March 28, 2011
On my exciting new journey to becoming a comic book person, I’ve gotten to read the beginnings of a series that is great for both kids and adults. Called The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli and done by Jay Piscopo, this series has origins in the world of root beer, yet has nothing to do with fizzy beverages. It’s about a boy with a mysterious past who is drawn to the sea. He joins others to help keep peace and keep people safe in the sea, and he finds other mysterious beings as well as whole cultures that are hidden from the surface.
The artwork in Capt’n Eli is a cross between old school styles and computer animated images. It contains both at the same time, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. But the drawings are simple and uncluttered. They instantly made me think of Jonny Quest.
I was sent the first two issues of Capt’n Eli to review. They started out with uncomplicated story lines that would be easy for kids to follow and get excited about. Not having a comic book reading background, I have little comic comparisons to make here, but the story beginnings remind me of shows like Scooby Doo and others from my childhood. As an adult, you see the obvious solutions to the problems that come up, but as a kid, you’re just along for the ride.
The series starts off with “The Mystery of Me,” which explains where Capt’n Eli came from and his back story. The series then continues with “The Mystery of the Sargasso Sea,” which takes everyone into the Bermuda Triangle area. Havoc ensues. Time travel figures prominently in the story lines, along with plenty of mystery, adventure, intrigue, and history, all surrounding the sea and its environs.
To learn more about the history of the characters, the story lines also contain plenty of back story, often well-integrated into the story lines. Also, each issue ends with a bit of a cliff hanger, getting you to buy the next issue to see what happens next.
In the second issue, “The Mystery of the Sargasso Sea” continues. The story really develops here with plenty of sub plots, twists, parallel story lines, and quite a bit more complexity. Perfectly wonderful for kids, but also interesting enough for adults to read, you learn about life under the sea and see more of a glimpse into other characters’ lives. One of the major characters in the series, Commander X, is, to me, the most intriguing character. He, too, has a mysterious past, but is a responsible adult who tends to take matters into his own hands. The back of the first comic has comic book covers from Commander X’s days in the golden age of comics, in a more classic style. They tell his past like it is history, but is in the form of a comic book. It seems that in this universe, history is chronicled in comic books, which is pretty awesome.
The black page borders throughout much of the books make it feel a bit like you’re under water, which is where much of the series takes place. Little jokes are inserted for those who will get them, such as a transmitter called the Anti-M. A parrot is the plucky sidekick who tosses out sort-of-funny lines from time to time.
The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli was also reviewed over at GeekDad in 2008. Check out Brad Moon’s review there. He liked the series, too!
In response to the reception of the Capt’n Eli books, Jay Piscopo built on one of the characters in the series, doing a stand-alone comic on The Sea Ghost. The Sea Ghost artwork reminds me of the 1970s/1980s Super Friends! It’s a thin paper comic issue, instead of the longer graphic novel format with thicker paper that is the Capt’n Eli books. The plot is as simplistic as some of the beloved 70s shows, and some of the creatures look like they’re from Planet of the Apes. There isn’t a lot of character development and some of the dialogue is a bit corny, but it’s short and fun, and a good read for kids. Plus Sea Ghost’s uniform is awesome: black and white with a seahorse on his chest!
The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli graphic novels retail for $9.99. I recommend them to anyone, the young or the young at heart. Become a fan of the series along with your kids, and you’ll have one more thing in common to talk about. The stories are interesting, complex, and well done.
The Sea Ghost retails for $3.99. It is an interesting side story in the Capt’n Eli universe, but this one is better for kids than it is for adults. The comic isn’t necessary to the main story lines, but adds more background to one of the characters.
In addition to the comic books, there is a Capt’n Eli collectible card game and a coloring book. The Capt’n Eli website also has fantastic lesson plans for geography, history, and art subjects, using the comic books as reference, but expanding on them. For additional information on any of these, check out the Capt’n Eli website.
Note: I received copies of these comics for review purposes.