4.18.2006

Graphic Novel Of The Month

Billy Hazelnuts (Fantagraphics): The theme of Tony Millionaire’s newest hardcover offering is evolution. That may seem like a bold proclamation, but in good journalistic style, I’m trying not to bury my lead. There are numerous elements in this book that represent shifts away from the traditional toward something refreshingly modern.

I wish I had the time to do a deeper dive into this book, but my quick summation of evidence will have to suffice. I loved this book and wanted to push something out before we all miss the opportunity to buy more copies!

The mice will inherit the Earth. Their traditional role evolves as they seem hell bent on a rebellion to overthrow the matron of the house as evidenced by their creation of Billy.

The girl is portrayed as a scientist, not the typical damsel in distress. Notice how she hates the frilly bow as it’s applied to her clothing, shunning her conventional role as a “girly” girl.

Eugene is initially seen as a poet. He is not a knight in shining armor. He’s annoying. He is not a savior. He’s anything but a typical male lead or suitor in this story. Ultimately, he becomes a villain, a pawn in this game.

Billy himself is created as a homunculus, composed of kitchen refuse, flies, and nuts, animated only by creativity.

The tale is not bound by any traditional limitations. Take a look at the girl's rocking horse - it just goes. It literally wheels away with no explanation of locomotion.

Nobody is happy with their traditional roles, broken planets in the dump seek to add value in the quest. Even the sheep want recognition. There is the question of where the moon goes, characters are not happy with answers previously given. Shooting stars refer to Billy as “brother,” proof that the existential dilemma of limited time forces everyone and everything to seek their own meaning. We are all “brothers” in this search.

Lines like “punching and smashing worsens the situation” can be viewed as commentary on the industry's need for survival, transcending superhero origins, and moving on to include diverse other genres. And I think that’s what Millionaire does here a bit. He includes some obvious and some oblique literary references, such as Moby Dick, The Grapes of Wrath, Noah’s Ark, and then proceeds not to dwell on those, just a mere mention is hinted, but then marches boldy forward with a new story whose art is creepy, imaginative, and endearing. The tone of script is about loyalty among beings and offering friendship with a diverse group. It’s a fully realized world. Grade A.

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