Review: Brian Ralph's 'Reggie 12' Is Harmlessly Cute Cartooning

A comic review article by: Danny Djeljosevic

As comics gradually claw their way out from people's perceptions of the entire medium being worthless shit made for kids who can't read good, we get the added benefit of more obscure works being republished. Once upon a time you had to dig through old collections to find ratty single issues of those influentially smutty EC Comics, but now you can just go to Amazon, click a few times and somebody will deliver it straight to your house -- and it will be in a nice hardcover. COOL.

Reggie 12 is a far more recent chunk of comics, but far less expected as something anybody was clamoring for a collection of. Created by Brian Ralph, a founding member of Brian Chippendale's Fort Thunder collective and whose stuff I probably read in Nickelodeon Magazine as a kid, Reggie 12 is likely best known as a series of one-page strips that appeared in the back of Giant Robot magazine and a few assorted other places and that Drawn & Quarterly -- publishers of his Cave~In and Daybreak -- has now compiled into a very nice-looking 96-page hardcover.

Living up to the moniker of the magazine that housed it, Reggie 12 follows an Astro Boy-like robot named Reggie, his easily distracted scientist creator, his fellow robot creations and the always-scheming housecat that lives in the lab. In other words, it's nowhere near "serious comics," especially compared to something as dire seeming as Daybreak. Jesus, is comics so broken that you can say a term like "serious comic" and it's not actually an oxymoron? 

Anyway, Reggie 12 is mostly just a cute send-up of old-school anime tropes -- Reggie gets supplanted by a more popular robot hero in town and lets threats destroy buildings he doesn't care about while the scientist creates a robot that wants to save the day but is just tasked with chores. Nothing world-shaking -- Reggie 12 is never insightful about the tropes it's playing with and it's surprisingly not as funny as one might hope for being a bunch of strips somebody felt the need to collect in a hardcover edition. Which isn't to completely trash the thing, because Reggie 12 is honestly more enjoyable than pretty much anything you could read in the newspaper. Except maybe Curtis.

Part of that pleasantness comes from Brian Ralph's cartooning, which reminds me most of somebody like Kyle Starks, especially if you check out those Daybreak pages. His storytelling is solid, with only the odd stumble where it's completely unclear what order the reader's eyeballs are supposed to go in, and his characters are incredibly cute and designed to be distinct enough to be memorable as Ralph eschews the Japanese style in favor of characters that mostly look more like wind-up robots or the Iron Giant. That said, for all the robots with bowler hats or antennae, Casper the cat turns out to be the stand-out character, possibly because he's the least interested in all the mecha antics.

While technically a black-and-white comic, Reggie 12 is cast in teal shades that give the work a bit more depth, and D+Q's choice of a slightly oversized format makes the pages easier to understand, especially as some pages are crammed with panels -- clearly a result of Ralph putting out Reggie stories in multiple formats.

It's hardly an essential work of cartooning, but Reggie 12 is enjoyable enough, I suppose -- perhaps it's best saved for Brian Ralph completists or fans of Giant Robot who want a little blast of nostalgia.

Danny Djeljosevic is a comic creator living in San Diego, CA, responsible for the webcomic The Ghost Engine (with Eric Zawadzki). He puts out comics through his label Loser City and frequently wears hot-pink Converse sneakers. He's got a bunch of shit in the works.

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