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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


AMELIA RULES was a series self-published by Jimmy Gownley through Renaissance Press for 20 issues from 2001 to 2008. The contents of those comics have been collected most recently into four books from Simon&Schuster (plus a Christmas book with some of the stories re-formatted into digest size). Now that the reprinting is out of the way, Gownley has just released an original 192-page fifth book in the series, THE TWEENAGE GUIDE TO NOT BEING UNPOPULAR.

To recap, the series features the adventures of young Amelia McBride, following her move with her mother to a new town after her parents divorced.  In previous books, we've seen her get to know her somewhat nerdish and often super-hero obsessed friends, do battle with a rival ninja gang from across town, find out about her family (including her Aunt Tanner) and generally struggle through the fourth grade.  In this new book, she's now in the fifth grade, and she and her friends are getting more concerned with their social standing, trying to fit in and be popular, or at least, as the title suggests, not be unpopular.  It's an uphill battle, of course.

As you can read on the official site, Gownley takes the inspiration for AMELIA RULES from classic comic strips, in particular Charles Schulz' PEANUTS (the more direct visual cues from Schulz have subsided over time, but still pop up every now and then).  It's also, he says, not about childhood, but about growing up, so the characters do tend to grow and change.

It's always been a very charming series, with Gownley never being a slave to any conventions and willing to do anything for the joke, starting with breaking the fourth wall, which is a regular feature of the book with Amelia's narration, and moving on from there.  In the case of this particular book, that includes a sight gag referencing a classic Wile E. Coyote moment, an extended aside where Amelia talks to Dracula, Frankenstein Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolfman about the nature of evil (which even includes a somewhat obscure but classic Saturday Night Live joke) and a long flashback done in the style of an Archie comic.  It all tends to work because in every case Gownley really commits to the gag, making everything look and feel right (in an earlier book, he had the photo albums of the characters take the form of the appropriate period comic strips, which really cracked me up).

Anyway, it's always a pleasure to get any new work from Gownley, and six times as much a pleasure to get it a 192-page chunk instead of just 32-pages.  And even more of a pleasure to get it for such a reasonable price (the hardcover is cheaper than 6 issues of the comic would have been, and the softcover is much less than that, so don't believe people when they tell you not serializing comics will lead to higher prices).  And even better news, the back of the book lists Volume 6, TRUE THINGS (ADULTS DON'T WANT KIDS TO KNOW), scheduled for October 2010, so no two year gap before the next big chunk of story.

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