Comic Genius is a regular column dedicated to reviewing recommended graphic novel format books.
Sunnyville Stories by Max West
What has been missing from the field of graphic novel storytelling for some time is the innocence and journey of American discovery that has been embodied in the work of Charles Schulz and in a different medium, Norman Rockwell. As newspaper circulation slowly declines with the advent of 24 hour TV news stations and the world wide web, where massive amounts of information are at one’s fingertips, one of the victims is the comic strip. I remember waking every morning, grabbing the newspaper and reading Garfield, The Far Side, Peanuts, and The Wizard of Id to name a few. Those three panel comics were the source of many smiles to start off the day before school, but fast forward many years and I now don’t even get the newspaper delivered. Regular visitations to the comic store produce plenty of Marvel and DC superhero stories and no shortage of creator-owned mystery and action stories of the non-spandex variety, but lacking is the more innocent comic fare that served as my true introduction to the art.
Enter Max West’s Sunnyville Stories. The tale centers around a young feline named Rusty and his parents who move to a rural community from the big city. For Rusty’s parents, the move is one of opportunity, but is only a source of stress and unwanted change for their son. Moving away from everything he knows (community and friends), Rusty must develop new relationships and adjust to life in an environment that is completely foreign to him. Rusty may be a cat, but he is more like a fish out of the water on his first adventure to meet a new friend. The writing is infused with a touch of humor while dealing with an array of very real issues that many families face each and every day, which is all part of the charm of Max’s flagship creative work.
Rusty gets a little more than what he expects when he meets Samantha MacGregor who takes him under her wing and introduces him to life in Sunnyville, starting with her family as well as the Tanuki’s (a family of racoons from Japan). New adventures are just around the corner for the two, however, and Rusty comes face to face with a female canine (Rose) who is pretty unhappy with all of the attention Rusty Duncan has been receiving by the town. The two decide to settle their differences over an overly competitive game of pinball. Next, Rusty and Samantha get caught up in a criminal plot by some train robbers who steal a shipment of laundry detergent from the local launderers (a family of Greek ferrets). Will the kids help Officer Carl (a dutiful bulldog) apprehend the weasel thieves?
To complete the first volume, there is a small bonus story which was actually a treatment made for art school featuring the two main characters of Sunnyville stories.
There are many more stories Max is going to tell that will continue to flesh out the world of Sunnyville. Volume 2 is due to land (as of this writing) in March of 2014, which will contain four episodes and bonus vignettes and sketches, which we are looking forward to seeing. Further, Max is releasing Von Herling, Vampire Hunter sometime in the next calendar year which will serve as his first commercial departure from the Sunnyville brand.
Max West is offering the comic world something that is decidedly different and something that is sorely lacking in the industry from our perspective. As the art of graphic novels has decreased in circulation (much like most print media), companies seem to be serving a more mature audience. The themes and content of a majority of works on bookshelves and comic racks are a reflection of this aging audience, leaving not as much room for newer and much younger fans with more discerning parents to identify appropriate material to enjoy. And most of the age-appropriate material to be found is of the costumed super hero variety. Sunnyville Stories is a perfect book through which to introduce children to the comic world and reading as a whole. Kids will relate to some very real themes that will resonate with them and have the opportunity to learn some important life lessons along the way (just as Rusty has through the first three episodes of Max’s work).
You can find Sunnyville Stories Volume One on sale here at www.shopgreatstories.com and other select retailers of fine creative works!
-Chris (for the Great Stories team)