October 28, 2011

From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Dragon Puncher Island, Animal Land and Mad Monster Party!

Welcome back ghouls and goblins to your place for all-ages comics, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays!!!!!!!!!!!!! October is winding down which means one thing: Halloween! Sooooooo pumped. Yes, on a night filled with the rivalry now between sparkly and Lugosi-esque vampires this year I will be costumed as…the Green Ranger. You may know him from Sentai show Zyu Ranger or its American version Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but this Hallow’s Eve the only thing people will know him as is me, dressed up like him. Hopefully it won’t rain, because although rain on Halloween is fitting, it sucks for trick or treaters (I am way past the age of trick or treating please note, but I don’t want it to be spoiled for millions of kids). Here in Buffalo, which is the home base of operations for this column (all of us columnists here are spread out across the country), it’s been raining all week, which is great for both imagination and, as anybody who reads this column knows, staying inside to read and watch some great stuff (ah, there’s where he’s going with this intro), and this week we have some fantastic stuff for ya to check out (see, told ya), so let’s get down to it finally!


Out On Stands: Dragon Puncher Island
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Writing and Art: James Kochalka

Kochalka has given us a blended drink to gulp composed of the colorful, slightly bizarre and down right funny, here with Dragon Puncher Island! A hip mix of illustrations and photographs, Dragon Puncher Island tells the short tale of Dragon Puncher, who is being followed by the little Spoony-E, as she waits on the shore of an island looking for dragons to fight. However, Monster Slapper shows up and is not very happy with Dragon Puncher’s choice of sidekick. A fight (a very silly fight) ensues, but when a real dragon shows up, a new plan needs to happen.

Admittedly it’s a simple plot, but it’s not about Shakespearean depths here, and Kochalka knows this. It’s about being fun and giving us something colorful and odd that we will want to come back to, re-read, and just have fun with, which he succeeds in doing. The dialog of Spoony-E is hysterical, espically when he figures out Dragon Puncher is a girl and begins to talk to her like a little kitten. The artwork is fantastic. As mentioned, it is a mix of photographs and illustrations, with Kochalka using his children, cats, and even his own face and super imposing them onto illustrated bodies, then all set to the back ground of the beautiful shore line. The combination of this art with his humor makes this an undeniable pick up for parents and their kids alike.

As reviewers we are expected to play the part and tell you about the product, and also play the part of a critic and tell you what is good or bad about a book. I can say, happily, that as a critic, there was nothing about this book that I didn’t enjoy. Weighing in at 40 glossy pages, the book is a quick read for everyone, but one that I’m sure you’ll re-read, as I personally already have. A great pick and worth every buck you put down on this.


Out On Stands: Animal Land Volume 2
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Story and Art: Makoto Raiku

Raiku is an author who I hope with Animal Land gets the attention he deserves here Stateside. His first big title was Gash Bell, a manga that was hysterical, extremely odd, action packed, and from time-to-time heart warming, all in one. It was bigger in its anime form, and one of the top ten TV series to come out of Japan last decade. Gash Bell wouldn’t do so well here, dubbed as Zatch Bell with a half-hearted dub that would also kill One Piece taking off here, the anime series was only half dubbed, Viz would cancel the manga leaving it incomplete, with Gash (or Zatch) becoming not even a memory. However, for the extremely small group of us here who saw the anime uncut, with all its boob ‘n poop jokes, random nudity, and over all bizarreness, it held a place in our hearts and hopefully one day we’ll get it uncut here, or at least Raiku will get the respect he deserved. After Gash Bell ended in Japan (the manga ending after the TV series, as Raiku had to take a break from drawing the manga after breaking his hand), Raiku did a little research and last year rolled out with the equally bizarre yet exciting Animal Land.

Animal Land tells the story of Taroza, a baby abandoned by his mother who washes up in Animal Land, a world completely populated and ruled by the laws of wild animals. Taroza is taken in by a pack of tanukis and raised by tanuki Monoko, who has lost her family to wild cats and takes Taroza under her wing to raise as her own child. Taroza has the unique ability to be able to understand and speak to all animals, so although animals cannot understand each other’s different cries, Taroza can and he becomes this universal translator, providing them with hope and the tanuki’s with an unlikely alliance with a giant wild cat named Kurokagi. Volume 2 provides us with the tales of Taroza, Kurokagi, and the tanukis as they survive through the winter, dealing with a hungry pack of wolves, a bear, and more. Finally the spring comes as a great elephant appears, who reveals more of Taroza’s possible fate and reason for being there.

Animal Land is always exciting and action packed; in this volume it’s mostly Kurokagi trying to hold off the wolf pack, and that same pack battles with a great wild bear. The rating on the back of the book is recommended for 13 and up, however, I personally think it’s a case of read it first and decide if it’s right for your kids. We get some hysterical poop jokes from Raiku which you may not be down with. Also the battles between the animals do get real-world intense, so is there blood: yes; is it harsher then watching Animal Planet shows: no; but everyone is different. That note aside, I think Animal Land is brilliant and a great read for everyone. Aside from the life-is-hard aspect, out of that comes a great message constantly from Taroza, that everyone can get along if they just try.

The combination of the ultimate message here, with its action and laugh-out-loud humor, make this one of the best books on stands this year.


Something To Watch: Mad Monster Party

When I was looking for the perfect treat for your something to watch this weekend, I wanted something both fun and with a Halloween theme, and Mad Monster Party hits it all. The 1967 film is the first claymation adventure by Rankin-Bass (producers of holiday claymation like Rudolf, The Red Nose Reindeer and TV shows like Thundercats), which was actually written by Mad Magazine‘s Harvey Kurtzman with designs by the famed Jack Davis. Mad Monster Party tells the story of retiring Dr. Frankenstein, voiced by famous monster movie actor Boris Karloff, who decides to throw one last big monster convention, unveiling his his new formula which can destroy all matter, and to pass on his secrets to his nerdy nephew Felix. However, the other monsters at the convention are not happy about this, which include Dracula, the Wolfman, the Hunchback, Dr.Jekyll, Frankenstein’s monster and his bride, the Mummy, the Creature, and a group of zombies. However, the trickiest of all may be the Bond-esque Francesca, who also wants the secrets and is trying to play the others against each other for the formula herself. Mad Monster Party holds up decently all these year later. It is still pretty funny, although the pacing feels slower from much of what we watch today. Much of the film feels like several skits put together with the monsters, which may work better in comic format than they do on film, but that’s really the only weakness the film has. The real gem here is seeing all these monsters together designed by Davis done in wonderful old school claymation. The film is sure to put a smile on your face and is the sure fire winner for everyone to watch this Halloween weekend!


That’s it for this week, see you next! Sending you kaiju-love from Egypt!

Drew McCabe

A copy of Dragon Puncher Island was provided by Top Shelf Productions.



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