and the Kid: The Inheritance
you've been a comic book fan for quite some time, it's a little
harder to remember those instances where, while reading a
comic, you fell completely in love with the medium. Believe
it or no, it happens more than once.
remember reading a borrowed copy (from a high school history
teacher no less) of
Watchmen , finishing it, and reading it all over again
in the same night, learning that superheroes could be more
than they usually were. I remember reading
Pedro and Me and afterward realizing the power, relevance,
and emotion that comics could convey. And I definitely remember
when Scott McCloud demonstrated how very little I knew about
my favorite literature genre in
moments are the ones that stick with the fan-person and though
the memory may get fuzzy, you never forget that warm satisfaction
of reading something entirely worthwhile.
to Mike Kunkel I now have a new moment to add to my list:
the first time I read Herobear and the Kid and remembered,
with clarity, what it was like to be a kid.
grandfather has recently passed away and left his home to
Tyler and his family. Along with his home, he has left Tyler
a very special gift: a small, stuffed, toy polar bear. This
is hardly the kind of thing a respectable 10 year old could
be caught carrying around, but thanks to the interfering ways
of Tyler's younger sister Katie, the bear makes its way onto
a typical first day chalk full of bullies, new friends, and
"a vision of beauty" named Vanessa, Tyler retrieves
his bear from his sister. After a nasty walloping from said
bullies, Tyler takes his frustrations out on the hapless bear,
giving it a right good kick in the nose. Seconds and one special
effects sequence later, there is ten-foot polar bear wearing
a red cape standing in front of him.
is Herobear and he is a superhero, and surprisingly NOT a
figment of Tyler's very active imagination. Made to come on
the first adventure, Tyler throws on a towel and some goggles,
adopts the apt moniker "The Kid," and finds the
joy of flying with Herobear and fighting crime (and robots)
is one of the greatest experiences of his life.
Tyler has to do is avoid bullies, defeat the schemes of an
evil-genius-toy-maker, keep his new sub-arctic friend under
wraps, and figure out how his late Grandfather fits into the
whole situation. Not an easy job for a ten-year old, but I
think he'll somehow manage with the help of a certain ursine
came out of nowhere with this comic. He'd originally worked
in animation for Warner Brothers, Disney, and Sony as a director,
animator and story artist. It's as if he sat down one day
and said, "Today's the day I write a comic." And
he did. And he won an Eisner Award for it.
story is first rate. In the Calvin and Hobbes tradition,
Kunkel manages to nail down the mind of ten-year old perfectly:
Tyler's daydreams are fully formed stories in and of themselves
as he imagines himself and his classmates into a bevy of situations,
ranging from superhero hijinks to a funny rendition of The
Bride of Frankenstein.
if the story doesn't have a massive amount of heart. At the
beginning of each chapter, Tyler (narrating from a much older
perspective) reminds the reader about the fundamentals of
childhood: the way time passed differently, the power that
a child's belief could hold, among other fundamentals. What's
more, Kunkel then ties these themes into the core of each
chapter, creating a beautifully layered overall story.
scene of the book (the very touching funeral of Tyler's grandfather)
is still the one that makes me wish more comic book writers
and artists could convey emotion in the panel as fluidly as
Kunkel does. I've seen maybe a dozen splash pages of Batman
draped over his parents grave, but it's never held the depth
that this simple three page scene of Tyler's family saying
art is also a shining example of what can be accomplished
in comics when the creator is thinking outside the box. Kunkel's
artwork isn't inked or digitally refined. In fact, all the
artwork has the face lines and wire frame lines left in. It's
like watching a pencil line preview of an animated film, and
the style works fantastically well with the story. Kunkel's
characters have the full range of emotional expression, and
Tyler isn't just "word balloon funny" but physically
funny as well. Kunkel provides as much visual storytelling
as he does narrative, making this a perfect hybridization
of comics and animation art styles.
is something to be said for the expert pacing on this book.
Too often in comics, we get too much information crammed into
a single issue that makes for crowded reading, but Kunkel
knows how to pace a story so that it seems like a leisurely
read, without being boring (another byproduct of his animation
I've gone on and gushed and you're thinking, "Sparling
found all this wholesome goodness for a really cheap price,
'cause we know he don't like spending money!" Nope. Sorry.
a hardcover, dust jacketed, oversized edition that collects
the first five issues of Herobear and The Kid that includes
two introductions (Producer Don Hahn and Jeph Loeb), blurbs
about HTK from some of comics' great creators (Terry
Moore, Scott Morse, etc x 10) in between chapters, a sketchbook
section, a "How To" on how Kunkel created HTK,
a pin up section, and a fan art section. Oh, and did I mention
the animated cell of Herobear and Tyler flying?
is packed and high quality, and because of that, it's $49.95.
Not cheap I know, but that's what Astonish
Comics is charging. But there's deals to be made, ladies
and gents: go out to the comic store and haggle like it's
going out of style, check the e-bay auctions, sell a kidney
(you only need one you pansies), but find a way to get this
book. It's the kind of book you can read again and again,
save for years, and then give it to your children and say,
"This is why comics are good."
and the Kid: The Inheritance (regular
paperback edition that Rob didn't buy)