Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Cursed Pirate Girl #1-2
Cursed Pirate Girl #1-2
Written and Illustrated by Jeremy Bastian
Olympian Publishing; $4.95 each
On the back cover of Cursed Pirate Girl #1, Mike Mignola calls Jeremy Bastian a genius and declares, “I almost never see work this original.” If pirates and Bastian’s whimsical and detailed style aren’t enough to make you curious, praise from Mike Mignola – who knows a thing or two about originality – concerning the book’s uniqueness ought to. I mean, that’s like hearing David Petersen call it “stuff that makes other artists jealous and comic readers drool.” Oh, wait. That’s on the back cover too.
I promise I’ll get to the book itself in a second, but there’s another remarkable quote on the back of the second issue. Painter Gail Potocki calls the series, “our generation’s Alice in Wonderland.” Which is interesting because one of the first things you notice when you open it is the influence of classic Alice illustrator John Tenniel with his opulent linework and exaggerated body types. Another way of describing Bastian’s style might be, “Jeff Smith as inked by Gary Gianni.”
But there’s much more to Potocki’s Alice comparison than just the art. Lewis Carroll’s stories were joyous celebrations of childhood and imagination. And while Bastian’s book isn’t as nonsensical as Carroll’s, there’s certainly that sense that anything can happen. And often will.
The first issue opens not with the Cursed Pirate Girl herself, but with the small daughter of the governor of Jamaica. Young Miss Apollonia follows her father around Port Elisabeth as he and his sinister henchman Mr. Six rough up daddy’s shady business associates. While waiting on the balcony of a tavern, Apollonia notices an older girl (maybe nine- or ten-years-old; Apollonia looks to be about five or six) fighting with some rough-looking boys on the beach below. Cursed Pirate Girl easily defeats them and – once the girls have had a chance to talk – inspires Apollonia with tales of her lost pirate father.
Unfortunately, Apollonia takes her new attitude to her birthday party, which just so happens to be attended by a visiting prince. Disaster and hilarity ensue, but Daddy isn’t much pleased. He not only punishes Apollonia; he also puts a hit out on CPG.
How that plays out I’ll leave for you to discover, but hopefully it’s not too much of a spoiler to reveal that CPG makes it to the second issue where her search for her father kicks off. The first issue was more or less Apollonia’s story, while the second focuses on the title character. Bastian doesn’t ignore Apollonia thanks to an interlude and notes like, “Oh no! Now what will happen to Little Apollonia?” scattered around in the illustrations. But the second issue is devoted to CPG’s adventure, which does get very Carroll-like. Accompanied by a black parrot named Pepper Dice, CPG tries to find the mythical Omerta Seas where her father is supposed to captain his feared pirate ship. She believes that once she finds him, her curse will end.
She and Pepper Dice catch a magic fish, meet a pair of squabbling knights in swordfish-armor, fight a giant octopus, and get adopted by an adorable sea-puppy. Where Bastian and Carroll part ways though is that Bastian’s much more concerned about plot than Carroll was. Whereas Alice’s encounters in Wonderland were very episodic, CPG’s all serve a purpose by helping to move her closer to her goal. I guess in that way it’s more like an undersea Wizard of Oz, only CPG is way more badass than either Alice or Dorothy.
Five out of five impressionable little girls.