Written and Drawn by: Jim Woodring
I thought by now I had a decent idea of what Jim Woodring’s Frank comic series was. Essentially, I thought it was about a Steamboat Willie/Felix the Cat hybrid named Frank who got into bizarre misadventures that often served as parables for the ill-effects of greed and desire. Weathercraft takes the series in a slightly different direction. For one thing, the lovable, bumbling hero Frank appears mainly as a peripheral character here, as do other characters like Pupshaw and Whim. Instead, for the first time that I know of, the main character of Weathercraft is Manhog, a despicable creature who, true to form, is part man and part hog. It also introduces two new characters, a pair of witchy crones nicknamed Betty and Veronica.
The tone of Weathercraft is darker than what I’ve read in Congress of the Animals or The Portable Frank. Manhog has always been a bit character, usually maligned or maimed in just about every panel he appears in, and in this book, his life continues in much the same vein. His adventure here reminded me greatly of such classic picaresque novels as Candide and Don Quixote, stories where the hero basically rambles from place to place, gets beat up every step of the way, yet is hopeful nonetheless that the perfect world is around the corner.
Weathercraft starts with Manhog being his normal, miserable self, then follows him as he starts to gain awareness of his situation, and tries, often in vain, to seek revenge against his myriad of oppressors. The bad guys come in multiple forms, from the satanic villain Whim to a wide menagerie of crustaceans and gargantuan reptiles. In a Jim Woodring comic, things can take just about any different shape, and you never know what to expect when you turn the page. Weathercraft in particular reminded me of a mix of the Yellow Submarine cartoon and the art of Robert Crumb.
(Spoiler) The strangest moment by far comes when Manhog spies in the distance an actual human being. As far as I know, this is the only time in a Frank book when a human has appeared. I didn’t think humans even existed in the Woodring universe.
If you haven’t been exposed to the art of Jim Woodring before or the world of Frank comics, I’d recommend you start with either The Portable Frank or Congress of the Animals. The dark tone of this graphic novel may ward off people new to the series. If you’re a devotee of Frank and everything Woodring, then Weathercraft is a must-read.
If you’ve read Weathercraft by Jim Woodring, what was your take on it?