DCC Showcase ’17: Art Baltazar and Carolyn Nowak
For the final installment of DCC Showcase ’17 here on Graphic Reviews, this week I will be talking about a few more of the creators who will be making an appearance at the con this year. Today, I’ll be talking about two creators, one of whom is known for his cute, cartoony style and another whose own unique style has become well known via her work on Lumberjanes. Without further ado, may I present Week 4 of the DCC Showcase!
Art Baltazar – Itty Bitty Hellboy
If you’ve ever wanted to enjoy Marvel with some of the younger readers in your life, Itty Bitty Hellboy is right up your alley. Aimed as a kid friendly version of everyone’s favorite red demon, Itty Bitty Hellboy features Hellboy and his friends building box forts, camping and generally getting up to all kinds of mischief. And it’s Hellboy so of course they visit Hell at one point in the story.
Itty Bitty Hellboy is co-written by Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani, a pair which has also created similar tiny, cute versions of DC characters like the Teen Titans, Captain Marvel and Superman. The art of the story is all done by Baltazar. Published by Dark Horse Comics in 2013-2014, it won an Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers in 2014. While I think the series would be even better for those more familiar with the Hellboy universe and lore, Itty Bitty Hellboy was both amusing and adorable. While neither Hellboy nor any of his friends can be considered “normal,” they revel in their weirdness and have fantastic adventures together as younger, sillier versions of themselves. This series is a great way to get kids into reading comics, particularly with a character who could have been scary, and make it super fun and engaging.
As you might expect for a story aimed at younger audiences, Baltazar’s style is distinctly “cartoony” and the panels are filled with light linework and bright colors. The speech bubbles tend towards the comic book standard of onomatopoeias and are big and explosive. The humor definitely tends towards silly and puns and the sense of a good adventure that you get from the writing is carried through into the art. The tiny versions of these characters are adorable, even when they’re characters like Baba Yaga and Hellboy.
If you’re at all a fan of alternate takes on characters, enjoy stories aimed at younger audiences or know a younger reader who either already enjoys comics or who you’d like to introduce to the format, Itty Bitty Hellboy is a great story. Art Baltazar and Franco are a natural pairing that work well together to create an entertaining adventure aimed at younger audiences yet still fun for adults, already familiar with the characters to read. Art Baltazar will be appearing on three panels at DCC this year: Comics Kids Should Be Reading, Hey! Isn’t Your Style Too “Cartoony” for Comics, and Finding the Voice of a Character. I’d highly recommend catching him at any of the panels and visiting him in Artist Alley if you get a chance!
Carolyn Nowak – Radishes
Radishes is the story of two teenage girls, Kelly and Beth, who skip school to hang out at an outdoor mall and get a bit more adventure than they had bargained on. At the start of the story, the girls are excited to check out all of their favorite shops (blissfully free of crowds due to it being the morning) and have a blast wandering around. But when they start getting hungry and find a mysterious food cart, they find out that it’s a little more magical than it first appears.
Radishes is a very short comic, self published by Carolyn Nowak who both wrote and illustrated it. Despite its brevity, Radishes is an absolutely lovely story that packs a lot of great content into its pages. Since it’s a short glimpse into the lives and particularly the friendship of Kelly and Beth, it doesn’t get heavily into detail about their lives and any drama associated with that. Instead, the focus is on the friendship between the two girls and how they support and entertain each other. Too often in these kinds of teen coming of age/adventure stories, the girls create drama or undermine each other. In Radishes, Kelly and Beth have different personalities and body types (Kelly is vivacious, adventurous and slender while Beth is quiet, shy and curvy) but their friendship balances their differences. Kelly encourages Beth to think more highly of herself and Beth helps Kelly to pump the brakes when she’s getting a little more adventurous than is good for her health. There’s a great subtext of body positivity and accepting yourself throughout the comic but it never gets preachy or takes away from the adventure of the story itself.
Nowak is most well known for her artwork on the series Lumberjanes (written by Noelle Stevenson) but she has a few self-published comics which she sells on Etsy. Radishes was one of these stories and as a fan of Nowak’s style, I was excited to get my hands on Radishes. Hopefully I can pick up her other stories soon as well! Nowak’s style is a little difficult to describe. It’s slightly cartoony with elegantly simple linework and while the covers are illustrated, the comic itself is black and white. It toes the line between adorable and pretty without getting as “cute” as Baltazar’s work or as detailed as some of the more “painterly” artists. It’s a blend that works really well for her stories and Radishes was a delight.
Anyone who enjoys a coming of age adventure but particularly other readers who want to see more positive examples of female friendship and acceptance of both yourself and others should really pick up Radishes. While short, it’s a delightfully well told adventure that had me feeling both warm and fuzzy and amused throughout. I’m very impressed by Nowak’s creator-owned work and hope to see much more of it in the future. Carolyn Nowak will be appearing on several panels at DCC: Creating Your Own Independent Comics, Not Just Angry Supermen – Comics Young Women Can Identify With, Boom! and Kaboom! – Comics You Shouldn’t Be Afraid for Your Kids and Teens to Read, and Comics Writing Careers for Young Women. Nowak is a talented artist and creator and her opinion is well worth catching on any of these panels if you get the chance. And like many of the other guests, she’ll also be in Artist Alley!
Hope you enjoyed getting a look at some of the talent displayed by Art Baltazar and Carolyn Nowak and that you’ll check them out while you’re at Denver Comic Con here in just a few days! And if you have comments or questions about this week’s creators, leave them in the comments!