Captain Long Ears: kids' comic is part Calvin and Hobbes, part Tekkonkinkreet

Diana Thung's kids' graphic novel Captain Long Ears reads like the most bittersweet Calvin and Hobbes strips, filtered through Taiyo Matsumoto's Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White.

Captain Long Ears is a young boy (AKA "Michael") who pals around with a stuffed gorilla called Captain Jam. The two of them lead a rich, imaginary life as a pair of space ninjas who are traversing the galaxy in search of Captain Big Nose, who, we come to understand, is Michael's absent father.

Michael's mother is an overworked single parent, and she doesn't even notice when Michael sneaks out to the local circus, where he meets a maddened baby elephant who was captured by poachers. The elephant — "Little Big Nose" — quickly becomes part of Michael's fantasy life, and Captain Long Ears and Captain Jam decide that they will rescue him so that he can lead them to Captain Big Nose. Thus begins a sad and exciting adventure, as heartbreak and imagination vie with one another for the heart of a likable, clever kid.

Thung unapologetically mashes up Watterson and Matsumoto — Michael is clearly Spaceman Spiff meets White from Black and White — and the effect is really tremendous. Michael is one of the most likable and endangered kids' comic heroes in the canon; you root for him even as you worry about him, and all the while, you're laughing with him and his clever, subversive fantasy life.

Captain Long Ears