Thursday, January 29, 2009

An Amusement (IX)

Jim Woodring is probably one of the strangest, and is certainly one of the most compelling and brilliant, comic-book artists of the last couple of decades. Starting with his auto-journal Jim in the mid- to late eighties, he has produced comics, paintings, very strange novelties and models, and in general is a one-man Surrealist cottage industry. And he has a blog! (which can be found here.) I urge you to seek out the collections The Book of Jim, the several Frank books, and the original issues of Jim Volume 2 (there's six in total, which I have; I really like the way he alternates the Jim and Frank stories in the comics, something he doesn't do in the collections. Jim Volume 1 (in four issues) is the original auto-journal, all of which are, to the best of my knowledge, out of print. I only have No 4, one of my prize possessions.)
The Jim stories are literal transcriptions of his unsettling dreams, with little or no editing, while the dialogue-free Frank stories concern a strange, cat-like being (with mighty choppers) and the very peculiar world he inhabits. To say any more would be to spoil the pleasures that are to be gained from exploring it yourself. The books and comics are available from Fantagraphics; other items, like paintings, models, and oddities, can be obtained from the man himself here. So buy something, and do your bit to make an authentic genius rich!
Several of the Frank stories were brought to the screen as short films by Japanese animators, and collected together on a DVD called Visions of Frank (see here; it's unfortunately out of stock, which is a great shame). They have, however, been posted on YouTube and, while such copyright infringement is not something I usually approve of, in this case it's the only way I have of seeing these films at all. So, to get you in the mood to explore Mr Woodring's remarkable work, here's a Vision of Frank!
(Note: The picture is (intentionally, I believe) quite low contrast, so it's best watched on full screen with the lights off. And I love the music!)

6 comments:

Sean Jeating said...

Thanks a lot for this nightly amusement, D.E.

A Doubtful Egg said...

Glad you liked it, Sean!

Claudia said...

Somehow it reminds me of Jonah in the whale. Glad Frank got out...As you say, the music is great.

I looked at Jim Woodring's website. He's quite an impressive artist, colour and charcool. But I find his universe a bit unsettling. My grandson (at 5) will love it. He's got this wild imagination, and doesn't seem to like the quiet, peaceful scenes his Grandma Claude offers him...

A Doubtful Egg said...

Some of the Frank stories, especially the earlier ones, are definitely not suitable for children. Although I'm all in favour of encouraging wild imaginations! I have high hopes of my nephew becoming a avant-garde free-jazz drummer, although he's only 2 (he has the energy, if not the motor skills). But my sister's none too enthusiastic about the idea...

Stan said...

Jim Woodring inhabits a strange and original world, and I am only grateful that he chooses to share it with the rest of us. Disturbing, yes, but beguiling too, and extraordinarily tense for comic art.

A Doubtful Egg said...

He is a true original, and I think this cartoon captures the atmosphere of the strips very well. I've been ridiculously lax in not getting his new book, something that must be rectified...