SLJ Review - Hicksville and Thirteen Going on Eighteen

School Library Journal    |    Martha Cornog & Steve Raiteri    |    November 16, 2010

Researching a biography of Dick Burger, the world's most successful comics creator, Leonard Batts visits Burger's hometown, tiny Hicksville, New Zealand. He finds a community where everyone is a comics expert - and the library circulates original copies of Action Comics #1 - but Burger is persona non grata. Only unemployed cartoonist Sam, Burger's childhood friend, shares information, but even he won't explain what Burger did to earn the town's censure. This reissue of a modern classic, originally published in 1998 and nominated for a Harvey Award, features a new introduction in comics form by Horrocks. VERDICT Referencing figures from Rodolphe T'ffer to Todd McFarlane, Horrocks displays a deep knowledge of comics history and a commitment to the art form's power, but also sadness at how comics creators (and characters) have been treated in the name of commercial interest. The moving stories of Sam and also Grace, a Hicksville expatriate returning to pick up the threads of a complicated life, provide indie credibility, but the book's focus on comics (superhero comics in particular) will appeal to some who would normally shun indie work.

This volume of D&Q's John Stanley Library (which collects 1960s comics by Little Lulu writer Stanley) reprints the first nine issues of an undeservedly neglected teen humor series starring two boy-fixated best friends, Val and Judy. Over the course of the jealousies, misunderstandings, and misadventures, Val's childhood-friend-but-not-quite-boyfriend, neighbor Billy, is supplanted in her affections by dreamy new kid Paul Vayne. Meanwhile, Judy dates the nerdy Wilbur but would dump him in a second if any other boy showed interest. VERDICT The artwork becomes more attractive when Stanley takes over from Tallarico with issue three, but it's Stanley's writing that gives the series appeal beyond the young girls it was likely targeting. Val's showy hysterics, her banter with older sister Evie, and Stanley's fine gags are a delight. Because of the unexpectedly opulent hardcover presentation, including excellent design by cartoonist Seth, who also contributes an introduction, and thick pages tinted to look like weathered old comics, the absence of the original cover illustrations (often good gags in themselves) is a surprising disappointment. Still, this is fun for tweens and older collectors alike.

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