Jim Woodring’s idiosyncratic aesthetic has earned him an international following as both a cartoonist and visual artist. He was a recipient of the prestigious United States Artist Fellowship in 2006 (with frequent collaborator Bill Frisell) and was an Artist Trust-Washington State Artist fellow in 2008. His work is published and exhibited worldwide, finding him traveling to exhibitions in France and Australia last year, a residency in Alaska last month, and to Sweden next month.
Though Fantagraphics Books has published several wonderful Woodring comic book series and collections, WEATHERCRAFT represents his first full-length graphic novel. Employing mystical motifs and enigmatic characters, the book continues the artist’s tradition of imaginative narratives allowing subjective responses from the reader. In a recent review in Vice magazine, Nick Gazin observes, “There’s not much point in trying to sum up the story of this comic. There’s no text, the art is beautiful, and you’re totally consumed by the world he’s created and you exist inside it while you’re reading it."
Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery is located at 1201 S. Vale Street, minutes south of downtown Seattle in the center of the historic Georgetown arts community. Open daily 11:30 to 8:00 PM, Sundays until 5:00 PM. Phone 206.658.0110.
For over 20 years now, Jim Woodring has delighted, touched, and puzzled readers around the world with his lush, wordless tales of “Frank.”
Weathercraft is Woodring’s first full-length graphic novel set in this world — indeed, Woodring’s first graphic novel, period! — and it features the same hypnotically gorgeous linework and mystical iconography.
As it happens, Frank has only a brief supporting appearance in Weathercraft, which actually stars Manhog, Woodring’s pathetic, brutish everyman (or everyhog), who had previously made several appearances in “Frank” stories (as well as a stunning solo turn in the short story “Gentlemanhog”).
After enduring 32 pages of almost incomprehensible suffering, Manhog embarks upon a transformative journey and attains enlightenment. He wants to go to celestial realms but instead altruistically returns to the unifactor to undo a wrong he has inadvertently brought about: The transformation of the evil politician Whim into a mind-destroying plant-demon who distorts and enslaves Frank and his friends. The new and metaphysically expanded Manhog sets out for a final battle with Whim...
Weathercraft also co-stars Frank’s cast of beloved supporting characters, including Frank’s Faux Pa and the diminutive, mailbox-like Pupshaw and Pushpaw; it is both a fully independent story that is a great introduction to Woodring’s world, and a sublime addition to, and extension of, the Frank stories.
Online Commentary & Diversions (through yesterday; we're a bit behind):
• Review: "...[E]ven [Basil Wolverton]'s throwaway work — in this case, half-page gag strips (emphasis on the 'gag') that appeared in Fawcett's Captain Marvel titles during and after World War II — is fully worthy of rediscovery. Like a Bizarro Dr. Seuss, Wolverton packs each Culture Corner with goofy, rhyming advice... While silly and inconsequential, these strips revel in the subversive, surrealist glee that would develop more fully in Wolverton's later output for Mad and others, a style that would help unlock the inner cretin inside everyone from Robert Crumb to Peter Bagge. ...Fantagraphics has to be applauded for tenaciously keeping Wolverton and his eye-gouging, subliminally influential work from slipping through the cracks of comics history. [Grade] B+" — The A.V. Club
• Review: "...Tardi’s [It Was the] War of the Trenches is the most powerful comic I’ve read on World War One since Charley’s War... The black and white art is perfectly suited to the era being covered... while Tardi, not for the first time, proves himself a master of expression, the looks on the faces of the men caught up in the war speaking absolute volumes... It’s a hugely powerful work, both moving and horrific and filled with anger for the suffering and injustices one group of ‘civilised’ humans can visit upon another... [A]s the last voices of those who were actually there are fading into silence works like this are needed to remind us of the monstrous acts we can be capable of in service to the beasts of jingoism and nationalism and hubris, that we should read them and take cautionary lessons from them. Never forget." – Joe Gordon, The Forbidden Planet International Blog Log
• Interview:Avoid the Future has an illuminating talk with Joe Daly: "The environment is surreal, in that it combines the fantastical with the urbane. I try to meld these two sides together into a continuum that supports both the phantasmagoric and the banal, in a naturalistic kind of way. On a conceptual level, I’m also interested in combining extreme stupidity with a bit of cleverness (which the title ‘Dungeon Quest’ is supposed to invoke)." There's also a glimpse of Dungeon Quest Book 2!
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon grills Ben Schwartz, editor of The Best American Comics Criticism, saying "It's the kind of volume that starts fights... but that's okay and it's part of the fun. There's a lot of good work in the book and one or two absolutely inspired choices. Anyone with an interest in comics should at least give it a flip-through, and anyone with an interest in writing about the medium should use it as a springboard to discover a host of excellent new favorites." Schwartz on pitching the book: "Gary was the most skeptical. Early on he asked me if I seriously thought I could fill a whole book with good writing on comics. He sent me his essay 'The Death of Criticism.' Nice to know that's on your publisher's mind!"
• Interview: Canada's National Post has a Q&A with TCAF special guest Jim Woodring: "My name is Jim Woodring and I’m a cartoonist. I’m going to TCAF by invitation, with an assist from Fantagraphics Books, my publisher. I have a new book out called Weathercraft and I’m going to answer questions about it.
• Plugs: At The Cool Kids Table, Rickey Purdin runs down some recent acquisitions, including a couple volumes of Mome ("constantly entertaining") and the Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales free comic ("...this free sample is PROBABLY about to set me on a path of Woodring fanaticism. Well played, Fantagraphics.")
