As it celebrates its 50th issue, I thought I would take a moment to share my love for one of the only two titles left on my pull list– SpongeBob Comics! Now, I’ve never watched the SpongeBob SquarePants show, so my knowledge of– and unbridled pleasure in– these characters comes solely from the pages of the comic. And I enjoy them so much that at this point I’ve been hesitant to watch the show (or even the movies) for fear it will sour my perception of the characters.
Each issue never fails to bring me an honest laugh– more laughs than a month worth of the snarky asides meant to pass as humor in today’s superhero comics– genuine humor that come from the normal interactions between these characters. Page for page, it gives me more laughter and pure joy than even well-done issues of Simpsons Comics and Futurama Comics, other tv tie-ins that work well on their own as comics. The fact that protagonists SpongeBob and Patrick are clueless idiots who persevere despite that shortcoming helps, of course (it must be a favorite character trait of mine, since I’ve used it with my own long-running protagonists (TGWAH!, Watusi) over the years). SpongeBob Comics regularly features puzzles, interactive strips and stories with complex (though easy to follow) game-like page layouts among the more straightforward and goofily humorous stories. They’ve maintained a steady group of creators over the run, including James Kochalka, Mark Martin, Jacob Chabot, Graham Annable and others that make each issue a treat! I may not know who or what will be in each new issue, but it never lets me down!
Unlike the Simpsons comics, SpongeBob Comics has embraced artists working off-model from the very beginning, and James Kochalka (working in his usual style) has been a mainstay since the first issue. Other artists using their own signature styles in SpongeBob stories include Tony Millionaire, Al Jaffee, Hilary Barta, Jerry Ordway, Ramona Fradon, and Nick Cardy. That’s right– these comics also include stories featuring SpongeBob’s favorite comic book hero Mermaid Man, and they’ve often featured work from noted Aquaman artists of the silver age for them! Which is just one more reason I’m sad that the great artists Jim Aparo and Don Newton are no longer with us; I’d love to have seen them take their turn with a Mermaid Man adventure!
And if you are looking for some doses of superhero action mixed in with your humor, the annual Super-Giant Swimtacular issues are especially good for that. As is Ordway’s 5-part “Showdown at the Shady Shoals” storyline from#32-36 (which in addition to being a fun and beautifully drawn story also serves as an Esperanto-English primer). There’s a third SpongeBob title worth checking out, too: Freesytle Funnies, the Free Comic Book Day releases (since 2013) have featured all-new content, and act as a great sampler of the joy contained in the pages of the regular comic.
Regardless of its price (which happens to be the 2015 bargain price of only $2.99!), this comic would easily float to the top of my pull list! In fact, looking back at my pull list from three years ago, it and Rachel Rising are the only titles that have remained essential reads for me today. So if you haven’t had the pleasure yet (or haven’t in a while), I heartily recommend that you give SpongeBob Comics a try!