Review: Welcome to Showside #1
“Creator Ian McGinty’s Welcome to Showside #1 brings a liveliness and a bevy of much-appreciated smiles with every panel. Showside proves that a comic book series can be brimming with fun while not losing sight of storytelling in the process.”
Welcome to Showside #1
Publisher: Z2 Comics
Writer: Ian McGinty
Artists: Ian McGinty, S.M. Vidaurri, Carey Pietsch
Release Date: Wed, Oct 28, 2015
Producing an all-ages cartoon comic book can be a hit-and-miss endeavor. A creator has to bring a level of fun to the proceedings that will capture the joy and delight of absorbing a cartoon story, while at the same time hit beats that will appeal to children and adults alike. That last part can be the tallest order, as, while there’s been positive movement to the contrary of late, all-ages cartoon comic book series either verge on being too much cotton candy or pack in so much meta for the adults that the stories feel labored and littered with too much winking at the audience.
Avoiding those potential pratfalls is just one of the reasons that creator Ian McGinty’s Welcome to Showside #1 from Z2 Comics works so well as an all-ages series that is such a delight to take in. McGinty comes by his ability to juggle all of the moving parts necessary to create a fun and engaging all-ages book honestly: He’s well-known from his work on Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, tales that appeal to a wide spectrum and age-range of fans. And while Showside certainly shares DNA with those stories, the series—which is being adapted for television—has a fully-realized structure and sensibility that is uniquely its own.
Welcome to Showside focuses on a fictional southern town of the same name, following the adventures of Kit, a fun-loving, high-spirited kid who’d rather spend time with his friends than following in the footsteps of his father the Great Shadow King. That will put Kit and his buddies in direct conflict with demons, monsters, and other ghouls as they try to keep evil from overtaking Showside. Juggling that gargantuan task and navigating his issues with his pop and it looks like Kit will have to fit in the fun whenever and wherever he can.
The first issue does a phenomenal job at giving the readers fully-fleshed out characters right out of the gate, a sometimes dicey endeavor for any series, especially in this age of deconstructionist comic book storytelling. That’s a tall task, as McGinty manages to pack Showside #1 with mountains of backstory, character development, and action. In a scant 30 pages, we are privy to hints as to the origins of Kit’s father, the quirkiness of the citizens of Showside, and the dangers—both comical and dark—that Kit and company will eventually have to face.
When reading how Kit manages to thwart a monstrous threat emerging from a mystical portal in Showside, I couldn’t help but be reminded to some of my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoons. When contending with danger, even when he was frightened, Bugs stared down an enemy with a mixture of brilliant acumen and a wit that disarmed both the monster and the viewer. Likewise, Kit and his pals don’t let themselves become rattled by their foe, but keep a sense of cheer and level-headedness to make short work of their adversary. Whether McGinty meant to drive this point home or not, it’s a lovely lesson to readers about the power of confidence and self-efficacy.
Showside has a decidedly cartoon style, and for good reason. While the book has a serious through-line of a story lurking in the background, much like we have seen in McGinty’s other works, it’s clear that McGinty wants us to derive as great a degree of joy reading the book as he clearly is having writing and illustrating it. The distinctive shapes used to bring Kit and his fellow Showsiders to life bring a sense of warmth and ebullient play to the story McGinty presents, making for a reading experience that flies by far too quickly.
I’ve been thinking a lot about line economy in illustration latel. As I noted in my review of another series #1 from Z2 Comics, the thoughtfully paced and drawn Carver: A Paris Story, how an artist chooses to his shapes and forms can make or break a story, either pulling a reader in to the conceit and world the author is attempting to build or pushing out the reader and leaving a disconnect that is hard to recover from. With Showside, a book that is by its very nature a cartoon on the page, there’s a fine line that has to be straddled. If an artist in this sort of tale doesn’t push the art far enough in that cartoon style, then the characters feel unfinished. Push it too far, however, and it becomes difficult to connect to the cast. McGinty, like creator Christopher Hunt accomplished with Carver, knows his material and has a clearly-defined vision for Showside, which shines in how he decided to push and pull his cartooning sensibilities. It’s a tough balancing act, and McGinty manages to make it look easy.
Creator Ian McGinty’s Welcome to Showside #1 brings a liveliness and a bevy of much-appreciated smiles with every panel. Like Adventure Time and even IDW’s new Jem and the Holograms comic book series, Showside proves that a comic book series can be brimming with fun while not losing sight of storytelling in the process.
Related: Ian McGinty Welcomes Us to Showside