SpongeBob Comics #1 Edited by Chris Duffy

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SpongeBob Comics #1
Edited by Chris Duffy
Bongo Comics

SpongeBob-ComicsWhen Nickelodeon Magazine folded in 2009, its absence was felt all over the indie comics community. Under the guidance of editors Chris Duffy and Dave Roman, the periodical’s comics section grew into that rarest of beast for cartoonists—a steady paycheck. Duffy was at the helm of the section since 1996. During his tenure, the magazine published a veritable who’s who of indie comics artists, including James Kochalka, Nick Bertozzi, Richard Sala, Sam Henderson, Kim Deitch, Graham Anable, Evan Dorkin, Jason Lutes, Emily Flake, Roger Langridge, Gahan Wilson, Art Spiegelman, and Jason Shiga, to name but a few.

I remember replying somewhat baffled upon hearing that a kid-focused magazine was printing works by the likes of Johnny Ryan, Kaz, and Ivan Brunetti. But it worked. Ryan, for instance, wasn’t trying to squeeze Blecky Yuckerella into the tiny hands of Nickelodeon’s fan base (not that Duffy or Roman would have let such a thing slip below their radar), he was tackling subjects like the tooth fairy. And the result was a sense of off-beat humor that has flavored Nicktoons at their best.

When the magazine went away, it meant more than just the loss of regular income for artists, it meant the loss of kids entertainment that’s so exceeding rare in a world where a talking mouse has a vice-like grip on what we show our children.

I’ll be the first to admit that, as the editor of a comics site, I get some rather strange fare delivered to my door. In the past year, I’ve received at least two graphic novels penned by Stephen King second stringer, Dean Koontz. I still wasn’t sure what to make of the arrival of SpongeBob Comics #1, until a note from Duffy fell out. I flipped through the issue, and it was clear—the cartoonist-turned-editor’s fingerprints are all over the thing.

Where Roman used the closing of Nickelodeon Magazine as an excuse to dive headfirst into a cartooning career, Duffy has stayed even closer to home, remaining under the Nickelodeon umbrella (by way of Bongo Comics), and employing a stable of familiar names to carry out his dirty work—R. Sikoryak, Graham Annable, James Kochalka, and Top Shelf’s Corey Barba all make appearances in this first issue. Heck, even Duffy takes a stab at a story.

For the most part, the work contained herein stays true to the SpongeBob style. In fact, of the aforementioned names, only Sikoryak and Barba’s main strips are actually drawn by the cartoonists themselves (Sikoryak’s is an old timey “Pirate Service Announcement”), though Kochalka is also given the back cover, for some stick figure SpongeBob strips that look awful American Elf-esque. A surreal combination.

The gags are also largely in line with the source material, as though some of the cartoonists were just waiting for the opportunity to break out their dusty SpongeBob scripts. As with all kid-targeted products, however, adults must gently remind themselves that this wasn’t created with them in mind.

There is, after all, a certain level of loyalty these comics need maintain, if they are going to keep young fans of the TV show on board. Thankfully, the source material is quirky enough to give the artists plenty of wiggle room in this first issue, and I’m sure that subsequent issues will offer Duffy and a rotating cast of cartoonists even more opportunity to stretch their legs. Perhaps an exploration of supporting cast members will hasten that along.

This first issue is a promising start and will hopefully land in the hands of those still mourning the loss of its beloved predecessor.

–Brian Heater

3 Comments to “SpongeBob Comics #1 Edited by Chris Duffy”

  1. Pete Bangs | February 28th, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Here’s hoping that Titan get their hands on the new material here in the UK. At the moment they’re padding the British Spongebob comic out with some awful fumetti style episode retellings using stills. My daughter read a lot of the stuff from Nick Magazine thanks to the kindness of Dave Roman sending out packages of comics when closing down the mag and is constantly rereading it. Not so the British stuff.

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