I spend way too much money on comics. But I love comics. Addiction. Now, with those personal revelations out of the way. . . . . November 11th, I picked up the first issue to a comic that I heard about online and decided that if my store had it on the back issue shelves, I’d try it out. I think the series is currently on issue #5, but don’t quote me on that. Reed Gunther is an all ages comic book. This is very significant, especially for all those people who assumed comic books were all for the youth.
First, the facts: the creators, brothers Shane and Chris Houghton, were making Reed Gunther comics for awhile, marketing them as true independent artist comic books. There’s a whole “thang” in the industry (because it’s become an industry…) about “independent” comics/artists, etc. Frankly, there are plenty of blogs to discuss those sometimes less than fun topics. Needless to say, in the summer of 2011, Image Comics (and man, is there a backstory to this publisher! Talk about having a history!) picked up the Houghton’s Reed Gunther and published the first issue. In color. Coolness. Price? $2.99
Second facts, this is one of a few “all ages” comic books. My point (and the point that USA Today and a few other media monsters also highlighted), is that when comics are marketed as “all ages,” people assume that this means that the comics are specifically meant for kids. In other words, made for and enjoyed by kids. And for the most part, this is true. After all, there are all sorts of distinctions in comic books now, all ages, parental advisory, and the really R-rated stuff by Vertigo/ Max/ et al. But what is meant by Shane and Chris’ “all ages,” I think is more important and necessary for the “industry” than all of those other distinctions. It is an all ages book – not a young ages book. The subtle point here is that people of all ages, from 7 – 77, can read and enjoy the book – safely, without anything untoward. All ages should mean just that: a book free from smut and foul, but enjoyable by kids and adults for its fun, interesting, witty, well-drawn storyline. All ages. Everyone. Not just one specialized segment (of an already small segment of the population – comic readers.)
So far, two “hoorays!” One for independent creators and one for a true all ages comic book. The next kudos is because the story is (more or less) a Western. Westerns have lost so much of their once massive popularity. The year is 2011 and sure, in the 1950s, youths thought the Old West was the best. Nowadays, I think kids think the 1950s were the years of the Old West. Yet, the Old West still has all the same aspects that made it appealing previously. In Reed Gunther, the star character is a cowboy. From the official website we get a small biography about Reed Gunther:
[He is] a goofy bear-riding cowboy . . . an eccentric, curious, adventurous fellow whose home is everywhere he and his best pal (and mode of transportation) Sterling end up. Together they roam the West looking for ways to make a quick buck, save a damsel in distress, or just have a fun time.
Did you see the part where he doesn’t ride a horse? He rides a bear! Named Sterling!
The first issue is entitled “Reed Gunther and the Steak Snacking Snake!” As Gunther and Sterling make their way across the prairie, they come upon a situation in which a cowgirl/rancher named Starla is having trouble with a snake trying to eat her cows. Starla is a stubborn, forthright woman who is handy with a knife, gun, etc. And she has no patience for Gunther’s antics. Still, she needs help from someone to save her cows. Of course, the bear and the cows seem to be brighter than Gunther, but Gunther has a big heart and lots of determination. He is also unlucky and quirky. The reader will love Starla and Sterling as they “help” Gunther save the day.
The art is clean and bold. It is presented in large standard rectangle and square frames on each page. The storyline is easy to follow and it is easy on the eyes. I cannot see children having any difficulty following along and old people should have no trouble with confusion either. The dialogue is minimal, but fun. I liked the break from the capes. I liked the break from the oddly-positioned angles and frames. I liked the break from seriously long-winded dialogue from self-important superheroes. I liked the way the good guys win and everyone lives to have more adventures. And I liked the cows and the bear.