Written by Yale Stewart (@YaleStewart)
Art by Yale Stewart
Original Release Date: November 26, 2011
New Strips Released: Weekly
What’s the Pitch?:
As your webcomics gateway drug, try the very talented Yale Stewart and his incredibly endearing strip JL8. It has characters you already know, and an archive that isn’t too intimidating. Following in the footsteps of things like Baby Looney Toons and Muppet Babies, JL8 re-imagines DC Comics superheroes as 8 year-olds. Back at its inception, the strip was called Little League, but the name was changed in 2012 to avoid conflict with the name’s trademark holders in baseball land.
From the Reader’s Perspective:
JL8 is nothing short of pure bliss to read. If you have any sort of connection to these characters, Stewart’s writing and art will definitely strike a chord and pull some heartstrings. The strip follows the adventures of Clark, Bruce, Diana, Karen, Hal, Barry, and J’onn as they become friends, develop crushes, deal with bullies (little kid versions of the Legion of Doom!), go through wardrobe changes, and face one very nasty gym teacher.
The absolute best thing about this strip is how Stewart distills each of the characters down to their most basic elements, and gets each one of them spot on. I daresay that DC and Warner Bros could learn a thing or two from Stewart about what makes each of these characters special, and what readers like about them. And it’s funny! This strip is guaranteed to be smile-inducing to any fan of comic books. It will also surprise you when it gets to you. Bruce hearing Clark telling his parents all about the first day of school comes to mind. Plus there are a few easter eggs tucked into the strip that reward fans with deeper knowledge of comics without alienating people who don’t get the reference. One great example is JL8’s school – Schwartz Elementary (after legendary DC Comics editor Julius ‘Julie’ Schwartz) and the retired gym teacher Ted Grant (Wildcat!).
The art is fantastic. The style is a unique blend of minimalist and iconic, embracing the essence of the characters and the simplicity of the plot while mirroring the depth of the themes and balancing it with humor. Stewart turns out to be a master of cartoon-y facial expressions and uses them to full effect here. You cannot help but smile and laugh when Barry shovels food into his face, or Bruce broods over the playground from the top of the slide, or when Karen reads a book called “Ponies! Ponies! Ponies!” There’s a lot to like about this webcomic and you won’t be sorry you checked it out. Stewart manages to say a lot with a little, packing more punch into a single strip than some superhero comics do in 20 pages.
You can start reading JL8 here. It is also mirrored here, in an easier-to-read format if you want to marathon the strip and get caught up quickly. And if you like JL8, I also recommend Yale Stewart’s creator-owned semi-autobiographical (and more adult-themed) piece Gifted – you can buy (pay-what-you-want) vol 1 here.