Though I probably should have been watching today’s video release of “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights,” I couldn’t stay indoors for another minute Sunday and did what any self-respecting comic fan would do.
I poured myself a tall glass of heavily sweetened iced tea, hooked up the portable CD player to a set of mini speakers (yes, I’m still old-school), listened to Michael Daugherty’s awesome “Metropolis Symphony” and plowed through a stack of comics in the shade on my front porch glider bench.
One of them was the latest issue of “Ruse,” and I must say it’s great to see Mark Waid back on the adventures of master detective Simon Archard and his plucky (and apparently now non-Sigil-powered) assistant Emma Bishop. Butch Guice is greatly missed on the art, though, which hasn’t been very good.
But the delight of the day was David Kelly’s collection “Rainy Day Recess: The Complete Steven’s Comics.” Somehow it had wound up on the bottom of a pile of comics I’d already read, so I’m very glad I rescued it and got the chance to enjoy it.
It’s the semiautobiographical story of Steven, a “sensitive” boy growing up in the 1970s. It starts with fourth grade and the excitement of finding a Mego Wonder Woman action figure at the store. It moves through first crushes, second crushes, the pain of divorce and the importance of just being yourself.
It’s a collection of award-winning weekly comics Kelly created for LGBT and alternative newspapers. And because of the nature of biz, it stops more than ends, and we never really find out what happens to Steven. But since Kelly is able to create this collection (and has worked on plenty of other projects), one can surmise that “It Gets Better” for him. (Advice columnist Dan Savage writes a sweet forward, and a portion of sales goes to his “It Gets Better” project against bullying of LGBT kids.)
But while it’s obvious from the start that Steven will grow up to be gay, the story isn’t about growing up gay. It’s just about growing up. And while Steven may prefer to play with his female superhero action figures (on the set of his “Star Trek” Enterprise playset filling in as Wonder Woman’s secret hideout) over playing sports with his brother and cousin, the book is eminently relatable to anyone who’s been teased, bullied or just felt a little bit different.
And though I certainly could relate to a lot of young Steven’s life, a lot of the book is also achingly sad as Kelly masterfully works in the themes of a broken home. Steven’s too young to understand the bitterness of his parents’ divorce, but it affects him on so many pages. But like the gay themes, the book isn’t about being a child of divorce, though it infuses the work.
Which is what makes it such a delight. Steven’s just a kid growing up through some tough circumstances. He’s bright, artistically talented (love his Starwoman comics), more intuitive than he thinks and wonderfully imaginative. He may fear rejection, but he doesn’t wallow. He plows ahead and forges his own path, but with the same stumbles any of us might make.
Then there’s Kelly’s art. It’s expressive and full of great period details. Anyone who grew up in the ’70s (and I’m one of them) will instantly see recognizable touchstones, from pop culture references to the constant cigarette in the hands of so many adults.
Steven isn’t quite Everykid, but he’s a great kid. And I wish there were the comics to make a second volume because I didn’t want to leave his world. GRADE: A