Review by Ian Keogh
Okie Dokie Donuts is a strange beast from Chris Eliopoulos that reads more as a pitch for an animated series than a dedicated graphic novel. Beginning with a theme song over six pages instils that impression.
Big Mama runs Okie Dokie Donuts, and every doughnut (or donut) she makes isn’t just created with an exotic filling, but with love. Her customers love the results, and she loves her work.
The character designs are oddities, some quite grotesque, as if created by a cubist artist using Mr Potato Head accessories, andmore likely to induce nightmares than laughter in children. One such is Mr Mayweather, sales person extraordinaire for the Great Cooks Cooking Corporation, manufacturers of the robotic baking device that’s going to make Big Mama’s life so much easier. Not least by cooking a thousand donuts in forty seconds. Mayweather’s not a man who’ll take no for an answer, and counters resistance by offering an afternoon’s free trial. Cue comedy mayhem.
That, at least, is presumably the intention, but what follows is largely predictable and extremely laboured, Eliopoulous really taking his time to roll out what any adult reader knows is coming. It’s an odd storytelling weakness from a man used to the disciplines of the three panel gag strip elsewhere. As this is a book squarely aimed at children, however, this could just about be excused, but those same children are unlikely to take well to the art. Eliopoulos packs the panels with so much extraneous detail surrounding his odd-looking people that the eye flits all over the page searching for focus. Producing the book in shades of brown and cream doesn’t help this lack of visual coherency. It’s a viable cartoon style, just not one offering the clarity younger children surely need.
It’s with the plain silliness of some jokes that Eliopoulos is at his best. What child isn’t going to wince at the thought of chocolate fish doughnuts, or strawberry socks flavour? It’s not enough to compensate for the remainder, however. On publication this was touted as ‘Story 1’, but as no further books have appeared since 2011 it seems the real world public is more demanding than Big Mama’s customers.