Good webcomics for kids: The Last of the Polar Bears
Back in 2003, artist Lindsay Cibos and writer Jared Hodges won Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga contest with “Peach Fuzz,” a seventeen-page story about a young girl who adopts a ferret. Tokyopop then gave Cibos and Hodges the opportunity to develop their concept into a longer story documenting the ups and downs in Amanda’s relationship with her feisty, independent pet. The result, Peach Fuzz, was serialized both in tankubon (book) format and in newspapers around the country, introducing Cibos and Hodge’s work to thousands of young readers.
Since the third and final volume of Peach Fuzz was released in 2007, Cibos and Hodges have teamed up to produce several how-to books on creating comic art, including Digital Manga Workshop (HarperCollins). Their latest project, The Last of the Polar Bears, is a web-based comic that focuses on a trio of bears: Ursula, an adult female, and Stella and Nanook, her cubs. Of the thirty pages that have been posted to date, most are devoted to introducing the characters and establishing the arctic setting, showing us Stella and Nanook’s development from newborns to feisty youngsters practicing their hunting skills.
Though Cibos renders all three bears with considerable attention to anatomical detail, she does a terrific job of animating their faces to reveal a wide range of emotions from joy to frustration; her artwork hits the sweet spot between naturalism and Disney-esque stylization. The script works well with the art, helping to establish Stella and Nanook’s distinct personalities, and setting up what promises to be the first major storyline of the series: the cubs’ first foray into the outside world.
Two new pages are posted every Monday, though the series has been on a brief hiatus while Cibos prepared for New York Comic-Con. For slightly older readers — especially those who are interested in creating their own comics — Cibos has complemented the story with a generous selection of rough sketches and finished illustrations as well as a helpful series of how-to posts. (One essay walks readers step-by-step through the process of transforming a storyboard into a finished page, while another offers tips for drawing more life-like animals.) And for folks who strongly prefer to read their comics off-line, Cibos and Hodges have published a limited number of floppies collecting the first 34 pages of the story.
The Bottom Line: The story is appropriate for a range of readers, though computer-savvy seven-to-ten-year-olds seem like the most natural audience for Last of the Polar Bears‘ mixture of cute animal antics, wilderness adventure, and environmental themes. Cibos expects the finished story to be about 500 pages, so readers will have plenty of material to engage their interest.
Schedule: Two new pages on Monday
Filed under: Web Comics
About Katherine Dacey
Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.
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