I’ve always found that the smart, bookish or dare I say it geeky characters in comics and films are generally the type I relate to the most. I think I must have been all of those things at school (and probably why i’ve chosen to be an illustrator in adult life, a profession where you sit in a quiet room and draw all day, by yourself) and it’s what make’s Bud, the nine-year-old hero of ‘Earthling!’ by Mark Fearing* so likable. Son of a lunar scientist, Bud has recently moved to a huge Radio Telescope Lab in New Mexico and is due to start at a new school. After narrowly missing the first bus he catches the next, unaware that it’s destination is Cosmos Academy, deep space educational facility to all manner of weird alien creatures. This would all be very exciting for Bud, except that at this school Earthlings are considered to be the lowest of the low, feared by everyone and said to kidnap alien children at any given opportunity. A cruel myth perpetrated by the evil and manipulative Principal Lepton, who’s determined to keep Earth’s location a secret. Luckily Bud finds help in the form of Gort McGortGort, a friendly, green (literally) tech wizard that cleverly devises a plan to return Bud home, including going undercover as a Tenarian Exchange student, computer hacking and winning the Zeroball tournament.
What follows is a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging graphic novel for children, with a commendable plot based around themes of science and the needless misunderstanding and paranoia of unfamiliar cultures. Illustrated by award-winning Mark Fearing himself (co-created by Tim Rummel with colour by Ken Min) in a knowingly naive style that perfectly supports the zany journey on which the characters travel. A tale mixing elements and technology, space-travel, school-life and excentric characters that reminded me of some of my favourite Saturday morning cartoons such as Galaxy High School and movies like Joe Dante’s Explorers.
Which brings me onto my one, tiny gripe (and I warn you in advance this might become an ‘old man’ rant) regarding the Blips; tablet like devices that all the students own. Obviously most children nowadays do own a device of some kind so I understand that it’s simply keeping up with current technology. All well and good, but I couldn’t help feeling that some of the challenges and problems the characters encountered were too easily overcome by simply plugging in the Blip and letting it do it’s thing when something more inventive could have been employed. One character even makes a ‘you have an app for everything’ joke. Certainly a minor peeve in a children’s book that’s otherwise full of good-natured fun and adventure, rounded up nicely with a satisfying happy ending that reminded this grumpy old man of some good times spent reading comics when he was a kid.
A great way to start your children reading more complex graphic novels.
*Mark Fearing is an award-winning cartoonist, illustrator and animator. His editorial cartoons were twice included in Pelican Publishing Company’s Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year. Mark’s animated short films have played in film festivals around the country and have been broadcast on Nickelodeon.
NEXT WEEK on WingsArt.net
A title i’ve been looking forward to for a long time; Garbage Pail Kids from Abrams Comic Arts. The complete collected artwork of series 1 through 5 from 1985 and 1986 of this awesome pop culture phenomenon. Be sure to follow the blog to make sure you don’t miss it!