What Did I Learn?
Today’s review is on a comic that doesn’t need a review; Copper by Kazu Kibuishi. For all two of you who haven’t seen it yet, this square comic is about a boy named Copper and his dog Fred. Fred is usually the more pessimistic of the two and Copper is more upbeat and adventurous. They build and fly planes, sail the oceans in hand made boats, climb mountains and so on. Usually, they have discussions about what they are doing and what it means.
As it so happens, this review is on the (newly printed) paperback book. I found it in Barnes and Noble in the kid’s section next to Amulet, Bone and Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I was at first mystified as to why it wouldn’t be in the graphic novel section. It is printed by Scholastic, so I suppose someone at B&N thought it was for kids.
Something was throwing me off about this book. At first, I thought it was because the comic appears larger on my screen (it’s set at 1200px wide) than it does while reading the book. Holding the book up to the screen, each comic is -maybe- an eighth of an inch larger (whazzat – two or three millimeters?) It’s not much, really.
And then, as I started to write the review, it hit me. Color: the book has more saturated colors. For instance, in the Metropolitan story, on my mac it looks like Fred’s helmet is a lighter shade of orange. In the book, it’s more like a burnt orange.
I’ve scanned the page so you can see them side by side (without destroying the binding.). The color difference adds a bit of intensity that I was not expecting. Due to this, the very next comic (Bunny,) seems whimsical on the screen with its lighter colors and dire in the print version.
Did you also notice that the web versions of both comics above have some colored text that the printed versions lack? In Bunny, the only colored text is “Wait Up!” It’s also interesting to me that the dialogue doesn’t have a set height. The louder or more stressed it is, the bigger it is. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that, though. The more impact desired also adds to the size. Imagine if “*SIGH*” was half the size in the Angler comic. It wouldn’t carry the depth of feeling that the doubled text does.
Understand that I don’t see any of these things as flaws or errors. These are features that differ due to the media they are in and (likely) some editorial suggestion for the print version. For example – In the book, there is a slightly edited version of the step-by-step-process of making a Copper comic that you can see on this page. (Further, while the process is edited down nicely, the print tutorial shows how Shooter was made as opposed to web tutorial for Slowrider.) And, by the way, if you want to get to understand some behind the scenes efforts that go into Copper then you will enjoy Newsarama’s Copper review.
So Copper and his talking dog Fred go fishing, fix giant clocks, fly planes and so on – which is not that unusual for comic characters. Even though I really enjoy Copper, my mind looks for story and setting consistency and something is triggering my this-doesn’t-add-up sense. Obviously, a kid doesn’t normally fly planes or go extreme mountain climbing so that can’t be the foundation of the comic. It didn’t hit me at first but this is an allegorical comic. It’s full of symbolism. And I started thinking about how other comics like Calvin & Hobbes and Peanuts have the same symbolic quality that other comics like Garfield or even Dilbert don’t always have. Not every comic needs to be symbolic, of course, but an allegorical comic can attach itself in strong and subtle ways.
Copper engages your eyes with the art, your mind with the symbolism and your heart with the stories.
What Did I Learn?
Good comics seem to work on multiple levels and grab your attention in different ways at the same time. It can be a powerfully enjoyable combination.
Note also that the book has a new story entitled “Lunch Pack” which does not appear online. Another good reason to grab a copy of Copper.