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Review: ‘Ace’ and ‘Jumpa’

AceAce: The Origin of Batman’s Hound and Jumpa: The Origin of Wonder Woman’s Kanga
Writer: Steve Korte
Artist: Art Baltazar
Stone Arch Books; $4.95 (each)

The latest offering from DC Comics and Capstone’s DC Super-Pets collaboration, which focuses on the adventures of the pets of DC superheroes and supervillains as designed and drawn by artist Art Baltazar, are these quite short, picture book-length origin stories of a few of the most prominent pets (all of whom originated in the DC comics in the middle of the last century, rather than any of the many new pets Baltazar and others came up with and fleshed out in the chapter book line).

The new books consciously echo the imprint’s “An Origin Story” line—which has thus far featured Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern—right down to the cover design. Only these Super-Pets ones have the benefit of Baltazar’s art in them, some of which seems to be taken from past chapter books but most of which appears to be original.

JumpaAs with the chapter books, the prose portions feature dialogue in different colors of ink and comic book-like onomatopoeia sound-effects throughout (also in different colors than the black of the rest of the words). Every two-page spread has art on it, most often as a big, bold page of art facing a page of prose, but sometimes with two smaller drawings embedded in the pages.

Interestingly—at least to me, and perhaps Batman fans of a certain age—for Ace, writer Steve Korte essentially just adapts the 1955 comic book story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff that introduced Ace. Batman and Robin find a dog with a distinctive patch on his forehead, and Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson take the dog in. Bruce Wayne places ads in the paper in an attempt to find the dog’s owner, but in the meantime the story follows them on their adventures as Batman and Robin. In order to conceal the dog’s identity, they fashion a cowl that covers up his revealing patch of fur.

It turns out the dog, whose name they learn is Ace, was the pet of an engraver who was captured by criminals who want to force him to help them counterfeit money. The human and canine heroes save the day, and since his owner travels a lot for work, he lets Ace stay with the Dynamic Duo whenever he has to go on a trip.

That all scans remarkably close to the original comic book story, although this one is less violent, and Baltazar’s Ace is gray rather than brown (Interestingly, he draws Bruce Wayne in pretty dated attire, including a massive ascot stuffed under his sports jacket).

For Jumpa, the pair craft a more original story, which they more or less have to do, given that Jumpa lacks the relatively long career in the comics that Ace enjoyed. Wonder Woman creators William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter did create a species of giant kangaroos that the Amazons of Paradise Island rode around on like horses, and Wonder Woman did have one named Jumpa, but over the decades it was apparently harder for comics creators to work giant kangaroos into stories than it was to work in a dog in a mask.

Jumpa’s origin begins somewhat parallel to Diana’s, as both were born around the same time on Paradise Island. A chance encounter brings the two underdogs together—Jumpa rescues a falling Wonder Woman after she punches out the Harpy that was carrying her through the sky—and they become very good friends. As good as their steed/rider relationship allows, anyway.

When there’s an Amazon competition, Wonder Woman and Jumpa compete in several events together, defeating even the Amazon champion Mala in the jumping-around-on-kangas-and-lassoing-one-another contest and the more traditional jousting (this being meant for the littlest kid readers, though, the lances are tipped with boxing gloves).

As an award, Jumpa is given a necklace, as well as a tiara and bracelets that sort of match Wonder Woman’s, so that the two can twin when they are fighting crime together or teaming up for future weird Amazon sports.

Both books are pretty solid entry points into the world of DC Super-Pets, which includes not only the chapter books but also a pretty great, 200-entry DC Super-Pets Character Encyclopedia. Korte and Baltazar also have two more books in this The Origins of… line so far, featuring the most literally super of the Super-Pets, Superman’s dog Krypto and Supergirl’s cat Streaky.

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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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