Recommended Reading: Congress of the Animals

scanned cover to Congress of the Animals by Jim Woodring

Calling Congress of the Animals recommended reading is a bit misleading.  It’s definitely recommended, but it doesn’t technically involve reading.  The entire book doesn’t feature a single word bubble.  The only words are on the book jacket.  What this is is a story told entirely through pictures–delightful pictures at that.  The artwork is done in an early cartoon style, similar to what you see in Steamboat Willie and other cartoons from the 20s and 30s.

The plot is too dizzy to recount.  It’s essentially a picaresque story about a cat whose house is accidentally destroyed at the start of the story by junk dropped from a hot-air balloon, and the misadventures he gets into while looking for a new home.  I was reminded a little of Disney’s Pinnochio, specifically when Pinnochio goes to the weird carnival island.  The cat, who according to the book jacket is named Frank, goes to many similar places, each one stranger than the last.

This was really an entertaining book.  It was visually different from anything I’ve ever seen in a comic, the story was unique, and some parts were laugh out loud funny, especially the scene early on when Frank has to find a job to pay for rebuilding his home.  It takes the phrase ‘daily grind’ to a new level, having Frank work all day on a machine that grinds up junk.

When I started reading this, I thought at first I’d have a good comic to recommend for kids and adults, but then there’s some bizarre turns near the end that might freak out young readers (Frank goes to a place where all the people insist on opening up their stomaches and showing off their innards to each other).

Congress of the Animals is put out by Fantagraphics, a company that prides themselves on publishing rare, unusual, experimental, and artful comics.  They are also the company that released Cinema Panopticum.

If you like Congress of the Animals, you might also enjoy What I Did by Jason.

Also, check out the Fantagraphics site for more unique publications.

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