After our highly anticipated server upgrade, we gladly return to our series of reviews on Yoe Books! This hot, hot, hot new imprint from IDW shows no signs of cooling down. Series editor, designer, writer, and chief instigator Craig Yoe only gets hotter.
Over the next six weeks or so, Friday will be Yoeday, so check in without fail. IDW's thick, beautiful, large-sized, full-color hardbound books from Yoe! Studios deserve sustained attention. No simple reprints of classic comic strips here. These are historical studies of specific themes or moments in comics history.
We really hope these books will get out there and give comics artists all kinds of new ideas. Because this stuff is so good, it's like it came from the future to show us what comic art can be!
The focus of the Yoe Books! imprint is the art, the wonderful, pulsing, thriving art of the titans of comics, put together with Yoe's particular design sensibility: part minimalist and part romantic, infused with warmth and humor, and always aware of history and tradition.
So stick with me, dear readers, as we take a peek inside Yoe's recent output, from Steve Ditko to George Herriman to Milt Gross. Exposure to the classics Yoe-style is an awesome reminder that comics are way cool, even when they're hot.
We begin with Felix the Cat, the black cat with the winning smile whose adventures redefine whimsy. Felix the Cat: The Great Comic Book Tails just hit bookshelves this week. It collects over two hundred pages of glorious four-color stories written for Dell and Harvey Comics by Felix's original artist Otto Messmer, with additional stories by Felix artist Joe Oriolo.
Joe Oriolo's son Don provides a winning introduction in which he instructs us to "look at the backgrounds…follow the gags…marvel in the action…"
Don's advice is spot-on. You'll be dazzled by the boisterous energy of these strips from the very first page. Consider the first story in the book, "Felix the Cat in Starburst." It begins ordinarily enough. Felix wakes up with a typically positive outlook on his day. But after falling down the stairs and spilling his milk, Felix begins to think that he is living under an unlucky star.
Just to give you an idea of the humor here, this isn't a metaphorical unlucky star. This is an actual star, a big star of pain that Felix sees every time he gets hurt, for example when he hits his head falling down the stairs, or when he cuts his paw on a broken milk bottle.
What's a cat to do? Felix decides to get out from under that star, a 16-page odyssey that takes him to places both ordinary (a speeding car, a row boat) and completely far-out (the floor of the ocean, the moon). It even takes him on a trip through the zodiac. The adventure takes twists and turns between the ordinary and the fantastic without a care in the world.
Does Otto Messmer bother to "explain" Felix's journey? Must we have portals between the realms of the ordinary and fantastic? Do literary conventions dictate the story's pace and outcome? Never! Felix the Cat's adventures are as light-hearted as his personality. He is a sweetie who lives in a brightly-colored world where anything can happen, and often does.
Felix the Cat is Messmer's gift to those of us who think a magic carpet ride should be truly magical. Felix is alternately joyous, eager, hapless, artful, and cunning. His adventures are often launched from his own living room or backyard. He's a real pal; he'd never betray or take advantage of a friend. We're always invited along, and it's always fun, and we're very willing companions. After all, as Oriolo says in his introduction, we know genius when we see it.
I have a Felix the Cat T-shirt, and any time I wear it, it makes friends for me. People who know Felix see the shirt and assume that I am genuine, playful, and ready for a laugh. Felix is beloved, and enduring. This book, while a wonderful tribute to one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time, is so much more. It's a treasure trove of adventure, fun, and laughter. It's all about what life really could be. I say we try!