Writers: Kyle Baker (and art!), Jeff Whitman, Ray Fawkes
Art: Jolyon Yates
Colors: Laurie E. Smith, Matt Herms
Lettering: Janice Chiang & Calvin Louie
As a late twenty-something, my memories of watching Gumby on TV are sketchy at best. I definitely remember watching the adventures of Gumby and his pony pal Pokey on those super-early mornings getting ready for school, but as for specific plots, I can’t tell ya a single thing that happened. Nonetheless, the memories are warm, if distant. Honestly though, those memories wouldn’t have come up in the first place without my re-introduction to Gumby with Papercutz’s new series of all-ages comics featuring our titular blob of green clay. Indeed, starting with Gumby #1, readers are given three vignettes, each wildly imaginative in scope (though not always hitting the collective potential the comics calls for).
Indeed, one of the first questions I thought to myself while reading this issue was: why should we care about a Saturday morning cartoon character from yesteryear relaunching with a new title? What utility could this have? Luckily, these cynical were assuaged from the first page on. As I mentioned before, presented within these pages are separately presented stories (from different creative teams) that embody the free spirit of Gumby and his friends. Each is highlighted with vibrant colors, some references to current culture (as to better integrate the vintage IP with a contemporary audience) and a bright, bouncy attitude to match. But more than mere effervescent colorings, the stories also embody the inherent weirdness of the Gumby universe and mythos, integrating the traits that made Gumby a strangely-lasting pop culture icon.
Connecting to this notion is the first story, “An Alien Abundance,” which has Gumby revisiting the surreal moon aliens that were a major component of the Gumby’s first appearance on television all the way back in the mid-fifties. Written by Jeff Whitman with art from by Jolyon Yates, the story finds Gumby and chums in a thoroughly modern setting—the innards of a mobile (presumably Freemium) game—before escaping into the inner recesses of Gumby’s brain. It’s a light and winsome tale that connects back to Art Clokey’s pilot episode featuring Gumby that premiered on Howdy Doody in 1955. (Watch that clip below!)
The second story is perhaps the most intriguing in the book. Written and drawn by Kyle Baker (The Fifth Beatle), it’s visual style differs from the other two in this mini-anthology (more exaggerated and cartooney), but that is what makes it by far the strongest of the set. Baker’s piece, about the hi-jinks of putting together an outfit for a fashion show, displays the unintentional free-form dada of Gumby and Pokey’s interactions with the world. The final story, too, is a fun outing, taking readers between the frigid lands ice cream and warm fun of the beach, with Gumby navigating both while trying to keep his figure (literally! Otherwise, he might freeze or melt!) Written Ray Fawkes with more art from Yates, it’s a light, almost insubstantial jaunt, that is saved because it’s so damn fun to look at.
Gumby is such a singular entity in the pop culture landscape that his re-introduction back into the popular consciousness here packs a strong, nostalgic punch while retaining the vintage, innocent sheen of the early morning cartoons. So, what’s the verdict on this odd comic? Well, there is much going on here that works. For the elements that don’t work as well—some odd pacing issues and character choices—they are easy enough to forgive because everything is still so thoroughly entertaining. Though this is more sugary than the average comic, it is still an amusing romp, well worth wading through all the clay!
AJ Frost is an editor/writer based out of Phoenix, AZ.