With Spring-heeled Jack Tom Sparke moves beyond the short format (groan-inducing) gags that he used so well on his colourful Captain Fishbeard comics and into longer form comic storytelling. Don’t let that put you off though, this is a natural development, I think, from Tom’s work on Fishbeard
Fans of Tom’s fantastic art style have nothing to fear, he’s still producing art in that ligne claire / animation style with the characters clearly and simply defined. The time and effort he puts into the facial expressions of the characters, a bit like Jeff Smith does in Bone, helps give the comic that pace you see in animation, because it’s just great storytelling that allows you to see what’s going on with the characters.
If you’re only familiar with Tom’s work on Captain Fishbeard then you should be aware that Jack is a slightly different beast. Firstly it’s a lot slimmer – it’s about half the length of Fishbeard #1 – and it’s a really quick read. The ‘small comic but with large panels’ approach means that you can read it through in about 5 minutes. In fact as I read it I started to wonder whether this would work better as comic with fewer pages and smaller panels but then I thought ‘actually, maybe I’m not the target audience for this comic’. Perhaps this is, really and truly, a comic aimed at kids. Kids who’ll appreciate the silliness, the puns, the big-eyed girls, the big panels and the fact that it doesn’t take too long to read.
This, then, feels like that rare thing, a real gateway into the world of comics for young kids. OK, so the colour palette is darker and more subdued than Fishbeard but that’s because it’s in service to the story. This is (sort of) Victorian London, not the Great Barrier Reef. This is fun, this is puns (Tina Biscuit, whoop! Fan Sealeady, double whoop!) this is for the joy of reading comics to your kids. Get ‘em hooked on Tom’s work today, you won’t regret it and neither will they.