When a Time-Traveling Space Hero Gets Lost, Who Takes Care of Him?

John Martz’s touching comic Burt’s Way Home.

Oct cartoonist John Martz.

John Martz/Koyama Press

Kindly Lydia takes in a young boy, Burt, in her little apartment in the little building at the foot of little Mount Maple. “Lydia isn’t my mother,” Burt tells us. “My name isn’t even Burt.” Burt’s an interdimensional time-traveling superhero, and his parents were lost in a chronomorphic engine overload, and he has to find them.

Lydia just wishes Burt would wear a hat.

John Martz’s cartooning is deceptively simple and deadpan, but his characters cultivate great sadnesses and worries behind their placid animal faces. Martz wrote in Slate earlier this year about how he struggled to replicate the style that one of his cartooning heroes, the late Richard Thompson, summoned up so easily; but reading Martz’s book Burt’s Way Home, you come to realize that there’s more than one way to summon up childhood. Where Thompson’s work was all messy energy, Martz’s austereness allows Burt’s fantasies of interstellar travel (if they are fantasies) to appear to us with the same crystal clarity as they do to him. Printed in elegant two-tone blue and black, Burt’s Way Home is a touching story that mixes the prosaic details of foster care with the grand scope of a space opera. It’s hard to describe so you’d better just read it. We’re very proud to have John Martz illustrating the October issue of the Slate Book Review.

Burt’s Way Home by John Martz. Koyama Press.

See all the pieces in the Slate Book Review.