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One Thing I Love Today! Moriarty Gets Hung Up On SEAWEED!

Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. I get a lot of e-mail here at the Labs from people asking me to read something or watch something or listen to something, and I try to fit as much of it as possible into my schedule because you never know when something great’s going to cross your desk without warning. But a lot of times, I can’t respond to people just because I’m backlogged or I know I won’t get to it or it’s not really my cup of tea, and I always regret having to say no. One thing that helps is when I have heard of something already. Doesn’t guarantee I’ll like it, but at least it’ll cut through the clutter if I recognize it. The other day, I was reading this story about a self-published graphic novel, and as I read it, I wanted to see more of the guy’s artwork. It looked promising from that one quick glimpse. Almost as soon as I clicked over to my e-mail, there was a letter waiting for me from Ben Balistreri. When he says self-published, he’s not kidding. This guy’s his own PR agent, editor, illustrator, publisher... he’s a one-man band. And he asked me if I would take a look at SEAWEED: THE CURE FOR MILDEW. Sometimes, it reeeeeeeeeeeeally pays to say “yes.” The book showed up as I was walking out the door to a screening, and I took it with me to open in the car. It’s huge... 12x15 inches. Hardcover. Printed on a gorgeous glossy slick paper. And I’ve gotta say... this guy is great. He’s a storyboard artist at Dreamworks now, but he’s an Emmy winner for his work on FOSTER’S HOME FOR IMAGINARY FRIENDS, and he’s worked on a ton of other shows over the years. This is a hell of a debut, and it’s guys like him who really impress me. Working in the superhero genre is the bread and butter of the comics industry, but I think it’s also akin to working for a studio... you do what they tell you. You can sometimes do great work in that system, but you’re working on someone else’s creations, and you’re making them the money. One of the reasons I love the work of Doug TenNapel so much is because I find it hard to categorize. He’s doing what he’s doing because that’s what he wants to read. Balistreri appears to be doing the same thing. I can’t imagine him describing this to someone unless he had the actual book available to show them. It’s the story of a pelican named Seaweed who captains a ship called The Salty Sugar with his friend and first mate, Poisson, a tuna. They end up entangled with a bat named Mildew who is searching for a legendary book that may feature a cure for death itself. It’s a stunningly designed book, looking more like an animated feature than a simple “comic,” and the writing is sly and surreal. My favorite part of the book features a trip to speak to The Dunder Chief and the bizarre creatures he rules, the Dunders. When you read through the 24 pages of bonus material in the book that trace the development of the ideas and the imagery, you’ll learn where the name “the Dunder Chief” comes from, and it just makes a very funny sequence even funnier. It’s relatively short, and it ends on a cliffhanger, but that just makes me excited to see what Balistreri’s going to do to top this accomplishment. I hope he’s able to finish the next one quickly even as he works on HOW TO TRAIN A DRAGON, but I’m sure it’ll be worth whatever wait I have to endure. You can order the book directly from Ben’s blog, and I would assume you’ll be able to find it at specialty comic shops as well.

Here’s a quick sample of what you can expect, although it barely scratches the surface. I know that since it arrived, it’s become Toshi’s favorite book in the house, and he insists on looking through it before bed each night now. He spends a half-hour with me going through it very slowly, and even though he can’t read any of the dialogue, he’s made up his own voices for each of the characters, and we trade back and forth, making each other laugh with our impressions of chameleons and frogs and pelican pirates. It’s one of those things that really is as much fun for an adult reader as it is for children, and that’s rare enough that it’s worth picking up.

Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:23 a.m. CST


    by mhennessey7


  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:25 a.m. CST

    I don't think 'sorry' is good enough.

    by palimpsest

    Do you?

