Secret agent Rip Haywire is half Mark Trail, half The Spirit, and half Bruce Campbell. His canine sidekick TNT is half Lassie, half Mr. Peabody, and half the dog from Family Guy. Ooh, this is fun! Rip's girlfriend/archenemy Cobra? Let's see... half Miss Scarlet, half Agent 99, and half Natasha Fatale. And if those character descriptions add up to 150%, well, that's just how far over-the-top Dan Thompson, creator of the globe-trotting rock-em-sock-em noir parody graphic novel Rip Haywire and the Curse of Tangaroa! plays it.
Pop culture references, wiseacre asides, and winking banter ("Zip it, you two. We're about to head into a dark jungle - predators are attracted to witty repartee") are interspersed with outrageous tough-guy similes ("Give me the compass or I'll lock you away like the recipe for Coke!"). There are enough jokes flying around that one is bound to hit on every page.
As for the art, think Dick Tracy updated with a generous dose of Adult Swim. Bright clear colors, exaggerated lines, and liberal use of silhouette combine to create a zippy retro style.
In other news, check out my new banner photo! That's Ezra's soccer team, the Green Flash! celebrating a fine season of under-ten competition. I can't go to the games because I am a big wuss and I get upset when people shout at each other, so we host the end-of-season party, which is more my speed. These under-tens found lots to love on our coffee table: I spot an Avengers graphic novel, the new Lemony Snicket, In a Glass Grimmly, one of Sandy London's Accidental Adventures, Fake Mustache, and the forthcoming hybrid from Stephan Pastis, titled Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.
It occurs to me, looking at this picture, that we used to be quite cranky about the dearth of "boy books" in middle grade literature, and you know what? I think that battle is won! A lot of the credit for this change in the market goes to editors and publishers who swam against the tide of heartwarming manuscripts about friendship and picked instead a few books dealing with humiliation and boogers. A lot of credit goes to Jeff Kinney. But it would be wrong to ignore the vocal advocacy of librarians and teachers, and the efforts by authors - exemplified most visibly by Jon Scieszka and everyone he has roped into his various Guys Read projects in the past five or so years. Thank you Jon, and thank you everyone.
We're not there yet in YA, I think. Guys Lit Wire is a great voice championing boy YA, and we're beginning to see trickles - I think people in publishing should pay more attention to the success of Darren Shan, for example.
In other other news, anyone who hasn't seen Bob Shea's entry in this year's Literary Death Match at the Texas Book Festival - you're in for a treat. FEAST YOUR EYES on Randy, the Lonely Unicorn: