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Weathercraft: A Frank Comic Hardcover – June 8, 2010

4.9 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A book that sticks with you like a virus, Woodring's newest collection of tales of vague morality and definite oddity keeps intact his status as one of comics most eccentric auteurs. The surreal universe of Frank, "the ignoble innocent who bends with the breeze, rolls with the punches and never learns tomorrow what he has already forgotten today," focuses here on Manhog. Formerly a sideline character, the squat, piggish, and eternally suffering Manhog gambols and charges through the landscape, eating most everything he comes across and suffering mightily for it. The malevolently grinning character half-moon–faced Whim particularly has it in for Manhog (capturing and torturing him) as do the Fates-like creatures Betty and Veronica, who conduct strange spells and experiments on the clueless creature. Woodring's wordless story is a looping and circumstantial affair, concerned more with fantastically rendered backgrounds--his starkly layered landscapes play like minimalist woodcuts of the deepest unconscious--than matters of plot and story. There is a creeping message of sorts, about the wages of greed and what happens to curious cats, but it's mired in a universe of deeply strange beauty and not always easy to divine.
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From Booklist

Most of Woodring’s wordless, dreamlike stories center on the simple, catlike Frank, but this one features Manhog, his brutish, porcine nemesis, who undergoes a series of Job-like torments at the hands of the satanic, moonfaced Whim. After enduring these afflictions, Manhog achieves enlightenment and redemption; but his deliverance is short-lived as the newly altruistic creature must rescue Frank—and perhaps the universe—from Whim, who has been transformed into a mind-enslaving plant-demon. Other inhabitants of Woodring’s bizarre universe make brief appearances as well, notably Frank’s loyal pets, Pupshaw and Pushpaw. It’s all even stranger than that description makes it sound, but Woodring manages to make it all somehow convincing and compelling. There’s a consistent internal logic at work, and his cartoony-but-detailed drawing style, loaded with surreal imagery (think Walt Disney meets Carlos Castaneda) is the ideal vehicle to convey this hauntingly peculiar tale. And if it doesn’t all make perfect—or even imperfect—sense, its mysteries and subtleties reward repeat readings. Over the past two decades Woodring has created a dense and distinctive universe, and Weathercraft is perhaps its most rewarding portrayal yet. --Gordon Flagg

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics; 1 edition (June 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1606993402
  • ISBN-13: 978-1606993408
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Philip M. Cohen on June 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Jim Woodring has an imagination that no other cartoonist can match in strangeness, originality, and coherence. There may be a few who can produce weirder images meaningful only to themselves, but none who can turn such images into a story. A story set in a strange landscape that seems to make an alien sense but is never fully comprehensible, a story whose main characters often have humanlike personalities but interact easily with incomprehensible beings around them, but still a satisfying story. His early work was taken from his own nightmares and made me glad I wasn't him, but more recently he's concentrated on wordless tales of Frank and Pushpaw and Manhog. Weathercraft is several times longer than any previous story, and it's Woodring at the top of his form. If you have a taste for uneasy-making strangeness, you can't do better than this book. Look inside it and see for yourself.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those unfamiliar with the Frank series here's the basic idea...

The stories are wordless and take place in a dreamlike world inhabited by a cast of strange characters, each one being a unique archetype (see the back cover for a brief description of each). FRANK is a cat/mouse-like anthropomorph, who is typically the central character. In Weathercraft, Man Hog is the star and Frank is a background character....

I have long been a fan of this series and my appreciation for Jim Woodring's draftsmanship and depth of storytelling continues to grow. Before actually reading Weathercraft, I was lucky enough to attend a book signing event where Jim Woodring gave a slide show presentation on his art. In response to a question during the Q&A he spoke at length about the meaning of a scene in the middle of the story where Man Hog sees a series of weird visions (or tableaus). I won't go into detail on what he said, but what he demonstrated is that far more thought and meaning is embedded in this story than the casual observer will realize.

I have since bought and read Weathercraft. I read it closely and slowly. Then again.... and now three times, taking 45 minutes to an hour each reading. If you wanted to, you could read this story in ten minutes. But did you look at the creatures dressed as royalty, did you notice how their manipulations from afar affected Man Hog? Did you see that creature in the background? Did you notice the clues, the relationships, the recurring symbols, the causes and effects...?

Sure, there are plenty of funny and cute and simple scenes in Weathercraft, but much like the films of Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch, readers willing to really delve deep will find this to be a rich work, executed with meticulous technical skill.
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Format: Hardcover
How on earth do you review a Jim Woodring book? I suppose it's safest to start with the physical object itself, which is a beautifully designed solid 100-page hardcover, in a green binding with embossed colour dustjacket, the interior pages of heavy paper stock that brings out the textured quality of Woodring's wavy dream-like black-and-white drawing style. (Woodring's colour work brings different other-worldly psychedelic qualities to his Frank universe, but his black-and-white work has a clarity of line that is beautiful to behold).

Despite the absence of its usual main character, Frank, from the larger part of the narrative (and thus a little unsatisfying for me personally), the switch to Manhog as the conduit for what is experienced in Jim Woodring's curious and somewhat disturbing dream-like world, actually seems - for a brief period at least - to give the strange place of Unifactor some kind of weird sense. While Frank is mainly just an innocent who goes with the flow of the strange events that take place, the unpleasant Manhog often finds his rather selfish desires are contrary to the way the universe works and it places him in conflict with it. Not so in Weathercraft, where, surprisingly, Manhog seems to be on the road to enlightenment and become at one with the world around him.

The path to enlightenment however is not an easy one, seeing the horrible part-man/part hog-like creature go the usual humiliations and beatings, but this time succeed in overcoming Whim, the sinister devil-like creature that tortures him and conducts experiments on the other denizens of the universe. Manhog's actions - guided perhaps in some way by the two strange Moebius-like figures who appear here for the first time and conduct a strange ritual?
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Format: Hardcover
This is a really difficult book to try to describe to someone - on the surface the story is illustrated in traditional panels in a kind of Crumb-esque style and features no words, it's all pictures. But then you come to describe the pictures and falter. A Manhog - a human-like person who nonetheless has pig-like features. A cartoonish cat called Frank and his faithful box-like pets (dogs?). Two cackling hags who are probably witches but look like dragons and other things. A bad guy called Whim whose head is shaped like a crescent moon and is constantly smiling in a sinister rictus and experiments on odd looking animals. And that's just a handful of the inhabitants.

This is my first Jim Woodring so his 20 year long career writing and drawing "Frank" is unknown to me but I enjoyed this book nonetheless. As we watch Manhog bumble around this surreal landscape getting into strange situations and escaping them, you feel like this is a hugely symbolic dream. The kind of story which, if had been produced in medieval times, would almost certainly have a number of conspiracy theories surrounding it as to what it meant and who authored it - a mad monk in league with dark forces? What does this scene mean? And this? Is there another world lurking beneath ours? Instead it's a creation of Jim Woodring's Unifactor world but you nevertheless feel there are layers here with hidden messages in the odd symbols. Or it could all be a completely mad vision/dream of Woodring's.

Whatever your interpretation of this well produced comic book, you'll definitely remember it long after you put it down. It's a compelling, mysterious, very strange and wonderful comic book about a weird place and fascinating creatures. If you're a comics adventurer, take a trip to Weathercraft and explore. It's a memorable place.
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