In Review: Hey Kids! Comics! #3

You'll never look at a funny book the same way again.

The cover: A comic book professional turns to leave his table but is stopped by a fan with a blank cover who asks, “You sketching today?” The fan thrusts the comic forward as he speaks. Ah, I had a feeling that this has happened more than once to professionals at comic conventions. This photo cover by Don Cameron captures a common moment for those in the biz. Overall grade: A

The story: 1945 has the trio of protagonists at work, Benita Hendel on Guilty as Charged!, Ted Whitman on Sea Sultan, and Ray Clarke on Our Pal, Percy! Each getting no respect, from being told “…you don’t draw like a girl,” “Who’ve guessed a negro could draw such convincing white people?’, and “–any plans on showing us who you really are?” A dispute over payment arises at Yankee Comics and Laszlo Fabin gets his point across that he should be paid on time. 1955 is a time of change as a company can’t get it’s finger of the pulse of readers, while the talent strives to improve their situation. The 60’s get shaken by Verve’s popularity in the medium, while work continues to be tough to get and maintain. 2001 sees the older talent making convention appearances and speaking truths that no one wants to hear. It’s the comic business as only Howard Chaykin could tell it. This is reading that shouldn’t be avoided, every comics fan needs to read this. These untold tales, some true, some not, provide insight into what happened in the comic book industry as experienced by three very different characters. Half the fun, and the terror, is trying to figure out who’s who. There are two one-pagers at the end of the main story. The first is Further Untold Tales of Comics! titled “The Effigy.” Yes, there is an effigy, and you’ll never believe whom it’s of. If this really happened, holy crud! The second is an advertisement for fruit pies that had me laughing at the accurate rendition of this piece. All in all, you’ll never look at funny book the same way again. Overall grade: A+

The art: Howard Chaykin is also the artist of this saga, with digital effects by Calvin Nye and additional material by Jed Dougherty, Ramon Torrez, and Ken Bruzenak. Because there are three leads in this series, Chaykin will often split the page into three horizontal panels to show what each is doing at the same time. The first page is a gorgeous look at the threesome slaving over their pages at the drawing board, with their titles spotlighted on the far right. This format is repeated on the third page as the tired artists take a moment to contemplate what they’ve just done. The close-up of each at the end of each panel shows the anguish of what others say to them about their profession. When they go to turn in their work, Chaykin keeps the pages split, but now focuses on the offices they submit to. It’s interesting to see the design and set pieces of each location. The sequence where Laszlo wants his paycheck is funny and startling. 1955 has the expected changes in clothing and hairstyles one would expect, but it’s impressive to see Chaykin aging his cast so well here and throughout the book. I can’t think of a comic that’s done this so well. Page 9 was brutal to look at because I know this had to have happened at some point for this company. The really brutal pages were 10 and 11 which focuses on one character with something dramatic occurring. The way an action is presented on 11 is horrible. It’s perfect, but it’s ghastly to look upon. 1965 again changes the characters and the settings, with my favorite supporting character of the book appearing at the bottom of 13. The backgrounds on 15 are gorgeous, with the action in the larger panel like a photographic still — it’s so real! 2001 goes to an famous Southern California convention and that is exactly the way it looks at this gathering. One of my favorite visual elements of these pages is the trashcan that features a poster of the convention on it. Not untrue. “The Effigy” is also illustrated by Chaykin and it’s a series of eight similarly sized vertical panels that capture this ferocious moment. The fruit pies advertisement is illustrated by José Garcia-López. The artwork is absolutely perfect, with the smile on Insect King in the fourth panel wonderful and the joy on Enormorella in the fifth fantastic. Overall grade: A+

The colors: The late hours are obvious on the first two pages due to the colors by Wil Quintana. Notice how the lights above the character shine on the artists’ boards and on their backs. The highlights on the characters make the lighting completely believable. The bright colors on the comic book covers have them explode off the page. The colors on the close-up of Laszlo on Page 4 is awesome, as is the visage of the gentleman in the third panel on 6. The lighting effects done at McSweeny’s continue to impress as well, with its interiors always having a welcoming glow. Colors are key to the storytelling in the final panel on 11. The background on 15 has perfect colors, looking completely natural, yet still allowing the character to draw focus. The colors on the dominant character on 17 are fantastic, with that top being awesome. Another great color scheme is found on the top worn by Ted on 22, which can be found on many at this location. Overall grade: A+

The letters: Ken Bruzenak creates this issue’s scene settings, narration, dialogue, yells, sounds, signage, whispers, and the tease for next issue. The scene settings are the dates which orient the reader and they stylishly represent each time period. The narration is written with lower case letters, giving the story the frame of a confession from an unnamed narrator. It makes the story seem much more intimate. The dialogue contains words in italics, so that the reader can better hear when the characters place the emphasis in their speech. Whispered dialogue is the same font as the dialogue, but smaller so the reader knows it’s not being said as loudly. The sound on 11 is necessary to complete this incident and it’s a painful one. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Truthful tales told though fiction make this an unquestionably must-read if one loves comics. Not only is it readable to try to discover who the characters are based on, but as a record of what artists endured in an industry that chewed them up and spat them out. Fantastic. Overall grade: A+

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To see the cover 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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