Monday, May 13, 2013
Manta-man and Manta Dad
I met Chad Sell at C2E2 last month. Two aisles across from me, and between a large gap in the various backdrops booth set ups, I spied a big banner with the cover to Manta Dad #1. After staring at that image for three days, I found myself mesmerized, I had to know what it was.
Chad is a cartoonist who has written and drawn a number of books, his latest release being Manta Dad. I can't remember exactly how he sold it to me, but I think he said something about being like Venture Brothers and that was enough for me.
Manta Dad is a prequel to Manta-Man, which is a superhero farce that Chad serializes at http://www.mantamancomics.com. Manta-Man is largely done in a strip format, which occasional deviations into larger page layouts. It is about a guy who has the unique, and mostly useless, power to turn into a flying manta ray, and his attempts to be a superhero. I got some good laughs out of Manta-man, but the comic reads like a strip. It's a sexy, sometimes raunchy, adult comedy. The plot is a little scattered at times, but it develops into a nice story, and the characters are neat.
As entertaining as Manta-Man was, I vastly preferred Manta Dad, which I thought was fantastic. The story is much more structured and Chad really delivers great page layouts. The comic pages are full of panels, but he still gives himself room for wide scenic scenes or dynamic action panels.
I'd say Chad's comparison to Venture Brothers was apt (I have to assume that Chad loves the character Shore Leave), with perhaps a little Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou thrown in for good measure. The story is about a young Manta-Man (I can't recall his real name at the moment) as he goes on adventures with his dad, Harold Man, who is a Jacques Cousteau style oceanographer. Contrary to his shy, introverted son, Harold is macho and outspoken. He's an alpha male in a speedo. Traveling with Harold and his son are Harold's four other spedo clad male companions. There's a lot of gay subtext in this comic. Indeed, even the regular text in this comic is pretty gay. Between hunting exotic sea animals and the gay romps with his sailor friends, Harold is very busy. Harold's homosexuality, while sometimes played for comedy, is presented as a very natural thing. The juxtaposition then, that his insecure son has something about himself that he's trying to hide, is very smooth. It's a book about growing up, family relationships, and silly made up sea animals.
Ultimately, what drew me into this comic was the cartooning. I really like Chad's loose lines His characters are very expressive with the most minimal line work. The comic hit all the right notes for me, it's funny and deep, and it looks great doing it. I highly recommend it.