Bat-Chef & R.P. Chichi: Corona Fighters!
Writers: The 1st Grade Comic Book Creators, with Rob Kutner
Artist: Allison Amdur Garwood
Cover Artist: Chari Pere
Publisher: Self-published, distributed via GumRoad
The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, that is not in doubt. But the way in which creative people have been able to tackle the pandemic has been extraordinary. With bodies and minds stuck in place, it’s remarkable to see what people can create when there is that deep, unyielding need to do something, to fabricate something, to take the darkness in the world and turn it around so that there can be some semblance of light that brings a balance.
For so many adults, the simple prospect of writing or baking became a beam of sanity in a world filled with uncertainty.
For the precocious students who make up the Comic Book Creators’ Club of Pressman Academy in Los Angeles, their outlet was self-evident. This was a school year like no other in recent memory. With no physical class time and everything reserved for Zoom lessons, there needed to be an outlet to not only escape the monotony of online learning, but to use the pandemic as the backdrop of tell a funny tale that would uplift others. Cue in Bat-Chef & R.P. Chichi: Corona Fighters!, a bright, colorful, and heartwarming digital comic that displays the wonderful imagination of the Creators’ Club, as well the ability for comics to heal through humor.
The story of Corona Fighters! is as wonderfully surreal as it gets, truly the stuff that leaps from the minds of first-graders. Bat-Chef is not a superhero, but a human cook who uses bats as the main ingredient in all of his culinary creations (side note: gross). Of course, no one wants to touch any of his “bat snacks” for obvious reasons. In his quest to drum up business, Bat-Chef inadvertently gives rise to Rainbow Pivity Chichi Jimmy Live, the ultimate coronavirus-fighting monster. What follows is a silly adventure with plenty of twists along the way, the occasional moment to break down and “partay,” a trip to China, and a totally far-out excursion to outer space.
Suffice to say, it’s a whirlwind.
Though the first grade authors are at the creative center of the tale, the creation of the Corona Fighters comic was helped along by Rob Kutner, a comic creator himself and an Emmy-winning comedy writer. As with most products of quarantine, Corona Fighters began because Kutner “wanted to give my first grade son and his classmates something diverting to do.” It was during this Zoom brainstorming session that the kids first collaborated on the corona-fighting monster. And thus, this comic’s story was born!
What ties everything together is the vibrant artwork from Allison Amdur Garwood. Garwood lovingly takes the ideas brought forth from the first grade creators and coveys their story crisply and vibrantly. The designs of the characters, fleshed out by Chari Pere, are familiar to those who read and enjoy contemporary YA graphic literature without being derivative or rote. There is a lot of care taken in each page to elicit laughs and smiles.
As you read this review, the COVID-19 vaccine is finally making its way across the world. The end of the pandemic is in sight. The timing of the book’s release seemed to align perfectly with the release of the vaccine. According to Kutner: “The funny/ironic thing is, during the months while this was getting made, I was thinking sardonically, ‘Gee, I *hope* they don’t cure corona before this is finished!’ Then amazingly, we did in fact publish the very week that Pfizer and Moderna announced their vaccines!”
Corona Fighters is a welcome positive oasis in a desert of societal doubt. But the story’s positivity (and the fact that proceeds will benefit gavi.org, an international charity that brings vaccines to low-income communities) makes it an ideal read to close out this dark year and bring forth what will hopefully be a more affirmative one.
And no, no one wants to try the bat-rito!