Off the Cape: James Kochalka’s "Dragon Puncher"

By | November 16th, 2010
Posted in Columns | % Comments

This week on Off the Cape, I have a look at James Kochalka’s new release for Top Shelf Productions, “Dragon Puncher.” This August release is a short but sweet story, and one with a very entertaining plot for all ages. Solicit!

Meet the Dragon Puncher, a cute but ruthless kitty in an armored battle suit, dedicated to defeating dangerous dragons wherever they may be. The Dragon Puncher and his would-be sidekick Spoony-E (a fuzzy little fellow armed with a wooden spoon) confront a gigantic, drooling dragon and have a ridiculous, hilarious brawl.

Check out my thoughts of this new release after the jump.

Not all books on Off the Cape can be hyper serious, and James Kochalka’s “Dragon Puncher” isn’t serious by any means. This children’s book is a short but hugely imaginative story, featuring an expressive and fun artistic style, a plot designed to entertain, and some fantastic and innovative choices when it comes to the art.

Incredibly enough, Kochalka has never been a creator I’ve pursued work from, but this book shows a guy with a ton of talent and an original voice. One of my favorite things in this book is the combination of fairly standard art (with Kochalka’s penchant for flair thrown in) with photography to give this book a really fresh look. The photography isn’t just used for backgrounds – Kochalka actually used real faces (namely his son, his cat and his own) for the faces of the three main characters, and it’s extremely fun for you as a reader to imagine what Kochalka needed to do to draw out the faces he earns from his son and his cat (they are pitch perfect in EVERY scene). It’s one of my favorite parts of the book to be honest.

The story is adorably simple, as our hero – Dragon Puncher – is off to find a dragon to punch when he meets Spoony-E (a sidekick that seems inspired by Max from Where the Wild Things Are), a child-like creature obsessed with the power of his wooden spoon. Entertaining banter and dragon punching ensues, and that is that. Kochalka mines this simple idea and makes readers (both young and old) a ton of fun thanks to his expressive style and madcap ideas.

Everything about this book feels like something a kid came up with but an incredibly talented artist created. I guess that kind of fits Kochalka’s style. He’s the type who can create a book called “Dragon Puncher” in which very little actual dragon punching occurs, but still make it very fun across all demographics. If you have kids and are a comic fan, this is a great book for you. Even if you don’t, I recommend it, as it’s still fun to marvel at Kochalka’s imagination come to life on the page.

//TAGS | Off the Cape

David Harper


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