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Pim & Francie: "The Golden Bear Days" Hardcover – November 30, 2009

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Columbia's legend over the last two decades has as much to do with the work he's destroyed or never finished as with the few spectacular, horrifying pieces that actually have seen publication. This, his first book, makes a point of being unfinished and unfinishable. These aren't actually stories about Pim and Francie, a pair of little-kid characters (drawn in a vintage animation style) who are perpetually stumbling into ghastly, wrenchingly violent scenarios: they're mangled fragments of stories, closeups of incomplete comics pages and animation storyboards, stained and crumpled sketches and notes. The book's spine calls its contents artifacts and bone fragments, as if they're what's left for a forensic scientist to identify after a brutal murderer has had his way with them; Columbia obsessively returns to images of bloody bloody killers. (His cartoon shorthand for destruction is a human tornado with lots of bent arms holding knives at daffy angles.) Many of the pieces are just one or two drawings, as if they've been reduced to the moment when an idyllic piece of entertainment goes hideously awry. But they're also showcases for Columbia's self-frustrating mastery: his absolute command of the idiom of lush, old-fashioned cartooning, and the unshakable eeriness of his visions of horror. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

Pim and Francie are a boy and a girl right out of early animation: crisply drawn in a handful of stock positions, with big shoes and three-fingered gloves, and usually identically posed when shown together, except when one or the other is in a chopped-up state. Chopped-up? Well, their grandpa and grandma as well as the Bloody Bloody Killer often turn up flourishing big knives and straight razors. This is all done in black and white, of course, like the early, silent, deadly Felix the Cat cartoons, and also in various apparent states of wear, tear, and draftsmanship (penciled, inked, half-inked, overlaid, palimpsest). Only vaguely narrative, nightmarish, but fascinating, especially for connoisseurs of pure cartooning. --Ray Olson

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics (November 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606993046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606993040
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,122,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Author Bill Peschel on December 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Last night I had a dream in which a shadowy figure appeared at the end of my bed. As it approached me, I aimed my bedside lamp at it and tried to turn it on. My desperation woke my wife, who in turn woke me up and spared me the sight of whatever it was that was tormenting me.

I have no doubt my rare nightmare of shadows was fueled by "Pim & Francie," Al Columbia's collection of horrors published by Fantagraphic Books.

Pim and Francie are children trapped in a nightmare world, threatened by knife-juggling multi-armed circus freaks, menaced by murderous (or worse) relatives, walking stiffly past gamboling disemboweled infants and innocent kittens stalking through grass, unaware of their gruesome fates. Then, like The Simpson's "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoons, the lil tykes reappear whole to be threatened and frightened all over again.

Columbia renders these retro figures, if not lovingly then at least accurately. He leaves the backgrounds unfinished or penciled in, as if the artist went made for awhile and committed horrible crimes before returning, panting and bloodied, to his work table.

In his overview of "Creepy 'alt-horror' cartoonists" at Robot 6, Sean T. Collins writes that what he likes about Columbia's work "is how they look like the product of some doomed and demented animation studio. It's as though a team of expert craftsmen became trapped in their office sometime during the Depression and were forgotten about for decades, reduced to inbreeding, feeding on their own dead, and making human sacrifices to the mimeograph machine, and when the authorities finally stumbled across their charnel-house lair, this stuff is what they were working on in the darkness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C.K. Lidster TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Al Columbia is an anomaly in the world of comics. He first emerged in the late 80's, working as an assistant to Bill Sienkiewicz when the older artists' fully-painted work on series like Elektra: Assassin had established him as one of the most influential and successful names in comics. When Alan Moore quit DC and began writing edgier material for independent publishers, who were enjoying a temporary but massive sales increase thanks to a speculative market gone mad, Sienkiewicz was the artist who would collaborate with him on a creator-owned title, 'Big Numbers'. It was an astonishingly complex and ambitious work, and the first two issues were a critical and financial success. For reasons never fully understood, Sienkiewicz quit the project after completing most of issue 3. Al Columbia was announced as Sienkiewicz's replacement, beginning with issue 4, and a new publisher was on board. He was a talented artist, and likely the only one capable of replicating his former boss and mentors' style (with the possible exceptions of Dave McKean and Barron Storey, who were busy with their own respective projects at the time). But as the deadline got closer, Moore and the publisher, Tundra (who agreed to release issues 3 and 4 if they liked Columbia's finished pages; Moore's own company, 'Mad Love', had handled issues 1 and 2, but Moore wanted to focus on writing), had a harder and harder time contacting him. When they did, it was clear he wasn't going to make the date originally solicited. So they pushed it back, and made their excuses and apologies to the distributors, assuming a bit more time would allow young Al Columbia to get it together. But it didn't. He dropped out of sight completely, and no one could find him.Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Swan VINE VOICE on December 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Al Columbia is one of the most enigmatic cartoonists alive and this collection will only add to his mystery. This book contains no story, only ideas and sketches pulled together and presented with some attempt to produce a very loose narrative. Collected here are the raw and disturbing images from the mind of an artist with seemingly no boundaries. If you've ever read anything by Columbia you'll know that he really doesn't do any self censorship and if anything this book is tamer than much of what he has produced. Columbia is generally characterized as such a perfectionist that his productivity is almost non-existent. This book would definitely back up that theory since many of these drawings are absolutely stunning and would only need some slight cleanup to be presented to the public in an actual story. As someone with a small bit of background in graphic design it saddens me to see pictures that clearly took many hours to create torn and taped back together.

If the book did have a theme you might say it's the loss of innocence. It isn't the innocence of Pim and Francie since they are clearly corrupted from the get go. Early in the book Francie is shown attached to a laughing monstrosity by an umbilical cord while Pim, cigar in hand and face obscured by shadows, shouts, `whore, he looks nothing like me'. No, the innocence that Columbia tries to take is that of the reader. The book is littered with images of beloved Disney characters including one haunting drawing featuring badly damaged statues of Mickey, Pluto and Donald Duck's nephews. Mickey's mouth is a gaping smashed hole; an image that's hard to shake made all the more sickening by the skill and precision of Al Columbia.
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