Guest Writer: Kevin Birge
Back in the heady days of Wizard magazine, Clone sagas, Image hysteria, and the Indie Boom that characterized the 90s comics era I had a realization.
I was not the future of comics fandom.
Nobody of my generation was. That was the kids that were eight years to ten years old at the time. And looking at the vast sea of product, there was very little to hand kids that age to read. The Adventures titles from DC, Archie was still kid-focused, and other than that, not much. Not only that, direct distribution and the Diamond monopoly had effectively killed the kid collector culture that new stands and spin racks created when I plunked down my first quarter to buy a new book. I felt strongly that we were in danger of losing an entire generation of fans due to lack of material.
Fast forward to 2017, and we surely have. We lost them to anime, to film, to television, to the endless mill of bad young adult fiction that fills up the shelves in the few places you can still buy books. Marvel and DC have not cared one bit about attracting new readers for thirty years or more. And that train is now pulling into the station as terrible writing and art and high prices eat away at the readership.
Overall, it’s a bleak marketplace. Even if you had a great idea for kid’s comic, how on earth do you get it into a young kid’s hands?
And how do you convince them that this…artifact…is interesting?
Alterna Comics and Rob Feldman have an idea, and I think it’s brilliant, and I think it’s worthy of support.
Cyko Ko. A sixty six page comic book presented as a coloring book. One full length story, interspersed with puzzle and game activity pages. I took one look at it and began banging my head into the wall.
Why! (Bam!) Didn’t (Boom!) I (Keerunch!) Think (Poit!) Of (Shproing-oing!) This!
Well, because Rob Feldman did, and I didn’t. This is a grand idea, and having seen it, one feels like it was obvious. And yet, I can’t recall that it’s been done. I’ve seen superhero themed coloring books, had em’ when I was a kid. But they weren’t story driven. They should have been! I would have loved that when I was a kid! And so would most of you.
So now we get down to how well this good idea was executed.
Story: Cyko Ko and companions driving a van through the spooky woods, and wind up at a haunted house. There is a mystery to be solved involving a scary ghost, bad guys, and a super chip that must never fall into the wrong hands. The Hanna-Barbera influence loom large over this piece. The dialogue is kept minimal and simple, the plot is driven is much by the art as by the text. There are a few pop culture references that the kids aren’t going to get. The assumption throughout the book is that this is a child/parent shared experience. Everything is kept as G rated as possible, and the sense is that Rob Feldman is attempting to create something new and vital using old elements rather than being funny and ironic. The single story, with the puzzle and game elements interspersed, runs the full 66 page count. There are a few plot twists and the characters are original enough to make this feel fresh. You and your children will enjoy this.
The Art: Very heavy Bruce Timm influence, with notes of Joe Staton and the Hanna Barbera cartoons from which this piece is descended from. Ink lines are smooth, flowing, and pleasing to the eye. Layouts are kept simple, and the use of page and panel progressions are both masterful. At no point does the reader have to get their bearings and figure out how the page flows. I’d wager Mr. Feldman has a well-worn copy of Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art on his shelf.
Since I am writing this review from a PDF copy I cannot comment on the physical quality of the book. I would hope it is on traditional coloring book paper stock and of the proper size, more in proportion to a Golden Age comic than anything modern. But I do not know. I will say that even in the fairly diminutive modern comic size, the 9.95 USD cover price is a fair buy in for the content.
As for the experience you will have with your kids as you navigate the story, color the pages in, and solve the puzzles–that will be harder to fix a price on.
Long, loud applause for Alterna and Rob Feldman for this effort. There’s more real merit, talent, and creativity here than the Big Two have shown for the last thirty years.
If you have a younger person anywhere in your life, this book and a box of crayons is a no brainer gift.