By Patrick A. Reed
Art Baltazar and Franco have, over the last few years, gotten much-deserved recognition for their all-ages comics. They were the masterminds behind the widely-acclaimed (and much missed) "Tiny Titans" title for DC Comics, and when that series wrapped up after 50 issues, they launched the equally-wonderful "Superman Family Adventures." "SFA" was revered by kids far and wide, and was regularly referred to in reviews with some variation on the phrase "the best Superman comic on the stands."
Sadly, DC cancelled "Superman Family Adventures" with issue #12, leaving a huge, fun-sized gap in the world of all-ages comic books.
But even when the world of major publishers seems set on turning its back on the children, Baltazar and Franco can find a way to come out on top. Only a couple short weeks after the "SFA" cancellation announcement, they began a Kickstarter campaign for a new, self-published title called "Aw Yeah Comics." (A name shared by their comic shop in Skokie, IL.) The initial goal was to raise enough to publish six issues of the new title – and within a few hours, that goal was met. By the next day, enough had been raised to fund an entire year's worth of the comic. At the beginning of March, the campaign closed having raised more than three times its initial objective. And at this year's C2E2, the first two issues of the actual printed comic were unleashed.
Now, unlike "Tiny Titans" or "Superman Family Adventures," the new "Aw Yeah" title is not intended to be a 100% Baltazar/Franco production. Each issue contains a number of features, by Baltazar, Franco, and their not-insubstantial collection of friends. Some are creators I wasn't previously familiar with (like Scoot McMahon), some inspire immediate name recognition (like Brad Meltzer). Over the initial twelve issues, stories will appear by Jason Aaron, Chris Roberson, Mark Waid, and a number of others.
That's all the background. None of it would matter if the comics themselves weren't completely awesome.
Thankfully, the qualifier of "completely awesome" is, like their Kickstarter goals, met, exceeded, and then left far behind on the way to something even better. The lead stories of the initial two issues feature new characters Action Cat and Adventure Bug, and provide all the rocking socking action and ridiculous jokes that any kid could possibly hope for. There's numerous back-up stories and gag pages, pin-ups, tables of contents, and interviews with the creators' kids (who created and designed some of the supporting cast). The printing is lovely, the colors are vivid, and the storytelling is so clean and clear that even the youngest readers can follow along. And as an added bonus, there's no ads cluttering things and interrupting the story. It's a ridiculous bargain for $3 per issue.
The basic premise: Cornelius the cat and Alowicious the bug work in a store in Illinois named Aw Yeah Comics. Their boss, Hammond the bear, seems to have no idea that his employees are secretly the super-powered Action Cat and Adventure Bug (despite the fact that Cornelius, in an inspired sight gag, keeps his hero-ing mask on under his glasses when assuming his secret identity). The duo of do-gooders do all the expected villain fighting and flying about in the lead stories, battling Evil Cat and his giant pancake of doom in issue #1, and Cell-Phone Guy and his army of misfit apps in #2. The various and sundry short pieces in the back of these books introduce other wonderful and demented members of the Aw Yeah family: Adorable Cat, Awesome Bear, Ghost Bug, Polar Cycle, Adventure Bug's female counterpart Shelly, the mysterious Goojie-Nana, and many others.
Based on these premiere issues, I'm already recommending this title to recommend to everyone I see. Like the best of "Tiny Titans" and "Superman Family," it's a comic that works for kids and adults alike. It's easy to read, but has a finely-honed sense of the absurd that grown-ups will appreciate. (I laughed out loud a couple times per issue, I'm not ashamed to admit.) My only concern is that, in the absence of familiar characters and a large company's logo on the cover, comic retailers could make the mistake of under-ordering, or even skipping this title entirely. And that would be a shame. It's all too rare that I see a title that's perfect for seasoned fans and brand new readers alike, and "Aw Yeah Comics" is exactly that. Track it down, read it, and pass it on.