The Reading Room

The Ultimate Melonpool
by Steve Troop

Review by Rob Wynne

Editor's note: This review was original advertised on the cover of Aphelion #27, and was in the Table of Contents for the last two months, although the article has not been available. Aphelion would like to apologize to Steve Troop and our loyal readers for this oversight.

The Ultimate Melonpool Full disclosure time: I love comic strips. There's something about the shortform comics medium that has always appealed to me. And the comic strips I love the most are always the ones that are just a little surreal: Bloom County. Calvin and Hobbes, Pogo are perhaps three of the best. (I leave out Gary Larson's brilliant The Far Side because while surreal, it lacks both the whimsey of the others I listed and also did not center around continuing characters.)

Since the rise of the Internet, a number of cartoonists have found themselves able to go directly to their audiences, bypassing the traditional syndicates and excersing tremendous artistic freedom as a result. Among the best of these Internet comics are Ian McDonald's Bruno the Bandit (A former Aphelion feature), David Willis's sublime Roomies, "Illiad's" User Friendly, and the subject of this review, Steve Troop's "The Adventures of Mayberry Melonpool" (Which you can read right here in Aphelion every day!)

It may be premature to rank Melonpool up with Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County, but they're certainly in the same league. and the influence of the Watterson especially on this strip is evident throughout. Troop has crafted a wonderfully eccentric cast of characters, and, by stranding them on present-day earth, he has a wonderful lens through which to view the foibles of our own society.

Which brings us to the self-published anthology collection, "The Ultimate Melonpool". While the book is a very nice collection of the comic strip, it's primary value is as a scrapbook of the evolution of an idea from it's barest form, through all it's growth, to its fully realized final form. Not only does Troop provide us with glimpses at the earliest days of Melonpool (in the Palomar College Telescope), but most of the strips (or series of strips) are heavily commented by the author, giving us a rare glimpse directly into the creative process.

The book sometimes digresses onto ancillary projects, such as the amatuer Melonpool film done by Troop and company, but it's not usually enough to be distracting. The small nod to such is more than made up for by the brilliant and long-running "Time Travel Arc", which manages to lampoon time travel stories (Back to the Future specifically, but the genre in general), Star Trek, and other culturial icons in a long series of four panel strips. This is the best way to read a long arc of comics -- with them all in front of you, so you don't have to wait until tomorrow to see what happens next.

If you are an aspiring comics creator, or just a comics fan, give a look at "The Ultimate Melonpool". And don't forget to read the ongoing adventures of Mayberry and the gang right here in Aphelion every day in The Aphelion Comics Page.

The book is very professionally bound, in softcover, and can be ordered directly from the offical Melonpool website or from

© 1998 Robert T. Wynne

Robert Wynne ("Doc") is a gentleman rogue and a scholar of truth. He has been, at alternate times, a writer, an editor, a salesman, a teacher, a freelance computer consultant and a charming vagrant. You can reach him via e-mail at

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