Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Bakers: Babies and Kittens by Kyle Baker

So, I've been re-reading Kyle Baker's funnybooks -- meaning his comics that are funny, since he's done other kinds as well -- recently, with the first volume of Cartoonist last year, three random books back in January and Cartoonist 2 last month. And he's still got more, meaning I can keep going.

The Bakers: Babies and Kittens was from 2007, and saw Baker go to Image after self-publishing the two Cartoonist books. (Baker has been in another spree of self-publishing the last few years, for whatever reason: my guess would be that he has a deep backlist and no outside publisher can care as much about those books as a self-publisher can.) It contains one long story about his then-young family, with three kids that seem to be under the age of five, told in what I think of as animation-inspired art, usually two wide panels to a page filled with action and energy.

Kids are cute, and kittens are even cuter, but the possibly-fictionalized version of Baker here is allergic to cats, so he puts his foot down and insists the family will not have any. Anyone familiar with American family comedy of the past century will know what happens next: Father is always the butt of the joke, and never gets what he wants. (This all starts, incidentally, with a slapstick scene involving a mouse, which gives an initial impetus to the idea of getting a cat.)

I still think that a lot of Baker's stories from this era really wanted to be animated movies, and would have worked even better in that form. But they're still good as comics, full of vibrant colors and expressive lines, bouncy with comedic energy and verbally fun as well. Maybe I just want to see Babies and Kittens as animation as well: that would have been cool.

Babies and Kittens is technically a sequel, but this is basically a sitcom setup: stories of little kids causing problems are universal, and require nothing other than being a human being who has experienced small children. It's cute, and suitable for nearly all ages -- those younger than two may drool and chew on the book more than you prefer, ditto those over one hundred -- and shows, once again, how funny Baker can be when he has good material and the time to build gorgeous art around it.

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