by Tony Millionaire, 2006, Fantagraphics, 111 pages, $19.95
Today on the train to and from work, I got to spend my time witnessing daring sea rescues, battles with skeletal alligator robots, and graveyards of broken planets, instead of, you know, commuting. Needless to say, it was a welcome escape.
I think children especially would love this rollicking adventure by Tony Millionaire (Maakies, Sock Monkey), starring a bright young girl named Becky and her new friend Billy, who is actually animated garbage brought to life by a pack of mice. Kids would probably be particularly interested in Billy's gross origin -- he starts out with flies in his eye sockets -- in the same way that they are fascinated by "yucky" stuff like earthworms and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. But the book doesn't really get rolling until the second of its three chapters, when Becky and Billy head out to locate the resting place of the Moon and run into the aforementioned robots, piloting a flying pirate ship. It only gets wilder from there.
The art and story have a great old-timey comic strip feel, and Millionaire is adept at avoiding outright silliness. The book is deeply rooted in childhood fantasies, with rocking horses roaring across fields and elephants firing the cannons of a giant ark at the enemy's flying ship.
So yeah, once I got over my initial queasiness, I dug it.
You can buy it from Fantagraphics (and see a short preview) here, or get it from Amazon here: Billy Hazelnuts
Also, although it isn't listed on Fantagraphics' website yet, it looks like Millionaire is planning to release Billy's next adventure sometime this spring. You can pre-order it from Amazon here: Billy Hazelnuts and the Crazy Bird [edited to add:] Now it looks like that book came out in August of 2008, according to Amazon.
Related -- My reviews of other Fantagraphics books: