The Dumbest Idea Ever!
Young Jimmy is a comic fan who gets good grades and plays on a championship basketball team, but his stellar school career gets derailed by chicken pox followed by pneumonia. After a month sick at home, he has trouble keeping up and feels aimless when he enters high school.
Jimmy lives in a small town without a library or anywhere to learn about art, but in the town an hour away, there’s a comic book store. There, he discovers the diversity of material available, independent comics beyond superheroes, and he hatches the idea that he too could make a comic book. After various false starts and a lot of hard work, he does.
Along the way, we also meet some of Jimmy’s friends, watch him struggle over maybe asking out his first girlfriend, enjoy his success — and hope he gets over his swelled head after being on TV due to his art. The last section moves much more quickly than the earlier pages, and I was left with some questions about what exactly happened and why, but figuring out how and when to end a real-life story is tricky. A short author’s note answered some of my questions and fills in a little background.
I was disappointed that none of the comics Jimmy reads or discovers used real names, but it’s understandable that Scholastic wouldn’t want to be promoting other works, particularly those (like the one about the aardvark put out by “two guys in Canada”) that aren’t suitable for young readers.
I remember reading Jimmy’s first comic, Shades of Gray. I liked it for the same reason he seizes on to make it different: it was about authentic kids, and it made their concerns and celebrations real. In the bigger picture, memories of that era are poignant for me. Although much of that part of the industry has now been replaced by webcomics, I miss the flourishing of independent comics in the mid-1980s, made possible by low barriers to entry. Someone could risk creating a new story and might make a good living from regular self-published issues.
The Dumbest Idea Ever! is a great read for kids who, like Jimmy, love comics. It’s an inspiring (but not sappy) story that may influence other readers to make their own art. It can be ordered from comic stores with Diamond code DEC13 1190 (or DEC13 1191 for the hardcover, priced at $24.99). (The publisher provided an advance review copy.)