Created by Jim Woodring.
Published by Fantagraphics - Black and White - £17.99/$19.99
The Story - ‘When Pupshaw and Pushpaw depart for the orgiastic delights of Poochytown, the forlorn Frank is thrown by a twist of fate into an unlikely friendship, propelling him down a long road of escapades and trials that ends in one of the most shocking acts ever depicted in the Frank canon.’
The Review - You know sometimes you put a book off. Until you have reached the correct state of mind? I’ve been meaning to buy this for months when that perfect series of events pushed me off my arse and got me to purchase and read it.
Event 1 - I recently spent some time with my pal Bob Fingerman. A clever guy and a talented artist. I commented over dinner that I hadn’t yet read Woodring’s release through Fantagraphics of Poochytown. He gave me one of those sideways looks and said ‘You really should do’ and then recounted a story how he’d hung out with Mr W whilst they anointed a museum toilet with their art (with full appreciation it might be added from the owner of said lavatory!)
Event 2 - The book ever seems to be in my eye line in every comic shop I attend. It’s there taunting me. It knows that I need it. It sees me when I walk in and eyes me suspiciously yet also teasing me by lifting it’s skirt a tiny bit.
Event 3 - A Facebook associate shared an original page he had bought and I sat admiring it on my phone whilst drinking my fourth coffee of the day.
Event 4 - I bought a new book release from equally surrealist art styled creator called Andy Baron at the recent ELCAF and promptly arranged for him to come of the podcast. Was I being subconsciously pushed in the direction of P’Town throughout this time?
The misshapen eyeball prodding planets were indeed aligned and with their hands on my shoulders guided me into spending the £17.99 in a London comic shop just yesterday.
I read this book, as I am prone to, on the train home and became hypnotised by it’s contents. The work of the unconscious mind had me gripped.
I have now read this book three times in the last twenty-four hours and honestly cant image reading anything else all day.
This is also a book that confounds a proper description but I will try nonetheless because as you all realise by now I am fond of my own voice.
Imagine a sentient flesh altering virus, it first invades our dreams and sends them over a nightmarish edge. We then leak our sleeping mind into the world of Disney cartoons and old fairy tales. This twisted freakish reality then appears fully formed onto the page of a hardback book in alternatively precise and chaotic inks. All the while we watch obsessed with the next troubling turn of (almost) narrative. Some worrying highlights.
A pig/human hybrid eats a nest of baby birds.
Beings, creatures, objects, organs take bites out of each other only to have them grow back.
A tuba case contains a snake like animal curled up that when you force a reed into it and blow really, really hard a black and white psychedelic maelstrom forms and grows and pulses above the heads of the animate.
A steering wheel appears out of the ground at the feet of creatures who use it to drive through not only shifting landscapes but ever changing realities without ever taking a step away from where they stand.
Over and over and over Woodring chases your reading mind and points out that you don’t really have a clue what you think you know. He brawls with your conception/preconception of what you see and points at the floor whilst he kicks you in your ass. The reading experience changes and you give in as the glorious pages work their way past and into your eyeballs.
The story does again contain Frank. A recurring character who Woodring is often careful only to describe as ‘a generic anthropomorph’. He is alsodescribes him as ‘naive but not innocent ‘ and is undoubtably connected symbolically to his own highly peculiar world.
The art is solid and strongly asserted black and white lines with an OCD level of intricate interlocking and lines of parallel and interweaving chaos/precision that you wont see the like of elsewhere. Woodring learned his craft early on whilst working in a studio with Jack Kirby and Gil Kane and you can see their influences in the mix but also the work of the surrealists. Dali can be heard shouting crackpot theories just out of sight perhaps.
The comic is wordless but transmits a symbolic language and twisted logic that shows some great machinery at work. It flows so well that you get caught up in his midst and swept along as you read instinctively and naturally that you never notice the lack of words. For a speech free book it is also conversely a dense read. It will take you a while. Make some time for it and swallow the whole dose.
Organically the story pulses with some shockingly sudden yet great double page spreads with often intricate detail everywhere. In my view every page could be a liner note from a sixties psych band album but with more crazy/cohesion. Yes, there are those nods to animation as I mention earlier. Woodring himself quoted that working in cartoons was the worst job he ever had (and he spent years as an alcoholic bin man!) But you can see how he has made in this book a transgressive and anarchic version of Mickey Mouse, Porky Pig, the candlesticks from Beauty and the Beast and much more.
This book deals with all the themes that you might expect from our dreaming and hallucinatory states of being. Life, Death, Danger, Sex, Friendship, Anxiety and more. Some of the meanings seem sharply obvious and some we will never work out from the guesses we make at Woodring’s intentions. I personally don’t need to be told and the experience of this book is enough (for the moment) for me.
I can’t recommend this to everyone. Not all of you will get it or appreciate it. Those that will/should can eat it up!
Find it and buy it. If you don’t want to......then don’t.
Open your eyes!
Let’s face it though, works of realism only get the juices flowing to a point. We need the hallucinatory and instinctual crazy in our lives occasionally.
Many thanks for reading.