Comical Musings

Review: Sandusky

by on Sep.14, 2009, under Review

Back in the summer of 1996, I was assigned to read Rascal, by Sterling North, to prepare for seventh-grade English. It’s a charming and bittersweet story of what happens when you adopt a baby wild animal . . . and it grows up. I hate to spoil it for those of you who haven’t read it, but young Sterling has to release his pet raccoon when little Rascal gets too old and wild. Nowadays, there are rehabilitation centers that deal with the aftermath of baby wild pets growing up.

This is why I have mixed opinions concerning Sandusky, by John Prengaman, Jr. On the one hand, it’s a gently humorous people and talking animals comic rather like Sandra and Woo (though I should note that Sandusky is the older comic). And on the other hand, the plot takes an 87-page detour that depicts in great detail the trauma experienced when a wild animal raised in captivity gets dumped into the wild. It’s one of those have-your-cake-and-eat-it situations; for all the maturity with which Prengaman deals with the realities of a wild pet, there are just as many “Aww, lookit the cougar! I want one!” moments.

Moral quandaries aside, though, the writing in Sandusky is pretty tight. After a brief prologue of sorts, the comic follows a series of tidy little story arcs, each of which comes to, if not a resolution, then at least a pleasant gag to round things off. Sometimes it seems almost too convenient, but it’s usually the results of a lot of things going on behind the scenes.

Pop-culture references abound. Be prepared to run into musicians, geography, Warner Bros. classics, movies, video games, Crocodile Hunter, more musicians, redneck comedy, famous paintings, and even more musicians. Heck, the eyes on the human characters pre-“Rocky Mountain Lion” make me think of those Precious Moments figurines. About the only thing more prevalent than the shout-outs . . . are the poop jokes.

The art style makes a sudden leap after the massive effort of “Rocky Mountain Lion” (compare this scat joke with this one to see the difference). And while the thinner outlines make the comic seem more “sketchy” than it used to, the rest of the art style is more . . . confident. It’s not something I can entirely pin down, but if you look back at those two examples, you’ll probably see what I mean.

So while I have my misgivings about a setting that tries to have it both ways, and the name-the-cubs arc felt like it went on a bit long, I still enjoyed reading through Sandusky. As the many links to various wildcat foundations will attest, Prengaman is passionate about what he does, and it shows in the way the comic is so enjoyable to read.

Comic Rating: Five minutes before you realize that the female cougar has eyelashes.

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