I know how to dress myself pretty well, have the ability to discern when someone I’m talking with is nowhere near as enthusiastic about something as I am, have abandoned petty loyalties to brands/characters/media in favor of those who produce quality media, and generally find myself capable of empathizing with most human beings.
But sports still haven’t won me over.
After working for three years at a comic shop owned by a huge soccer fan and following the careers of the fictional Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers and AFC Wimbly Womblys, I have a certain appreciation for the sport—particularly the league structure that causes quite a few Americans to be confused as to how a tie can be an interesting result—but I don’t even go out of my way for soccer. Basketball generally interests me less.
And yet here I am, reading an advance copy of Sam Bosma’s Fantasy Sports #1 from Nobrow Press and finding myself drawn into every aspect of the story… even the sports. What I find particularly intriguing is that if someone told me five years ago that I’d like a comic about basketball drawn in a manga-inspired style that reminds me of Osamu Tezuka and with a wizard school premise that feels very comfortable in its place in a post-Harry Potter world, I would think they were crazy.
But all of those things are true about Fantasy Sports #1, and I love it:
- Wiz-Kid, our young protagonist, is easy to identify with and breaks American stereotypes of both fantasy/adventure stories and sports stories (and whom I initially misgendered because of said stereotypes).
- Mug, the master to Wiz-Kid’s apprentice, plays the role of the lovably violent oaf near perfectly, and as we see Wiz-Kid grow into a better mage, I expect we’ll see Mug grow into a better human being.
- He of the Giant Steps, the three-eyed mummy guarding the tomb Mug and Wiz-Kid are raiding, looks as though he comes straight out of a horror tale yet also manages to fit in just right on a basketball court once he suits up.
- Bosma doesn’t just gloss over the killing of minions, and it feels like he’s got a long-game plan in place for how Wiz-Kid may eventually have to deal with something fantasy and adventure stories don’t often address: killing the nameless characters standing in the protagonist’s way.
- Despite not really enjoying watching basketball, the sport portions are still really exciting. Bosma’s use of color throughout the fight scene/basketball game help illustrate just how important the oft-overlooked art of coloring is to setting the tone for a comic.
- Bosma’s style feels manga-influenced in the best of ways. He gives every page the feeling that it can transcend genres and cultures in the same way some of those early English manga translations did, the same way many cultures are able to bond over sports despite their differences.
Bosma’s art benefits greatly from the oversized nature of the book, and I would hesitate to recommend anyone read this digitally unless it’s on a computer with a large screen, their e-reader of choice has guided view that blows up the panel size, or they have a 12”x9” tablet.
Fantasy Sports has the makings of a timeless classic that could introduce sports fans into fantasy stories and comics, introduce comics fans into sports, and help break stereotypes that teen magic stories/teen sports stories/comics in general are about teen boys.
That said, I do feel a little reluctant recommending Fantasy Sports #1 to readers unfamiliar with the impressive stable of books and the slightly higher price tag that often comes with Nobrow comics. Having read it, I think the comic is worth $19.95, especially with the beautiful oversized hardcover treatment, but the price feels like a hurdle worth mentioning.
Do me a favor and help Fantasy Sports catch on as the brilliant young coming of age tale it seems ready to be, Bosma deserves at least a handful of volumes to tell some more stories about Mug and Wiz-Kid, especially considering that a thick collected edition of the first few issues in paperback could certainly alleviate any worries over pricing.
Fantasy Sports #1 should be on sale this spring, and you can see a comprehensive preview at Robot6.
DAVID FAIRBANKS is Loser City’s resident poet and Creative Writing Editor. He doesn’t get many things right the first time but insists that this is why editors exist and why the English language features the prefix “re-.” You can find David twittering with alarming frequency at @bairfanx.