By Ed Saul
You've heard that the title character is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum. You've heard there's a super-secret episode which consists of nothing but him and his sister cursing. You've heard…probably, a couple of other meaningless factoids destined to become Cracked articles and then disappear into obscurity forever!
Or maybe you haven't. Don't ask me to tell you what you know. I'm not that guy. I can't love you that way. We have to set boundaries, Rodney.
ANYway: you've heard that IDW has been creating comics based on beloved Cartoon Network properties old and new, to appeal to those of us who are looking for comics for our children, looking for comics for our inner child, or looking for comics because we are literally a child inside an adult-sized-robot-man-suit we built for our own nefarious purposes. And their "Newest Creation" (in the words of their press release) is something which every one of us 90s' children will recall…Dexter's Laboratory.
You've probably also heard (boundaries!) of that already infamous interview with Image editor-in-chief Eric Stephenson, pointing out that the comics market is over-saturated with licensed property comics that readers instinctively know isn't "the real thing". By which, of course, he meant the original property those comics were based on – e.g., Star Wars for Star Wars comics – as opposed to accusing all comics which are not creator-owned properties of somehow being less tangible. But intent does not affect reaction, and of course he was mocked mercilessly for his statements thereafter.
(To be fair, he should never have used the phrase "the real thing" in a conversation about creating comics. It's not unlike using the words "nuance", "originality", or "humor" in a conversation about Seth MacFarlane. They're concepts that just don't mix.)
There's arguments to be made on either side, of course. I have found more laughter and merriment in the pickled remains of a dissected bat foetus than in any single issue of Bongo Comics' Futurama; but at the same time, never has a licensed-property comic felt so true to the wit and warmth of its originals as in the astounding Roger Langridge's take on The Muppet Show with Boom! Studios.
Really, as with any adaptation from one medium to another, what the product is will always be less important than what's done with it and who's doing it. Superlative creators can take a set of mildly-entertaining thriller novels and turn them into one of the most intellectually artistic TV series of the decade ; but on the other side of the coin, a great challenge to the proto-fascist politics of Thatcherism in the 1980s can be reduced to an inane Democrats-vs.-GOP allegory when sub-par filmmakers get their hands on it.
There is room for greatness, and for failure, and also for the mediocre. Derek Fridolfs and Ryan Jampole are both alumni of comics based on beloved children's shows, and whether their take on Dexter and Deedee is the Miracleman of its time or just a fun comic about mad science and a neurosis-laden cartoon family, it'll probably bring joy to someone.
Now, would it kill them to make a Hey Arnold comic, and one that continues the original series' story? I want to know if Helga ever married Arnold. And for that matter, if Eugene ever came out of the closet.
"I'd sigh for you – yes – I'd even cry for you – yes! – I'd even tear the sun down from the skies for you!" Ed Saul may even one day update his blog – http://aboxofbones.com – on a regular basis, for you. If that isn't love, it'll have to do – until the real thing comes along.