Jim Woodring is God
I've been deeply in love with the art of Jim Woodring ever since I first saw it, and I'm proud to say I've been a fan since his first self-published comics back in the '80s. Those were the days, when a dollar could get you an original J.W. sketch and $25 or so would get you a painting. (Try that today-- small drawings sell out immediately at $125 and the paintings go for over ten times that.) Hell, for a price somewhere in the middle, you could even get an honest-to-goodness Jim mask, made to order right off his face, complete with the stray whisker!
And of all his work, the Frank stories remain my favorites. They belong to a time and world all by themselves, dialogue-free and populated by strange and magical things. I say "things" because other than Frank himself-- he's at least some kind of animal-- all the other characters are bizarre creations with no connection to our so-called normality.
There's Manhog (above), a skulking pig-person, who's usually crying rivers, at least when he's not getting newborn birds drunk. His master is a crescent-moon-headed devil creature named Whim. Best of all is Frank's sour, unpredictable little pet, Pupshaw, who is just as likely to attack his master as love him.
Woodring's longtime publisher Fantagraphics has just come out with The Portable Frank ($16.99), a small and indispensible volume collecting 14 of the best Frank adventures. For a taste of the weird magic contained in these stories, here's a short clip from another must-have Jim product, Visions of Frank, a DVD with five Woodring tales interpreted by Japanese animators-- here's what happened when Pupshaw first met his other half, Pushpaw.
On the back cover of The Portable Frank is a quote from Daniel Clowes that I think says it all: "Frank, and I say this without a shred of hyperbole, is a work of true genius by one of the all-time greats." Amen and then some.