- Posted by Johanna on October 10, 2007 at 6:58 am
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- PUBLISHER: Dark Horse Books; $19.95 US
Harvey Comics Classics: Casper the Friendly Ghost is one of the most attractive historical archives released this year. It’s also one of the best deals — a heavy book, almost 500 pages, with upscale presentation and color sections, for under $20. That’s a price that makes it worthwhile for anyone interested in comics history to try it out, and they’ll be rewarded for doing so.
Jerry Beck’s introduction provides an extensive history of Casper, illustrated with design documents and covering his cartoon and publishing background. Beck is unafraid to express opinions about the material he’s covering, which is refreshing as well as helpful in explaining the appeal of the character over five decades. Editor Leslie Cabarga also provides comments explaining the source material and reproduction techniques used for this book. Original art and and proofs were used wherever possible, and most of the stories are in black and white to show off the linework.
As Cabarga says, “all the most classic tales have been selected, including the first appearances of Spooky, Nightmare [the ghost horse], Wendy [the Good Little Witch], and the ghost waif Something.” Most of the stories follow one of a few common formulas: Casper wants a friend, Casper scares people, him being a ghost saves the day by scaring away bad guys, the good people accept him as he is. Or Casper stops the Ghostly Trio from scaring people by outsmarting them. Or Casper uses his ghost abilities to give a kid a fun adventure. The appeal of all of these types is in his irrepressible good humor and the professional storytelling.
It’s also interesting to see unexpected bits and pieces that are rarely mentioned, like Casper’s ghost mom, or his depressed attempt to drown himself because he can’t find anyone to play with him. (Both of those are from the same story.) Often Casper succeeds simply because of his nature, scaring people unintentionally simply by existing. It’s a comforting message of acceptance, of value because of who one is instead of what one does. Or finding a way to contribute, as with the odd tale of Boris Stiff, the world’s biggest bore. Simply talking to Boris puts people to sleep, but Casper manages to turn even that liability into a benefit.
Strangely, instead of people, the people-like characters are often drawn as humanoid bears and dogs and pigs. This makes it particularly odd when a “boy” (a pig) is menaced by a bear (a bear). Or when a bear family is scared away and Casper thinks “maybe I’d have better luck with animals”. No matter the look, though, there’s always fun in seeing the slapstick way people run away from Casper. There are many creative variations on the usual structure, keeping the stories fresh and entertaining.
See a preview at the publisher’s website.