Title: The Cartoon History of The Universe
Author(s): Larry Gonick
Format: Unflipped; Left-to-Right
Publisher: Norton Books
Rated: All Ages
Parents need to be warned in advance that this series WILL NOT IMPROVE THEIR CHILD'S HISTORY GRADE!!!! In fact, if anything, CHOTU is bound to confuse kids more then it will enlighten and entertain them. Since the series is about history there is death, wars, and sex. But with that said, "Schoolhouse Rock" is still more enducational and entertaining, so stick with that.
There are two things you need to make a successful series. The first thing you need is a clear vision of what you want to do, tell, and show. The second thing you need is to express this vision to the best of your abilities. In this sense, Larry Gonick's "The Cartoon History of the Universe" fails miserably. This is not to say "The Cartoon History of the Universe" is bad. I know, confusing, but let me continue. When you read "Pokémon," there is a story, characters, and setting. In other words, there is a direction the series is going, and you understand why the series was created. Then you get to something like "Ultimate Muscle," which is light on story and excellent characters, but you understand that the point of the series is to laugh and have a goofy time with all the wrestling matches and wacky humor. Even a bad series like "To Heart" has a point to it (the point is the jerk of a main character will fall in love with one of the two hundred girls in the series). To the best of my knowledge, "The Cartoon History of the Universe" has a ton of fans. In fact, prior to "Rurouni Kenshin," this is the series people have most requested me to review. I've held off on reviewing it because I was making an attempt to read as much of it as I could before reviewing it. This way, there would be no question in my mind whether or not I liked the series.
This is why China's support in the Iragi war isn't required.
Well, I have read three brick-sized books of "The Cartoon History of the Universe," and I am almost completely at a loss of what to say. It's not that I don't like the series, per se, but it fails at both of the basic rules I listed above. For starters, I have an idea of what the book wants to be, but its execution is so flawed that I can't figure out what it is. From the looks of things, "The Cartoon History of the Universe" would appear to be a book for kids in which years of history are told through cartoons. However, the series becomes a confusing mess midway through the first book. It starts out by telling us how the world was created. The author of this series believes in evolution. The author explains the process of how life evolved while having a couple of lizards saying how they will be the primary species and write all the history books (guess those plans didn't materialize). The beginning actually wasn't that bad, seeing as how the focus and the idea were there, so we're pretty cool. What didn't help was how liberal the book ended up being. Somewhere in the middle of the book, the author decided to work some of the stories from the Bible into the history. Strangely enough, he also brings in other religious stories, all of them with lots of humor and satire. Every now and then the author pops up himself, drawn as some plump, wacky-haired professor who clearly doesn't have time to leave the library and take a shower.
My reaction to being voted out of the "Brokeback Mountain Fanclub."
At this point, I got confused for a number of reasons. The first problem I had with the series was the humor. Yeah, some of it was funny, but it made some of the lessons hard to take seriously, what with the series mocking the stories it's telling. But maybe this isn't a series to take seriously? Maybe this is supposed to be a satire on history? If that's the case, though, then why is this book in the history section? Okay, so maybe this is supposed to teach kids history in a way that's fun. But then... what exactly is he teaching? Is he teaching the lessons of evolution or the teachings of the Bible? The author can't have it both ways (trust me on this one, I've had lots of experience). For that matter, he doesn't seem to take his work all that seriously. Yeah, yeah, I know he puts a lot of effort in his research, but all the history he teaches is taught with such a long line of sarcasm and jokes that it's hard to tell where the truth ends and the satire begins (unless you're a major history buff). I trudged through the first three volumes of "The Cartoon History of the Universe" before writing this review. Sometimes I laughed. Sometimes I nodded in understanding. Most of the time I just stared at the pages and wondered why I felt so lost in what was being shown on the pages in front of me. This book is not kind to people who aren't history buffs.
Yep, just like "Die Another Day" was a totally UNIQUE James Bond movie.
The artwork was just as equally confusing. With mostly cartoony and squiggly drawings, the artwork just adds to the confusion. It's kind of poor and completely goofy. I expect to find this kind of artwork in the Sunday comics for comics like "Peanuts" and "Drabble." However, for a book that is trying to represent real-life history (or something like that), it just doesn't work. Sometimes there are attempts at life-like drawings, but none of it looks all that convincing. In fact, whenever the artwork switches to "serious mode" the book just completely falls apart, and these "serious moments" are actually the most hilarious parts in the whole book, as the artwork just looks forced and stupid. As you can probably imagine, there is no real story for me to dissect. This is all history stuff, whether it's true or not. I finish this review with a bit of hesitation, because now I have to grade the book. This is a book that has a huge fan following, history buffs quote this book as being the only comic worthy of your time, and contrary to what I've been saying, it's not like I completely hated this book. I actually laughed quite a bit at first. Unfortunately, it was for a short time, because the book becomes pretty confusing pretty fast, and once I couldn't figure out what it was I was reading, everything just fell apart. I hate to sound like a know-it-all, but I have some advice for the author: make sure when you're making a comic you keep the two basic rules I posted above in mind. If you can't get these two things straight, then your book is already a failure.