Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Midnite #1

Midnite #1, November 1986, Blackthorne Publishing
by Milton Knight
editor: John Stephenson

Blogger's note: Entry for Monday, January 29, 2008.

If raccoons have it tough with their inherently-masked criminal stereotype, skunks got it worse with their repulsive social inadequacies. They stink. Further, their universal ambassador, Pepe Le Pew, is really nothing more than a womanizing, prejudiced sleazeball. I know, I know -- womanizing you understand, but prejudiced? Well, am I the only that noticed his sudden lust for that poor Penelope Pussycat only after her back was accidentally striped with white paint? Makes you wonder, would Pepe even give her a second glance if he really saw her as just a cat? Indeed, his "ambassadorship" is purely colloquial in this context, but Pepe certainly acts with all of the scrutiny of a slimy politician.

Look no further than our potentially first First Husband to catch my drift.

Fortunately, Midnite the rebel skunk don't take gruff from nobody! In her otherwise perfect cartoon world, Midnite's friends at Mrs. O'Leary's Home for O'Ladies have been threatened by the corrupt pig mayor to vacate their property and make way for a new nuclear power plant or else! Midnite and her pals kick the mayor and his minions out of the O'Ladies' home, inspiring the swine to hatch a plot of deceptive niceness, but our skunk heroine turns the tables on that evil scheme, too! While the violence is as consequence-free as a Wile E. Coyote dive into an Arizona canyon, Knight's story-telling is also as fast-paced and entertaining, and, needless to say, I think the mayor got the message.

The most interesting element of Midnite #1 is its art style. Knight, whose credentials apparently include National Lampoon, Cracked, and Heavy Metal, mimics a style tangibly reminiscent of early Disney or Warner Brothers animation. Many of his characters looked ripped right out of a "Silly Symphany," and animation aficionados might half-expect a cameo from Oswald the Rabbit or Betty Boop somewhere in his detail-oriented backgrounds. Since I love those old, muddied cartoon classics, Knight's page layouts were a joy to behold, but this style truly best benefits from the visual and sound effects often associated with it on the big screen. Further, though this issue's bright, energetic cover might elicit a younger reader's attention, I don't know I could recommend Midnite to kids, because the pig-mayor's Animal Farm-like corruption boasts a few adult-oriented undertones, mainly the blatant humping of money sacks. I like cash as much as the next elected swine, but I can't say the sight of George Washington brings out the "Ah-ooga!" in me.

So, I'm really of two minds about Midnite #1. In one respect, I think the exercise in classic cartoon illustration is a refreshing look back at the genre's past, but I don't know if a series like this would hold a place on today's new release stands. The likes of Herobear and the Kid tried a similar animation-to-comics approach, with a few other series on its heels, but I think that niche reached its zenith and settled back into the obscurity of its multimedia pop culture roots. Indeed, even when it comes to skunks, things just aren't always so black and white.

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