European style and taste often wield a different kind of comic book artistically, but literary and humor concepts can also make these comic books distinctly different from their North American cousins. One cannot always put a finger on exactly how they are different,t but something about the present piece feels out of place in contemporary American comic culture. To illustrate this idea, two books will be examined: Clifton: My Dear Wilkinson and Yakari and Great Eagle.
After a life of service to the Queen of England, Colonel Harold Wilberforce Clifton operates as an amateur detective when he is not relaxing in his home, causing no end of frustration for his maid, Miss Partridge. But something is afoot in the house. Things begin lifting up out of their spot and falling to the floor with expected results—more work and frustration for Miss Partridge and a confused Clifton trying to determine what his happening in his house. His quest to understand this phenomenon leads him to his library, where he follows a lead that some villain could be playing tricks on him via psychokinesis—the ability to move items with the power of the mind. This tangent leads him to check out a magic act of The Great Wilkinson, who showed up just as Clifton’s property started coming to life on their own. There is no great mystery to this graphic novel but a great deal of humor through running gags or amusing banter between Clifton and others.
Yakari and Great Eagle, on the other hand tells the tale of the young Native American child, Yakari, whose spirit guide, Great Eagle, meets him in his sleep every night until Great Eagle departs, instructing Yakari to act like the noble Eagle and he, too, will earn a feather in his headdress. His opportunity comes soon as Yakari finds a wild horse trapped by rocks and sets it free. Great Eagle appears and grants him a feather from his own plumage. Before Yakari can fully celebrate this great landmark, his fellow tribe members strip him of the feather, not believing he has properly earned it. Yakari must find a way to prove that he is indeed deserving of the honor.
This graphic novel has the potential to be endearing and even humorous, except that some of the jokes tap into a historical tradition of belittling or mocking Native American practices and beliefs. Names such as Eye of Broth (a character who sleeps while smoking a pipe), Slow Motion, and even Buffalo Seed mock tribal names and culture. These brief illustrations reveal a dubiousness on the behalf of the authors. There is also something interesting about non-American authors writing about Native Americans. Granted, non-native Americans writing about Native Americans may raise an alarm, but the geographical distance of the authors also generates some questions.
Regardless, both of these graphic novels provide quirky and entertaining tales that fall outside the realm of current American comic literature. Their art springs more from a cartoon tradition than a comic art standard, but that merely enhances their humor. The brevity but fullness of the stories makes them easy and enjoyable graphic novels for those looking for something light.