Totally Spies Books 1 and 2

Totally Spies! is a cartoon series that airs on the Cartoon Network in the US. I’ve never seen it. Judging from these adaptations, it’s an updated take on Charlie’s Angels, only with California princesses as the leads.

The franchise is clearly what matters. The only credits in the books are for letterer and editor. (Apparently the art and stories create themselves.) Clover, Sam, and Alex are superficial high school girls who are secretly spies. However, all that really means is that they’re given a cool car and gadgets like a laser nail file.

Totally Spies Book 1 cover
Totally Spies Book 1
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Each book includes two stories, a great way to keep energy high. The plots are frothy, and all of them reminded me of some other movie or TV show. “The OP” features a perfect gated community that’s reminiscent of Pleasantville, only creepier. By the time they find out that one kid is trying to escape forced conformity, the story feels just like Disturbing Behavior.

The bad guys lose because they do stupid things like forgetting to remove Clover’s laser-saw-containing charm bracelet (which looks nothing like jewelry). The girls aren’t geniuses, either. Instead of untying their friend and letting her help, they cart her around much of the time like a package.

There might be something to be said about the irony of three interchangeable teens fighting enforced peer pressure, but that would be way too much thought for this lightweight series. Book 1 also contains “Futureshock”, in which the girls wind up in the future.

I found it helpful, since they sound alike, that each girl’s word balloon is outlined in her signature color. The characters are drawn in a light anime style, attractively and with exaggerated reactions. The girls’ weapons are all stereotypical, such as superheating hair dryers and some kind of magic compact. It’s fun, for pure bubblegum, but I can’t help being reminded of the original Batgirl and Miss Arrowette being defined through their cosmetic accessories. Have we come this far only to wind up back in the 50s?

Totally Spies Book 2 cover
Totally Spies Book 2
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Book 2 opens with “I Hate the 80s!” in which a bad guy has invented a retro ray that also de-ages people. I was impressed with the costume detail, but then, I remember the era. The story is fast-moving, with something new on every page, and plenty of subplots. The second story, “Attack of the 50 Ft. Tall Mandy”, turns their nemesis into a giant in a plot that involves a beauty contest and an escaped evil scientist.

For mindless entertainment, this is top of the class.

Samples are available at the publisher’s website. Papercutz is currently running a video contest for 8- to 14-year-olds. The winner, in return for making a 90-second movie-style trailer promoting the books, will get a “a star appearance in an upcoming article to be published in every Papercutz series of graphic novels”.


8 Responses to “Totally Spies Books 1 and 2”

  1. Sebastian Says:

    I liked the series a lot when it first ran on German TV in 2002/2003. I only watched the first 2 seasons, though, since the 3rd one started airing only this summer over here and I didn’t notice until now. The gadgets always were especially hilarious, with their over-the-top invented names and I liked how it was (IMHO) the first series to combine european/american style cartoon with japanese elements (and succeed). I caught a few 3rd season eps on the net, but didn’t enjoy them as much (though I don’t know how much of that was due to the differend dub voices and language and how much was due to the stories).

    I bought and read the two new books as well, but I only recently noticed that the stories are apparently taken from 4th season episodes (which I didn’t even know existed, since it started airing in the US only this spring). Is it possible that they were produced from frames taken from the show? It doesn’t really look like other anime-comics I know, but it’s certainly a bit slicker than other comic-styles.

    Episode Guide

    ~Sebastian

  2. Johanna Says:

    Thanks for the background! I don’t know enough about cartoon history to be able to validate your point about being the first to blend Japanese and American cartoon styles so successfully, but it certainly seems plausible.

    It could be made up of screen grabs… that would explain the lack of credits.

  3. Sebastian Says:

    I finally got my hands on one of the 4th season episodes (50ft Mandy) and the comic is indeed quite close to the cartoon. They obviously copy&pasted most of the backgrounds, but not the characters (those seem to be newly drawn). The faces look different than the cartoon most of the time, but some of the poses look at least traced. Large portions of the dialogue match the cartoon word for word, though some lines were added later, like the Hulk reference, for example.

    So it isn’t pure cels from the animation, but not very original either.

    ~Sebastian

  4. Johanna Says:

    Cool, that’s neat to know. I appreciate you doing the research.

  5. Leyla Says:

    I love Totally spies i dont onder stand dat there are no tegne serie ond danish and in denmark!!! wy??? pleaze help me are they in denmark are not??!??

  6. clover Says:

    i like totally spies very much. cool

  7. alek vidakovic Says:

    i love so much totally spies tv shows
    new ebisode 9
    quest mashins daed
    i like jetix show

  8. bilge Says:

    cool




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