Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Doctor Strange And Frank

So, one day I'm looking at what I can do with my blog, and see that it's possible to associate a picture, an avatar, with my profile.

Without too much thought, I went and snagged a picture from one of my favorite comics, Frank, by Jim Woodring.

When I was a kid, a trade paperback collection of old 1960's Dr. Strange comic books came into my possession. I was too young (well, technically unborn) to read these when they first came out, but this reprinted collection took a firm grip on my young imagination as soon as I laid my eyes on it.

There were two main Marvel superhero comic artists at the dawn of Marvel's "Silver Age" in the early 60's -- Steve Ditko, who drew Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, and Jack Kirby, who drew pretty much everything else. Apart from the fact that Spider-Man was my favorite superhero as a child, I gravitated more to the quirkier style of Steve Ditko.

His drawings of the early Spider-Man were wonderfully executed, but looking at Dr. Strange, there was truly some freaky stuff going on. Through the course of its initial Lee-Ditko run, Dr. Strange spent many a day in other dimensions. I have a sneaking suspicion that Ditko was given quite a bit of artistic license to invent these wonderful worlds. Here are just a few samples of some of his otherworldly artwork.

I thought (and still think) this stuff is amazing.

My brother has been into comics much longer than me (he's also a talented cartoonist in his own right), and has always been interested in, for a lack of a better word, "alternative" comics.

For Christmas or his birthday, I'd usually pick up an underground or non-mainstream comic for him -- for example, something by local Chicago artist Chris Ware. I noticed a Frank book in a visit to a comic store, and snatched it up for my brother. Now, I have to admit that I did not immediately wrap this gift. I read it from cover to cover.

It was reminiscent of the Dr. Strange comics of my youth in that it showed an incredible, imaginative world, but to me it seemed so much richer. The artwork was amazing. The stories were different -- the recurring characters were enigmatic, ever shifting. There was no dialogue. The stories seemed to bypass one's matter-of-factness part of the brain, plugging directly into the unconsciousness. Sometimes the stories were whimsical, sometimes funny, sometimes quite jarringly disturbing, and sometimes they were all these combined.

The stories in Frank had (and still have) a profound effect on me. Have you ever been exposed to some form of art, music, where after you have experienced it, you find it hard to believe you went your whole life unaware of it? That's pretty much what these stories are to me.

Note: the image below represents a page within the context of a larger story.

Here's a large sampling of Jim Woodring's work, much of it of the beloved enigmatic cat Frank (just follow the art show links, why don'tcha?).

Woodring also has a blog which he sporadically posts the odd piece or notion.

I actually managed to contact Mr. Woodring, inquiring whether I could continue to use the image I [ahem] appropriated for my avatar. He was very gracious and said it was okay.

I'd highly recommend you give his stuff a look-see. It's the bee's knees, dears.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I love Ditko! He never ever gets enough mention!

Splotchy said...


Long live the man who draws skinny superheroes!