Friday, October 22, 2010

Casper and The Spectrals

In an earlier post on Superman: Secret Origin, I opined that a comic had to be pretty special for me to still care about after a months long gap between issues.  To my surprise, Casper and the Spectrals  is just such a comic.  Even though the seven month wait for the second issue was frustrating, I eagerly snapped it up when it appeared on the stand.
As a kid, and thus a member of Harvey Comics ostensible target audience, I never really dug Casper the Friendly Ghost.  Even back then, I found them bland, simplistic and overly cutesy.  I've long suspected that the real target audience for Harvey Comics, and Archie Comics, as well, for that matter, were "concerned" parents looking for "safe" reading material for their kids that wouldn't turn the little angels into juvenile delinquents, homosexuals, devil worshippers, communists, or all of the above. 
Given all that, I'm still not sure why I picked up the first issue in the first place.  I'll admit, however, that I was curious about how Arden Entertainment planned to revamp Casper and his friends Wendy and Hot Stuff, and the art style did kind of appeal to me.  Whatever my reasons for buying it, I'm glad I did.
The basic premise of the series owes a little bit to the Pixar film Monsters, Inc. Casper, Wendy and Hot Stuff live in the other dimensional world of Spooky Town, whose residents travel to the human world and scare people in order to collect their "fear energy."  In this case, the energy is used to imprison the evil Volbragg, a power mad ghost who once ruled Spooky Town with an iron fist.  Casper, being the friendly ghost and all, doesn't see why they have to scare people and kind of thinks that Volbragg is just a myth.
Spooky Town is divided into six boroughs, Ghostburg, Deviland, Ogreville,  Goblin Gulch, Witch Way, and Monsterton, which are separated by walls and have nothing to do with each other.  Eventually, Casper, Wendy and Hot Stuff defy the laws and conventions of Spooky Town to become friends. 
Meanwhile, on Earth, a scientist has tapped into an other dimensional energy source which just happens to be Volbragg's magical prison.  His experiments free Volbragg who goes on a rampage, swearing revenge on Spooky Town for defying his will.
This, as you can see, is not your fathers Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Given that former Arden Entertainment Editor-In-Chief J.M. DeMatteis is co-credited with coming up with the plot for the three issue mini-series, and that I put off reading the final issue until after I finished reading his run on Dr. Fate, I half expected Volbragg to be defeated by love.  That wouldn't be totally out of the blue, of course.  Casper has been winning over his enemies with friendship and love since before J.M. DeMatteis was born.  He does, in fact, make a brave attempt at befriending Volbragg, but ultimately the trio must do battle with the villain.  Still, if not for their unlikely and forbidden friendship, Casper, Wendy and Hot Stuff never would have been able to work together to defeat Volbragg, so maybe, in a way, it is a kind of love that brings him down.
The third issue just came out a couple of months ago, but I'm sure that a trade paperback is on the way.   Whether you wait for the trade, or get the individual issues now, this series is worth checking out.  Adults who loved Casper as a kid, adults who hated Casper as a kid, and kids who've never even heard of Casper will all find something to like here.  I showed the first issue to my 12 year old niece, Tamara, and she enjoyed it just as much as I did.

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