RETURN OF THE DAPPER MEN (Archaia)
Written by Jim McCann, drawn by Janet Lee
Full disclosure time before I get into my review of Return Of The Dapper men which I bought from the Archaia book at New York Comic-Con last weekend: I am friends with writer Jim McCann. He used to be my main PR contact at Marvel when I worked in the research department at Wizard, but soon after we actually met face to face and wound up at some of the same parties and became friends. He’s a great dude and one of the few creators in the industry I would consider an actual friend who I see outside of comic-related things. I also am good friends with Archaia‘s Mel Caylo who I used to work with at Wizard as well. But, all that being said, don’t think of this review as being one huge ego boost for a friend. If I didn’t like the book, I would have just quietly not said anything (my folks always taught me it’s better to say something nice and all that), but as it is, I really did like the story.
The story takes place in a world called Anorev (Verona backwards) where children and robots have been living through the same day for as long as anyone can remember. That is until the titular Dapper Men show up and start cleaning things up. Our hero Ayden–the only boy who draws and writes things– and his robot companion Zoe seem to be the key to getting Anorev moving again, but the hows and whys of that process will not be revealed by yours truly. I will say that this is the kind of book with extra layers that warrants extra readings so you can pick up new threads and hints.
Dapper Men has been compared to classic fantasy tales like Wizard Of Oz and Alice In Wonderland, but that can be a little misleading. Not it terms of quality, mind you, there’s something very timeless about the story that could easily allow it to stand the test of time, but in terms of content. After hearing the comparisons, I almost expected a story like those classics, but Dapper Men actually feels completely original as far as the story goes. A lot of times when you read something like this, it feels like something else you’ve read or seen before, but the book came off as wholly original, even when referencing those other stories with dialogue or literally painting on top of the pages from those books.
Speaking of which, I don’t think I’ve ever seen art like this in a comic. What Janet Lee does is actually draw out panels on paper, cut out the backgrounds, paint backgrounds on wood and then attach the paper to the wood making it one piece. This style adds extra dimension and depth to the proceedings and gives the whole project a classic style that makes it feel more like a classic children’s tome than another comic. While reading Dapper Men on the train ride home after my trip to NYCC on Friday, I could see myself reading the book to my future kids, something I can’t say about a lot of comics.
So, yeah, I liked the book. A lot. It’s fun and fancy and has a message that doesn’t slap you in the face with its presence, but still makes sense. It also has rad art and robots, which you can not go wrong with in my humble opinion. The book itself also has a great intro by Project Runway’s Tim Gunn, a series of pin-ups in the back and a look at how Lee does her thing with the art. I’m really proud of my friend Jim for getting this book made and hope that once it goes up for wide sale it sells out in a heartbeat. If I was smarter, I would have asked Janet to do a Dapper Green Lantern for my nascent GL sketchbook which I didn’t get any additional sketches in this weekend because the show was way too crowded and I’m a wuss.