Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar – book review by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Peter & Company: A Comic Collection, by Jonathan Ponikvar.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, June 2012, trade paperback $17.99 (unpaged [74 pages]).
Although it doesn’t say so, this is volume 1 of what is now Ponikvar’s online bi-weekly comic strip. It covers Peter & Company for its first 100 strips; from its beginning on January 1, 2005 to December 17, 2007. Volume 2, Of Cats and Crushes, is “coming soon”.
Peter & Company, drawn with anthropomorphic animal characters, is about Peter (cat), a 12-year-old geek and social loner who gets Seth (duck) as a cross between an imaginary friend and a guardian angel. Seth is invisible to everyone except Peter, but like the ghosts in Thorne Smith’s Topper, he can make his presence felt by others when he wants to.
Ponikvar calls Seth and his compatriots “Guardians” rather than “guardian angels” to remove any religious aspects from the strip, and to present them more imaginatively than in the format of standard religious doctrine. Seth is more like a senpai, a big brother, than a messenger from God. He’s sarcastic, and often openly manipulative to force Peter to do something like studying that he doesn’t want to do.
Ponikvar is also more original in his use of Guardians. Not everyone has a Guardian; only those who need one. Peter can not only see Seth; he can see the Guardians of everyone else who has one – and those who have Guardians can all talk with them. (With exceptions, which are explained in the strip.) The Guardians sometimes get together and “talk shop” without their charges. Peter talks openly to his “imaginary friend”, which increases his reputation as a “freak boy” and gets him sent to Mr. Betrug (dog), the school Counselor.
In his introduction, Ponikvar says that Seth is not so much a guardian angel as himself in the present, if he could travel back in time to his 12-year-old self and give him the advice he needs to stop being a geek.
The strip is a coming-of-age fantasy through junior high and high school with Peter and his associates (and sister), and Seth and his friends among the Guardians. Peter’s classmates include Iggy (gecko) and Chelsea (bear). His sister Ezzy is closer to Chelsea, who considers Peter a weirdo. The other Guardians include Skin, a snake (with humor about him being a Guardian without any arms), and Persephoni [sic], an anthropomorphic lop-eared bunny who appears as a natural lop-eared bunny to ordinary people.
There are a few outright fantasy characters, such as the Worms who stand in for minor imps, usually tempting Peter to goof off, and Mr. Korgar, the fearsome math teacher seen as a cross between an orc and the Incredible Hulk.
Peter & Company was originally a black-&-white strip drawn in a four-panel newspaper-strip format, because Ponikvar hoped to sell it to a news syndicate someday. At the beginning of 2007 he gave up that idea and switched to a comic-book page format. He has gone back and colored those pages for this album. He has also added an original 9-page color story showing how & why Seth first appears to Peter.
Peter & Company is an enjoyable comic for fans of adolescent/school humor, funny animals, and fantasy of the angel/ghost sort. Like most online strips, you can get most of this for free on the website’s archive. But it’s so much easier to just turn an album page. Plus there are about two dozen pages in color that are in black-&-white on the archive, and that original origin story. Recommended.