28 July 2009

Spelling Rules!: The Whole Edition’s Crazy

When I sat down to read Amelia Rules!: The Whole World’s Crazy!, I didn't have the 2006 reprint from Renaissance Press, nor the new edition from Atheneum (shown here).

No, I looked at the first edition, which cartoonist Jimmy Gownley issued himself through ibooks.net. (That Byron Preiss start-up was distributed by Simon & Schuster, owner of Atheneum; so the corporation eventually bought rights to something that was once in its catalogue.) And here are my thoughts during that reading.

On the Amelia Rules! website, Gownley describes his wish not to make his heroine a perpetual kid.

Amelia would not be about childhood; it would be about growing up. To me, this gave the strip a dynamic tension that was not present in other kid comics. The friction between the adult and kid worlds provided many story ideas and made Amelia unique. Amelia Rules! is not about being something; it’s about becoming something, which is really the heart of all great storytelling.
This seems to translate into valuable lessons about life that she shares with readers, but those don't come along so thumpingly as to be annoying.

[comma! comma!]

The characters are broadly drawn, but not one-dimensional. Amelia herself is the most rounded, likable but flawed, open to temptation but kind at heart. After her parents' separation, she has moved with her mom to a small town and needs new friends. Among the lessons she learns is that her new life isn't that bad.

[“viciously” has only one s]

Amelia's buddy Reggie is enamored of superheroes, one of many ways Amelia Rules! nods to the American comics tradition it grows from. He insists that he has a secret identity as Captain Amazing, which requires him to wear his boxers over his pants. And he's the most appealing boy around, at least in this volume.


Of course, Amelia's female playmate Rhonda Bleenie is equally caricatured as her "arch nemesis." Why they're always hanging out together isn't clear, but it has something to do with Reggie. And comic tension.

[that’s “you’re,” not “your”]

Her divorcing parents are weak reeds, at least in this volume, but they're doing their best; the most reliable adult guidance comes from her aunt Tanner. The teachers are standard adult antagonists. The cast doesn't really expand until later volumes.

[actually, that spot doesn't need a comma]

Gownley uses some interesting comics techniques, such as the changing icons on the wordless character Pajamaman's chest to indicate his emotions. The requisite bullies have special lettering. But I was most taken with Gownley's frames within panel frames, which he uses to highlight action, show time passing, or emphasize distance between characters. Those deserve more study; see an example at the bottom of this page.

[“nickel” is not spelled like “pickle”]

Finally, I'm pleased to report that the punctuation and spelling errors of the first, self-published edition don't appear in the latest reprint. There are some advantages to working with other people.

No comments: