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The cover to Francis Rothbart! The Tale of a Fastidious Feral by Thomas Woodruff, featuring the title and author's name in a white script font. In the background is an illustration of a young person wearing pearls across their chest with a wreath of what appear to be flowers and daffodils around their head. Above the title are two birds flying toward one another.
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Thomas Woodruff

Francis Rothbart!: The Tale of a Fastidious Feral

On sale date: December 13, 2022

A stunning, head-turning, “graphic opera” masterpiece from an acclaimed painter and illustrator.

Francis Rothbart! follows a feral child who is raised by magpies and other creatures and is repeatedly struck by lightning. Because of the phenomena, the child develops eccentric talents, which he then abuses, leading to his ultimate destruction by the same natural world that once nurtured him.

Written mostly in rhymed verse, Francis’s picaresque saga unfolds in an allegorical environment, much like the topographical constructions behind renaissance religious paintings. Referencing both the Venetian landscapes of Bellini, Pierro di Cosimo and Carpaccio, mixed with the unlikely animated backdrops of Jay Ward and Chuck Jones, Woodruff’s images recall the fictive gardens of a paradise lost that lingers somewhere deep in all our souls, moist and dark like the caves of the pious saints.

Combining both paintings and drawings, each scene is a visual and verbal feast that transports us to a place in which trees anthropomorphize into figures bending from the weight of stalactite crowns, an iris becomes the gown for an oneiric sprite, and the sky rains down tears, as if mimicking the melancholy of a weeping willow. In a muted palette, Woodruff’s carbon and white charcoal pencil drawings bring us ever closer to this mythical ecology. The artist lovingly focuses on every detail: ethereal, fragile blossoms, petals, roots, and leaves; impressively observed wildlife creatures; and each curve of the hand lettered text is rendered by the delicate hand of an illustrative obsessionist with a penchant for the poignant. Woodruff’s images are multi-sourced amalgamations that echo with familiarity, portraying a world that is not only our own but also exists in the place of our half-remembered dreams.

Thomas Woodruff’s first graphic novel is a self-described “graphic opera” unlike anything ever created, a tour de force of words and images in harmony that will be one of the most talked-about books of the decade.


"Woodruff spent the better part of a decade laboring over [this graphic novel], a 300-page hand-drawn masterpiece of the form." — The New York Times

"Woodruff's debut graphic novel is an ambitious, outré fever dream. ... This grotesque-erotic epic will call to curious and particular collectors, while raising eyebrows and questions about the boundaries of art publishing." — Publishers Weekly

"Thomas Woodruff's Francis Rothbart! is a baroque masterpiece in comic novel form and a voyage into a deep, rich, and patient imagination. Bernini would have been stunned." — Gary Panter

"A lot of times you'll be reading a book and you'll wonder, 'Where are the magpies bearing oven mitts?  Where are the villagers with wasp nests on their heads?' Finally, this book delivers!" — Jack Handey, author of The Stench of Honolulu

"Thomas Woodruff has created his own world. A world never seen before. An allegory of all our dreams. AMAZING." — Robert Wilson, theater director and visual artist (Einstein on the Beach, The Black Rider)


Full color
10.6" × 14.4"