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Weathercraft: A Frank Comic Hardcover – June 8, 2010
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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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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Frank and his world, The Unifactor, are essentially psychic real estate located in the dreaming mind of Woodring. The silent misadventures of Frank, his loyal pet godling Pupshaw, the repulsive and unpredictable Manhog, and diabolical slaver Whim, operate under rules of logic and causality that are understood only vaguely at first. It's as if we are slowly recollecting a childhood trip to a circus or local fair. Woodring is forcing the reader to approach his gorgeously rendered world, shifting from painted candy-colored palaces to forests of undulating black and white tones, as if we were dreaming it, not reading it. There are very few artists who understand the culture of the sleeping world like Woodring; David Lynch comes close, at times. Fellow cartoonists Charles Burns and Daniel Clowes are his stiffest competition. The comics page is better suited to relating dreams and nightmares than any other medium, including film. 'Weathercraft' was the first book-length Frank tale, but like all Frank stories, it can be read without any previous exposure. The black and white artwork is beautiful, and the story is a dense, baffling adventure that is just as great the second time around. Woodring followed 'Weathercraft' with 'Congress of the Animals', which is just as highly recommended; both volumes share a matching format and design scheme that is gorgeous. 'The Frank Book' remains the Woodring essential, however, a 350+ page oversized hardcover that includes the first decade or more of Frank stories, many of which are executed in the fully-painted glory for which he is famous... or should be famous. Whether working with ink, paint, charcoal or prose, Jim Woodring is one of the world's greatest living artists.