Review: Jim Woodring's Weathercraft

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Jim Woodring has talked about his desire to create pure comics, to even pare things down to pure symbols. He succeeds in giving us a pure Woodring vision in his latest book, his first full length graphic novel, "Weathercraft."

Woodring has also spoken about reaching a certain point in life when the secrets of the universe seem more accessible. That too can be found in this book. Woodring is a master at conjuring up magic with comics. For him, pure comics means a lot. It brings to mind, Popeye's Thimble Theatre, Little Nemo and Krazy Kat. Like these landmarks in comics, Woodring's Frank and Manhog fascinate us because of their loopy roles as the Other. They are not us. They would never use cell phones or laptops. They don't drink lattes. They would use whatever is peculiar to their own world. They function more as symbols than characters.

The cosmic forces of the Unifactor, have their way with Manhog on his Hero's Journey. With raw perseverance, Manhog finds himself becoming more man than hog. In a particularly touching moment, Manhog is confronted with a scene of a man tending a field with a hog beside him. This is one trippy revelation. Manhog clearly sees the two sides to him as separate entities. It is not lost on him but then the question remains as to what can he really do with this self-knowledge. Although limited by nature and circumstance, Manhog, the character/symbol, keeps moving forward. Maybe he would return to moving backward, if so swayed. But, for the purposes of this strory, despite himself, Manhog keeps making an effort.

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So, kick back and play some Black Sabbath or some Brahms or Coltrane, whatever floats your boat, and enjoy this wordless journey into the abyss and back, through a tear in the fabric of reality, into a series of Byzantine dead ends, made up of wavy crosshatching, euphoric frog landscapes and mind-blowing epiphanies. Don't worry about Manhog too much. The old bastard will get what's good for him. And Frank will always be around to serve him pancakes or give him a lift in his convertible until he must, once again, face off with the little demon, Whim. It is a classic, yet twisted, Hero's Journey you will enjoy revisiting.

As odd and loopy as he is, could Manhog, such a sloppy apathetic sod, ever be a reflection of us? Well, all too easily, we can see that this is pretty much the case. Symbolically, in a collective sense, as far removed from our comfortable zone as he is, Manhog will actually always be more man than hog.

By all means, celebrate the world of Jim Woodring and pick up a copy of "Weathercraft," published by Fantagraphics Books. It is a hardcover, 104 page book for $19.99.

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