Oh hello. What brings you here? Friday? No, it couldn’t possibly…Oh. Oh my. Well I really hadn’t prepared anything. No, wait. There is one thing I’ve been holding back. It’s a bit on the, well, childish side. A cute little comic called Ellie on Planet X. More of the whimsical child and less of the obtuse.
It’s on the list of new web comics for 2010 and it quietly slipped under my radar until recently. The jokes are simple and well delivered, often focusing on the absurdity of the situation. But what is this situation we find ourselves in? Well, I’ll tell you. The author, Mr. James Anderson, is of the firm belief that he works for NASA’s Mission Control on a secret project which until recently was under complete control of one Dr. Strang. A mad scientist of the sort that believe in teaching children by bringing them to the subject at hand, including history. Many of the missing doctor’s projects have been locked away likely never to be seen again, but one project has been closely monitored for the last 30 years and finally paid off eight years ago. Unfortunately we’re only just now receiving the data. Anderson has the important job of chronicling this data for the masses.
What’s that? My apologies, you’re right, of course, I am rambling. This project was to send a sophisticated android to a then recently discovered planet just eight light years away where it would examine the planet and report back. This little robot is called Ellie, a rather clever name. Or rather her name leads to a rather clever title for the comic. But I digress. She is every 30-year-old man’s childhood nightmare. A cutesy little girly thing that would have been right at home in any one of the several Saturday morning cartoons that seemed to feature just a little too much pink artwork. The ones that interrupted a perfectly good session of superheroes and sugary cereal.
In the time that has passed since the carefree days of the 80’s I seem to have gained a greater tolerance of such things, though I suspect much of this can be attributed to Anderson’s creativity. His dialogue and monologue occasionally take on a delightfully poetic quality which can provide a bit of humor or simply bring the beauty of his artwork to the foreground. The characters have begun to show depth and hold my attention. Though Muffin is teetering on the precipice of hackney. My Grandpa had a dog named Muffin once. In her old age she went deaf and my Uncle backed his truck over her.
Whoa! Where did that come from? As I said, I was not prepared for today.
And oh what beauty is to be had. Planet X has a distinct Suessian quality about it that is at once recognized and immediately disregarded. The landscapes and creatures are clearly inspired by the doctor of imagination and yet the artwork reminiscent of Seuss‘s children’s book contemporaries. The limited color palette draws attention to the fantastic elements of the scene.
Anderson dances in the realm of a child’s imagination on the surface, but it is below the surface in the subtleties of his science where he brings an adult’s poise to the stage. When little Ellie encounters intelligent life they do not immediately begin communicating in the king’s English. Like a good computer she studies the native language and slowly begins to understand it. Her arrival is a reenactment of the Mar’s rover landing that did not end so well. Even her communication with Earth is one-way. Any messages Mission Control has for the strange inhabitants of this far off planet were pre-recorded.
It is these clever little nods to reality that ground the whimsy of the entire situation and prevent me from becoming over burdened by the cuteness of it all. Ellie on Planet X seems positioned to become a nice repose from my regular routine. A fantastical escape from my superheroes and sugary cereal.