Review: ‘Flop To The Top’
How To Be Happy cartoonist Eleanor Davis returns for a second Toon Books comic for kids, following her 2008 Stinky, and this time she’s joined by Set To Sea cartoonist Drew Weing. Their collaboration is a quick, cute story about a self-obsessed, selfie-obsessed little girl who believes she’s destined for fame, fortune and super-stardom in the social media age.
Wanda, who wears a dress emblazoned with a star and has a bun in her hair like the top of a bowling pin, is so convinced that her young siblings and faithful, long-suffering dog are not only sympathetic but are, in fact, her biggest fans, that she ends up neglecting them. She gets her inevitable comeuppance one day when a selfie taken with her floppy-eared, wrinkle-faced dog Wilbur becomes an overnight internet sensation, but it turns out the news vans parked outside her front door aren’t interested in her, they’re interested in Wilbur.
The realization sets in when a limo transporting previous animal star Sassy Cat pulls up and the driver asks Wilbur if he wants to party with Sassy Cat. He leaps in and goes on a whirlwind, party-filled day at fancy restaurants, dance clubs and a yacht party, all culminating with an appearance on The Star Show, with Wanda chasing along on her bicycle.
The meshing of the stars of pet memes with celebrities drives the book’s humor as much or more so than Wanda’s early obliviousness, but the best gag is the juxtaposition of Wilbur with celebrity trappings. The dog’s inscrutable, never-changing expression–pointed out on the end pages, which are plastered in drawings of photos marked “The Many Faces of Wilbur,” each labeled with a different emotion, despite the fact that Wilbur makes the same face in each–remains adorably unreadable as he is gradually adorned with sunglasses, gold chains, and even a crown, and engages in seemingly un-Wilbur-like behavior, like dancing.
Wilbur’s face also adds a degree of suspense, as at the climax he must choose between a life of being over-appreciated as a superstar or being under-appreciated by his former friend, and there’s no way to read what he’s thinking. Wilbur would make a heck of a poker player.
Davis’s art has changed quite a bit from that in Stinky, and here it has a more painterly, illustrator-ly look, with the characters often looking like solid shapes of various colors, assembled as perfectly-formed outlines, rather than piles of shapes. The art was drawn and colored, the fine print tells us, digitally. It’s a unique look, as befits the star–well, stars, plural–of the book.
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About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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