Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #224: Itty Bitty Hellboy by Art Baltazar & Franco

Continuing with A Week in Hell, I wanted to immediately change things up. Yesterday had a momentous occasion in the life of Hellboy, and the rest of the week will visit with Hellboy-iverse characters like Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien, and the agents of the B.P.R.D. But, for today, we have a kinder, gentler Hellboy universe...

Art Baltazar and Franco (just Franco, unlike the dictator, who is, by the way, still dead) have been making sunny, silly versions of very serious comics properties for about a decade now, turning grimdark into funbright. Their comics tend to be pitched for kids, because they're completely appropriate for even small children -- unlike 99% of what's in a comics shop these days -- but their boundless energy and unique ability to revision any property as a group of happy pre-schoolers is infectious and deeply appealing to a lot of adults as well.

I bought their major title, Tiny Titans, for years -- ostensibly for my two sons, though I kept buying it past the point where those boys really cared about it, because I was enjoying it so much. But I haven't written about them here at all, which is an unfortunate omission: it's mostly because the books and comics left my hands as soon as I got home, but that's not a great excuse.

Baltazar and Franco are back with Itty Bitty Hellboy, which does their usual thing to Hellboy and his friends and foes. Liz Sherman, Abe Sapien, Roger the homunculus, Johann Kraus, and Lobster Johnson are all here -- and so are Baba Yaga, Hecate, the ghost of Rasputin, and another half-dozen villains. The landscape is mostly Peanuts-ian: backyards, sidewalks, dirt paths, fences. Baltazar and Franco stories don't take place in houses much at all: sometimes in treehouses, often in schools, but most often in the great outdoors, where these kids can romp and play games and make pancakes and throw parties and hunt Sasquatches and tell silly jokes. There's even a visit to -- well, call it Heck or Hades -- in the middle, which is entirely silly and focused on feeding pancakes to a pack of flying mini-Hellboys.

As usual for a Baltazar and Franco story, conflict is almost totally eliminated: the villains are sometimes comically worried about attacks by Hellboy, but that's as far as anything goes. They tell a whole lot of semi-linked short stories -- from two to at most eight pages -- which allows them to have an idea, make it funny, and then end and move on to the next thing. It's cute and fun and light and silly at all times -- the kind of Hellboy book you can give your five-year-old.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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