As a kid, I felt a bit sorry for Wile E. Coyote. His continual use of outlandish inventions to accomplish what should be an achievable goal remains one of my favorite Looney Toons comedic bits. I used to wonder what would happen if the Coyote caught The Road Runner. Using a couple of convenient stand-ins to avoid licensing troubles, Brendan Hay and illustrator Justin Wagner teamed up on a great little graphic novel which seeks to answer that question.
In Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge!, lead character Rascal Raccoon thinks that he has been given a raw deal in life. He is tired of failure, and when he unexpectedly succeeds in killing his nemesis, Jumpin’ Jackalope, he suddenly finds himself asking what he is supposed to do with the rest of his life. Angry and bitter, he decides to have a day of reckoning with the “pen man” who created him. Cartoon style hilarity and adventure ensues.
Rascal Racoon’s Raging Revenge! works in large measure because Wagner got the cartoon feel of the characters right. They bend and flex in cartoon-like ways. They skid to a stop at times and run with cartoon-like strides. They emote correctly and are positioned in cartoon-like ways within the frame. Even the digital coloring works in the environment of a cartoon story.
The sturdy art works to the benefit of Hay’s smart script. There are some great laugh-out-loud moments and a few chuckles along the way as well. I love the irony (Did I use the word correctly?) in just how Jumpin’ gets killed. However, just because this book is about cartoon characters doesn’t mean that Hay doesn’t have something to say. Hay told me at Wordstock that he meant the book to be a bit of a metaphor about our frustrations in life. Without being preachy, Hay has an argument to make about blaming circumstances or others (God?) for our own choices and destiny. It’s the same kind of lesson you can learn about obsession and failure from the original rascal, Wile E. Coyote.
This book is a great read for anyone appreciates old cartoons and their tropes. It would also be a great Christmas gift for a kid who might not like to read but loves to watch old Looney Toons. It may provide a great way to transition them into reading books. Besides, you might just find yourself laughing right along with them.
So what does does Warner Brothers think about all the winking and the send-ups? They bought the movie rights and in May hired director Todd Strauss-Schulson to direct. Rascal Raccoon’s Raging Revenge! is available now from Oni Press.