Review: Water Baby


Water Baby.  Ross Campbell (writer/artist).  Fiction – Graphic Novel/Comics

I loved the hell out of this little book.  Campbell’s art is stunningly beautiful and I wish more artists – men or women – could draw women this way.  They are scantily clad for most of the book (okay, ALL of the book) but it fit the young surfing beaching characters and any concerns I would have otherwise had about it were put to rest by the fact that Campbell not only draws all his women with vastly different body types (as they exist in the real world – gasp!) but also, none of his female characters are window dressing in the first place – they’re the stars.  They’re the characters you love and spend the most time with.  So if they want to wear tank tops and tiny jean shorts and bikinis and such (and it fits their characters – which it does) then I’m on board.

Beyond the art, the writing is solid.  The story is a great (and horrifying) little tale about Brody our badass female main character, a surfer that loses a leg early on in a shark attack.


Brody’s best friend Louisa takes care of the newly shaped Brody and when Brody’s ex Jake shows up it sends them on a road trip adventure that includes a troublesome teen they pick up on the road.  The basic story is enjoyable, but it’s Brody’s internal struggle that is so fascinating and well handled here – her nightmares and fantasies of her attack are disturbing and profound and speak volumes in mostly silent panels about what a struggle it must be to recover from such an accident…and that maybe you never really do.


Overall Brody is a fantastic hero – or maybe anti-hero – she’s strong willed and smart (though no rocket  scientist) she knows who she wants to be and isn’t afraid of it.  She tackles her problems as head on as she’s able and she seems to understand that she’s still figuring herself out – a measure of self awareness rare in the young.  I could have done without the gross factor (she picks her nose – though not too graphically) but otherwise I loved her.  Full of flaws and beauty, as we all are.  Louisa is similarly well-rendered, and is both alike and different than Brody in the ways that best friends usually are.  Jake is a bit of a sketch instead of a full blown painting, but as he’s not the star, or of too much importance I think he’s characterized just enough.

So here’s my confession.

This is a book from the now defunct DC Minx line intended for girls/women.  And I’m a jerk for not getting on board sooner and if not supporting these books, than at least checking them out.  I did look at the line when it first came out and like many fans (female and male alike) I found the first few books a bit lacking and I didn’t like some of the stuff I was hearing about the line.  First of all, it’s called Minx, which is annoying, and just (maybe) one step above Divas or Sirens, but as usual I can forgive the title if that’s the only place they go wrong.  But unfortunately, almost all of the creators (writers/artists/editors/etc.) were men, which is doubly annoying.  It’s not that men can’t write women well (case in point Ross Campbell, or my post earlier about Brian K. Vaughan) but it just stands to reason that if you want to start an entire imprint FOR girls/women you might want to get some amazing talented WOMEN involved.

Anyway, my complaints are valid, and I really didn’t like some of the stuff I originally saw come out for Minx, but if Minx could bring us Water Baby (a title that would likely be impossible to get published with any of the major houses – other than maybe DC’s Vertigo line) then I have to say I’m wrong.  And I wish I had gotten involved in this line (not that I’m some prolific blogger that changes the shape of the world or anything) earlier.  To at least throw my opinion out there, even if initially it couldn’t have been full blown support.  Another missed opportunity for the big publishing houses, gods know how long it will be before we get another shot.

4.0 Stars

If you want to check out more Water Baby, go to the Vulture Blog which has a large excerpt from the book.


  1. Shannon’s avatar

    She reminds me of Tank Girl a bit…

  2. Tara’s avatar

    I got the tank girl vibe, too. I like this, I’ll definitely be checking this out.

  3. ross’s avatar

    hi, i came here via When Fangirls Attack! i’m ross campbell, Water Baby creator.

    i always cringe whenever i see a Water Baby review link on WFA or wherever, because the book got SLAMMED when it first came out (search out some of the earlier reviews if you want a good laugh!) and i’m fine with negative reviews but a lot of people were downright nasty. so i’m always reluctant to check out a new review, wary of having my spirit crushed a little more, but i always cave and click anyway. and i’m really glad i did this time, thank you!!!!! truly appreciated, it’s great to hear you liked the book. :)

    i’d wanted there to be a second one, this one was intended to be the first of two, but alas, Minx is no more. maybe someday.

    i hope you check out some of my other comics, too! Brody and Louisa make cameo appearances in my other series, Wet Moon, if that’s any incentive. 😉

    thanks again!

