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Review: ‘Johnny Boo Goes Like This’

johnny-boo-book-7Johnny Boo Goes Like This
Writer/artist: James Kochalka
Top Shelf Productions; $9.99

James Kochalka has a special facility for stream-of-conscious storytelling that mimics the sorts of stories small children might tell adults: This happened, and this happened, and then this happened, and so on. It’s a relatively rare quality, even among those who make their living writing to children, and nowhere is it more apparent than in his Johnny Boo series of hardcover comics, of which Johnny Boo Goes Like This is the latest.

Just as Kochalka’s super-simplified style of art looks somewhat child-like on the surface, belying the superb cartooning that underlies it, so too does his writing. Yes, his Johnny Boo books sound an awful lot like stories little kids tell–and this one perhaps more than the previous ones–but his characters are formed enough to be engaging premises that can carry the sometimes random seeming happenstance simply through their reactions, and there’s enough sophistication that running gangs can be employed and prove rewarding.

In this outing, little ghost Johnny Boo and even more little ghost Squiggle discover “a GIANT pointy thing in the sky,” which is a photo of a pencil, looking as if a real pencil were set down atop the page. After an attempt to deal with it using Boo Power and his teasing impression of Squiggle Power, Johnny turns things over to Squiggle who, using Squiggle Power “with a pure heart,” is able to squiggle it down to scale, the real, reader-sized pencil becoming a drawing of a pencil that the characters can interact with.

And, because they are drawings, they can use that pencil to draw things in their story, and those things become real. So he draws some ice cream, but that just summons The Ice Cream Monster, who then wants to eat Johnny because Johnny looks so much like ice cream, and so Johnny draws a tiger to scare away the Ice Cream Monster, but the tiger is actually kind of friendly, and then things get really silly, as Johnny loses his hair (which, once it grows a face and starts making noise, looks like a close relative of Squiggle’s), and then everyone wants hair.

It’s yet another charming book for James Kochalka fans of all ages or, if that name means nothing to you, then it’s another charming book for fans of inspired silliness, cute drawings and celebrations of the creative spirit. Johnny Boo goes boo, Squiggle goes squiggle and James Kochalka? Well, read the book, and you’ll see: He goes like that.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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