Stu Bear is the latest all ages graphic novel from Viper Comics. The novel is written by Jeff Bushell the screenwriter of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Drawn Together.
The novel focuses on Stu, possibly the laziest bear known to man… or bears. He shares none of the sense of mischief that the classic Yogi Bear had, just a desire to sleep and meet hot babes, something Yogi wasn't all that fussed with. What Stu does share with other classic bears, like Yogi and Winnie, is a love of food, specifically honey. In fact, he has the best nose for honey.
One year Stu asks his brother Al not to wake him up after hibernation. In unfortunate circumstances Stu gets his wish, as he's sealed in ice and snow for 10, 000 years, a personal record. When he's awakened things on Earth are rather different. Animals have evolved to take the place as the dominant species while humans have devolved, through their laziness, into sub-humans who say “dude” a lot. It's almost like Bill and Ted's Planet of the Apes. For all their advances in technology a devastating plague is ravaging this future Earth and honey, long thought extinct, is the only known cure. This sets up Stu as the potential savior of the whole planet due to his ability to sniff out honey like no other.
At its heart Stu Bear is a coming of age story where the lazy Stu must take some responsibility and help make things better. There's the usual moment where the hero chickens out only to be thrust back into the fire with renewed vigor when they find something worthwhile and meaningful to them to fight for or protect. It's a tried and tested format but a good one, especially for kids.
Stu's laziness and fish out of water position in the future make him a likable character. His flaws are evident; he knows what they are; and, eventually, he does the right thing. A lot of the comic’s humor comes from Stu's character, either through his talking about babes or something he does. The other characters, like Beth the zoologist, also play off him to get laughs. There weren't as many laughs as I was hoping, but perhaps that's because this is more of a kids' comic than an-all ages comic. There's also a bit of a message for readers in the story with the way the Earth has gone to the dogs (or bears) and how all that was natural in the world has been replaced by virtual reality. The book warns that if things don’t change future generations won’t be able to experience natural pleasures like honey or salmon.
The artwork is reminiscent of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon mixed with something like Rocko's Modern Life. It's cartoony, and it's colorful (the cast wears purple and green jumpsuits at one stage), and it suits the fun nature of the comic. Even though it has a cartoon style there is a lot of emotion in the faces of the characters which gives the dialogue extra meaning. I did find some of the character designs odd, however. Originally, I thought they were aliens and not evolved species of animal, while the future bears looked more like dogs. There also wasn’t anything that jumped out at you as a particularly amazing piece of artwork, but it was okay for the comic.
If there was a bear genre then Stu Bear probably throws out all of the conventions of that genre with its futuristic Planet of the Apes-esque setting. Older audiences will recognize the nods to various films and other influences, but for the most part this is really a comic that will appeal more to younger readers. Stu is a lovable, if lazy, character, and while the story is familiar it has a fresh setting.
This graphic novel is set for release sometime in September. Check the Viper Comics website for more details about its release.