Subconsciously, I think I latched onto the idea of reading the best children's versions of The Odyssey I could find precisely so that I would have a reason to purchase and read Christopher Ford's Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle and Stickman Odyssey: The Wrath of Zozimos, which first caught my eye when published in 2011 and 2012. And they did not disappoint! I hate to boil it down like this, Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle and Stickman Odyssey: The Wrath of Zozimos can best be described as Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets Percy Jackson, and I mean that in the best possible way. Using The Odyssey as a jumping off point, Ford brings a fast pace and lots of humor to a cast of familiar characters that includes golems, a sphinx, a colossus, a cyclops, ghosts, and magical items from the gods like blood lilies, golden feathers and a bag of wind. Ford's story, despite the graphic novel format and stick-figure illustration style is actually pretty meaty and should take most readers more than one sitting to read. And, while some reviews say that the action is too rapid and the character development too light, having recently read The Odyssey I found that Ford's storytelling style echoed Homer's in that it seemed like it was just one thing after another for Odysseus, who just wanted to get back to Ithaca.
The comparison to Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid series comes from the fact that Zozimos reminds me a bit of Greg Heffly - he is self-centered, refuses to listen to anyone else and won't admit it when his friends have helped him. But, like Greg, Zozimos is capable of change. The comparison to Rick Riordan's series of books that revolve around Greek and Roman mythology comes from the obvious, but also from the pace of story telling that Ford, a graduate of NYU film school, fuels with tons of action. The story of the lost and wandering stickman, Zozimos, as he tries to make his way home to Sticatha, has lots of ups and downs and twists and turns and Ford lays down a great backstory. Early on the reader learns that Zozimos's mother died in childbirth and his father, the king of Stithaca, and his sisters, mourned for a year and a day, then he married a dancing temptress who turned his sisters into crows and killed the king with a poisoned dagger. Zozimos was saved by his one-eyed uncle who secreted him to an island to be trained for revenge. That's a pretty great, and pretty Greek, set up. And, amidst the sight gags (at one point Zozimos barfs, making me grateful this graphic novel is in black and white, at another point he soils himself in a moment of fear...) and increasingly creative uses of the phrase, "By Zeus's (underpants, etc.)" there is a story unfolding.
And there are some tragic Greek themes that will probably go over most reader's heads. Zozimos thinks he's in love with the Princess Asteria until he learns that it has been prophesied that his sword will be the cause of her death. He turns his attentions to the warrior Alexa but learns, after uncovering various truths about his father and step-mother, that she is in fact his sister. Horrified by the kiss that they shared, Alexa flees and blinds herself. When she meets up with Zozimos again, she assumes he has blinded himself as well and this makes for a few good jokes. By the end of Stickman Odyssey: The Wrath of Zozimos, Zozimos has claimed his rightful place as the King of Stithaca and determined the best way to keep his subjects safe from his evil uncle and his band of mercenary centaurs is to refuse to fight, staying barricaded behind the walls of the city. While a gift form the gods allows Zozimos to feed his subjects and maintain his Peace Policy, he soon realizes that not all of his subjects are happy and some of them want to fight for their freedom, even if it means dying in the process. When someone very close to Zozimos makes this choice, he decides to confront Nestor, but refuses to kill him or let anyone else avenge him. Ford manages to pull off a very cool scene that shows growth on the part of Zozimos and also a clever solution to the wrath of Nestor. Ford brings the humor back again in the final pages of the book that take place ten years later, and a total of fourteen years after we first meet Zozimos in Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle. Zozimos is relating the story of his epic odyssey to his disbelieving son, who repeatedly questions the verity of his exploits. Insisting that he has been exaggerating, Zotikos asks his father, if he knew of an island where there was a path to the Land of the Dead then why hasn't he gone back to rescue his mother? Proving that he is capable of subtlety, rather than have a lightbulb appear over Zozimos's head, Ford has his give himself a hearty dope-slap. Then he runs off to his find his old friends and enlist them on another adventure! No date yet for the third book in the Stickman Odyssey series, though.
Source: Purchased Books