Thursday, December 17, 2015

YALSA Top Ten GNs 2011: Ghostopolis

Written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel.
Published by Graphix (2010)

Ghostopolis is about a city for dead people. Not just ghosts live there, but also skeletons, mummies, (mummys?), giant bugs, goblins, and other weird folk. Garth, a living boy, accidentally gets sucked into Ghostopolis when an agent of the Supernatural Immigration Task Force accidentally zaps him there (along with a skeleton horse). He has to deal with being a living boy trapped in this world for the dead, while people back on Earth desperately try to get to Ghostopolis and save him.

Doug TenNapel is the creator of Earthworm Jim, a video game that I enjoyed playing for the SNES a long time ago (I also really dug the cartoon and can probably still sing the theme song). He's also produced an almost surprising number of graphic novels (over ten). But more importantly, he's a conservative Christian, which has more or less caused me to stay away from his work in general.

That was not always the case, as I bought his first graphic novel Creature Tech when it was originally released (and before I realized he was Christian), and for the most part I enjoyed it's weirdness. Except... Generally I don't think a book or comic or whatever can be ruined by a single page, but for Creature Tech I made an exception. The final page (and it's Christian message) really ruined that book for me. I don't care if you write a story about the Shroud of Turin as a magic object, but I'd prefer if it was just that, and not a symbol of religious power or something.

Anyway, back to Ghostpolis. TenNapel is a good artist, and I can definitely see how a comic filled with mummy warriors, sentient dinosaur skeletons, werewolves, and gross bug monsters would definitely appeal to kids. Even I think they're pretty cool looking.

But, the story itself has some problems.

The first is the bad guy. He's convinced that Garth is out to get him, and so spends his time tracking him down and attacking him. Of course, if he hadn't done this Garth would have gone back home and never encountered him. This isn't necessarily a problem with the plot, it's more that the bad guy is just dumb.

The second is a larger problem that is pretty common in fiction (though apparently not common enough for me to find on TVtropes): a competent female is paired with an incompetent male. (I didn't just make this trope up right?) Frank Gallows is the agent who sent Garth to the spirit world, he is kind of a total screw up, gets fired from his job, and is generally bad at everything. His ex-fiance is Claire Voyant, who is capable and competent and built a teleportation device and for some reason gets back together with Frank. There's a lack of representation of characters who aren't white and male (or a bug) in general, so this kind of sticks out.

There's also a message about something at the end (and the story put a little too much emphasis on people having children for my taste), but overall the story is fine. Of course, there are the "heavy-handed Christian overtones" that I didn't even pick up on. Looking into it more, apparently in the part where I thought everyone was getting transported to another dimension/planet to be reborn as aliens, they are actually going to Heaven. Dang, my version is totally better.

There are also some subplots that aren't fully developed, plot holes, and the ending seems somewhat sudden and random. The more I write about this book the worse it seems to be, but kids probably won't care that much. It has skeleton dinosaurs and monsters! (Though I'm not sure how much it would appeal to teens...)

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