From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, No. 109: Chicks Dig It
Aloha readers, and welcome to your weekly column for all-age comics goodness, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! This week I have an interesting selection of titles: they are all aimed at younger female readers (although anyone can read these, of course). I say interesting because it’s good to see this audience aimed at to help comics in America grow. Back in the day of the 1950s into the mid-60s, romance comics ruled the stands next to horror and western titles, creating a gigantic female readership. That of course died off, and the Silver Age superhero books started to come into play. A good time later, somewhere in the early-otts, females reading comics started to grow again, this time reading Japanese Shoujo manga. It’s been over ten years now since that last readership boost, which has helped the manga industry in America carry on, and now as we are getting a larger variety of all-ages titles once again to create new readers, it’s nice to see a little chunk coming in aimed at young females. So without further ado, let’s look at this week’s titles!
In the past few months we have drawn our attention to numerous revivals of nostalgia-titles, and in 2012 every character from the Power Rangers to My Little Pony are back in the comics. Ape Entertainment is no stranger to nostalgia, publishing new and classic Richie-Rich stories, and now they are bringing us a new Strawberry Shortcake comic, complete with scented cover (no joke).
Issue #1 is packed with three tales. In “Field Day,” the yearly Berrykin Power Plant picnic (try saying that three times fast) is taking place, and everyone wants to win the trophy for the many races that ensue. Strawberry picks Bosley Bookworm as her teammate to everyone’s surprise, and tries to overcome the odds despite his lack of athletic ability. Friendship and hard work does shine through in the end. In “Huckleberry Hill,” Raspberry and Blueberry are a little down when the old Huckleberry Hill sign is taken down as construction happens locally. The girls reflect on their younger days with the sign, and might just have a way to save it. In “A Recipe for Friendship,” another day at Strawberry Shortcake’s cafe is underway as she wracks her noggin trying to come up with a new recipes for breakfast, because her cookbook has gone missing. Her friends jump in, creating new dishes, happy customers, and of course good friendship. The issue also includes the text-story “The Mystery Dish,” and a recipe for Berry Bitty Bites, like the ones in the third story, that anyone can make.
Overall this update holds up pretty well, and like picking up an Archie comic, although the styles have changed and Strawberry Shortcake looks hip, nothing story wise has. It’s still innocent fun that encourages friendship, and the stories are a good read. The stand out on this issue is the art by Amy Mebberson, who drew the first two stories , and it’s nice looking stuff. I was delighted somehow by the text-story “The Mystrey Dish” being included, not for the story itself, but the nostalgia throw back in itself to have a text-story mixed in with comics. Also a scented cover is a guilty pleasure that I’m sure some folks will go nuts over. I got my copy digitally on the Strawberry Shortcake comic-app, so mine of course wasn’t scented (until they release iPad-5 with smell-a-vision).
Strawberry Shortcake #1 is out now in print and digital. Also worth noting for fans is that the 1980s Marvel Star Comics-line Strawberry Shortcake series is available on the app, too, for a buck an issue as Strawberry Shortcake Classics.
So here we are back again with a second volume of Winx Club, based off the animated series currently airing on Nickelodeon. Viz gives us two tales in one volume, continuing the adventures of Bloom, a teenage girl who has enrolled in the magical school of Alfea in the world of Magix, to train her magic fairy powers.
Our first story, “Secrets of Alfea,” picks up right where the last volume left off, Bloom now in school for only a few days. She’s learning magic, making friends, but now faces her biggest challenge yet: what to wear to an inter-school dance with the boys from Red Fountain. Bloom searches around Alfea, which leads her deep below where she finds a magical dress, which could be perfect for the dance. At the same time, though, she discovers the the Trix from the witch school are plotting to ruin the dance, and has to gather her fairy pals to use their magic and save the dance. In the second story, “The Boys from Red Fountain,” the girls are all catching up about their dream guys from the dance, when two of the boys, Brandon and Sky, decide to take a detour from an important mission to break the rules and visit the girls. Stella and Brandon go for a ride in his ship, when the troll they captured escapes, causing trouble and some action, as magic must be used to save the day.
Winx Club continues its tale, and it’s nice to see an overall continuity develop over the two volumes. Action wise, the first tale is a lot of talking and magic, where the second story has more of the slam-bang action some may want when the troll gets loose. Art wise this volume is a mixed bag by Lau; some of the art looks great while other pages just look rushed. I believe these are just direct adaptations of the TV episodes, but I haven’t watched the show and there is no writer listed.
Still, aside from its flaws, when taking into mind its superior first volume, and the overall story we have here, I think it’s worth a peek for some readers who want a Harry Potter-meets-Sailor Moon kind of tale. Out now in print from Viz Media.
Papercutz has rolled out more goodness with the second volume of Dance Class, which follows the adventures of Julie and friends as they do their favorite activity, dancing.
Majority of the collection is made up of one-pagers, each one related to the girls taking dance classes, always with a little punch line at the end to bring us laughter. From prepping to dance attire to even the dreaded pimple, a nice mix of laughs are here. Part way through the collection, Julie starts to fall for Tim, who does hip-hop, and the two are cast as Romeo and Juliet in the dance version of the classic story, giving us more of a plot line throughout the one pagers. Of course, Carla isn’t happy with this, and tries her best to change things and ruin the show for the two, much to her failure and the readers’ laughter.
Dance Class is a good time and can best be compared with a Sunday newspaper strip in American comics, only as mentioned here we get a whole page to enjoy and not just a strip. The one-page format works to help flesh out the characters, from Julie to Alia to even the bratty Carla, and make the pay off at the end almost better by not seeming rushed, where it does sometimes in just a strip. Both the writing by Beka and the art by Crip is good stuff, coming together nicely on the page and reaching beyond to a wider audience outside just someone who enjoys dance (although that group will tear this up).
Dance Class vol.2: Romeo and Juliets is a great addition to lovers of European comics, comic strips, and of course dance. Out in print from Papercutz.
That’s it for this week, see you next! Until then, get your kaiju-game on!