For many of you, the first time you saw the artwork of Chris Watkins, it was right here on this site in the SuperFogeys Origins story “Spy Gal & Friends in Operation: C.O.W.” earlier this year.

Well, Chris also does his own webcomic, Odori Park, and the first collection of Odori Park is available for preorder right now! Guess who wrote the foreword? Check it out:

If you’re smart, you’ll skip this page. There is amazing, incredible work to be found in this book and it is not on this page.

I have a feeling some of you are still reading, so I’m gonna tell you a story in the hopes that you’ll get bored enough to turn the page and discover (or revisit) the hilarious, true-to-life adventures of Colin, Arisa and Sprout for yourself before my feeble words have a chance to taint your experience. Still with me? Okay, you asked for it.

I grew up next to a Japanese family. The rumor was that they were millionaires, with multiple properties back in Japan that they managed from their modest home in California. I was close enough with their daughter that I could have asked to verify the rumors, but I thought that would be impolite and I wasn’t sure how Japanese people deal with rudeness. If ninjas were a possibility, I didn’t want to find out. The daughter’s name? Arisa.

In my head, even though Arisa and I were never romantically involved, Odori Park is the alternate reality where she and I got married and had a kid we named after a vegetable. Where we opened a used bookstore and hired a loser named Chaz. Where we tried to meld our cultures together and made fun of each other’s food. Where she was the smart, understanding one and I was the goofball with the ever-changing facial hair. Where everything was hilarious and our world was conceived and ably drawn by the ever-capable, extremely underrated Chris Watkins.

There’s magic to what Chris does. You don’t have to read very many strips to see it. He has a mastery of form and pacing and character design that I envy. A great deal. He’s so good at the visual side of comics that it’s easy to overlook how truly terrific the writing is.

I’m a dialogue guy. The way people talk to each other is a particular thing and translating it effectively on the page is a trick few master. Chris nails the cadences and specific banter a young married couple shares like he’s transcribing from life. Maybe he is. Is that your secret, Chris? It would make the rest of us feel better about our own efforts if it was.

And what is all that talent in the service of? A simple tale of a young couple from two different worlds. That’s it. And it’s brilliant and well-observed and reminds us that the biggest, most important thing in the world is the love two people share. Dang. That’s awesome.

Sucker. You read all of this, didn’t you? Well, stop wasting time. Turn the page. Enjoy the feeling of money well spent and dive into the world of Odori Park without hesitation. You’re about to smile. Lucky you. Lucky us.

Thanks, Chris.

-Brock Heasley, 7/20/2011

Want a copy? Preorder! Hurry!