Wednesday, April 18

Stickman Odyssey

Book One: An Epic Doodle (2011)
Book Two: The Wrath of Zozimos (2012)
by Christopher Ford
Philomel

Homer's epic tale reduced to stick figures and plenty of diversions from the classic poem, not that contemporary readers will mind (if they even notice).

If you are a deep and reverent reader of The Odyssey, you should probably just leave now. This graphic novel retelling simply isn't for you.

But if you're a kid who knows little to nothing about classic Greek tales this could do for you what countless hours of watching Rocky and Bulwinkle's Fractured Fairy Tales did for your (grand)parent's generation in terms of learning the tales of the Brothers Grimm, or the way Bugs Bunny cartoons taught generations about classical music and opera.

In short, Stickman Odyssey is a satyric romp through Ancient Greece, where a modern sensibility and simple-but-expressive stick figures poke fun at the often serious (and preposterous) adventures Zozimos.

Plot? It's as episodic and rambling as they come. It begins with a stormy sea and Zozimos calling out for help from the heavens. Out of the sky comes a giant fountain pen to draw Zoimos a raft to safety, where he cries out his thanks for Athena. From this brief encounter we know pretty much all we need to know for the duration. Our hero, far from home, is on a quest to return to the land of his birth, Sticatha, where as an infant he barely escaped the usurper queen before she had a chance to turn him into a crow as she did with his siblings. Raised by his Uncle Nestor, a General of the Royal Army, Zozimos was raised far away and trained as a warrior so that he may one day return and reclaim the crown that was once his father's.

From there, it's the usual. Quests that lead to certain doom somehow thwarted by clever thinking, evil creatures at the command of powerful sorcerers with fatal flaws that make them easily disposed of, the occasional bit of magic that allows for the impossible to happen. Essentially, all the fantastic part of these epic tales fold nicely into a comic narrative where instead of stretching credulity they become a never-ending series of deus ex machina punchlines.

While I have been fond of the series First Second has been putting out of full-blown superhero-style illustrated tales of the Greek gods, there is something satisfying about these doodles and the boom-boom-boom aspect of their shortcut storytelling.

It's got Golems and Hermit frogs and magic boats and hairy eyeball spiders and a cheating Sphinx and a romance straight out of Star Wars (er, maybe its the other way around)...

Good fun, and maybe, as with other culture satires, as good a place as any to get a sense of the classics before one day discovering where the stories came from.
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