Comicbook Review: Earthworm Jim by Doug Tennapel
Welcome to our first comicbook review! Today we will be reviewing Earthworm Jim by Doug Tennapel.
I know a video review was promised, however, I felt it would be more appropriate to leave a written one for the time being. This was explained in the previous blog post announced here:
Again, my sincerest apologies. But I hope this written review makes up for it! Judging this comicbook will score the following on a 1-10 scale:
This will include: Price, Packaging, Bonuses, Physical Quality, and the overall Theme
This will cover: Style, Execution, Color, and Framing & Paneling
The Writing will cover: Story, Character Development, Dialogue
And then we will Average the total of all 3 of these categories which will be final score.
Note that there may be SPOILERS ahead, so if you wish to skip it all, feel free to scroll to the bottom for my final tally. To summarize the story real quick, Earthworm Jim goes like this:
Space empire loses a Super Suit capable of galactic conquest, all thanks to a defecting princess
Space suit gets blessed by a magic space fairy
A normal earthworm gets space-fairy powers after crawling into said super-suit
Results in an all-out cartoony ‘war’ as the alien force is trying to obtain the suit
It's a silly, simple, yet fun premise.
However if you are like me, you likely had a nostalgic history with Earthworm Jim. I grew up with the Super Nintendo game of Earthworm Jim, and I did play the one for Nintendo 64. You may have also played other games from the series, or perhaps watch the old cartoon. (I haven't even heard of the cartoon until I did my research.) The SNES game was what primarily motivated me to buy it. It brought back a lot of great memories from my childhood when I saw the Indie Go Go campaign, and this may have been a big motivational factor for a lot of backers as well.
Now, I was taken aback when I opened my package and saw this amazing box. I wasn’t expecting any artwork on the box. When I bought this, I only had the expectation of a good comicbook, and my expectations were utterly blown away. Just with the art on the box, you know you're off to a good start.
Inside the box, you get:
Front and Back Poster
2 Canvas Prints
EWJ PaperCraft Project
A copy of a Bigfoot Bill 2 Comicbook
A Cloth Patch
And of course the Earthworm Jim Comicbook itself, if you even classify it as a ‘comicbook’. It’s more of a textbook with a lot of amazing artwork. It contains 160 pages, all with a gold trim, golden highlights to the lettering on the side, and reflective material for the lettering and the art on the cover.
It’s clear that a lot of effort was put into this project, just from what I mentioned earlier. And with how many people have contributed to creating this, you can clearly see why.
I paid $25, and $12 for shipping and handling. The book alone I think would be worth $50-75. And all the little bonuses that add up, I would have easily paid $100 on this. The raw value that you get is utterly astounding, and goes to show how much love Mr. Tennapel has for his customers. I’m certain this wasn’t cheap to print the book and the additional items. Sure, he made a lot of money on his campaign, but the fact that he put so much of what he made back into giving the audience more says volumes.
Art Right off the bat you should be expecting a cartoony style, and it delivers it really well. If you had any past nostalgia about Earthworm Jim, you may agree that the art really does it justice.
With the character design I observed a common theme going on. The “alien” characters are extremely cartoony looking, while the humans and Earth creatures are extremely...normal. Quite a contrast, yet it fit perfectly.
For example, Earthworm Jim (p 32-33) has huge cartoony eyes and mouth, that really with the humorous elements in the comic. For one instance the Princess slaps his eyes and face off (p 86).
He is an overgrown Earthworm, but the suit tends to outline most of his design. I also noticed that the suit sometimes shows to have “muscles” to it, even though he's just a worm in a suit (p33, p97). His design also allows for some creative action scenes, for instance when he uses his worm body as a whip (p97).
Psycrow’s design is pretty clever. His black silhouette really expresses his villainous character. Oddly enough, the lack of details in some of the panels seem to work better than with his details of his feathers showing (p 14), giving him this sort of “Shadow Demon” vibe.
But he is an anthropomorphic crow after all. But in a similar fashion to EWJ, Psycrow also has this extreme cartoonish theme with his face, often like an exaggerated shadow. (p 78) The one thing I’ll mention while talking about Psycrow, is a weird issue I had with Earthworm Jims suit. You see here how Earthworm jim fits into the suit, yet earlier Psycrow was testing the suit out himself (p 14-15).
By the way, how does he fit his neck around the gadgetry(p 64)?
Farmer Jim is a lot more normal than the rest of the characters on here, as well as all the human characters in fact. His eyes are hidden and has a more stoic theme to his design.
The other human characters are expressive, but the style is a lot more laid back than even the Princess character. Comparing the sizes of their eyes, the Princess’s is at least twice as big. And it all fits with the art style! I didn’t even notice anything was up until I started analyzing the art for this review.
Peter Puppy (or Proto Pooch) is just a *mostly* normal dog. (p 72) Not much to say about his normal form. However, when he goes berserk, that form’s power and strength is well articulated in the artwork. To that, I feel that the nostalgia factor has a weakness here, where it ‘ruins the surprise’ in a way.
However, when he goes berserk, that form’s power and strength is well articulated in the artwork. To that, I feel that the nostalgia factor has a weakness here, where it ‘ruins the surprise’ in a way.
