Regular Show, as a cartoon, is a strange kind of beast. It’s a deeply personal cartoon with a very broad, surreal style. It’s very kid friendly and colorful, but the series creator J.G. Quintel also cites influence from clearly mature fare such as The Mighty Boosh and The Office. Surreal, dark-toned cartoons have actually come back in vogue and this one is one of the most recent, but it carves out it’s own space and has it’s own voice. But can the tale of a blue jay and raccoon working menial labor in a park in their early 20s still ring true in comic book form as well as it does in cartoon form? The short answer is: yes. The long answer is: yes, and thankfully it has some very solid writing to back up the premise.
The book opens with Mordecai, the blue jay, and Rigby, the raccoon doing their usual job of “whatever is hardest to screw up” for their boss Benson, my favorite living gumball machine in popular media since the immortal Tom Servo graced us. In this case, their job is at a folk music concert and when their envy of a friend, with the awesome job of getting the band water, overtakes them, they inadvertently challenge the ever-ready, ever rowdy Muscle Man to start a mosh pit in the incredibly laid-back setting. Things do not go well, to say the least.
If what I’ve just described sounds like nonsense, that’s by design, but actually reading the book, it becomes clear that they didn’t just throw darts at a board and toss whatever they felt like into the issue. The book matches the tone and style of the show perfectly: a surreal sitcom where almost literally nothing makes complete sense, but nothing happens at random. That’s an important distinction because, despite how absurd everything is, there’s a very clear A-B-C narrative that’s important to sustain, lest the book descend into pure and total chaos.
This all would have been enough to stand on its own for a little while out of sheer absurdity, but Regular Show is on its fourth TV season and there’s a reason for that: it has very witty writing and a whole lot of heart, and the comic is no different. K.C. Green handles the wordsmithing, and he’s just a perfect match. If you follow him on any form of social media, or read his webcomics Gunshow or Horribleville, it quickly becomes apparent that he was already prepared, and enthused, to take on a project like this one. Allison Strejlau handles art, evoking the style of the cartoon, most especially the fluidity, with proper aplomb while also bringing her own style to it, making the book worth checking out if you want a similar, yet different, aesthetic to the cartoon. There’s even a brief, very amusing, backup story written by Kevin Church and drawn by Coleman Engle that tells a stand-alone, self-contained tale. Both the writing and especially the art are different enough to make this a neat bonus. This book evokes the cartoon and that’s one of the best compliments a comic adaptation can receive.
The comic gets a LITTLE referencey, with an almost direct How I Met Your Mother reference of “CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!” thrown in at one point. The comic is also VERY similar to an episode in which Mordecai and Rigby have to set up chairs for a children’s birthday, only to unexpectedly and accidentally set loose a homicidal, 8-bit demon. I know how bizarre it sounds that there could be anything SIMILAR to that concept, but here we are. The issue is left on a cliffhanger, so there’s plenty of room to differentiate it from the episode, but as it stands now, they are quite similar.
Regular Show Issue 1 is great, all-ages fun in the exact same vein as Tiny Titans or Adventure Time: excellent fun for kids while being clever enough to hook adults. Whether you’re a fan of the show or want to see what it’s all about, this is a great place to start and a strong opening from a creative team who clearly “get it” in terms of what the cartoon is about. While this particular issue feels a little derivative (again, it feels very strange to write that about a comic that is SO UTTERLY STRANGE), I definitely think there’s enough of their own voices to take the story in completely different directions from the show. The comic format also allows them to tell longer-form stories than the show’s 10-minute runtime, so I’m very interested in seeing what a longer term Regular Show looks like. Oh and there’s a variant cover that takes a “realistic” look at the two main characters, a raccoon and a blue jay, driving a golf cart that is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen.