Monday, 20 January 2014

Fran by Jim Woodring Review


Jim Woodring’s carnival of the fantastique aka his latest creative vision, Fran, is another marvellous and enchanting comic set in his extraordinary world of The Unifactor. In typical Woodring fashion, Fran is billed as both a prequel and a sequel to his last book, 2011’s Congress of the Animals, and actually manages to be both! You can read Congress first, then Fran, or vice versa, or just Fran – all variations work! 

Woodring’s long-time character, Frank, gets a girlfriend, Fran, whom he met in Congress of the Animals. Their relationship hits a rocky patch when Fran won’t tell him about her life before she met him. This being a silent comic, ie. wordless, the sequence ingeniously plays out with Frank putting on a movie projector on his head and displaying the images on a white sheet. Fran refuses to do the same, gets annoyed, breaks the machine, and she and Frank have a bust up with Fran walking out on him. After a while Frank realises his error and goes after her, taking him on a journey of crazy backgrounds and weirder people. 

It’s hard to describe Woodring’s comics to people unfamiliar with them. Using words like crazy and weird can be off-putting as new readers might think it means his work is abstract and unapproachable but while his imagery is certainly strange and bizarre (in the best possible ways), he’s such a good cartoonist that his stories are absolutely easy to follow. The meanings of the stories are ambiguous, utilising a dream logic and feeling unanchored from reality but they’re no less fascinating to read and enjoy. The scope of his imagination is simply astonishing and his Unifactor world is breathtakingly unique. 

One thing you can say about a Jim Woodring book is that you never know where the story’s headed because one second Frank’s painting a picture and the next he’s chasing a little mummy to an underground cave of treasures. And that’s just part of the setup! He also has one of the best “Author’s Note” sections on the inside cover that I’ve ever seen. Anyone who loves comics should experience Jim Woodring at least once but from my own experience you’ll come back again and again – it’s too good not to read.

Fran

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