In another life, Michael Blaney must have been a bug. In fact, he must have been a bug in several past lives, because there’s no other way to explain how he can so precisely capture a bug’s point of life and successfully mock human’s over-enlarged egos. In this collection of single comic panels that anthropomorphize flies and other small insects, Blaney represents all forms of humor from satire to slapstick to hyperbole.
While not all panels will make one laugh out loud, virtually all panels are amusing on some level and often challenge the reader to reposition themselves or reconsider their understanding of some aspect of human life. No, this isn’t a life-altering graphic novel, but there is something to be said of Blaney’s style that makes readers wonder how ridiculous humans can be.
For instance, one panel features two child bugs sitting on a pile of trash with an adult fly in the background yelling “Goddamn kids! Get the hell off my property!” Now, the simple panel evokes the proverb, “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash.” But it also challenges readers to thing about how much of our “property” is trash. After all, humans have this amazing knack to accumulate a lot of unnecessary items to the point that we fill up areas of houses (such as garages) set aside for specific purposes besides storage.
With over a hundred panels, this collection certainly gets its point across as it tackles a variety of topics such as careers, the afterlife, ethics, etiquette, and violence. Panels alternate between being colored and simply drawn, but the jokes hit home either way with little difference between the two formats.
Here Be Snap Dragons, on the other hand, is not about bugs but can be just as amusing. Recipient of the Origins Award, this collection of tales follows five young kids as they let their imagination consume them when role-playing. They turn mere household items into weapons for their epic battles waged as warriors and wizards against whatever evil force may be lurking.
John Kovalic and Liz Rathke do an excellent job of capturing a child’s mindset. Their jokes can be understood by adults and children alike, but their ability to identify certain signature traits about children and their interactions is uncanny. In one story, Jody feigns sickness in order to try a new present a little bit early. While her disgruntled brother Jake must go off to school and learn, Jody quests after her X-Cube Station 2 but discovers her plan is not as perfect as she thought. Another tale also gently mocks the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are.
The character drawings are simplistic, effective, and most importantly cute. Whether it be the protruding buck teeth of Cooper or the naive dotted eyes of Mitzi, the authors imbue a lot of energy with small amounts of change in their characters. Kovalic and Rathke also use the entire graphic novel, making sure the inside panels have something entertaining on them.
Light and whimsical, Here Be Snapdragons embodies just what childhood can be without hundreds of hours spent in front of the television, video game console, or computer screen. What strikes chords of harmony in this graphic novel is the level of imagination used by the kids—it warms the heart and leaves hope that some children out there are still getting lost in their own homemade adventures.