- Posted by Johanna on November 1, 2006 at 11:47 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: written by J. Torres; art by Tim Levins
- PUBLISHER: Oni Press; $19.95 US
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.)
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.