by Sam Juliano
If he were alive today, H. G. Wells would be the world’s biggest fan of Jon Agee’s It’s Only Stanley. But heck, Jules Verne would be a member of the picture book’s fan club too. It isn’t too far off the mark either that romantics would be touting its virtues as well. Right down to the Victorian mansion, where some perverse nocturnal activities are played out, this is a book with nineteenth-century sensibilities despite the modern era familial trappings. The Wimbleton family are obviously intimidated by their ever-resourceful beagle, a handy man extraordinaire whose scientific and mechanical tinkerings are perfectly attuned to his comprehensive brand of home maintenance. The family’s patriarch never becomes unhinged at Stanley’s increasingly alarming activities, setting them aside matter-of-factly with the repeated titular utterance. The Wimbletons are not deep thinkers, though aside from Dad they all would very much appreciate a good night’s sleep, even if it gives clearance to a defining event in space travel. No they aren’t quite in a league with James Marshall’s The Stupids but they won’t be earning any points for attentiveness.
Agee’s pleasing non-conformity with the story’s launching is a single drawing before the title page where Stanley hears a “Howoooooo” from the sky while sleeping on the porch. He deciphers the actual location of the wail on the title page, and on the next panel we see Mom and Pa Wimbleton in bed reacting to Wilma’s swearing that she heard a spooky sound. Walter and the family feline spot Stanley howling back to the moon. outside the house, and Dad reports back to the family that there is nothing to get unhinged about. But before long there is another even louder disturbance and Agee frames it like he does throughout in fabulous rhyme scheme: (more…)