The Thrilling Adventure Hour
Ben Acker & Ben Blacker
art by Various
Friends, are you like me and lacking a little pep in your step? Is your yankee doodle dandy only barely handy? Did you just realize that one of the reasons your teeth and your eyes lack that special brightness is because for some reason, you'd never actually realized what The Thrilling Adventure Hour is before?
Yes, I blindly picked up this graphic novel from Archaia Entertainment because I've been enjoying the artwork of Jeff Stokely in Six-Gun Gorilla and The Reason For Dragons, and he'd mentioned it when we talked a couple of weeks ago.
And what I blindly picked up turned out to be pretty much right in my wheelhouse, a series of stories that purport to be in the style of old timey radio (a few, yes, but they stretch that definition) and promise to be absolute fun.
Based on a monthly theater performance and podcast, the graphic novel works beautifully as a standalone piece, but already I regret not having listened to the podcast before. Occasionally the artists create the characters in likenesses of the actors from "the Work Juice Players," but seem mostly free to interpret Acker & Blacker's scripts as they see fit.
My favorites, surprisingly, aren't the superhero stories, though I love the way Acker & Blacker have turned the Batman myth on its head, set it on Aquaman's shoulders and then made it into a Raymond Chandler noir setting. Instead, it's the Westerns on Mars that got me. Yet there's no predicting from story to story just what world you'll end up on, only that you'll be at the mercy of men with seemingly limitless imagination.
Each story feels complete in itself, though with details referencing back to earlier "episodes." Not everybody is going to respond to that, admittedly. But if you've been a fan of pulps and serials, either film or radio, this book will strike a chord.
Also impressive about it is that it doesn't have to be read as particularly arch. Yes, on one level they're spoofs, but there's also a fun earnestness about the stories that make it the kind of book you can show to your kids -- as long as they, too, get that the ads for coffee and cigarettes are jokes. Your kids are John Hodgman fans, right?
As it turns out, artwork from The Thrilling Adventure Hour graphic novel is currently on display at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco through October, so it looks like I'll be making a drive up 101 soon.