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One Thing I Love Today! Moriarty Gets Hung Up On SEAWEED!

Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. I get a lot of e-mail here at the Labs from people asking me to read something or watch something or listen to something, and I try to fit as much of it as possible into my schedule because you never know when something great’s going to cross your desk without warning. But a lot of times, I can’t respond to people just because I’m backlogged or I know I won’t get to it or it’s not really my cup of tea, and I always regret having to say no. One thing that helps is when I have heard of something already. Doesn’t guarantee I’ll like it, but at least it’ll cut through the clutter if I recognize it. The other day, I was reading this story about a self-published graphic novel, and as I read it, I wanted to see more of the guy’s artwork. It looked promising from that one quick glimpse. Almost as soon as I clicked over to my e-mail, there was a letter waiting for me from Ben Balistreri. When he says self-published, he’s not kidding. This guy’s his own PR agent, editor, illustrator, publisher... he’s a one-man band. And he asked me if I would take a look at SEAWEED: THE CURE FOR MILDEW. Sometimes, it reeeeeeeeeeeeally pays to say “yes.” The book showed up as I was walking out the door to a screening, and I took it with me to open in the car. It’s huge... 12x15 inches. Hardcover. Printed on a gorgeous glossy slick paper. And I’ve gotta say... this guy is great. He’s a storyboard artist at Dreamworks now, but he’s an Emmy winner for his work on FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS, and he’s worked on a ton of other shows over the years. This is a hell of a debut, and it’s guys like him who really impress me. Working in the superhero genre is the bread and butter of the comics industry, but I think it’s also akin to working for a studio... you do what they tell you. You can sometimes do great work in that system, but you’re working on someone else’s creations, and you’re making them the money. One of the reasons I love the work of Doug TenNapel so much is because I find it hard to categorize. He’s doing what he’s doing because that’s what he wants to read. Balistreri appears to be doing the same thing. I can’t imagine him describing this to someone unless he had the actual book available to show them. It’s the story of a pelican named Seaweed who captains a ship called The Salty Sugar with his friend and first mate, Poisson, a tuna. They end up entangled with a bat named Mildew who is searching for a legendary book that may feature a cure for death itself. It’s a stunningly designed book, looking more like an animated feature than a simple “comic,” and the writing is sly and surreal. My favorite part of the book features a trip to speak to The Dunder Chief and the bizarre creatures he rules, the Dunders. When you read through the 24 pages of bonus material in the book that trace the development of the ideas and the imagery, you’ll learn where the name “the Dunder Chief” comes from, and it just makes a very funny sequence even funnier. It’s relatively short, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but that just makes me excited to see what Balistreri’s going to do to top this accomplishment. I hope he’s able to finish the next one quickly even as he works on HOW TO TRAIN A DRAGON, but I’m sure it’ll be worth whatever wait I have to endure. You can order the book directly from Ben’s blog, and I would assume you’ll be able to find it at specialty comic shops as well.

Here’s a quick sample of what you can expect, although it barely scratches the surface. I know that since it arrived, it’s become Toshi’s favorite book in the house, and he insists on looking through it before bed each night now. He spends a half-hour with me going through it very slowly, and even though he can’t read any of the dialogue, he’s made up his own voices for each of the characters, and we trade back and forth, making each other laugh with our impressions of chameleons and frogs and pelican pirates. It’s one of those things that really is as much fun for an adult reader as it is for children, and that’s rare enough that it’s worth picking up.

Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

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