232 pages, bubblegum bimbo pop princess American manga musical madness
Currently in print
In a world that's fascinated by fame, where Hannah Montana manages to rule the charts without actually existing, it's truly astonishing to me that we're not being bombarded right now by commercials advertising the Divalicious! movie, Tina Young dress-up kits for little girls, and the authentic Tina Young playset, complete with replaceable rice paper screens for Tina's toy television (thus allowing for more realistic tantrums). Seriously, did somebody in the fame factory miss a memo? One part Jem, one part Hannah, and one part the image that Britney's marketing machine used to make us buy her image in the first place, Tina Young is a pop star who's going somewhere. Top of the charts, baby. Top. Of. The. Charts.
Divalicious! starts out looking just as fluffy as its subject matter would suggest -- Tina goes to Africa for a benefit concert, and bakes cookies for the starving children of the world! Tina has a rivalry with Bit Fencer, the only other pop star to come anywhere near her on the charts! Tina falls in love with a rapper named Ali-G (aka 'Simon,' but don't tell his fans that)! Tina meets her biggest fan! These stories take up the bulk of volume one...but surprise, surprise, they're just making sure you know all the players as they set the stage for a much bigger, much darker story.
The American manga format is a frequently uneven one. On the one hand, you have a lot of American comic artists who grew up on manga from Japan, and it's only natural that they'd want to work in that same style. On the other hand, this has resulted in a lot of extremely uneven, extremely derivative work, some of which really just makes me want to pat the artists on the head and suggest they take some more anatomy classes. (We're not going to start on the anatomy in superhero comics. I don't have all week, and neither do you.) So what makes Divalicious! so special?
Well, first off, the art is by the amazing Amy Mebberson. That's a name you may well remember from such excited entries as 'meet the Price girls OMG' and 'check out my hysterically awesome greeting card.' Amy worked for Disney for a long time, and does some of the most incredible Disney-esque art I've ever seen, while also keeping it entirely her own. (She also drew the source picture for my 'real princesses save themselves' icon. She is truly a woman of many talents.) So there was no possible way it could be bad.
Then there's T. Campbell, who did the scripting. T. has written buckets and buckets of webcomics, including one of my personal favorites, Fans. He's got a fantastic ear for dialogue, and a real understanding of plot structure and what it takes to tell a good story. If you wanted to make me like American storytelling presented in the manga format, you couldn't have assembled a better dream team.
Do I have any complaints about Divalicious!? Well, first off, it's too short -- but that isn't the fault of its creators. Blame sales figures, and the difficulty of marketing a serious story about a pop princess. Tina's no Hannah Montana. She's no Britney, either. She's just, well, Tina, and it's a real shame that we don't get to chart even more of her rise to fame. The story is self-contained, however, and you won't wind up in the position of getting halfway to an ending and then running into a dead stop.
My other complaint is that I keep rewriting Tina's songs in my head to make them scan and flow better...but since I do that with songs that are on the radio, I probably have no one to blame for this but myself. In all seriousness, Divalicious! is pure hammered awesome. I recommend it without reservation to adults, teens, and really anyone over the age of nine that feels like reading it. (No sex, no nudity, no swearing, and all the violence is of the comical cartoon variety.) I think twelve-and-up will get the most enjoyment out of it -- and I'm counting fifty-five year old aunts in that 'and-up,' so don't feel like you're too mature to enjoy a little pop tart in your diet -- but it's not the sort of thing you can't go leaving on a low shelf.
I give Tina nine and a half out of ten possible Grammy awards, and all my love.