form Garfield stories, knows the characters inside and out, delivering everything to perfection. Timing and dialog are Garfield-perfect, and he even took advantage of the world of comic books for the first comic book story; a nice touch making a bridge between the two forms. Gary Barker is phenomenal on the art, everything looking like Davis drew it himself, once again making that smooth transition from strip to comic book.
Some books I praise and get excited over. Some books I don’t always like but can see other people enjoying them, because that is the magic of comic books. And some times, once in awhile you get that title or two each year that you really cannot praise enough, because of how surprisingly you are impressed by the whole package and feel; no matter how many nice words I type down, I still cannot give it the just praise it deserves. Garfield #1 for all-ages is that last scenario. It is the best title Boom! has put out this year, all-ages or adult, and is one of the best all-ages books you can pick up. So find this comic and put your money down on this winner.
I have talked about what I think are the coolest web comics on the scene before in this column, ShiftyLook.Com, and their comics updated daily based off old (and some new) Namco-Bandai video games, and today I wanted to shine a spotlight on Xevious. Xevious was a cult-arcade game of sorts here in the States back in 1982, and from what I’ve discovered online, much loved in Japan. It makes natural sense based on its appeal that it would be one of the first to be chosen for a comic on ShiftyLook. For this they brought in an amazing team of writer Mike Costa and artist Mike Norton (regulars of the column know Norton’s name from a slew of all-ages DC titles we have reviewed), who do a great job translating it to the digital page.
The comic follows the adventures of Oscar Muratorio as he flies his fighter-plane to fend off the alien invasion of the Xevious. Oscar very quickly is surprised when his bride-to-be, whom he left behind to defend the world, shows up as a new fighter pilot, as well. From air dog fights to being abducted and taken on the mothership itself, Muratorio risks it all fighting these invaders.
Writing side of things, Costa does a great job of giving us a well-paced strip. Always a twist here or some action there, it’s never dull. I also love the setting, with these guys protecting South America. They mention the U.S. and China are doing well protecting their homelands, but it’s up to this force to protect South America, and that’s just different enough of a backdrop to add its own flavor. Norton, as per anytime the guy draws, does a fantastic job. His characters and settings are cool, and the layouts great. Any worry of how Norton would translate from action on a full comic book page to a strip size is laid to rest as he handles the task well. Also, Norton makes sure the aliens’ ships and such in Xevious all look like the video game art that used to be on the arcade machine; he didn’t just geek-proof it, but also makes it work well in this world.
Xevious is the modern day Flash Gordon, only it’s found on the web. Of all the ShiftyLook.Com titles running right now, I hope Xevious is renewed for a second story arc beyond this. Check it out here.
So something really, really all-ages cool popped up digitally this week, and that was a chance for North Americans to read the Wallace and Gromit dailies at last. Available in digital collected issues from Titan and found on Comixology.com, Aardman Animation fans can finally read the adventures of the famous inventor and his pet dog. Published in the UK by the Sun since 2010, it’s awesome to finally read these state-side.
So how to do these dailies hold up? Collected and colored they look great and are packed with laughs. Wallace, a mad cap British inventor, and his dog Gromit, deal with an array of robots built by the inventor that don’t work properly, rival inventors, ruins under their yard, and of course, cheese! Each story is between 6 to 9 strips long with their own punch lines and laughs.
It is a pleasant surprise how well this stop-motion animated duo translates to the page. The art and writing are both fun. All of the Aardman humor is there on the writing side of things. Art side it is simpler, but Wallace and Gromit are not some crazy detailed characters to begin with, and also these were originally dailies for the quick read in the paper. As stated, if you are a fan, you can’t go wrong on these, and if you are not a fan but a lover of comic strips, you should check it out. You can find Wallace and Gromit Dailies here by clicking on the link!
That’s it for this week, see you next, and remember until then, get your kaiju-game on!