The Complete Copybook Tales

In The Complete Copybook Tales, writer J. Torres and artist Tim Levins look back at the kids they once were as they learn to be adults. “Jamie” and “Thatcher” want to make comics. Interspersed with their current-day starving artist struggles are Jamie’s memories of his time in high school during the 80s. (For non-Canadian readers, a “copybook” is a notebook, which Jamie used as a journal.)

The Complete Copybook Tales cover
The Complete
Copybook Tales
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Young Jamie is idealistic, reading superhero comics, obsessing over John Byrne drawing Alpha Flight, and defending his hobby to his friends. Older Jamie, in contrast, sells his X-Men collection for bill money to tide him over while trying to break into the industry. His tastes have changed to Bone and Milk & Cheese, but he still shares with his younger self a love of the medium and a desire to create.

Young Jamie can’t imagine why anyone would ever want to get rid of comics. He dreams of collecting family heirlooms and passing his beloved issues on to his future children. The older version is more practical, more practiced in making hard decisions. He and Thatcher are working on a Maskman and Sidekick story, but they gain success with their more personal tales. Other stories continue the contrast, with Jamie having a much-too-early mid-life crisis and costume parties then and now demonstrating that for some guys, girl problems are universal.

This volume reprints five minicomics and six full-length issues. It’s astounding to see Levins’ work progress in style, strength, and confidence as the book continues. His art is clear and distinctive. The stories are full of goofy popular culture references from the period, making them even more entertaining, and the characters’ behavior is realistic, due to how observant the creators are of themselves now and then.

Overall, the book is about growing up, looking back, and reaching forward towards a dream. It sums up the development of many comic readers as they grow up. The whole thing takes on an extra level of meaning considering that Tim Levins went on to draw issues of Batman: Gotham Adventures, while J. Torres has written Teen Titans Go!, Sidekicks, Love as a Foreign Language, Scandalous, and Degrassi: Extra Credit. The Complete Copybook Tales is recommended for fans of Teenagers from Mars, especially if you think that story would have been better with less violence and more comedy.

The introduction is by Augie DeBlieck. J. Torres also has a website.

8 Responses to “The Complete Copybook Tales”

  1. Mike Chary Says:

    Hey, do you still have that check with all the sketches on it from Motor City Con back in 1996 or so? I think it had some from the Copy Book Tales people.

  2. Dan Says:

    Hey haven’t you reviewed this before? Aah what the hell, I was gonna give you shit about repeating yourself in your old age, but Copybook Tales is good stuff, and Torres and Levins definitely deserve all the pimpin’ they can get for this gem.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Dan, I haven’t reviewed this since I was talking about individual issues back on Usenet. It was way overdue.

  4. Dan Says:

    Oh god… I’ve been reading your stuff since usenet. Sorry, it’s obviously time for my medicine. Has anybody seen my teeth?

  5. Johanna Says:

    Us old folks have to stick together! I’m pleased that you’re still finding something worth sticking around for.

  6. Coming Up in August 2008 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] for the August issue of PiQ magazine. I’ve been fans of J. Torres and Tim Levins since the Copybook Tales days. I liked this take on the family superhero team because it considers different generations and […]

  7. Family Dynamic » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] They met in high school, and during college, they began putting out their first professional work. The Copybook Tales was a critical favorite about two young comic fans seeking to break into the business. That series […]

  8. My Favorite Sketch Collection » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] middle is by Steve Rude; the person on the right is by Tim Levins (Copybook Tales, Batman Adventures). Counter-clockwise from top left, you have Sergio Aragones, Amanda Conner (I […]




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