Are the Frank stories fables, allegories, or dreams? Is Frank a cat, a dog, or something in between? Is Jim Woodring an above-average cartoonist with a steady supply of magic mushrooms, or a genius? The reader of The Frank Book will be left with these questions and more upon finishing this lavish, wondrous 350-page coffee table book. But, while reading--or rather, perusing--these wordless tales, which have been collected from publications ranging from Heavy Metal magazine to The Millennium Whole Earth Catalogue, some things do become clear. For instance, Woodring must be an artist with a direct line to his subconscious; how else to explain the dreamlike intensity of these tales, which communicate through symbols and archetypes? And, as filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola observes in his introduction, even at their most oblique the Frank adventures carry with them "a subtle sense of resolution, letting us now that in Woodring's world the equation has been thoroughly worked out and presented, and that the results are worth understanding."
But The Frank Book can be enjoyed purely on visual terms as well. The high-quality paper stock enhances the Seattle artist's dazzling use of colour, and his black-and-white work is as marvelous to behold in its own way. On a level of pure imagination, it is hard to think of any creatures as fully formed yet bizarre as those populating this work--oddities like the geometrical Jerry Chickens, the mischief-making, moon-faced Whim, and Frank's toaster-shaped companion Pupshaw. To open the book is to step into a universe as thoroughly realized and magical as Oz. (Although The Frank Book, with its occasional scenes of brutality, may not be suitable for children.) As Coppola notes, "The Frank Book is one man's puzzling gift to a puzzling world. It brings a hidden world to light and lets us examine it minutely." As with Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan, The Frank Book deserves a place not just on the comic lover's shelf but in the collection of anyone with an appreciation for brilliant visual storytelling. --Shawn Conner [via]