Heroes & Villains: Archaia’s ‘Bear’

This week we’re going to start off with something fun and heartwarming because reality has been too real these past few days and I desperately need comics to take me away from all this.

Ben Queen (W)
Joe Todd-Stanton (A)

Right, I’m going to hit you with the blurb right out of the gate:

Bear is a guide dog for the blind, and he would do anything for his best friend and owner, Patrick. But when Bear suddenly loses his own vision, he worries that he has lost his purpose! Determined to protect Patrick at all costs, Bear sets out on a quest to regain his eyesight. Along the way, Bear will learn to tap into his other senses and begin to see the world from a new perspective that is at times more rich and colorful than the world he’s always known. Writer Ben Queen (Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 and Cars 3) draws inspiration from real-life stories of how memory can influence how we recall our own surroundings, and artist Joe Todd-Stanton (A Mouse Called Julian) lovingly renders an unforgettable story of one dog’s grand adventure from the wooded countryside to the heart of Manhattan where he encounters new friends and discovers his true calling.

I mentioned above the term “heartwarming” and Bear is decidedly so. I was not surprised to see Disney/Pixar among Queen’s credentials because a writer of that calibre clearly has heartwarming down to a science. Not just, “oh, I got my bachelors of science degree” this is a writer who has multiple PhDs in various fields of study under the umbrella of heartwarming. That Extra gum commercial that makes me cry is the work of a rank amateur when it’s compared to what’s going to happen when Queen comes gunning for you.

When working in the medium of heartwarming there’s a very real danger of crossing the line into schmaltz. My mother watches a lot of Hallmark movies which are akin to getting your schmaltz Ph.D. from a shady for-profit college you found linked on Twitter. Maybe it was the 90’s when it became uncool to like things that are nice, I’m not sure, but liking things that are nice desperately needs to make a comeback. This is a book I would give my mother after telling her to turn off Christmas Engagement in Vermont 2. It’s such a legitimately nice story that can be enjoyed by anyone.

The themes of purpose and self-worth that are present throughout the book really resonated with me. Bear’s struggle to not be defined by his life’s work is something we’ve all probably grappled with from time to time and seeing a dog go through it somehow makes it easier to digest.

Todd-Stanton’s artwork is simply fantastic. Since Bear loses his vision early on in the book the illustrations that are presented from his perspective often shift based on Bear’s imagination of what he’s experiencing. For a lesser artist, this could have devolved into a chaotic mess but I was never once lost while reading the book and the illustrations flow seamlessly into each other. There are some great sketches in the back of the book that put the perception and reality illustrations side by side that serve to detail the narrative continuity between the two.

So there it is, Bear was a nice book that’s waiting for you to love it and I cannot wait to add it to my shelf.

Do Your Research

Recently, I decided to go and get my flu shot so I’m already psychosomatically feeling like I have the flu. It’s a necessary evil that I participate in on an annual basis because everyone knows that the Bill Gates designed microchips that are contained within the vaccine degrade after a year so you HAVE to re-up. If you don’t the government won’t be able to track you anymore and you have to make sure you’re trackable so you get set to one of the good FEMA camps.

(It occurs to me that my very Canadian editor may not interpret this as satire and that I’m totally joking around…OR AM I?)

But I digress. I was on my way home from getting the above-mentioned shot and I was on a road that intersected with 23 Mile Road. For anyone that’s not familiar with the roads in southeastern Michigan, “Mile” roads run east-west and are spaced out at intervals of one mile. Very clever, I know. The Eminem documentary 8 Mile is named after the road that forms the city limit of Detroit.

Now that I’ve provided all the necessary context, I sat at a stoplight on 23 Mile Road…pretty far from Detroit so of course, it was the perfect spot for a group of presidential boosters to have a little party with banners about “building the wall” and “four more years, no more bullshit” (that one cracked me up because it correctly implies that the last four years HAVE been bullshit). Since it was a mild September day, I had my sunroof open and was privy to what was being yelled through their megaphones (I know), one particular gentleman yelled “Slow Joe wants to take away your cars! Do your research!

Ah, the old “do your research” claim…hello, old friend. Now, this man on the corner with the bullhorn could be a man of letters, a tenured professor of law or even psychology at the “Harvard of the Midwest” the University of Michigan (Go Blue) and could have spent literal years studying American history or who am I kidding he probably just typed something into Google that supported his already narrow worldview.

In case you haven’t noticed, Google is like a Magic 8-Ball but for racism, bigotry, and other idiocy. Go ahead and type in “Does George Soros control the media?” into the all-knowing Google, I’ll wait. “Signs point to Yes” is what you’re going to get.

So next time someone says to “do your research” do your fucking research. Don’t just google something or get it off a Facebook article, dig a little deeper. Show a modicum of critical thought and ask where this is coming from and how you can verify it. We’re living in some weird post-truth dystopian nightmare where getting out of something is as easy as saying that it never happened. I sincerely wish most of the last four years never happened, but no amount of me claiming it didn’t won’t obfuscate the actual truth.

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