What do you get when you take one seven-year-old boy and add one mischievous cocker spaniel? Billy & Buddy: Remember this, Buddy?, a charming collection of one-page strips that are warm and sweet without being saccharine.
Though readers are privy to cocker spaniel Buddy’s thoughts, that’s about as fantastic as this strip gets. The stories are built around simple, familiar things--such as going to the beach, tricking Buddy into taking a bath, and blowing bubbles.
One of my favorites centers on Father putting a bone in the bathtub in an effort to get Buddy into his bath. Then there’s the one where Buddy learns what mistletoe is for.
While the cast is a fairly limited one, consisting of Father, Billy, Buddy, an occasional appearance by Mother, and various walk-on adults and dogs, creator Jean Roba creates an infinite variety of stories around these few characters. He achieves this variety because he has such a handle on the characters’ personalities.
Billy is innocent, but not stupid; Buddy is a clever, witty dog, but he’s not a smart-aleck; and Father, though often times frustrated, genuinely enjoys spending time with both.
The art-style is similar to that found in Bob Bolling’s Little Archie stories of the 50s and the much-missed Harvey Comics line (such as Casper the Friendly Ghost). It has a classic look that’s always in style.
Roba’s panels are clearly laid out--you can take in the joke at one glance. They also always have movement in them, even if it’s something as simple as Buddy’s ears bouncing in surprise. Roba doesn’t do static panels.
Its simple layout, attractive character design, bright colors, and intelligent scripts makes Billy & Buddy: Remember this, Buddy? a wonderful introduction to the comic format for younger readers, and a fun book for readers of all ages.
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