Aside from reading the regular Sunday funnies and the odd Betty & Veronica, I wasn't really into comics as a little kid. I didn't know what to expect from Rich Clabaugh's The Graveyard Gang, an online comic about five kids set in the fictional town of Ghostport, Massachusetts in the 1930s. In addition to dealing with bullies and regular kids stuff, the gang also have to contend with various spooky creatures lurking throughout Ghostport. Oh, and instead of a treehouse this gang uses a crypt as a meeting place.
The comic's first issue, "The Mystery of the Crypt Creep," introduces the reader to the gang as they have to work together to defeat a mysterious monster running amok in Mourning Hill cemetery. Clabaugh's short introductions to each character are all really fun, as each has a cute backstory. The first kid we meet is little Sammy "Sneezer" Smith as some bullies pick on him. It's clear that Clabaugh has done his research; each page of the comic is filled with visual references appropriate to the time period. For example, I love that the bully's hat is a black bowler, like something straight out of a Nancy strip:
Also in part of the gang is Preston "Presto" Perkins, the brains of the bunch. I had a hard time picking a favorite character; right now it's tied between troublemaker Pasquale "Buster" Bonetti and tough girl Marcie McDougle — Buster has a little crush on Marcie but it's only hinted at in the story. Rounding out the gang is Lope Coronado, a wolf boy. That's right, one of the kids is a wolf boy. I really appreciate that this comic references that Lope is originally from Mexico and is still being the process of learning English. The incorporation of those types of details immediately involved me in the gang's world. Plus, Clabaugh's drawing style renders the five main characters as these dynamic little packages of energy, perfectly capturing the spirit of adventurous childhood.
Clabaugh specifically mentions the original Our Gang short films as an inspiration. Also known as The Little Rascals, Our Gang is a series of short comedic films about a bunch of neighborhood kids having adventures. Our Gang featured some of the earliest examples of child actors being depicted in a more spirited, naturalistic way, and The Graveyard Gang attempts to capture that same kind of engaging spirit while also experimenting with panel design to help advance the story in engaging ways:
I was pleasantly surprised by the caliber of this comic geared towards audiences of all ages. Ridiculously charming without being overly saccharine, The Graveyard Gang is an entertaining comic filled with a careful attention to detail that I really appreciated. My only criticism of The Graveyard Gang was that while the comic itself was easy to click through, the rest of the site is a little harder to navigate. But, the whole website is relatively new so I'm guessing that minor details like that are in the process of being ironed out.
The Graveyard Gang will be making its first appearance at Boston Comic Con (April 20-21, 2013). The Graveyard Gang is currently updating online with a new page every Tuesday and Thursday. All of the earlier issues are available on the site right now so you can join in on the fun from the very beginning, and a Kindle edition of issue #1 is also currently available. I'm really excited to see what Clabaugh thinks of next, I'm crossing my fingers for some cool witches. How far do you think Ghostport is from Salem?
Check out The Graveyard Gang at thegraveyardgang.com.
Francesca Lyn is a professional student who is sick of being shown where the manga section is without being asked and prefers to watch movies where Liam Neeson saves somebody. Despite wearing black-framed glasses and being the recipient of a liberal arts degree, she does not care for the work of Chris Ware and thought Blankets was "just okay." She often tweets incomprehensible things at @francescalyn and annoys the four people that follow her on tumblr at meme-patrol.tumblr.com. She and her friend Jillian started a feminist science fiction reading group that can be found at integratedcircuit.tumblr.com.