Return of the Dapper Men
story by Jim McCann, art by Janet Lee
Top Shelf Productions / Penguin Random House
Childhood is a time of wonder with miracles ranging from flowers opening to birds flying to the eternal question: “What the heck are mom and dad so upset about?” In this spacey and slightly surreal world time has stopped because the big Clockwork Angel down at the ocean broke. That angel motivates a world now stuck in the present. Young Ayden and his robotic girlfriend Zoe wander this world of Anorev and somehow all their needs are met, or aren’t needs to begin with. Up on the surface are the cranky real children, down beneath are the robots. Mixing is frowned upon, and the pair are hassled upstairs more than below. Where food and water come from remains murky, but one day 412 very dapper men appear in identical bowler hats and striped suits. Their task is soon clear: The Clockwork Angel must be rebuilt and Ayden and Zoe are a prime element of that plan. Work commences, villain interfere, but soon enough a giant TOCK sets the world in motion once more. The Dapper dudes lit off into the sky in a sort of mundane non-denominational ascension, and all is right with the world again.
It’s a simple tale with elements of acceptance and cooperation, but the illustrations are the most wonderful thing here. It’s a cartoon, but an elegantly beautiful one and each frame is filled with details that often don’t appear until you’ve passed through this journey many times. It’s a Windsor McKay world updated to consider modern concerns. The story runs a bit over 100 pages and the rest of the book is devoted to how the art came to be, what motivated the story, and studies made prior to inking the main panels of this stunning graphic novel of the book. While aimed at children on that critical cusp of adolescence, it’s a book any adult will enjoy seeing over and over. The video game violent of today’s entertainment feed is nowhere to be found, and this book ought to become a classic.