Overview

Return of the Dapper Men

Review

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Return of the Dapper Men

Credits

  • Words: Jim McCann
  • Art: Janet Lee
  • Publisher: Archaia Comics
  • Price: $24.99
  • Release Date: Nov 17, 2010

Jim McCann and Janet Lee transcend the medium of comics and deliver an evergreen story about time, tolerance and destiny.

Return of the Dapper Men, an original graphic novel written by Jim McCann with art by Janet Lee, is a children’s fable that effectively speaks to multiple generations at once. Some will compare it to Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, which is a favorable, if almost an immeasurable level of praise. I, on the other hand, would comfortably compare this story to more current works of fantasy/fairy tale fiction. The first thing that comes to mind is the 1990 film Edward Scissorhands. In that film, Tim Burton crafted a modern fairy tale. It was a moral parable that illustrated the origins of snowfall in Florida.

Fairy tales and parables came about by creating an elaborate story, often staged around a moral lesson that would eventually explain some sort of constant in nature. The origins of fire, rain, music, etc., all have different mythical or mystical stories attached to them in different parts of the world. The nature and art of storytelling has been serving this purpose beyond entertainment for centuries. With Return of the Dapper Men, McCann and Lee boldly attempt to break down the concept of time and all of creation within the highly stylized and fully fleshed out world of Anorev. 

In Anorev, the children live underground and robots inhabit the unpopulated surface. There isn’t an adult in sight and without such guidance, no one remembers how this way of life came to be. Time has stopped in this static world, progress halted and the art of dreaming has withered and died, except for maybe two young ones, Ayden and Zoe. Ayden, a human boy, and Zoe, a speechless robot girl, have an unusual but familiar friendship. They share a courtly love of mutual respect that is tolerated by most on the surface and ridiculed by more underground. Neither have a safe place outside of one another’s company, which is a staple in these types of stories. They are misunderstood outsiders with more behind their eyes than just upholding the destructive status quo. 

Then one day, after years of being stagnant, a tick followed a tock and the entirety of Anorev started to move through the seconds. Suddenly, 314 Dapper Men in dapper suits and bright green bowler hats fall from the sky. They float down en masse, gather and stare upon the city and its residents. Then they disperse without a word and go about a mysterious business, save for one. This one Dapper Man engages our heroes and attempts to inspire them. A change must come to Anorev in order for it to survive. Will Ayden and Zoe have the ability or strength to fulfill their destinies?

What follows is an original tale with just enough classic children’s story tropes to remain familiar. One of the best qualities of Dapper Men is its refusal to talk down to the intended demographic. This is not the kind of story that spells out its lessons and meanings. There is a depth of character that is very mature underneath the whimsical and slightly steampunk aspects of the story. By mature, I don’t mean adult in nature but more nuanced and cultivated. In much of children’s fiction, the themes are pared down along with the reading level, almost implying that a young child of ten or eleven can’t comprehend anything more complex than “right or wrong.” McCann and Lee wisely challenge their readers, making the story more accessible to all audiences and securing an evergreen quality of timelessness. 

Family entertainment of quality and longevity possesses the distinct trait of being for everyone. I don’t mean an animated movie that uses sexual innuendo to appeal to the parents being dragged into the theatre, either. Strong stories of morality and perseverance in the face of ridicule and adversity are stories that can be related to by all ages, races, colors and creeds. Return of the Dapper Men taps into something instinctual and raw, while using some of the most visceral sequential art seen in a very long time.

It’s part children’s story, graphic novel, fairy tale, morality play, science fiction, fantasy, etc. This story becomes whatever the reader projects upon it. But, most importantly, whichever genre or style you see this falling into, no one can deny its beauty.  

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