Falling Rock National Park is the perfect gateway comic. It is not too harsh. there is no spandex to be found. It features archetypal comic strip characters but in more comic book-length stories. And it is in an easy to manage format. What was previously a standard comic strip-style book featuring characters who live in a fictional national park is now a more traditional comic book. But, instead of being a detriment, the new format may actually serve to bring in new readers to the comic in particular and the medium in general.
Falling Rock National Park is a fictional national park filled with a bevy of archetypal characters with distinct personalities and lovable quirks. Ernesto is the default main character. He is a wide-eyed character who serves as the moral compass of the book. He is the one who initiates the adventures and keeps everyone upbeat. Oh yeah, he also happens to be a lizard. Carver is the sardonic owl who likes to rain on everyone’s parade. Ranger Dee is the perky park ranger who is there to offer helpful hints and pertinent information. She seems completely unconcerned that lizards, owls, and other animals are walking around conversing.
This first issue includes a few stories which serves to introduce readers to the characters, world, and general humor of the book. The stories last six-ish pages which is plenty to give the reader a taste of the characters and a satisfying story without making non-comics readers buy into a full 24 page story.
There is a wonderful Calvin and Hobbes moment in Welcome to Falling Rock where the characters vist the “Uncanny Valley.” It is reminiscent of the Calvin strips where Watterson would use a totally differernt style to illustrate the “grown up” world of romance and sci-fi heroics. As the Falling Rock characters descend into theUncanny Valley, they are transformed from their anthropomorphic design to something more akin to their “real” counterparts (thanks to guest artist Reid Psaltis).
For a person new to the comic book format, Falling Rock is the perfect introduction. It includes characters who are familiar to newspaper comic readers, but it is now in a comic book format which closer aligns to what is found in comic shops. Previously Falling Rock was published as a webcomic, with an annual collection of “best of” strips. However the oversized format may have been a barrier to readers. It was too big to be comfortable for comic book readers, and not “bookish” enough to be comfortable for comic-strip readers. But now the format works for both.
For people who already enjoy comics in all their variety and format, Falling Rock National Park should be a welcome addition to your comic reading habits.
So why are you not buying this?
For those of you planning on attending this weekend’s Stumptown Comics Fest, Falling Rock Creator Josh Shalek will be on hand with plenty of copies of the first issue. In addition, he will have copies of the older collections as well. You can find him here (along with several other awesome people):
For those of you unable to make it to this year’s fest, you can order directly from Josh, who will be happy to ship the comics directly to your doorstep. whatever you do, make sure that a visit to Falling Rock National Park is in your future!