I’ve been reviewing comics for over 17 years here now, and do you know why I’ve never reviewed a Jim Woodring book, despite the fact that he’s long been one of my top 5 favorite comic artists? Because I never knew how I could do one of his books justice. Well, I’m here today to tell you that… I still haven’t solved that problem. I don’t think it is possible to say something revelatory about his work, because it so obviously speaks for itself, and it so obviously speaks in its own, unique language. I’m mostly doing this to tell people who stopped reading Jim’s work in the mid 00’s, when he wasn’t putting out much if any new material, that there are now several books of his that you could get. Congress of Animals, Fran, Weathercraft, they’re all probably new since the last time you checked. If you’re completely new to the world of Jim Woodring and are wondering if you should jump in with Poochytown, well, no. I mean, you could; every Frank story (oh, newbies, that’s what this is, a story about Frank) could be the first or last Frank story in the chronology. But no, if you’re looking to dive into the Frank mythos, start with the giant hardcover “The Frank Book.” The story this time around deals with a wealthy… man? Thing? It doesn’t seem to have a face. Anyway, this creature is in a balloon, whiling his day away. Meanwhile, the man in the moon (on the ground) is annoyed that the balloon casts a brief shadow over him, which causes the creature in the balloon to stick him tongue out at him. He only really has the tongue, other than that he’s quite faceless. Anyway, the moon man on the ground throws a rock at the balloon, causing it to start sinking rapidly. To help his situation, he starts throwing his goods overboard, desperate to avoid a crash. It’s at this moment that we see Frank, as he’s been roused from his home due to the commotion. Frank and his two pals rummage through the debris, eventually finding a large… tuba? Frank and one friend are unable to get the tuba to do much, but his other friend creates an entirely new floating city, full of offshoots of the creature that made it. Sadly, the two of them drift away in the floating city, leaving Frank very much bereft and desperate to find his friends again. I just read through that description again and yep, that’s accurate. The rest of the comic involves that search, finding an unexpected ally, and a revelation about how Frank heals himself from injuries. Of all the silent comics in all the world, none of them take longer for me to read then a new Frank book. Partially it’s just because I want to savor it, granted, but I’d defy any of you to look at any one of his two page spreads and then spend less than a couple of minutes gaping at it in awe. There’s nobody out there like Jim Woodring and there’s nothing out there like Frank, and you owe it to yourselves to thoroughly explore both. $19.99
If you like things that are even remotely outside the box, as they say, then you already know all about Jim Woodring. In my humble opinion, there isn’t a greater living comic artist. Nobody can combine the pretty pictures with the crazy words like he can. This isn’t the kind of thing that you read looking for a good story: beginning, middle and end. It is the kind of story you read if you’re mood is kind of off, if you’re tired of reading the regular pattern of story. Jim is part diary-like rambling, part comics, and part other random stuff. This is one of the books that should be kept in print for all time.
This is the comic that taught me how silly it was to distrust the wordless comic. Nobody has done it better before or since than Jim Woodring. Frank is a… cat… dog… creature of unknown origin who gets into all kinds of crazy adventures. There’s no better way to describe it than that, but don’t think of “crazy” in the cliche way it has been used for years, but rather go back to the root of the word, when it actually meant “insane”. Think back to the last truly insane thing you’ve seen. Not weird, not zany or wacky, but insane. Welcome to the world of Frank!
When I say “more of the same” for this volume, I hope you know that that is a very good thing indeed.