Swinebert: Yo Chicks and Chickies!
Welcome to the second edition of “Panel by Panel” where my pal Dempsey and I chat about out one of our many passions-COMICS! (and graphic novels)
Dempsey: This week, S.B., myself and our friend (and podcast director/producer), Taurean J. Watkins (aka “The Literary Rat), review Steven Universe, not the show (though we definitely will get to that) but the comics based on said show-
Steven Universe: Vol. 1-5
(from BOOM! Studios)
From Taurean J. Watkins
[aka “The Literary Rat”] (@Taurean_Watkins)
(Left, Taurean J. Watkins,
Right, Steven Univserse Banner)
I fell in love with “Steven Universe” since it debuted on Cartoon Network over a year ago.
For those out of the loop (esp. those of you gave up on CN YEARS ago, but need to check back in for this one if nothing else) it’s about a kid who is half-human and half-gem, “Gems” are otherworldy beings with human-like forms, and that’s all I can share on that front without spoiling the story for you.
The series follows the adventures of our titular character, and three of the of the “Crystal Gems” who protect Earth from intergaltic threats (Thematically, a mix of “The Secret Saturdays” and “The Fantastic Four“).
(Left, “The Secret Saturdays, Right, Fantastic Four)
Garnet, the strong sem-silent type.
Amethyst, the free-spirited/scrappy foodie, also the youngest of the three, and Pearl, the level-headed, logical and slightly over-protective “Mother Hen” of the group.
The fourth was Rose-Quartz, the former leader of the Crystal Gems, and Steven’s mother, who (again for story reasons I won’t spoil here) passed on her powers to Steven, who slowly begins to awaken them and learn where he fits within the Crystal Gems, who act as his guardians/mentors in differing ways, and the humans who live in small costal metropolis of Beach City.
It’s the kind of show I rarely see much anymore, and was plesantly surprised to find on Cartoon Network especially.
This is one of the rare departures in CN’s series roster that has an overarching plot it’s building toward, while also having entertaining side stories weaved in.
A contrast departure to current hit series like “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” which are more episodic and situational in nature (like many of CN’s first original series like “Ed. Edd ‘n Eddy“, Dexter’s Labrotory and “The Powerpuff Girls“).
(Top, Adventure Time Blu-Ray Seasons 1-5
Middle, Regular Show Blu-Ray Seasons 1-3
Bottom, “Ed, Edd ‘n Eddy, Dexter’s Labrotory,
The Powerpuff Girls”)
While there are plot throughlines in Adventure Time, they’re more convoluted (esp. from season 4 onward), open-ended, and move at a slower pace.
If you like an overarching storyline, that’s a little loose in how it’s told (versus a more tradtionally lineral tale) this is the show for you!
It’s got it all: Multi-demenstional characters. A world with rooted back story that’s shared bit by bit when relevant. Action, drama, comedy, romance, and ocasional improptu musical moments that don’t feel either annoying or overdone.
It also naturally has a diverse cast of characters
(both in terms of ethnicity, age, life stage and personality) without coming off fake or forced.
In many ways “Steven Universe” is for Cartoon Network what “Avatar: The Last Airbender”
(and it’s sucessor, “The Legend of Korra”)
did on Nickelodeon, takes the world and its characters seriously (no matter how offbeat and quirky they may be), gives them respect, but still has fun with them along the way.
(Top, Avatar: The Last Airbender – Books 1-3,
Bottom, The Legend of Korra – Books 1-4)
I highly recommend it to viewers who want something with a more defined plot, that moves a fair bit faster. On that note…
When I heard back in Summer 2014 there’d be a comic series based on the show, I was really skeptical, as these adaptations can go horribly wrong, something us book nerds at T.A.A. know all too well (RE: Books adapted to movies)
But I’m happy to say that for the first five volumes in, the team at kaboom!/BOOM! Studios have blown me away!
They nail the characters on all points, the dialogue, their mannerisms, and especially important for this series, the sizable supporting cast doesn’t get short-changed while centering on our gem-tastic quartet.
The bits with Steven and Lion in volumes 2 and 5 are especially touching/hilarious (for PEANUTS fans, think of the scenes with Lucy and Snoopy and you get an idea of what I mean).
I also love how they reference specific elements or episodes of the show without ailenating newcomers, but still reward long-time “Steventhusiasts” such as myself.
I’m also impressed how they use varying illustration styles throughout, often matching the tone of the story/vingette in each volume: Wispy and detailed for the warm fuzzy stuff, loose and super-stylized for the super-funny/quirky stuff, and something right in the middle when all the above are present in one story.
They all feel right and close in spirit to the art style in the series proper, but different enough so that it doesn’t have that generic feel like some comic adaptations of characters who aren’t native to the comics/graphic novel space.
Plus, I love the “Manga-Inspired” color spreads in-between the various stories in each volume. For those who LOVE the color spreads of “One Piece” and “Naruto” you’re in for a treat.
My only technical nitpick is that the speech bubbles can a bit hard to read, not so much the fonts they choose, but rather I think they can be a bit bigger to make for easier reading, but it’s a minor gripe for what is a stellar (so far) take on the world and characters.
Like Taurean, Dempsey and I are BIG “Steven Universe” fans, and we too were skeptical of how the comics would fare, but after Taurean read/vouched for them, D and I jumped in, and we agree,
they ROCK! The comics totally capture the heart of the show and run their own creative stroke through it to stellar efffect.
To get a little metaphorical, the characters in Steven’s “Universe” have a lot of paralells with my family.
No, we’re not a team of warriors weilding anicent magic, but the family dynamics of the Woyzeck Clan and Steven’s nontradtional family certainly have overlap.
(Langley Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Older Brother)
My brother Langley and I fight a lot, kind of like Amethysyt and Peral, only Langley’s not as goofy and isn’t quite as food crazy as me and S.B. are, and I used to be more uptight similar to Pearl, but I’ve lightened up in recent years.
(Dominic Woyzeck, Dempsey’s Dad)
My dad and I have differing personalites and tastes, but we both LOVE Steven Universe, and while we used to be distant, we’re as close as Steven and his dad, though mine’s a tad more relaible and as smart as he is kooky!
My favorite story was where Steven and his friend Connie are trying to raise money give Beach City a new library and how Pearl’s neatnik ways lead to hilarious results!
I also loved how Pearl and Connie had an exchange on how “realistic” a book character should be portrayed, Swinebert and I had such a debate once, thankfully I didn’t grill S.B. too much…(LOL!)
Taurean: A worthy companion series for new and diehard fans.
Swinebert: Hardcore Steven Universe must not miss this worthy companion adapatation.
Dempsey: Stven Universe enters the comics world without a hitch.
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Keep reading, keep doodling,
and be careful not to get a papercut!
Oh, almost forgot-
(Steven Universe Intro –
Cartoon Network on YouTube)
Hey, we couldn’t feature something
“Steven Universe” related without a sing-along session!