As for Queen Slug-For-A-Butt (And yes, there are quite a few very childish names in this comic), you don’t see her much, but when you do….oh wow!(p12.) Her first appearance is very well done. The artwork really captures a sinister and monolithic power. With the eyes and mouth you can just tell right away how evil of a character she is.
So, the artwork, clearly amazing, but what about the writing? Well…you may have to turn your brain off a little bit. With the juvenile names for some of the characters, and the plot overall, it’s clearly more geared towards a younger audience. Honestly, it kinda gave me some “Captain Underpants” vibes. The story and writing do have its moments, especially with the humor, and there are some elements of character development, however it’s very disjointed and all over the place. And much of the time I felt the comic tried to do too much.
From pages 36-39, so much is happening at the same time. Jim meets a human (who doesn’t care that the worm talks,) then meets a talking dog, and then gets attacked by a crow. It’s like a gun shooting you repeatedly, bam bam bam! Here, more action. It could've gave the reader more time to sink it all in. Then, the very next scene, Psycrow reveals some sort of ability to talk to dead Crows to help find the suit, but later on, it's revealed that Proto Pooch was a spy for the Queen…who could’ve communicated to Psycrow about the Suit’s presence when it first landed, which makes this scene feel redundant. You’ll see a lot of issues where the comic tries to do too many things at a time, and it tends to get a little worse in the later half of the story.
At some points though, I do feel the writing could’ve provided more backstory. On Page 49, the Princess gets annoyed at Earthworm Jim, and the dialogue felt a little uncomfortable. I would’ve liked to see her at least try to explain to him a little more about the significance of the suit and make a better attempt to help him understand. Earthworm Jim has this awkward dialogue that feels 2nd grade level. I understand that he was literally born hours ago, and why he might be that much of an idiot. I just felt the dialogue could’ve been written differently to give the reader a better grasp of Jim's and the Princess's mindset.
In another scene from pages 69-73, it just *feels* like everyone forgot about Psycrow. They’re having dinner like it’s just a normal gathering. It feels a little off, like there was supposed to be a week of downtime or something that wasn’t conveyed.
A little later branching from this scene, Princess explains to Earthworm Jim about Proto Pooch / Peter Puppy and how he’s a spy for the Alien Queen. Earthworm Jim doesn’t question it at all and takes her at her word. And yet, instead of dealing with the dog herself, why leave it to Earthworm Jim who she should know by now would’ve messed things up? As the reader, I also didn’t really see much to go off of to conclude that Proto Pooch was a spy. It felt like it was just flung in my face out of left field.
Some points throughout this comicbook, I felt the story could’ve just ended. Like at page 110, the Queen calls “Heck” to assist in capturing the suit after Psycrow failed. It adds a new story arc to what could’ve been a concluded story, but its attempt to add another arc falls flat. It’s out of nowhere and attempts to throw in more content to the reader. It comes off forced and disjointed, and underdeveloped. If it ended here, the comicbook would’ve left the reader craving more, especially to those who remember “Heck” and “Evil the Cat” from previous EWJ installments. It would’ve given more time to flesh out this portion of the story, and I would’ve loved to see a more fleshed out story arc here.
There were times though that some character development was made, which honestly kinda surprised me for a comic such as this. Earthworm Jim for example (p 92) has a moment of wisdom for the Princess. Which, would've been a kind of a good point…if she didn’t raise an obviously better one. Sure it still makes him look like an idiot, but it really shows an increase in mental maturity. (p 102) The writer then further shows his maturity later throughout this scene as he learns he needs to start taking things more seriously. Proto Pooch also decides to double-cross Psycrow after being told he was a good boy for the first time. It’s silly, but it’s very much welcome.
Now talking about the dialogue, I got to give them credit. With the character designs on top of their dialogue, I could physically ‘hear’ their voices reading this. For instance, the Queen sounds like the Zerg Queen Zagara from Starcraft II.
· Good Humor There is some pretty good humor throughout the comicbook which I think the writing shines here mostly. (p 15) Like here, the “My Little Pony” planet gets blown up, or (p 54-57) the story with the riding bull. (p 116) And of course some 4th wall and referential humor like here. There are plenty of examples of good humor done throughout this comicbook which I think you’ll enjoy.
Final Score Tally:
Presentation – 10
Art – 10
Writing – 3
Total: 7.5 /10
Normally I would be reserved handing out 10s. But with the presentation and the artwork alone, this was an absolute steal. Such an affordable price for all these extras, and the artwork is first class. Again, the colors and the designs are absolutely stellar. The only weak-point, I believe, is the story. It tried to do too much, and created a lot of weird, stilted moments throughout the comic that didn’t really fit. Either the fat needed to be trimmed a bit, or all the other story elements needed to the expanded more. I think this would’ve been an absolute masterpiece if the writing was tuned up more. Despite the artwork, the nostalgia, and the goodies, the writing overall brings the rating down. However, It is still a good book and definitely worth getting. Then again, I do have a slight bias towards story and writing elements.
Doug Tennapel just launched Earthworm Jim 2 on Kickstarter, which I would highly recommend picking up. If you haven’t gotten EWJ 1 he does have an option available where you can buy a copy of both.
Be sure to give the other contributors a huge shoutout in helping make this comicbook possible: Katherine Garner Eric Weathers Joe Potter Radka Kavalcova Brett Bean Reagan Phillips Robert Smith of API