In Review: Hey Kids! Comics! #2

You'll try to guess who's who, while hoping that you haven't easily identified others.

The covers: A pair to pick up as you make your way through the day reading books you thought you knew the stories behind. The Regular cover by Don Cameron features a pair of feet kicked up on desk, partially covering some roughly penciled pages. This unseen person is looking at mini television where a reporter is asking a young buck, “Director Rob Lang’s Tarantulad is a box office monster…How does it feel to have created a billion-dollar smash?” The unseen creator answers, “I ask myself that question every morning.” A post-it that states REVISIONS DUE MONDAY! lies atop the comic book pages. I’m sure this is something that went through several Spider-Man creators’ minds in 2002. The Variant cover features art by Howard Chaykin and shows a caped superhero smashing through a wall in a book store or library to save a raven haired woman from a masked man with a gun. It’s an action packed image one would expect to see on a superhero comic. It looks as though Chaykin has stocked the shelves with some of his favorite novels. This also might be a good reminder to ask yourself how many of these book you’ve read–read. Movies don’t count. Overall grades: Both A

The story: This issue begins in 1945 and “The blush of victory is off the rose.” Benita Heindel, Ted Whitman, and Ray Clarke sit by side in Yankee Comics working on their respective books. They banter as the publisher walks by. The question is asked if he’ll attend the Christmas party, but Benita answers he’ll be with the family in Miami after spending a few days in Aruba with the girlfriend. Later at McSweeny’s, the trio join their other artists in the comics community. They discuss how companies are closing before they can mail out checks. Writer Howard Chaykin then moves ten years forward focusing on how comic books were put on trial in Congress. This ugly affair in this time period turns into a literal one, with one artist threatening another. The 1960’s see the rise of Verve Comics with such hits as The Cosmos Quartet and The Astonishing Tarantulad. This leads to Bob Rose’s rise and the rising anger of Sid Mitchell. I’ve heard some of these stories before and others I’d assumed. Chaykin isn’t really telling stories out of school, many of these stories have made the rounds at comic conventions, though I’ve not seen them printed. I admit to feeling sad seeing what happens to the leads, especially Alfred and Sid. When you’re little you believe that everyone plays nice creating comics. When you grow up you learn different. I enjoyed this story, but it was a little sad. Overall grade: A

The art: Howard Chaykin has always been one of my favorite artists. I could look at his work all day, regardless of it having characters in tights beating the tar out of one another. This series is a dream come true because it follows normal Joes and Janes as they try to make a living in the world of comic books. I like how the book is divided into different decades to show characters aging. I can’t think of any other series that’s covered such a long time period over a miniseries. I really like Chaykin’s layout, with the opening page showing the artists at work, with the focus ending on Benita since she’s privy to certain information. Similar to Issue #1, Page 2 of this issue shows three large horizontal panels with a crowd and then ends each with a focus on one key character. This is an excellent visual way to get the reader to pay attention to a particular speaker. The entrance on 3 is nothing outrageous, but its effect on the characters is major. This is an excellent bit of tell from Chaykin on how the characters feel about the new arrival. I’m a big fan of nine panel pages, where a character’s face must clearly communicate to the reader the emotional intensity of what’s being said. Page 4 is a great example of this. My heart dropped with the first two panels on 5 and that’s all I’m going to say about them. The back and forth visuals on 10 create a great sense of tension with vertical panels that relentlessly pull in closer to the speakers. Page 14 is a full-paged splash, though it holds five magazine covers. This page made me happy and made me dread what was in store for the individuals working at one publisher. The bottom three panels on 15 were like a gut punch. Sid is breaking my heart with just a look. A funeral and comic convention end the issue. The incidents at both locations are funny and heartbreaking, and I’ve witnessed something close to the comic con moment. I like how Chaykin perfectly captures the crowded floor of the convention. This book looks awesome. Overall grade: A

The colors: Wil Quintana’s colors are so smooth. Check out the lighting on the first page so the artists can better see what they’re doing. Very realistic. When Benita gets a close-up in the final panel a very pale lime is placed behind her to have her pop off the page. The interiors of McSweeny’s have all the roses and oranges one would associate with that time period’s lights. Note how characters get a bright orange for their individual panels to have them stand out. The reds on Page 5 were shocking and like a gut punch. The brilliant blue skies on 7 belie all the hell that’s about to break loose. The faded colors on Verve’s comics match those of the time period, as do the products hastily manufactured based on their characters. The bright colors at the closing comic book convention absolutely ring true to their reality. Quintana’s work is so good you really have to stop to take in the magic being created. Overall grade: A

The letters: This issue’s text is created by Ken Bruzenak who does dates, narration, dialogue, whispers, signage, several comic book logos, magazine text, cheers, and the tease for next issue. The dates that introduce each era look as though they were manufactured in their specific times and look fantastic. I like how the narration that follows the dates is done in a sentence font to make it more personal than normal comic lettering. The whispers are not only tiny, but colored lighter, making them extra quiet. The one job that Bruzenak did that stuck with me is the cheering on the final page. It’s overwhelming and mob-like. Exactly what I’ve heard some creators receive. Overall grade: A

Two one-pagers: After the book’s credits are two one-pagers. The first is Further Untold Tales of Comics: Season’s Greetings and Yankee Hobby Hints with Athena-X, which features art by Jerry Ordway. If that first tale is true, it’s astonishing. The second tale had me laughing through the pain. Athena-X is wise! Kidding aside, Ordway’s art is always awesome and I would love to see him back on a monthly from any company! Overall grade: A

The final line: Untold tales from behind the scenes of comic creators is riveting stuff. You’ll try to guess who’s who, while hoping that you haven’t easily identified others. This a wonderful peek to what, allegedly, happened to those who charted an American enterprise. Open this up, enjoy, get mad, and learn what it was like as only Howard Chaykin can tell it. Wow. Overall grade: A

To order a print or digital copy go to https://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/hey-kids-comics-2

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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