Late last year, Andy Runton caught the interest of a market mostly interested in stories about violent conflict and in which many of said market’s customers have a fetish for heroes with super powers and colorful costumes. His deceptively simple tales of a little owl who just wants to be everyone’s friend (packaged in compact book format) were a return to a kind of comics that used to be all over the place – funny animal stories for small children. Suddenly, more and more people were paying attention.
Runton’s good-guy owl, named Owly, of course, returns in a second graphic novel, OWLY: JUST A LITTLE BLUE. While Runton divided the first book into two tales, Just a Little Blue focuses solely on Owly’s attempt to make friends with a small family of bluebirds that aren’t sure of his motives, especially the bird family patriarch, who is down right hostile towards Owly’s attempts at friendship.
Runton’s comics are silent (pantomime); he tells his story using physical movements, facial expressions, and emotions to create a narrative; besides those three elements, he uses very familiar cartoon iconography as a kind of dialogue that does more than simply suggest what the characters are saying, and Runton has a lot to say.
Just a Little Blue is Runton’s attempt to teach young readers not to be too presumptuous about things we think we know. Prejudice and the willingness to prejudge based on stereotypes are static in the lines of communication between people. Sometimes, we need to stop and explain or listen and learn. It’s nice that Runton wants to teach young readers to get along and learn that people who are strange to us or are unfamiliar aren’t necessarily dangerous. Of course, when the kids grow up, they’ll learn all over again to hate, hurt, or even destroy and kill those that are suspicious to them. A-