Jim Woodring is God

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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.

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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.

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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.


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