Comic Fodder

Planet Saturday Comics


by Monty S. Kane

Now, everyone knows that I loves me the capes and tights. But I also enjoy taking a break and looking at new products when people send stuff my way. In this case, a trade paperback consisting of Volume One of an online comic. I am happy to report that I enjoyed this very much, so settle in and check out the good news.

Remember when you were a kid, and you were armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe? I’m talking about your imagination. Where did that go? Monty Kane remembers what it was like, and from his vantage point of middle age with his own little girl now, he started a webcomic that revisits his youth. Together with his wife Kelli Stevens Kane, they have published the first volume of their online work, and yea verily, it is good.

The stories have a touch of Calvin and Hobbes (a high compliment in my mind, at least), as the stories whip back and forth between the crazy ideas Monty came up with as a kid, and the current predicament he has of raising his own kid these days. Sometimes it’s just a quick quip of observational humor as he finds something precious in his child, while other times it’s a pure nostalgia-visit to the land of his youth, whether some of those things really existed or not. Some of the best moments are when those two eras combine, and his girl does something that reminds him of how things were the same/different when he was a kid.

I found myself able to relate to the strips very quickly, and found common ground with little factoids; like the fact that Monty always preferred the Triceratops over the T. Rex for dinosaurs. Or the disposal idea (in my family, Mr. Kane, the disposal was my mom). Many of the toys or youthful adventures he describes had easy parallels in my own childhood, and his ability to bring out those memories and the easy humor in those situations seems effortless. Not every joke is golden, but there too, many of us can relate to the real-life things we have said and done that we thought were hilarious at the time, but now look upon with full knowledge that we were being corny.

My daily habit of comics online consists of Doonesbury, Dilbert, and Foxtrot, and that’s all I have time to cover. There was that one night where I read three years’ worth of PVP, and the three volumes of Goats I bought at a Comicon on an impulse buy. My experience is limited, and despite my intentions to while away an evening or two with online webcomics, I never seem to be able to squeeze it in. But I did visit their website, planetsaturday, and took a look at the format. The site itself is simple and marvelous, with links to stories on the right so you can go to any one of them no matter what page you’re on at the time. And before I forget, there was also a note that for every copy of Volume One sold at their website, $1 goes to help uninsured kids get health care, so if you’ve been looking for a place to contribute a little something, check out the “store’” section on their site for details on that. In the meantime, I loved the layout, and bookmarked the site immediately.

One thing I noticed that is different from many webcomics: the pacing is suited for the web. A ton of the stuff online I have seen is three panels, with the punch line at the end. Planet Saturday has stories with different formats, designed so you might have an entire story on one page, or you might have to click five or six times to see the whole thing. The pacing actually works better on the web than in printed form; I read one online and enjoyed the ‘clicking’ process, but noticed when I read the same story in my hands, it felt overly long, though still good. It is very interesting to see how doing things on the web has opened up the comic form to new ways of expression and pacing, and also to see how well/poorly these new conventions translate back into print format. It is good to see other people besides Scott McCloud experimenting with possibilities beyond the conventional confines of printed sequential art. (I’d like to see them explore it further, but who knows how it might impact their printed trades later?)

One thing that slowed me down at first was the explanatory note at the beginning of each story. On the web, you get to read the story first, and then the additional commentary is at the bottom of the first page. In the trade paperback, the commentary is at the very beginning, but I found that I kept skipping over it to get to the story itself, which was much better an conveying the spirit of what Kane was trying to get across, and then I went back and read what I refer to as flavor text. The one recommendation I would make for future trades is to let people enjoy the story first, and include the flavor text at the end of each story, to make for a better flow.

I think if I had to pick a favorite story, I’d lean towards Growth Spurt. The Director’s Cut in the back was actually worthwhile too, using the DVD analogy, loaded with character sketches and little behind the scenes stuff. The Green Bus got an involuntary laugh out loud from me, because I didn’t experience anything like that growing up.

The bottom line is, Kane and Mrs. Kane have put together a product that finds universal elements and appeals to the kid in you, inviting your imagination out for a friendly romp. Kelli Kane actually described this as “semi-autobiographical all-ages stories about childhood told from a dad’s perspective.” The description hits the mark, and while some webcomics I might not want to share with younger people, these stories are definitely all-ages, and would make for a fantastic gift for a younger reader. If you’ve got kids and want to put a time limit on their portable game system for long trips, this would be a good thing to put in their hands, or to read with them at bedtime.

I know that when I can get something for free online, I tend to get to it when I can, but good luck getting my friends to check out the website. But when I give it to them in trade format as a gift, they somehow manage to make time to read it. So go online, and check it out, and buy a copy for your friends. Or your friends’ kid.
Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.