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:38 a.m. CST

    new talent

    by deanbarry

    is always good to see. will keep an eye out. but only one. i need the other for reading these wacky talkbacks. mhennessey7...hope it's out of your system.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:40 a.m. CST

    Thanks Mori -- very cool indeed!

    by Big Dumb Ape

    This is the kind of stuff I love to see covered. The stuff that's geeky and fun and cool, but might otherwise have gone unnoticed or passed over because you get bombarded by the press for something far more mainstream and with a bigger budget behind it like SPIDER-MAN Super Deluxo Variant 45: The Kree-Skrull War Time Out.<p>Thanks for giving this a spotlight, Mori. I might actually order this since it looks pretty damn cool. And glad to hear Toshi loves it that much. When something like that touches a kid, it's a special kind of magic.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:51 a.m. CST

    very cool sounding

    by Bloo

    thanks Mori for the heads up, evenif you had posted that bit of artwork I'd be ordering this, why...FOSTER'S HOME, as soon as you said that I was sold, then you post that art work and i was like a horny 87 y/o man at the Bunny Rnach, just handing out money for this, thanks again

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 3:56 a.m. CST


    by caruso_stalker217

    I thought you WERE a horny 87 year old man! This just shatters my entire universe...

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 4:10 a.m. CST

    The WORST thing about Superhero comics is the editors

    by IndustryKiller!

    If what is going on at Marvel is any indication they are vile, money grubbing, whores of Babylon. Sounds harsh, but int he entire pop culture spectrum, second only to maybe pop music, Marvel comics is committing the biggest atrocities. Every major character that isnt Ed Brubaker Captain America is just fucking garbage. The perplexing thing is even talented writers are going down with the ship, so its gotta be the editors, who put together Civil War, the worst crossover in comic book history and One more Day, literally the worst Spider Man story ever. Guys like the writer of Seaweed are better off without them.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST

    I remember hearing about this

    by ironic_name

    wanna get!

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 4:39 a.m. CST

    Hey drew, what d'you and/or harry think about a webcomic?

    by ironic_name

    images hosted elsewhere, but a weekly comic section you could check?

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 5:16 a.m. CST

    Well up for this

    by belasco_house

    Looks like my kinda graphic novel, I'm gonna order, yay

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 5:18 a.m. CST

    Nice one, thanks Mori

    by Aloy

    Just ordered my copy. Wonder how long the follow up will be if this one took years? Hopefully it's not the story just the package that needed time.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 6:18 a.m. CST


    by DerLanghaarige

    50% sea, 50% weed.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 7:36 a.m. CST

    This looks great.

    by Knuckleduster

    Animated movie on the way? Could be a cool way of making kids appreciate good old-fashioned cell animation again.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 7:47 a.m. CST

    Looks great!

    by Sparhawk38

    Great article. Love it.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 11:09 a.m. CST


    by BDT

    I think it is the wave of the future for artists in any field to self-produce and admirable when people with talent have the guts to do it. I am grateful when someone like Drew, gets a chance to bring that talent into the public eye. So much of this is a gamble, a risk and a leap of faith and it is just thrilling it comes together successfully.

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 5:42 p.m. CST

    why wont it

    by werewolfbynight


  • Sept. 1, 2008, 7:21 p.m. CST

    i ate some seaweed today!

    by rben

    weird coinkedink. i went to my new favorite asian buffett (most hit or miss but this place has quite the smorcasbord of sushi selections. i saw something they called seaweed, very fine (almost like angel hair but dark green). tasted slightly sweet. didn't look like the kinda seaweed i've seen at the beach (with the bubbles and all) but tasted pretty good. not ready to do the andrew zimmern type thing yet. i've also been gorging on eps of scrubs on comedy central, ST:TNG on skiffy and No Reservations on Travel Channel. What does any of this have to do with this piece. The name Seaweed! (yea i had a boring ass long weekend.) There's a curious lack of ass here in the suburbs...(the blandness that is Georgia!)

  • Sept. 1, 2008, 7:23 p.m. CST

    oh, and I include Dragon*Con in that too....

    by rben

    that and the decatur book fair is about it here in georgia every labor day....snore...

  • Sept. 2, 2008, 12:05 a.m. CST

    Has Ragweed already been optioned?

    by Uncle Stan