gronk1Who doesn’t have a cartoon alter-ego, really? If you don’t, you should cook one up as soon as possible—they can make life a little sweeter. I’ve had one since I was ten, and she’s changed mercifully little in the last twenty years. When I draw my life as my cartoon alter-ego would experience it, everything seems a bit brighter and more manageable. Gronk seems to make life a little lighter for Katie Cook, who developed her adorable alter-ego many years before she started drawing a webcomic featuring the little green monster. Cook started publishing Gronk: A Monster’s Story online in 2010, and volumes one and two collect the first two years of Gronk’s escapades. Here are some important facts about the monster in question: Gronk is green; has shaggy, blond hair; is roly-poly; and is kind, but bumbling. Gronk lives with Dale and her cat and dog, and makes their lives just a little bit weirder and sweeter (and messier!). It’s clear that Gronk is more or less a vehicle for Katie Cook’s musings on life, food, holidays, and nerd culture, and that’s just fine.

Gronk is a four panel weekly webcomic with mostly stand-alone stories, so it doesn’t gain or lose much from being collected into a book. It’s nice to follow Gronk, Dale, and Dale’s cat and dog through the seasons—they have a lot of fun around Halloween and Christmas, playing pretend, and watching lots of movies. Jokes and visual cues reference Star Wars, Batman, Muppets, and Harry Potter frequently. Bacon and ice cream and pizza are giddily consumed. It’s nerd life as normal, except with a little green friend for company. Gronk bumbles to learn the rules of adulthood with varied success, and gives Dale a reason to feel playful and goofy, as well as perhaps a little superior.

You can’t read too much into Gronk. It’s pleasant, it’s cute, and Gronk gets to do all the things one wishes they could do: make messes, draw googly eyes on everything in the house, get swallowed and slobbered by puppies, and travel the universe in cardboard boxes. Volume one introduces the cast as they get comfortable with each other and Gronk learns, unlearns, and relearns house rules, while volume two finds Gronk taking up topiary, sitting in snuggies, and starting a twitter account—it’s a bit more aimless than volume 1. I might speculate that Gronk draws inspiration from Katie’s own interests (Gronk’s surprisingly articulate for a childish monster), her pets (there’s more than a bit of puppy and kitty in Gronk’s eager and friendly attitude), and possibly, just possibly, her own daughter, as many of the shenanigans that Gronk gets into feel like those of a curious child. That’s just wild speculation on my part, but Gronk’s glee has a childishness that is refreshing and elusive in the adult world.

Gronk is not too much of any one thing, except devastatingly cute. The roundness and perpetual grins of Gronk, Harli the dog, and Kitty the Cat were just a bit reminiscent to me of Andy Runton’s unapologetically sweet Owly cast. Cook has done lots of illustration work for licensed comic book franchises, most recently My Little Pony, so she’s no stranger to the relentlessly, geekily cute. Gronk seems to be the place where she expresses her own sweet self, both her human self and wackier monster alter-ego. Although the Gronk series has been widely categorized and reviewed as a book for kids, the countless cultural references, the plentiful moments of adult exasperation, and the very nature of its origin as a webcomic (not generally the province of grade schoolers) argue for a different categorization. Gronk is suitable for all ages in terms of appropriate content, but its context and point of view are most suited for and will be best enjoyed by non-cynical adult audiences. The Gronk collections, not too ambitious or too serious, are a nice little reverie for the young-at-heart nerd within us all.

Gronk: A Monster’s Story, vol. 1-2
by Katie Cook
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781632290885
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781632290922
Action Lab Entertainment, 2015

  • Emilia Packard

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support! Emilia has been reading graphic novels rabidly since her best friend handed her Craig Thompson’s Blankets over winter break during her sophomore year of college. From that day, her fate was sealed — at Grinnell College, she created, edited and drew strips for a student comics magazine called The Sequence. As an MLS Student at the University of Illinois, she spent way too much time filling up her backpack (and her roommate’s backpack) with the treasures of the Undergrad Library’s comics collection — never less than 40 books at a time. Just in the past few years, she’s worked at libraries and archives in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis, Indiana, and Austin, Texas and consumed their graphic novels collections with great gusto. She has been drawing her stick-figure avatar, Flippy-Do, since she was about 10 years old.

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