Free Comic Book Day part 3: The Classics

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Reprints of beloved old all-ages comics has been an FCBD staple in recent years. So here’re a few of those.

John Stanley’s Summer Fun
Drawn and Quarterly
By John Stanley

Reading these stories in comic book format is reason enough to recommend these all by themselves. I’ve enjoyed a few of D&Q’s upscale hardcovers in their John Stanley Library, but it’s great to experience these stories at comics size and with staples. This issue opens with one of Stanley’s loopier Tubby stories, then moves right onto personal favorite “Judy Junior” (essentially a malevolent, female version of Tubby) and the more out-there “Choo Choo Charlie,” a kid who rides a train that can apparently go anywhere, including on a ferris wheel and in the sewers. As to be expected, there’s a funny Nancy story and some other odds and ends, all nicely restored but printed with the yellowing of the original comics preserved.

Rating: Yow!

Mickey Mouse
Fantagraphics Books
By Floyd Gottfredson

I confess I’m going to have to spend a lot more time with this. It’s very dense, and unlike the Stanley issue is all one long story, so I mainly just took a look at the printing, which is wonderful. Good, solid black lines, with fine details and halftones in great shape. The line work is beautiful and fluid, with plenty of panels that are funny to look at without reading the words. Thorough as always with this type of project, Fantagraphics has provided both an intro by David Gerstein an an appreciation of Gottfredson by classic Disney animator and official Disney Legend Floyd Norman. Looking forward to spending some quality time with this one.

Rating: I’m gonna be a scholar!

Geronimo Stilton/The Smurfs
Papercutz
By Andrea Denegri, Guiseppe Facciotto, Peyo and probably others

Maybe I’m just dense, but Papercutz seems to have made it difficult to figure out who exactly made the comics in this issue. The Smurfs graphic novels usually credit another writer in addition to Peyo, but I don’t see anything here, while Geronimo Stilton has a plethora of credits for things like “graphics,” “artistic coordination,” and “graphic project” tucked into the indicia. I think the people I listed above are the writer and artist. Fortunately, a better job is done introducing Geronimo Stilton and his supporting cast, in a two-page character guide that opens the issue. The story itself is sort of a European Rescue Rangers, starring journalist mice who have as enemies pirate cats. The cats, oddly, are about the same size as the mice, but are still more dangerous. The characters didn’t really grab me, sort of the standard mix of hero, fat sidekick, smart chick, and some kids, with an expert in whatever comes up a phone call away. Everything gives off a vaguely educational vibe, and the story maybe picks up once everyone is sent back in time to the Cretaceous period, but that’s where the preview ends. The artwork is attractive enough, though, and suitably colorful for the subject matter. The presentation is clever, running a “Smurfs” story along the bottom of pages since the “Geronimo Stilton” image areas are square. There’s also a complete “Smurfs” story in the back, a trifling but funny encounter between a smurf with a submarine and a manure-barrel-boated Gargamel. The Smurfs story is what qualifies this comic for the “classics” label, as these are translations of the original Peyo comics, begun in the 1950s, and their satire and cartooning hold up just as well today.

Rating: More dinosaurs next time, please. And more smurfs anytime.


And, of course, this being comics there are always revivals to be had:

Richie Rich in Eruption Disruption!
Ape Entertainment
By Jason M. Burns & Tina Francisco

I have no idea why this exists. It seems very cynical: take a familiar name, load it up with cliché and generic art, go. No longer simply a “poor little rich boy,” Richie is now an action hero heading Rich Rescues, with a martial artist butler and some whiny friends. It ends with everyone laughing. Is this based on a new cartoon take on Richie Rich, or did Ape come up with this solo?

Rating: Poor little rich boy.

Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers/Darkwing Duck
Boom! Studios
By Ian Brill, Leonel Castellani & James Silvani

By contrast, these two stories are straight-up revisits of the source material. Of course, those sources are reinventions in the Richie Rich mold, but before such things settled into cliché. Boom’s Disney and Pixar comics have done a remarkable job of emulating the tone of the licenses they’ve taken on, and these two are no exception. I grew up watching both of these shows, and while I’ve grown out of them now, the craft that writer Brill and artists Castellani and Silvani bring to the issue is clear. The characters are all perfectly on-model while remaining fluid and expressive, and Brill times gags wonderfully, especially in the Darkwing story. Boom! also puts together a nice FCBD package, and this issue contains the complete first issue of each series in a flipbook. If I were the age now I was when the shows originally aired, I’m sure these comics would captivate me the way the cartoons did back then.

Rating: Let’s get dangerous!

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