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Two to three times a week for more than a decade, Jeffrey Babbitt made the trip from his home in Brooklyn to Forbidden Planet in Manhattan to buy comics or to simply talk with the staff. But then last Wednesday, while on his regular pilgrimage, the 62-year-old retired train conductor was attacked in Union Square, just blocks from the store, and struck his head on the pavement. Babbitt was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center, where The New York Times reports he was eventually declared brain dead and passed away Monday morning.
According to the newspaper, the attack was apparently random, from an assailant who proclaimed he would “punch the first white man I see.” Police arrested 40-year-old Lashawn Marten, who allegedly also struck two men who tried to help Babbitt. Marten was charged with three counts of assault; in the wake of Babbitt’s death, those will most likely be upgraded.
The longtime comics fan, who cared for his 94-year-old mother Lucille, was by all accounts the kind of person everyone liked. Forbidden Planet manager Jeff Ayers described Babbitt to the newspaper as “just a really, really, really sweet guy.” He visited Babbitt at the hospital, where Lucille sat part of the time at her son’s bedside.
The store’s employees are said to be deeply affected by Babbitt’s death, and are now worried about the welfare of his mother. They plan to establish a fund to help with her care.
The Forbidden Planet blog is one of my favorite comics blogs, but because it’s UK-based, sometimes I read a glowing review of a book I can’t get over here in the States. (This is, of course, a familiar problem for me.) So I saw Richard Bruton’s review of Dave Morris and Leo Hartas’s Mirabilis, thought “That looks nice,” saw that it was part of The DFC, a short-lived experiment in children’s comics, and was about to move on. But something made me click the link to the Mirabilis home page, and I’m glad I did.
Mirabilis is available for the iPad, which means even Yanks like me can read it, and I highly recommend it. It’s a slightly grown-up version of the classic British children’s story, with a standup guy stumbling into a supernatural situation and winding up on a quest with his two pals (one of whom starts out as an enemy). I’m tempted to say “If you like Harry Potter, you’ll like this,” but that’s a bit facile. I liked the world of the earlier Harry Potter books, and I like the world of this comic. The figures are actually a bit stiff, but I didn’t really notice because of the richness of detail, the imaginative supernatural world, and the beautiful color. The writing is first-rate and quirky in the way the British do best.
The iPad app itself is beautifully designed. It sets the mood of the story and organizes the single issues of the comic (the first trade volume comprises eight issues). The first issue is free, the second is 99 cents, and subsequent issues are $1.99, which is an interesting pricing structure. It makes it relatively inexpensive to get started with the story. More issues will be added to the app as the trades are published, and the entire story is four volumes (32 issues) long. That could run to money, but it’s cheaper than import fees…