Luke on the Loose
written by Harry Bliss
The plot of Luke on the Loose is simplicity itself: A little boy breaks free from his father’s grasp and chases a flock of pigeons across New York City, causing havoc all the way.
Luke’s father and a friend are conversing in “boring dad talk” when Luke is distracted by the pigeons. He runs after them, screaming, and winds up chasing them through Manhattan and across the Brooklyn Bridge, absolutely oblivious to the chaos he and the pigeons are creating as they bring traffic screeching to a halt, disrupt a proposal of marriage, and knock over ice cream cones, until finally the pigeons fly up to the rooftops and Luke shimmies up a fire escape to join them. Luke climbs to the top of a water tower and falls contentedly asleep, surrounded by his beloved pigeons.
Meanwhile, Luke’s parents are frantically looking for him, and grownups are watching out along the way, so the story never gets scary. Instead, it winds up with a terrific rescue by firemen in a ladder truck, although Luke sleeps soundly through the whole thing.
The story is very energetic, and it’s easy to charge through the panels without stopping to look too closely. That would be a shame, because when Bliss fills a panel with detail, it’s worth looking at. In the very beginning, while Luke’s father looks frantically for his son, the background is filled with the aftermath of Luke’s pigeon chase—a fleeing dog, a riderless skateboard flying into the panel. Bliss repeats some of these details in the final sequence, which is a nice touch. And he also sprinkles allusions to other comics throughout the story: Olive Oyl and Tintin show up in one scene, and other panels include cameos of Captain Haddock, the Incredible Hulk, and what looks like a Thurber dog (it’s reading a newspaper).
Luke on the Loose has a classic comic-book look, dominated by flat areas of bright color. Bliss often uses big panels, filling a whole page with a single action, such as Luke’s father looking frantically around him or Luke leaping through the air, surrounded by pigeons. Other times he uses a series of horizontal panels to show several moments of the chase in quick succession. The curving roads accentuate the sense of motion, and in one panel, a pigeon seems to fly off the page toward the reader.
Despite the simplicity of the concept, this is not an easy story to read aloud. Some panels have no dialogue at all, while in others, the characters are conversing about ordinary things as Luke bears down on them in the background. The adult cannot rely on the text but must describe the action and the details using his or her own words. Fortunately, Bliss has provided plenty of material to work with.