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Graphic Depictions: The Collected Alison Dare

Robert makes a grand point this week -- as fanboys, it's our duty to create new fanboys and fangirls. And the only way to do that (well, after actually creating them) is to get them to read.

Have you ever wanted a comic book you could read with
your children, or one that you could hand to little Bobby Joe and just let him go wild? Thanks, once again, to Oni Press, we have one: Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures, written by J. Torres and drawn by J. Bone.

Alison isn’t your typical 12-year-old. Her father is a superhero, operating under the name The Blue Scarab, and her mother is a world-trotting archaeologist, much in the vein of Indiana Jones. And while both of her parents (divorced and splitting custody of Alison) want their child to be safe from the danger inherent in their lives, Alison seems to always find a way into the most awkward and dangerous situations. She also tends to drag her best friends from school, Wendy and Dot, along for the ride.

The book itself is short. It contains three stories, similar to the way Judd Winick writes The Adventures of Barry Ween, Boy Genius, each story just a fun little adventure about Alison and her friends and family. The dialogue is simple and easy for children to understand, which must have been deliberate on Torres’s part. He seems to have written a story simple enough for children, but fun enough for adult comic book fans to enjoy. And he doesn’t talk down to the audience in his writing, either. In one instance in the second story, Torres throws in some ancient Egyptian history, but unlike some hack children’s book writers, he maintains historical accuracy.

Another factor that makes one assume Torres is trying to hook a younger audience on comic books is on the back cover. There is actually a side column titled Here’s what kids are saying about Alison Dare and list several quotes from 8, 9, and 11-year-olds about why they love Alison Dare. One of them being “It’s a lot better than Powerpuff Girls.”

Bone provides cartoonishly stylized art; think of it as a less gritty, more wide-eyed version
of Powers. Actually, that fits fine with the light-heartedness of the stories and main character.
Bone is also good at pacing his panels. Some artists rush into a story and try to tell too much or too little in just one panel of space, but Bone doesn’t, moving the story along easily and making every panel flow into the next. His timing is best showcased in the second story, when Alison is explaining to her friends how her dad, in the guise of the Blue Scarab, will defeat the frosty, evil ways of Auntie Freeze.

Now, you’re asking yourself “Why should I buy this book if I don’t have any ankle biters to share it with?”

Well, comics today are the best they’ve ever been (at least that’s my humble opinion) for the reason that comics have “grown-up,” so to speak. We’ve got people like Alan Moore and Warren Ellis writing graphic novels and comics that deconstruct the superhero genre in books like Top Ten and Planetary. We’ve got Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Avon Oeming giving us gritty crime drama in Powers and Goldfish. And our funny books are things like the hilariously foul-mouthed and aforementioned Barry Ween by Winick. We, the fanboys and comic book aficionados, have grown up too, to enjoy these kinds of books.

But everybody knows that it sucks to grow up. Remember when finding a piece of candy that had been in your coat pocket for days, was like finding Solomon’s mines? Remember when mud was something to make pies out of, and not a facial treatment? Do you recall when
getting cooties was worse than the bubonic plague?

Being a kid was great and we too often forget just how easy most kids have it (except for those poor Amish kids, man, nothing to look forward to but barn raising and butter churning). Alison Dare reminds the reader that being a kid was fun.

So, find a copy of this book (it’s only $8.95), then squeeze into those Superman Underoos, grab a juice box, and pretend that you’re a kid again. But change the underoos afterward. If you can get out of them, I mean.

Pick up Alison Dare, Little Miss Adventures, at Amazon.com

Robert Sparling

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