Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, opened twice monthly to champion a book that we adore. This week Arpad recommends the trade paperback edition of ‘Criminy’, available September 19 from Dark Horse Books.


Cover to ‘Criminy’ TPB. Art by Roger Langridge/Dark Horse Books

By Arpad Okay. The Criminy family, placed in peril, grows, suffers, and triumphs. Their homeland is invaded. They are imprisoned. Their escape is from the frying pan into the fire: a winged ark, a living island, a carnival heaven. They make friends of old men, dogs, and spider monsters. Enemies with doodle bugs and cat thugs, skeletons and double-mouthed sharks.

The Criminys, you see, are cartoons.

The ordeals in this weird and wonderful book are timeless, but the look is ripped straight from the matinees of the 1940s. The Criminy clan, Daggum, Ditto, Nadda, Bitt, and Bobb, are dogs, aren’t they? They’re cousins of Mickey Mouse or Felix the Cat, white faces on black heads, shiny noses, inkdrop ears, gloved hands. Simple clothes in stripes and dots. Inspired by Carl Barks, by Floyd Gottfredson, with a heavy dose of Beano, of Dennis the Menace’s Gnasher (bent baby of the Ub Iwerks aesthetic).

Roger Langridge nails it with confident linework that falls into a retro niche somewhere between cartoony angles and the uninterrupted smoothness of bandes dessinées. Criminy has texture and crosshatching, bricks and seafoam, but the little details are sparse and always in service to the bold strokes of the book’s many lively characters.

The colors are also subdued. Daggum and co. are black, white, and red, but Criminy does its best to avoid primary colors. This isn’t a circus, it isn’t vaudeville. It’s a sea story, and Langridge applies paint in the flavors of Tropical Skittles.

When Roger Langridge and Ryan Ferrier put Criminy together, they did it with a deep love for yesteryear and an eye towards tomorrow. The aesthetic is well-informed, but it avoids the racist underpinnings of ragtime cartoon looks. Criminy forges its own path. Everybody is zoo animals or domestic pets, but depicted in a variety of ways—a whole world’s worth—and none of them a throwback to problematic material that bogs down retro revamps that are straight rips of the Fleischer era.

However, there are a boatload of agreeable references that anchor Criminy to the vibe it pays homage to. The fight cloud of disembodied hands and feet. Eminata of niddles and plewds. Zoot suits and patches, fish skeletons and cutlasses, square teeth and the lack of them. Horace Horsecollar, Pete, and Popeye. The houses, vehicles, and even the cave prison on the Isle of Brunswick all have that look. Make no mistake, this book is made by and for anachronist aficionados. It’s just done right.

Which is to say the imagination within Criminy is unbridled. The captain of the flying, diving vacuum boat is a tentacled dragon with a fiddlehead face. “He ain’t even real!” exclaims a panicked elephant. A crying buffalo arachnid of immense size turns ne’er-do-wells into fuel for a stardust volcano. The lightly psychedelic never breaks the retro mold, but the freedom employed in shifting of scenarios that befall the Criminys is refreshingly unique.

Criminy takes the impulse to twist a cartoon world into darkness, and indulges the inspired while avoiding the insipid. The terrors, monsters, the doom, it keeps within the candy shell. If there’s real darkness in the book, it isn’t a heavy lean on the irony of sweet scary, it’s lines of stress and worry in the face of a child, their parents. Darkness is the loss of dreams.

The Criminys are the harbingers of hope. They are the breaker of chains.

Bringing a cartoon sense of right and wrong and camaraderie into a world with pirates, bullies, and injustice allows for amazing things to happen. Economic responsibility and reparations. Universal healthcare. Dismantling gentrification. I know, right? Those who don’t care to look are made to see in Criminy.

Criminy is about second chances. Be you cat, dog, rat, bug, skeleton, fish, or whatever the heck a Criminy actually is, you can live a life that is real and blessed as long as you strive for a better world. Pass those blessings along and the tree will continue to bear fruit. That’s all, folks.

Dark Horse Books/$12.99

Written by Ryan Ferrier and Roger Langridge.

Art by Roger Langridge.

Lettered by Roger Langridge.

‘Criminy’ TPB hits stores Wednesday, September 19.


Enjoy this ten-page preview of ‘Criminy’ TPB, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!
More Required Reading…

‘Dork’ an essential collection of sunshine, pop culture, sex and bloody revenge

‘A Study in Emerald ‘ a brilliant fusion of the Cthulhu mythos and Doyle’s cold logic

Locatelli-Kournwsky’s ‘Persephone’ a unique, refreshingly nouveau fantasy epic