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Dark Horse’s CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST: A Review

Casper the Friendly GhostI didn’t grow up reading Harvey comics. Unfortunately for me, WEB OF SPIDER-MAN and WHAT IF? were my drinks of choice before moving on to the harder stuff like SANDMAN, CEREBUS and SHADE THE CHANGING MAN. Sure, I had seen a RICHIE RICH comic or two. Maybe even a BABY HUEY. I can’t say they interested me that much. The things I looked for in comics, super powers and/or ultra-violence, were non-existent in the worlds of Wendy the Witch and Hot Stuff.
I still enjoy a good violent super-hero comic (I love titles like Warren Ellis’ BLACK SUMMER and Garth Ennis’ THE BOYS) but my current favorite comics publications are reprint books. Not just trade paperbacks, but archival reprints of classic comics. Whether it’s Fantagraphics output of Krazy Kat, Peanuts and Popeye books or the current slew of Jack Kirby reprints; omnibi and archives rule my world. So it was with great excitement and not even a smidgeon of nostalgia that I cracked open the first book in Dark Horse’s new Harvey Comics Classics line, CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST.

It’s immediately apparent that the people at Dark Horse (and specifically editor Leslie Cabarga) have produced a book for comics enthusiasts. The material, the majority of which is in black and white, is all reproduced from original plates and artwork. The results are amazing. (There are a few sections in color, but they mostly serve as a reminder of how beautifully rendered and crisp the rest of the book is.) Most of the 100 stories in this collection were drawn by Paramount animators and it shows. Casper seems to be in constant motion. For adults, the earlier stories can get a little dull (Casper scares someone nice, then scares someone mean, then the nice person likes him. Rinse. Repeat.) but the artwork and presentation never disappoints. The thing is, as much as it appeals to comics nerds like me, CASPER is ultimately most successful as a children’s book. The staggering amount of material (479 pages) and low price point ($19.95) make it a great deal for parents and kids will love the stories of Casper, Spooky, Wendy and the Ghostly Trio.
In creating a book that appeals to children and adults, I think Dark Horse has hit a home run. If the level of quality stays consistent, Dark Horse’s Harvey Comics Classic line could easily become the gold standard for reprint comics.

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