• Plug: "Michael Kupperman's Tales Designed to Thrizzle is that rarest of comic books: It's actually, genuinely a comic experience, with several guaranteed laugh-out-loud moments per issue." – Paul Constant, The Stranger
Yes! For the first time ever, Fantagraphics will be heading to the great white north for this year's Toronto Comic Arts Festival. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, and yes, I'll confess, I'm looking forward to trying one of those Canadian donuts I've heard so much about.
Yours truly will be manning the table, along with Denise and Helen from esteemed establishment The Beguiling. So, let me answer you now, "No, Eric, Gary, and Kim are not here," and "No, we're not accepting submissions, but please visit our website for details on how to submit your work..."
We'll be bringing a bevy of sweet, tasty, chewy... um, books for you to buy (dammit, sorry, still thinking about donuts), including:
And be sure to hit up some of these great panels, too:
Feature: Daniel Clowes, James Sturm, Seth, Chester Brown, and Jim Woodring 11:30 – 12:30pm, Learning Center 1 (Located at Toronto Reference Library 789 Yonge Street, 1st floor, in the main atrium space)
Five of the world’s most respected cartoonists in one room, on one panel! Moderated by Tom Spurgeon.
Spotlight: Paul Pope and Dash Shaw 12:00-1:00pm, The Pilot (22 Cumberland Street, across the street from Toronto Reference Library)
TCAF Featured Guests Paul Pope and Dash Shaw are two of the most exciting creators in comics, mixing their influences and innovations to create groundbreaking work. Now Inkstuds Radio/Podcast host Robin McConnell will moderate a conversation between these two creators about the role that influences play in creating comics, ranging from traditional comics to film and music and from classical to contemporary works. This also includes a discussion of education, some key points in creating your own vision in comics, and an examination of how to make influences work and finding out where they lead you.
Spotlight: Jim Woodring’s Weathercraft 12:30 – 1:30pm, Learning Center 1 (Located at Toronto Reference Library 789 Yonge Street, 1st floor, in the main atrium space)
Jim Woodring’s cartoons chart a course through some of the most surreal imagery ever seen in any artistic medium, drawing visions from the realms of the subconscious to create a graphic world of dreams. But while his work may speak in the language of dreams, Woodring’s life has often led him into nightmare territory… Now venture into Woodring’s interior world with Weathercraft, the newest book in Woodring’s Frank world. Joining Jim Woodring will be journalist Sean Rogers, who will interview the author in a moderated Q&A.
The New Graphic Novelists: New Creators Transforming the Medium Sunday, May 9th, 2:15 – 3:15pm, Learning Center 1 (Located at Toronto Reference Library 789 Yonge Street, 1st floor, in the main atrium space)
There is a pantheon of great graphic novelists — folks who started thinking about comics as singular, book-bound creations. But that concept has shifted since its conceptualization, and a collection of young creators are pushing the medium in fantastic new ways. Creators Joshua Cotter, Colleen Frakes, Ryan North, Dash Shaw, and Raina Telgemeier will discuss their experiences producing comics that alternately defy and embrace the term ‘graphic novel”. Moderated by Eva Volin.
Research and History: Inspiration versus Obligation Sunday, May 9th, 3:00 – 4:00pm, The Pilot (22 Cumberland Street, across the street from Toronto Reference Library)
A discussion about different approaches and uses of research from the hardcore to the writers of historical fiction. Inspiration versus obligation … for everybody. A lively discussion led by Kathryn Immonen, and featuring Stuart Immonen, Jim Ottaviani, Kate Beaton, Ho Che Anderson, Willow Dawson, and Matt Kindt.
Russell Patterson and the Patterson Girl Sunday, May 9th, 4:30 – 5:00pm, Learning Center 1 (Located at Toronto Reference Library 789 Yonge Street, 1st floor, in the main atrium space)
Russell Patterson got his start in Montreal as a newspaper cartoonist. He then went to Chicago, where he eventually made a name for himself as an illustrator of flapper era nightlife. His “Patterson Girls,” which appeared in magazines and various comic strips (Flossy Frills; Gloria Gets Her Man; The Patterson Girl), were intended as caricatures, and between 1925 and 1960 they go from being fun and liberated to being sexist and shallow. Jaleen Grove, editor of Top Hats and Flappers (Fantagraphics) traces this progression in the context of the entertainment industry and its exploitation of glamour, looking at how models used illustrators and vice versa to further their careers.
It's not as though you need any additional convincing to pick up our 2010 Free Comic Book Day offering Weathercraft and Other Unusual Tales by Jim Woodring at your participating comic shop tomorrow (right?), but here are a few glimpses of the finished product to whet your appetite. (Click here if the embedded slideshow player below isn't displaying, or to view it larger in a new window.)
Mark your calendars! Desert Island in Brooklyn welcomes Kim Deitch for a signing and celebration of his new collection of The Search for Smilin' Ed! on Friday, May 14, 2010. Then, on Saturday, June 19, Jim Woodring will be in the house to meet fans and sign his new graphic novel Weathercraft. As usual with Desert Island, exclusive silkscreen show prints will be available at the events — that's a process picture of one of the screens for Kim's print above, and you can see the others on the Desert Island blog. We'll let you know more details as they become available, but in the meantime you can RSVP on Facebook for Kim here and for Jim here.