I decided to boycott Free Comic Book Day this year. I am not opposed to the idea of FCBD itself, but just had such a bad experience last year, standing in line for over an hour at Midtown Comics, listening to some idiot in front of me shout rude insults to women as they walked by, then brag about how he was writing a Moon Knight movie script and was going to get Vin Diesel to star in it, that I decided not to bother. Plus, last year, when I finally got inside, they had run out of the Fantagraphics, D&Q and Top Shelf comics anyway, so all I got was a pile of stuff I wasn’t even interested in. Then, the icing on the cake was that, at MoCCA a few weeks later, all the indie publishers had tons of copies of their FCBD offerings available. So, anyway, I skipped the whole thing this year.
However, when I went to Midtown last night, I was lucky enough to score a few leftover freebies, including the Melvin Monster/Nancy book from D&Q. This is an exceptionally nice looking book for a free comic, with slick, shimmering covers designed by everybody’s favorite comics historian, Seth. And the book itself also delivered a real joy of discovery.
The flip book features Melvin Monster, which was both written and drawn by John Stanley (writer of the classic Little Lulu), and Nancy, written by Stanley and drawn by Dan Gormley. While these are essentially kids comics, their charm lies in the smooth flowing visual pace of the storytelling, punctuated with one skillfully depicted visual gag after another. Stanley's humor is timeless in the same way that a Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny cartoon is timeless, and the punchlines still elicit chuckles.
I also really enjoyed the way D&Q reproduced the yellowed newsprint effect, while using actual high-quality, thick, glossy paper. This unusual format gives the book an archival upgrade, but maintains that old, heavily-worn floppy comic feel. I wouldn’t have thought these two formats would blend well together, but I think D&Q found a healthy middle ground and, personally, I found this format more appealing that the usual remastering and recoloring that goes into most comics archival projects. I don't know if I’ll lay out the money for all three collections of Stanley’s work that D&Q is releasing this summer, but I’ll certainly look long and hard at them and may end up buying at least one.
BTW, Heidi MacDonald over at The Beat has links to several John Stanley comics currently making the rounds on various websites. It's worth clicking over.