December 10, 2010

Make Time for “Return of the Dapper Men”

Return of the Dapper Men
Jim McCann
Artist: Janet Lee
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Release Date: November, 2010

Return of the Dapper Men is an incredible read.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting my journey into this book, and have been blown away by what I’ve experienced. While at its core a children’s story, Return of the Dapper Men, will awe adults at how easily their imaginations will take flight while reading, letting go of the restraints so many of us have placed on them over the years. That’s what happened to me, and upon closing the back cover of the book, I’m left with a wholesome feeling, longing for days gone by.

However, one of the fundamental lessons of this story is that time must move on, so that the natural progression of things can take place.

The story begins in the land of Anorev. In Anorev, robots live above ground, and all they know is how to work, whilst children live below ground, and all they do is play. Everyone is in a state of methodic content, segregated from each other, always working or playing. The narrator says it best, “The children cared for playing and the machines for working– which is how it should be. But with no one to tell them to settle down or stop working, both continued along. And continued. And continued. And continued.” This is true for everyone except for one little boy named Ayden and his robot friend, Zoe. Ayden and Zoe have a drive for something more in life, and together, they spend their time pondering what that may be.

Until one day when time stops, and literally stands still. The sun never sets nor rises. The children never age. The robots never finish their work. Time goes on, but it never progresses.

Enter the Dapper Men, 314 of them. Tall, well dressed, umbrella toting, green bowler wearing, pale faced, and identical looking with striking red hair, the Dapper Men set out to clean the land of Anorev, and set time back in motion. However, they can’t do it on their own. Dapper Man 41, an individual himself, seeks out the only two entities in all the land that have the free thought and inquisitiveness to set things right- Ayden and Zoe.

Dapper Man 41 serves as a sort of guide to our protagonists, setting them on the path towards their destiny, but ultimately leaving all decisions up to them; providing no real answers, only thought provoking observations and questions. He’s almost like a Jiminy Cricket of sorts, only far cooler, and far more meta. Below is a delightfully whimsical conversation between Ayden and Dapper Man 41:

Ayden: I think I saw what I’m going to be.
Dapper Man 41: That’s Destiny.
Ayden: And if I don’t want it?
Dapper Man 41: That’s choice.
Ayden: So what’s the point of having one if the other could happen? Which one is right?
Dapper Man 41: That, my dear boy, is life.

Beautiful stuff. As the story progresses, we meet a handful of secondary characters, all who prove important to revealing key plot lines, and setting grander events in motion. The climax of the book is superbly done, and when a prevalent character makes their exit, you can’t help but feel emotionally invested in them.

This is the story of Return of the Dapper Men. But more so than all of this, it’s a story of love. Love for adventure. Love for discovery. Love for truth. And, the most pure love of all, love for another whom you help to be all they can be. Pure love.

Jim McCann writes with a cadence where the words flow in a rhythm that keeps a steady pace throughout the story. Nothing seems forced, and it feels like every sentence has a deeper meaning. He layers the book with superb rhetoric and lesson teaching that is subtle, but impossible to be overlooked. It’s great stuff for kids to take in, and for adults to be reminded of. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “Many believed they held the answers, but everyone had forgotten the questions. Others never questioned, they just continued on.” – Narrator
  • “They were completely unaware of their importance, as all those who truly affect others should be.” -Narrator
  • “It’s safer in the middle.”-Ayden
  • “But like so much in Anorev, what should be had been for too long, becoming what it shouldn’t.” -Narrator
  • “Unfortunately, the world needs incredibly silly boys and girls to do remarkably stupid things from time to time.” -Dapper Man 41

There are many, many more, but I don’t want to re-publish the entire book here, so lets talk about Jane Lee’s art. In short, it is absolutely stunning, and her style is unique; one that I’ve never seen before in comics. It’s called “decoupage,” and in the back of the book, there is a two page section where Janet’s process in creating the art is broken down step by step. Here’s the paraphrased version:

Janet uses Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper (slightly texturized of a heavy stock), pencils, inks, in addition to using Faber and Cassell brush pens, and Micron .005 pens. For coloring she uses Prismacolor markers. Each page is mounted on a board, usually pine, and Janet cuts it (with a power saw!) to the appropriate size. Then she uses books, art pages, and papers to lay down as a background to the pine (hence the random letters that appear at time in the art). She then uses Mod Podge to glue the various layers to the board, and then uses a varnish to seal the entire thing. Each and every page is done this way, creating a piece of mountable art.

I actually met Janet briefly at last year’s San Diego Comic Con where she showed me a preview of the Dapper Men art. The design struck me, but I had no clue what I was really in for at that time! Speaking of design, the book’s format itself is different from most other books on the shelf; it’s over sized like a storybook, and has a unique feel to it that’s difficult to describe unless you hold it in your hands and experience it for yourself.

Also at the end of the book is a pin-up gallery of various scenes from the story, all done by different artists. Make sure you read it all the way through to the final page too, even after all of the extras- the best quote of all is there.

It’s no surprise that the first printing of Return of the Dapper Men sold out on a distributor level within 24 hours of its release. It’s worth the trip to your local comic shop to pick it up, and then it’s worth a trip to your kid’s room to read it to them at night. Considering how immersed I was in this book (and I’m 26!), a child would have no problem losing themselves in this story, being wowed by the visuals, and captivated by the storytelling.

In closing, pick up Return of the Dapper Men…while there’s still time!

For more from Archaia Entertainment, click here.

Andy Liegl

A reviewers copy of this book was provided by the publisher.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jim McCann and Archaia, Comic Attack. Comic Attack said: RT @JimMcCann: Thanks! RT @ComicAttack: Make time for RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN! […]

  2. […] McCann, writer/creator of one of my personal favorite comic books of all time, Return of the Dapper Men, also got himself some ink. His was of a barcode from Dapper Men, which is the pinstripe pattern […]

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