Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comic Book Review: The Adventures of Digger and Friends #4 (IDW Publishing)

Pales in Comparison to the Animated Original

The Adventures of Digger and Friends is a series of computer-animated two-minute shorts that appear during the Fox Sports NASCAR pre-race shows. Digger is a NASCAR-mad gopher who lives and breathes the racing life along with his goofy pals. Kids can meet Digger at races and buy plush dolls and assorted merchandise, of which this comic book hopes to be a celebrated addition. But don't be fooled by this completely uninspiring excuse for a comic book because it's exactly that: an extra revenue stream for Fox and IDW.

Obviously no one is expecting Digger and Friends to be the next Watchmen but this is the sort of product that makes people look at comics as a throwaway medium to be relegated to newspaper strips and vaguely droll political cartoons. It's still possible to achieve greatness in kids comics: both DC Super Friends and Marvel Super Hero Squad deliver action-packed laughs and adventure month after month, to say nothing of the truly sublime work Carl Barks and Don Rosa have done on Uncle Scrooge.

The animated Digger and Friends shorts are genius. They deliver a slice of Americana and plenty of laughs in every episode. But so much of this hangs on timing, voice work and reaction shots, all of which are very difficult to convey in a four-colour comic. The animated Digger is a frenetic madcap gopher who steals every scene. Comic book Digger seems to be a slow-moving, aw-shucks, over-medicated and slightly confused critter. In other words, all the magic is lost in the transition from TV to printed page. In Digger #4 we're stuck with unbelievably unrealistic racing sequences and rather flat dialogue. The punchiness of the Marvel and DC kids titles is nowhere to be seen.

Another huge problem is that the comic never earns the heart of the reader because it cannot stand on its own. Having begun to read it with my five-year-old, we were forced to turn to YouTube to have any idea who these characters were and why they did what they were doing. After viewing the five shorts available on the DiggeronFOX channel we finished the comic but afterwards my son went right back to the shorts. The target audience for the comic book is obviously kids who are already beholden to Digger, which betrays a certain creative atrophy on behalf of the creators.

Even before this issue hits stands at $3.99, IDW has announced the four-issue collection for $11.99. Once technology like the iPad gets rolling, I would suggest that the entire series be made available for something like $3.99 because it is terribly disposable. Luckily IDW is pushing hard in its multimedia forays, because I cannot see the sustainability of such a high price point as the market becomes increasingly saturated with dull kids comics. The situation is akin to IDW's Doctor Who series: why pay $3.99 for a comic book when you can get a single recent episode for $1.99 from iTunes? With Digger available for free on YouTube, what's the point of such an anemic book other than to keep the kiddies quiet in the back seat on the drive home from the racetrack?

Written by Jack Briglio
Drawn by Diego Jourdan

In stores February 10, 2010

Adam Paige
Senior Reviewer

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