By Rich Tommaso
What started out as a little sketch from Tommaso of a covert agent seal, turned into a fan obsession. Fans everywhere demanded to know more about this seal about town, and finally Tommaso delivered. This quirky book takes us into a look in the life of Malcolm Warner, unemployed seal living a life without direction after his time in the military. He spends his days leisurely hanging out with a bird named Sylvia, and things get all turned upside down when they decide to go to an art exhibit. Next thing you know, this Normal Man Seal is dodging bullets, chasing down bad guys, and in the middle of an international spy drama. Soon, his life is about to turn him from a Normal Man Seal into a Spy Seal.
This book features a quirky story matched with equally quirky art from Tommaso. The way the story and art complement one another, like neither is taking this book too seriously, but just enough to get readers invested in what happens. The art has such innocent details that it looks like it could be in a children’s book. There are kid-friendly drawn anthropomorphic characters that look like characters from Arthur (sorry, that’s the only kid’s TV show I know). Pair that with the bright colors and simple straightforward panels, and this is a very easy to follow book.
It is always a pleasure when the writer and artist are one in the same. In this book Tommaso has two chances to convey meaning, first through the written words, but also through how he decides to draw the characters and lay out panels, and other artist decisions. The tone of the book is certainly cohesive; it is a little goofy, but there is also going to be action. Sure, the book is about international spy drama and people are getting killed, but the nature of the art gives these morose topic a more palpable look.
The world Tommaso is creating is centered around a single idea, a Spy Seal. He is a seal/man hybrid, so he naturally had two options when creating the expanded world in which this man lives. First, he could create a world full of seal/human hybrids or he could create a world with a complete selection of animal/human hybrids. So, artistically one would imagine trying to make differentiation between a world full of seals would be a challenge, so we can the selection of animals. This is nice, usually in stories like these the hero is never an animal like a seal, and also getting to choose the animal to match the character can also help to write the character by them assuming certain animal traits. A good example would be Malcolm’s friend, Sylvia. She is a bird, which works on a few levels, because bird is a British slang word for a girl, but more importantly she talks a lot. The character becomes instantly fleshed out in your head because you can associate her with a squawking bird.
This book started out as a simple sketch of a man/seal just trying to do his job as a spy has turned into a series and expanded world full of intrigue and plenty of new characters for readers to fall in love with. Tommaso has really created a new concept that gets to play off of already established spy dramas, but with a new twist that fans seem eager to embrace. The book has already found its fan base just with one drawing, now that the book is out it is sure to appeal to a much wider base with its creative concept and fun story.