Monday, February 6, 2012

More than Just "Okie Dokie"

From the first few panels of Okie Dokie Donuts, it's clear that writer/artist Chris Eliopoulos has a handle on how to create an energizing tale. Panels are nearly spilling over into one another, filled with singing customers and meticulously rendered backgrounds of the shelves and pastry cases in the donut shop. Big Mama, owner of Okie Dokie Donuts, is indeed a big mama, and Eliopoulos seems to have to squeeeeeeze her girth into panels amidst her loving customers. The physiques of Big Mama, not to mention the mysterious salesman named Mr. Mayweather and his robot Mr. Baker, are misshapen and exaggerated, contorting to emote joy, disgust, and surprise. This sort of kinetic construction pushes readers' eyes through the story quickly, even though much is to be gained upon re-reads, when one can take the time to view and appreciate the highly-detailed panels.

Playful sound nods to the reader ("How did you get that giant box in my kitchen?" "It's a comic book. Don't worry about it!") and sing-song dialogue add another layer of sensory depth that can't help but bring to mind Saturday-morning cartoons of yesteryear. And though at times the color palette (all oranges and yellows) can cause some perspective confusion, there is rarely more than one character speaking per panel, which, speaking from experience, is a real plus for novice comics readers. Comics, after all, is a visual medium, and the stars that circle over a concussed character's head can tell just as much of a story as an exclamation of "Ouch!" or speech bubbles that go back and forth between characters again and again and again.

Though Eliopoulos is clearly adept at creating an auditory dimension to his work, I was likewise impressed by his choice of dialogue. This is clearly a comic with young readers in mind, but his word choice is anything but childish, again recalling cartoons like "Loony Tunes" in which the creators clearly respect the viewer's ability to decipher sophisticated words (at least, sophisticated for eight year-olds) by using context clues. Sure, the average reader of Okie Dokie Donuts may not know what "patisserie" means, but one look at a character's wild gesticulations can give clues to its meaning that are easy enough to pick up.

Okie Dokie Donuts is a ton of fun. Highly recommended for ages 6-10.

Want to check it out for yourself? You can check out a preview of Okie Dokie Donuts over at Good Comics for Kids.