What Did I Learn?
Today’s comic under review is Mal and Chad by Stephen McCranie, a black and white newspaper style four panel gag strip. Unfortunately, it’s come to an end with online updates but is available in book form The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever. There seems to be a children’s comic book or another graphic novel on the way, as well. All is not lost.
Mal is the blond haired secret inventor that is madly in love with a girl at school. Lest you think this is a comic with wanton and lurid content, be advised that he does have cootie protection. Mal’s best friend is Chad, the dog he taught to speak. The comic follows their adventures, ups and downs
You could say it was Calvin & Hobbes-esque but other than the kid and animal characters, it’s really its own creation. Mal and Chad is not about a mischievous kid and his imaginary friend running amuck. It’s more about a slightly nerdy kid who’s a bit beyond school and his loyal dog. It focuses pretty equally on his school life and home life and the sorts of dramatic challenges a kid can get himself involved in. He does have rocket packs and a robot gone wild, so the element of science fantasy works itself in there too.
You will probably run into a couple of comics that you’ll really like. Or this one. Or maybe one like this. I found most of the comics to be original and entertaining. If I got a newspaper every day, I’d want Mal and Chad to be in it.
I really like the drybrush look of the linework, although I really wanted to see what this comic would look like with color. Of course, that typically triples the creation time unless you go with flats. The cast page and book cover gives us a peek of what the color version would look like. There are some different angles and visual gags to enjoy every so often, as well.
What Did I Learn?
It is possible to have a newspaper style comic be very good. It’s also possible to do an original take on an oft repeated concept base – a kid and his pet. It’s possible to create a comic with a slightly different look and its own charm and that does not rely on shock value to be interesting. Usually, when you’re working on a comic, it’s hard to predict how it will be received and whether or not the hours of labor will be worth it. Mal and Chad is one example we can look to where the hard work was worth it.