Monday, April 2, 2007

Johnny DC


Okay, so comics aren’t really for kids anymore – we all get it. That hasn’t stopped the marketing juggernauts at DC and Marvel, however, from pumping out unbelievable numbers of dolls, toys, bedsheets, curtains, dishes, sippy cups, coloring and sticker books, Halloween costumes, and all manner of paraphernalia featuring famous comic book heroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the Hulk. I hear all the time how comics for kids don’t make any money, but there sure must be money in merchandise.

So what happens when cute, little, six-year-old Bobby, with his Superman lunchbox, Batman backpack, and singing, plush Spidey, wants to read comics starring his favorite costumed heroes? You’re certainly not going to hand him Identity Crisis or Civil War. Think of poor little Bobby!

Bobby’s options are limited, but there are a few superhero comics from the Big Two he can read. Currently, Marvel has its Marvel Adventures line, including Marvel Adventures Spiderman, Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four, and Marvel Adventures The Avengers. In addition, there is Spiderman Loves Mary Jane (which I don’t think little Bobby would be interested in), Power Pack, and Franklin Richards, Son of a Genius. We’ve reviewed a few of these before, and we’ll get to the others soon.

Today we’ll look at DC’s “all ages” line – the revival of Johnny DC. All of the Johnny DC titles are written to conform to the Comics Code Authority and each is tied to an animated TV show. The line-up includes Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo, Cartoon Network Block Party, and the new Princess Natasha (not too highly rated around here), but for little Bobby’s sake, we’re going to concentrate our reviews on the superhero stuff.

Krypto the Superdog

I have a truly pathetic confession to make: The first animated episode of Krypto the Superdog made me cry. When Superman is reunited with his long-lost pal, Krypto, a tear trickled down my face as I realized the magnitude of Superman’s loss and how completely alone he must have felt. Tucked away in Krypto’s spaceship are drawings that Kal-el did as a boy; “The only pictures left of Krypton.” When he talked about his mother helping him with one of the drawings, I lost it. I know, I know – shut up.

The rest of the show, however, and the new comic, are created strictly for the kiddos. The opening pages of the first issue recap the first episode of the show (yes, I teared up again) but it seems very hastily thrown together. The main storyline, starring all the super pets, is completely silly – Joker’s laughing gas causes all the rats underground to laugh every 15 minutes and create earthquakes. Um, yeah. The girls seemed to like that plotline, though – they thought it was pretty funny. Otherwise, they weren’t that impressed. It’s not particularly well written, not very well edited, and the art is mediocre. We did all enjoy Ace the Bathound, however, because he’s so much like his owner. I get the feeling younger kids might like this, but that’s about it.

Sarah says: I kinda liked it because there were a few funny jokes but a few not so funny jokes, too. The stories were interesting but weird. I think most kids that are into dogs that fight would like it. I think my mom should get number two to see if it’s better.

Shelby says: It’s kinda like the TV show in comic form. It’s a story about Batman and Superman’s dogs and other super powered animals. It’s probably good for about 5 to 9 year olds. I think I’m a little too old for it. It’s just the way they explain things too much in words. It’s kind of stupid for someone to explain their plan – it’s kinda like the Adam West Batman series… except it’s not funny. The drawings of Krypto when he is a puppy are really cute though.

Teen Titans Go!

Sadly, the animated show was cancelled, but the comic will continue – hurray! TTG is definitely intended for kids, but adults who remember what it’s like to have fun will love it as well. This is very different than the original Teen Titans, so hardcore fans might not dig it, but there’s plenty of not-too-violent action, mega-doses of silliness, and the plot lines manage to be entertaining while still being straightforward enough for kids to follow. Kids really like the chibi characters across the bottom of the page doing knock-knock jokes and anagrams. The super-duper team of J Torres (words) and Todd Nauck (pencils) consistently give readers fun, frolic, and action in every issue. Truth, justice, pizza, and lots of funny bodily noises.

Shelby says: They’re funny, especially when they have manga faces, like when they laugh. Robin is the leader and he used to be with Batman, but Batman probably fired him so Robin started his own group. At least that’s what I think. (Poor child is already caught up in continuity!) Beast Boy is a vegetarian and he is hilarious and he can turn into any animal and he doesn’t even blink about it. Raven is very, very, very, very mellow. She’s always not happy.

Sarah says: It’s cool because they are all funny. They have trouble in different comics. Blackfire is Starfire’s sister and she is mean and she always cheats.

Shelby: You like her ‘cause you cheat, too.

Sarah: I do not! (small scuffle; parental intervention) I like Cyborg and Beast Boy and they’re always like, “Boo-yah! Let’s go eat food!” Raven is really bored all the time. She doesn’t know how to have fun. Starfire is really sweet and nice and she always loves Robin.

The Batman Strikes!

Sorry, I couldn’t get the girls to review this one. They used to be big Batfans, but the art here just turns them off. Shelby read the first two or three issues and decided she didn’t want to buy it anymore. Dig through the back-issue bins and get the Batman Adventures series – you may have to explain gangland vendettas, crooked politics, and why a woman would take a bullet for the man she loves, but at least the art is good. Even better, dig around for the five issue mini Gotham Girls – Ivy, Harley, Catwoman, and Detective Renee Montoya at play in Gotham – girl power, baby! A fairly straightforward storyline, lots of hand-to-hand combat, no shots fired, and totally fun characters.

Justice League Unlimited

This book and its precursor, Justice League Adventures, are excellent. I have to say, on a personal note, that the Justice League Unlimited animated series features my most favoritest moment in animated television: Gorilla Grod briefly turns Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman into apes. I may buy the season on DVD just for that glorious 55 seconds.

While Teen Titans Go!, Power Pack, and PS 238 are the best superhero comics featuring kid heroes, Justice League Unlimited is the best superhero book out there for kids that features the iconic heroes. This is all about the stories – the scripts are interesting and well-crafted and it’s tons of fun to see a less serious take on the DC heroes and villains. Not that it’s all silly – there is plenty of well-written drama and action as well. The trade of the JLU precursor, Justice League Adventures, makes a great gift for any kid or kid-at-heart who loves tights and capes.

Sarah says: I like it because it’s cool – there are so many characters in it. I don’t know who some of them even are, but I’m learning! I like to see not very well known characters that only fanboys know and the ones with the cool powers like making ice and green fire. The particular issue I liked was when the Flash met Old Flash ‘cause Flash is one of my favorites. And I liked the one with Starro.

Shelby says: I like the show because it’s got great music and it’s similar to the comic. I like Flash because he’s a smart-aleck and he can run faster than anyone and that’s cool. I like Superman because he doesn’t want to kill anyone and I like Wonder Woman because she has this rope that makes people tell the truth when she puts it on you. And I like Batman, of course, because he’s a really good crime fighter and he’s from Earth. Green Lantern is from Earth but he can save everyone with his ring. Hawkgirl is from a different planet and she can whack villains with her whacky-thing with the pointies on it.


Post a Comment

<< Home