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Spongebob Comics #1

March 13, 2011

Title: Waking Up is Hard to Do and other stories

Writers: Graham Annable, Chris Duffy, James Kochalka, Bob Flynn, David Lewman, Robert Leighton, Corey Barbra
Gregg Schigiel, Andy Rementer, Hilary Barta, Bob Flynn, Jacob Chabot, Vince DePorter, Corey Barbra
Adam Dekraker, Hilary Barta, Jacob Chabot
Rick Neilsen, Mark Martin, Wes Dzioba
Sherm Cohen
Bongo Comics/United Plankton Pictures

After 12 years of television dominance, Spongebob Squarepants has finally made his way to the comic book page. Judging from the initial offering, however, he may have been better served by taking his time and doing it right.

This first issue contains several short stories and a couple of activity pages, none of which really deliver to any substantial degree. Part of that is a fundamental issue with the property itself. Spongebob’s brand of humor is very fast-paced and very slapstick… it’s “beat, beat, joke! Beat, beat, joke!” Which works just fine on the television. The first eight pages, though, show conclusively that it doesn’t work in a comic book. If this tale about Spongebob tackling one dream after another one were, instead,  the storyboard for an episode of the cartoon, it could have been a pretty good one, but this story just has no punch.

Halfway through the book we get the one really solid story, a Squidward tale in which our favorite grouchy squid struggles with an irritating song that gets stuck in his head and starts following him around. Stories about music are always tough in a visual medium like a comic book, but writer David Lewman delivers with this one.

The one thing that keeps the score here relatively high is the good artwork on the main stories.  Several of the artists who contribute to this volume manage to give us sharp, on-model depictions of Spongebob and his crew. But the shorts go in the opposite direction, to the point where I don’t even think I’d recognize all of the characters if not for the appropriate colors.

When Disney comics started being created in the early 40s, it was clear that the formula that makes for a Disney cartoon doesn’t work in a comic book. The creators had to keep the core of the characters intact while seeking out a new way to tell stories about them. The result is that the Donald Duck we see in his greatest cartoons is somewhat different from the Donald in his greatest comics, and the story styles are drastically different. The creators of Spongebob Comics need to figure out a  way to do the same with this title, or it just won’t give even the most dedicated of readers a reason to pick it up every other month.

Rating: 5/10

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