Review: 'Regular Show' #1 Continues BOOM's Streak of Amazing Licensed ComicsA comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic
If you ask me where I stand in the great Adventure Time vs. Regular Show debate, I will simply tell you that whichever one I'm currently watching is my favorite. The two shows are usually on back-to-back on Cartoon Network, and offer different experiences even though the two are clearly related, being subversive shows for kids that adults also love -- both of which are made by cool indie comics creators. Basically, I like them both a lot and you're a jerk for choosing.
Anyway, Adventure Time is way more popular (rightfully so), and seems to be paving the way for more opportunities for cartoons made by people who had their minds warped by Ren & Stimpy and The Simpsons in the '90s -- and, more importantly, their subsequent comic tie-ins. Since BOOM! has been killing it on their Adventure Time material, it's only natural that they add Regular Show to their stable and follow the same formula -- hire a talented webomicker (KC Green of Gunshow) to cut loose on the thing and create something that's in the spirit of the source material but also stands alone as a comic book. Even though they didn't title it Regular Comic as logic would dictate but synergy would veto.
Following two best friends -- Mordecai, a blue jay, and Rigby, a raccoon -- who "work" as groundskeepers in a park with a talking gum ball machine, a shirtless yeti and other oddball characters, Regular Show is a slacker movie made kid-friendly (ish) with its oddball anthropomorphized characters and the fact that any time Mordecai and Rigby hatch a plan it takes a turn for the weirdly cosmic, supernatural or downright apocalyptic. It's slice of life, but only until it's not.
Regular Show the comic remains true to Regular Show the show, as we start out with Mordecai and Rigby picking trash and bemoaning the folk music being played at the park's benefit concert, which inspires the ironically named Muscle Man to start a mosh pit to liven up the crowd. It does not go well, and now the characters who aren't possessed by dark forces have to save the day.
Regular Show #1 is the first of a multi-part story, which sounds pretty ambitious for these characters, but KC Green nails the twentysomethingness of the show -- it's about not wanting to do your job and also not being bored -- as well as the voices of the characters. It's a little early to tell how much KC Green is going to be in the book (hopefully a good amount, because Gunshow is so goddamn hilarious), but his writing on the book so far is very Regular Show, which is really what this first issue should do.
Under artist Allison Strejlau, Regular Show -- unlike Adventure Time -- deviates from the source material (visually) more than its older sister. Part of this is probably because Adventure Time is more popular and Cartoon Network wanted to maintain a certain consistency with regard to blah blah blah marketing blah blah blah branding whatever. And because Regular Show skews a bit older, you can play around with the art in the comic a bit more, so Strejlau nails the character designs when necessary but also deviates whenever possible to make something that looks like a hand-drawn comic book and not a series of screen captures -- right down to the thick brush lines and crazy panel shapes when a moment (or an entire page) calls for it.
That "this is a real comic book made by people with hands and souls and stuff" feel is enhanced by Lisa Moore's colors, which are a bit more detailed, more watercolor-y than her Adventure Time stuff. There's a fun effect where the early pages of the comic have colors closer to that of the show (green grass, blue skies), then once the big crisis begins, her work becomes stranger and spattered with psychedelic cotton candy colors.
Just like the Adventure Time books, Regular Show also features a backup story, "Thrill Baby" by Brian Butler, about getting the perfect roller coaster photo, which deviates even more from the show's visual style but once again remains true to the spirit. Butler's page layouts are incredibly playful, and his linework is perfect for a comic about an amusement park ride that fucks up your face.
Once again, BOOM! Studios shows how it's done -- hire good people to make licensed comics that offer their own experience unique to the medium and you'll have something that critics (like me) will enjoy and product that fans of the TV show (like me) won't feel like they wasted their money on. So I guess my favorite Cartoon Network licensed comic from BOOM! is whichever one I'm currently reading.
Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions) and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic with Mike Prezzato, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his Tumblr. His webcomic The Ghost Engine, with artist Eric Zawadzki, recently ended, so now you can read it in its entirety.