“Sunny days, sweepin’ the clouds away” is a phrase every American child has heard since 1969, when producer Joan Ganz Cooney and psychologist Lloyd Morrisett’s Children’s Television Workshop first aired their creation, “Sesame Street” starring Jim Henson’s Muppets and the genius of the man himself. Re-named Sesame Workshop in 2000, it surprisingly took 13 more years for “Sesame Street” to make its first big score in comics with Ape Entertainment and Kizoic. The debut issue is true to the franchise’s legacy of making learning entertaining — it’s fun!
Featuring Sesame Street denizens from all generations, the opening page sets the tone and shows it has a lot to offer the parents of the comic book reading community and their children.
Up pops Elmo — of course it’s Elmo — who explains what word balloons are. Elmo’s the Wolverine of Sesame Street, but still that’s cool. This is a kids comic after all, and Sesame Street is geared toward the younger portion of the reading youth, so why not give a demo on how to read comics. It makes the issue truly accessible to all kids of all ages and reading levels. There’s even a QR Code to scan with a smart phone, complete with additional “How to Read A Comic” tutorials. But as Elmo goes on to explain the workings of comics — joined by Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and an orange version of Murray — not only does the over-saturated little red guy become more endearing, but the book truly becomes something special; it encourages parents and adults to read the issue out loud with their child.
With one panel, “Sesame Street” #1 breaks the comic book norm of being a singular experience and makes it something unique and engaging. Elmo points out Big Bird and Oscar don’t sound like him, so when you’re reading it aloud, the comic suddenly becomes a radio play you’re either performing for your child or, even better, performing with your kid. And the subsequent skits play out with this in mind.
It’s a catalyst for a unique experience between child and adult, and the anthology format lends itself to children of all attention spans.
The stories are created by multiple artists and writers, starring Oscar, Prairie Dawn, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Telly, Cookie Monster, The Count and even Bert and Ernie done in claymation. The artwork is what one would expect from a “Sesame Street” comic — it’s bright and colorful, the character expressions larger than life. While there’s nothing groundbreaking going on visually, each story does have its own style.
Most of the stories have a lesson to convey, but some, like the Snuffy story, are just plain fun.Â The highlight of the issue is Patrick Storck and James Silvani’s “A Dip in the Galaxy” Cookie Monster story, where Cookie eats the moon, which evoked audible laughs from everyone in the room during my read-aloud — it played the best being read aloud because a Cookie Monster voice is always silly. True to the format of the show, the 4th wall is repeatedly broken and each story is of a different length — the longest of the bunch is Jason M. Burns and Amy Mebberson’s Super Grover and Super Elmo story titled “The Anatomy of a Hero.” It sends the message that you don’t need super powers to be an everyday hero. Yes, Super Grover has been upstaged by Super Elmo, but that’s OK — Elmo relates to a generation that’s not mine, one that grew up in a different time in a different world.
And this is what Sesame Street is known for — bridging all kinds of gaps. Of age, race, gender or whatever else is out there holding back mankind from being truly human, lighting the way for the future of our children. Ape’s “Sesame Street” #1 is onto something here, breaking new ground with the “read it aloud” format, and by sticking to that mold it offers special moments between parents and their children. And in the long run, these moments only make this world a better place.