Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Monstrous menagerie

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2000 at 12:00 AM

Jim Woodring claims that, since childhood, he’s had visions of a strange world where neither Bosch nor Dali would feel comfortable, inhabited by creatures both frighteningly grotesque and cuddly at the same time. This is the world of Frank.

Chronic back pain has made drawing nearly unbearable for Woodring; however, after two years, Frank finally returns, beginning the first chapter in a book-length story called "Frank’s High Horse." Main character Frank is an unidentifiable animal who lives in an expansive alien landscape. The characters don’t speak, but their language would probably be unintelligible even if they could. The lack of text only adds to the wonder and weirdness of their tales.

Each of Frank’s characters are at once lovable and frightening. There’s Trosper, a sort of elephant pig afraid of everything but his ball; Whim, the devil shaman; Manhog, the pitiful creature whose life is a cycle of escape and capture; Pipshaw, Frank’s doglike companion. Each of Woodring’s monsters is as uncomfortable in its skin as it is in its surroundings – yet they are always exploring.

Without words, Woodring conveys his characters’ emotions with odd expressions and makes their feelings all too familiar. Frank is truly special and well worth the wait.

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