When you read the first page of Penny Dora and the Wishing Box by Image Comics, you’re at once introduced to concepts of land use and design drawn from urban planning methodology. You see rows and rows of homogenous homes in a planned community where the architecture is dull, and where the built environment helps inject uniformity amongst a collective consciousness. The blueprint at the bottom of the first page illustrates the grid iron pattern with endless amounts of cookie-cutter, perfectly-aligned boxes, which eventually lead to the bigger boxes of banks, stores, and plazas. This image renders the endless suburban sprawl that contributes to the silent suburban war. Well, what happens when you deviate from the norm, when your aberrant conduct leads to the only uniqueness on the façade of your home—like dressing up the mailbox? What about the young teenage girl who longs for change, or the single parent who yearns for something more radical?
In the first issue of the comic book, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box, this is exactly the type of narrative you will encounter. One that many people can relate to. It is the archetype of the single-parent home where a young girl’s only wish is for her parents to reunite, or simply for Christmas to last a little longer. As adults we often wish for endless amounts of money since economic security is of paramount importance in an advanced capitalist society, yet we occult these concerns from our children, thus allowing them simple thoughts and wishes long gone from our memories. But what if you found a mysterious Pandora Box on your doorstep that appeared clandestinely? What if you were clueless as to its function and simply viewed it as a dirty old box without principle, something to throw out with the garbage? That is one of the greatest tools of literature, film, and other arts—to produce audience trust and perception, which the protagonist is unaware of. In the comic book, we understand that the box has a supernatural power, and when it materializes, those directly affected are completely unaware. Perhaps when things become a reality in our lives, we place the responsibility on an outside source like a burning candle, a talisman, a lucky clothing article, God, or…something else.
As the first issue in the series, Michael Stock does a great job of giving the characters depth and the audience insight, where you begin to identify and understand them. You see the need for the child to maintain aloof in regards to her box because her mother wants to trash it, the friend who is curious about her friend’s secretive nature when the box is discovered, the mother who feels the constraints of having an absentee father for her child, or the cat that also has a personal agenda. I too examine my dog’s behavior constantly and I’m always vexed by what she could be thinking at any particular moment. Sina Grace, creator of Self-Obsessed and Not My Bag, illustrator of The Li’l Depressed Boy, and previous editor of The Walking Dead, does a fantastic job of giving the visual cues necessary to move the story along, while New York Times bestselling author, Hope Larson, and her lettering do a phenomenal job of providing relevance and intrigue to unlocking this grand mystery. Lastly, Michael Stock’s daughter, Nico Ludwig-Stock, who co-created the concept as an eight year old, deserves the utmost respect for daring to dream the impossible, especially at such an early age where many parents, including mine, would scoff and ridicule any such hopes. Michael Stock chose the opposite, to run with his daughter’s creative idea and make it come to fruition to show his child that dreams do come true daily.
Photo Credit: David Harper 2014