  4. kfugrip’s avatar

    Hey Ross,
    You should draw Kelly’s comic-to-be. Email her about it and you’ll never regret it.

  5. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    Ross: Thanks so much for reading – and for commenting.

    I’m glad you were able to find a positive review here – and I really did love your book, so I’m glad I could restore your faith (if only a little) in clicking on links.

    It’s funny that you mention some of the other reviews you got, because I read some of them and I thought about talking about those reviews in my post but opted not to at the last second. For me, those people just “didn’t get it”. Fair enough that they wanted more story (and I think that speaks to how good your book actually is) but a lot of the other reviewers struck me as people who’ve never read short fiction and/or who don’t know much about youth (today or anyday).

    Graphic Novels to me are a lot like short fiction (which I adore), in part because of the format you have to be limited in your scope or you risk not saying anything effectively.

    Water Baby is a fantastic character sketch of a few wonderful characters you have created – and it tells just a small slice of their story. Is everything resolved? No, of course not, life doesn’t work that way. Does Brody go from two-legged to one-legged to perfect acceptance over her new one-legged existence? Of course not, and I submit that if you had done that, you would have been eaten alive by reviewers because it’s not believable.

    It’s especially not believable because these are young people…and I don’t know when the last time some of these reviewers talked to someone under the age of 30, but “youth” tend to have a different way of looking at things. Brody is both independent and determined and also whiny and helpless – she is all of these things and for good reason. Hence the dreams, which are a way of dealing with her trauma, but also a way to avoid her trauma. It’s incredibly realistic. The same is true for me with the shaved head. While Brody is more likely than your average girl to shave her head, this wasn’t a whim. This is trying to take control of your life, of your destiny, when the world has said it’s in control. It’s all very nuanced and lovely, very subtle and honest.

    Anyway Ross, I think it’s all handled beautifully and to the haters I say, “you didn’t get it”. Thanks again for reading – I hope you’ll come back.

    PS – Wet Moon has been on my ‘to read’ list for a while now – I hope to get started on it this summer.

    PPS – My boyfriend is right that you would be the perfect artist for a graphic novel I’ve been writing (but am not talented enough to draw) but as a writer yourself and a legitimate already established talent in the industry I’m sure you’re not interested…right? :)

    Adam: Thanks for pimping me out. But you’re right Ross would be the perfect artist for HIAB. Thanks for always having such faith in my work. You’re the best.

  6. ross’s avatar

    hey again! :)
    i really appreciate all your observations and insight about my book, thank you!! and that you liked the dream sequences and understand their place, a lot of reviewers were either like “the nightmares are cool but what’s the point?” or “the nightmares are pointless” etc. it’s great to hear when somebody “gets” it or whatever you want to call it. i guess, to be fair, some of the negative reviewers may have gotten it, they just didn’t LIKE it. XD

    so, tell me about your graphic novel… 😉 you can email me if you like, that’s probably better than revealing it all in public or filling up your comment thread.

    are you going to the San Diego Con at all, or any other cons in the future? i can smuggle you some Wet Moon copies, and definitely copies of my various mini-comics. :)

  7. 1979semifinalist’s avatar

    I suppose it’s fair to concede that some of the reviewers may have ‘gotten it’ and just not ‘liked it’…but that wasn’t what I saw going on in the half dozen reviews I read 😉

    I will definitely email you separately about the graphic novel. Any advice you have or input – or you know, desire to draw it 😉 – would be SO welcome.

    Since I’m with the ranks of the unemployed currently I’m not able to afford the trip to San Diego this year (haven’t been in a long while, but was hoping to go this year). Since I recently got an agent for my book (prose, not graphic/comic) I’m hoping that it will be a really good excuse to go next year (and be tax deductible) seeing as the book is about superheroes. I’m secretly hoping to go to APE this year, but I’ll have to get a sweet advance for my book if that’s going to happen…fingers crossed and all that :)

  8. ross’s avatar

    oh oh, i want to hear about your prose book, too!!!!! superheroes + prose, that sounds awesome. i’m doing a superhero thing now too, called Shadoweyes!!

    i’ll keep an eye out for your book-related email. it usually takes me a few days to reply, but if you don’t hear back from me within a week, my server may have eaten your email, in which case poke me again about it.

    i bailed on San Diego last year, it really does save a lot of money, but i think it was a mistake career-wise for me. i’ve never been to APE but i hope to go someday. i hope you get that advance!!

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