From Publishers Weekly
One of the godfathers of American underground comics, Deitch grew up among animators, and this graphic novel is his twisted allegorical history of the rise and fall of American animation. Spanning from 1927 (when theatrical cartoons began to hit their stride) to 1993, it's crammed with intrigue, mysteries and Deitch's trademark exploding page layout. The story concerns a close-knit group of employees of a minor animation studio, Fontaine Talking Fables, but it's driven by a malevolent talking cat named Waldo who's just real enough to drive some of the cartoonists who created him into alcoholism and madness. (Waldo's been appearing in one form or another in Deitch's work for 35 years.) It helps to know a bit about animation history to catch some of the jokes (animator Winsor Newton and his creation Milton the Mastodon, for instance, are clearly inspired by Winsor McCay and Gertie the Dinosaur). But even without this knowledge, the culture of the studios comes across clearly and the story's complicated chronology is remarkably engaging, albeit weirdly paced. Deitch has an odd, idiosyncratic visual style: his real-world characters are crudely two-dimensional, but they're drawn into distinctly un-cartoony tableaux of squalor and shadow. His funny animal characters, meanwhile, have all the squishable malleability of their silver-screen counterparts with an additional tinge of dark Surrealism.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Using sequential art to create a story about sequential art, Deitch gives readers fact-pickled fiction. Ted Mishkin's years in the animation industry are riddled with his personal mental health problems-which extend to hallucinating an evil cat, Waldo-as well as changes in popular interest in sequential art and the Disney empire's efforts to dominate the creative pool. Ted, his hero Winsor Newton, his studio boss Fred Fontaine, his true love Lillian, and a supporting cast of family and fans reveal how corporate concerns and mass culture took the edge off an art that once had a political and aesthetically experimental keenness. This is a complex story, replete with tawdry affairs, binge drinking, and sanitarium stays, but it is not crude or exploitative of either its characters or its readers. The black-and-white art is giddy with movement and detail, with Waldo waxing beguiling and malignant by appropriate turns in Ted's life of broken dreams. Lillian, who loses one lover in flagrante delicto, ages physically but becomes more beloved by all as the story draws to its Waldo-sealed conclusion. She is a particularly engaging character in a world in which men too often use women as extensions of themselves. A host of American studies issues are addressed here, including the history of the entertainment industry, alcoholism's status in 20th-century America, the lonely life of the creative genius as a cultural motif, and more.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.