Andy Runton’s Owly and Wormy have returned for a second outing in their still rather new-ish format. After years of publishing wordless graphic novels starring his silent, spherical owl character with Top Shelf Productions, cartoonist Runton elevated sidekick Wormy to co-star status and published Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter in 2011.
That book straddled the line between previous comics outings and children’s picture books—the insides were the same charming, wordless comics that Runton had long been doing, but the size, shape and page count of the book made it look more at home shelved alongside picture books than graphic novels. Its precise classification is probably beside the point, however, as it maintained the many virtues of Runton’s previous work and was equally easy for either audience to embrace.
Bright Lights and Starry Nights finds the title friends and roommates about to embark upon a new hobby: Stargazing. First, they have to deal with a few impediments, including Wormy’s fear of the dark and the strange CLICKITY SKREEEEE noises that emanate from it and the fact that telescopes might be able to peer through great distances of empty space, but they can’t see through the leaves surrounding Owly and Wormy’s treehouse home.
The pals plan a camping trip to a nearby hill that should give them a good view of the night sky, and while doing so they discover the seemingly scary source of the seemingly scary CLICKs and SKREEs. Unsurprisingly, they prove not to be so scary after all (See the cover for a pretty good hint as to what’s making them).
Runton’s signature on the series is the way he fills the characters’ dialogue bubbles with pictures, creating an often quite-clever version of a comic where the visual element is complimented by a verbal element that is actually just another visual element. That makes his comics perfect for readers of all ages…and of all languages.
The transition from the little rectangular trade paperback pages to the big square pages of a picture book allow him to bring even greater depth of detail to the pictures within the dialogue bubbles. Longtime admirers of Runton’s work might still find this new format a little strange, but the artist himself is obviously quite comfortable with it. Owly and Wormy’s “words” have never looked quite so eloquent.