FIFTY ARTISTS FIFTY! It's like a Ziegfeld chorus line up in this fine large-format comic anthology, except hairier. And less able to walk and sing at the same time. Probably really bad at doing anything in unison.
Fifty of your favorite comics artists have taken on 50 old-fashioned nursery rhymes, resulting in an anthology that is funny, strange, sweet, and surprising. Some of the artists, like Nick Bruel (Bad Kitty) and Marc Rosenthal (Phooey!), are familiar names in children’s publishing; others, like the talented Mo Oh (Lily Renee, Escape Artist, which is not a good example of her sweet and funny style) and Jen Wang (Koko Be Good), are relative newcomers.
Mike Mignola (The Amazing Screw-On Head) and Jaime Hernandez (Love and Rockets, and aren't you happy there's a new one coming out?) are better known for their adult graphic novels, while Tony Millionaire (Maakies) and Patrick McDonnell (Me... Jane) are more frequently found in the newspaper. The dizzying variety of mediums, styles, and techniques employed by these artists joyfully demonstrates the range and the limits to which the comics can be pushed.
But as pleasurable as it is to survey this art, what really stands out is the way the artists have interpreted the texts. Many nursery rhymes, after all, have tragic or violent overtones, and most make little or no literal sense.
Therefore, Scott Campbell (Zombie in Love) draws “Pop! Goes the Weasel” as a series of tiny stories, each interrupted by that rascally weasel. Lucy Knisley (French Milk) turns “The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” into a happy old punk-rock hippie babysitter who “whips” the kids into a rock-and-roll frenzy before putting them to bed, happily tuckered out. That's one of my favorites. There are a lot of kids around my house sometimes, and we do a lot of rocking out.
Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy) populates “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” with a series of gnomelike clones and a wizardly inventor, while Craig Thompson (Habibi) draws a fairly literal interpretation of Edward Lear’s “The Owl and the Pussycat.”
So as eclectic as this group is, I would just love to see a kick line that included the Hernandez brothers, Roz Chast (The Alphabet from A to Y With Bonus Letter Z!), and Jules Feiffer (Bark, George). Ben Hatke (Zita the Spacegirl) would be trying to keep them all on the beat, but no.
Also reviewed at Comics Alliance.
Profiled on Boing Boing (and that's a first for this blog, reviewing something that has also appeared on Boing Boing).
Reviewed by Tasha on Waking Brain Cells.
Adapted from a review that originally appeared in School Library Journal.