Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Soo, Kean. 2008. Jellaby. Hyperion.

As near as I can tell, Jellaby began as a serial comic, published online @ The Secret Friend Society. Jellaby, the large purple creature, has had a presence online since 2005. Now for the first time, he has arrived in print in graphic novel format.

The story line follows Portia, her Asian friend, Jason, and Jellaby – the secret friend. The kids appear to be middle-school aged. Portia lives with her mother – there is some amount of mystery as to her father’s whereabouts and disposition. Jason’s parents are referenced throughout the story, but are largely absent from his daily routine and upbringing. He is the frequent target of school bullies. Jellaby is a comfort to them both, offering courage and purpose to their unhappy lives. The story is completely without resolution, much in the style of a serial comic strip.

With few exceptions, the artwork is a monochromatic purple. Jellaby might be considered a cute and expressive creature. The humans have vacant eyes and are simply drawn, though capable of moderate expression.

I am not normally a fan of non-fiction graphic novels, so my opinion should be taken only for what it’s worth. The monochromatic scheme, while powerful in the non-fiction graphic tales of Persepolis and Maus, is simply boring in this J Fiction saga. Additionally, the lack of closure on any aspect of the storyline leaves the reader feeling empty. The exploits of Portia, Jason and Jellaby did not interest me enough to seek out their continuing adventures, which are scheduled to arrive in March 2008.

Another librarian, more familiar with the genre, mentioned that some graphic novels have merchandising as their primary goal, with literature second, at best. Perhaps that explains the cute Jellaby and the drab humans – Jellaby may make for a better plush keychain.

A postscript - I realized after posting this, that I am a fan of the Babymouse books, another monochromatic J Fiction series. Perhaps I just don't understand the genre. I'll keep trying.

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