Jim Woodring – One Beautiful Spring Day (2022) Review


  • Congress of the Animals (2011)
  • Fran (2013)
  • Poochytown (2018)

A few weeks ago I reviewed the first set of Jim Woodring’s disturbing Frank comics: The Frank Book (2003). While the stories in that collection were unique and the story of the author himself even more interesting, I wasn’t that moved by the comics, because I felt them to be too short and they read too much like random visions or hallucinations without meaning, and that didn’t leave an impression. Since the days of those comics, Woodring began to draw longer stories. He produced four full graphic novels starring Frank: Weathercraft, Congress of the Animals, Fran and Poochytown. Now, the last three of them are combined into a single large story in this new publication, with a hundred new pages to tie them together. That gives me renewed hope to read something extraordinary here.

As is the rule with Jim Woodring, there is a disturbing reason why these three novels fit together as a story. In my first review I explained how Woodring sees hallucinations and probably has schizophrenia. He seems to believe that the world of Frank, the Unifactor, exists, and dictates to him how the stories must be drawn. In the first novella, Congress of the Animals, Woodring deliberately went against the dictates of the Unifactor and the story ends in cataclysm. To redeem himself, Woodring had to draw the second novella, Fran, and the dramatic sequel Poochytown. Hold on to your butts.

And something extraordinary is what we got. The long story format works much better for Frank, as one crazy scene now leads to another like a string of chained happenings with some crazy logic connecting them together. Woodring’s drawings are more refined and confident, and the story is more interesting. In the first parts that cover Congress of the Animals, Frank frequently meets strange figures and every time he does the tension goes up, because anything could happen. They could make sudden rifts in reality or twist his face into something monstrous. What looks like nightmarish body horror sometimes makes Frank laugh as if it is not a big deal. From the outside, we can’t really tell when something is a joke or a serious transgression of bodily autonomy. Sometimes it is. There is real upsetting imagery here.

Frank clearly understands much more of his world than we do. In one scene, he goes to a movie theatre and all that is on the screen are organic shapes, flowing in and out of each other. Frank laughs and cries. Woodring’s comic seems to stress again and again that there is a hidden chaotic base reality of raw organic shapes and emotions underlying everything. While reading you automatically try to understand what is going on in the stories but it feels like some sort of uncomfortable pressure on the brain to do so. You’d have to be mad.

The story really starts when Frank meets a woman of his species, Fran, and they fall in love. The honeymoon phase as they woo each other is really sweet, but then they fight, break up, and then the whole thing goes off the rails with jealousy and a rival and so on. And since it is all filtered through the mad world of the Unifactor, it becomes something bizarre and unpredictable, a graphic metaphysical psychodrama. Good thing his faithful dogs Pupshaw and Pushpaw stick with him. And just to mess with your head even more, this part of the story ends where Congress of the Animals began! You could read these two novels in an endless loop.

But again, I’m getting less actual storytelling than I hoped for. Fran is gone all too soon and the rest of the book consists of Frank just wandering around, meeting and losing characters and seeing weird shapes everywhere. In the end, it never gels together into a story and I am getting the feeling that Woodring is doing the same thing over and over again. I am finding that I do really need a story in my comics. The final ten pages though are a brilliant conclusion that I never saw coming. Woodring’s Frank comics are unique and his talents and imagination are noticeable, but just like in the Frank Book, I find it all too superficial. I’ve seen enough of this to be satisfied and am ready to move on.

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8 Responses to Jim Woodring – One Beautiful Spring Day (2022) Review

  1. bormgans says:

    Reading these reviews was great, I wasn’t aware of their background, only their formal languzge, but I’m ready to move on as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • What do you think about text-less comics in general? Do they appeal to you?

      Liked by 1 person

      • bormgans says:

        In general, I’d say comics don’t really appeal to me. I’ve read a few good ones, but everything I tried the last couple of years fell short: too superficial, or not interesting enough drawing wise. The problem is I probably expect too much: my bar for drawing is Rembrandt or Picasso, and my bar for story telling is Egan or KSR, and as far as I know hardly any comics tick those boxes. I’ve read Richard Mcguire’s Here, that was basically text less if iirc, it was okay, but again, not enough depth.

        I have yet to investigate manga, but the price is steep for full series.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is expecting a lot, Bart! And manga, I want to read Akira this year as my first manga, but generally I am a bit repulsed by mangas because they are so long and often I don’t like the drawing style of the figures, the anime faces and so on.

          I have a specific taste for the art, and most American comics are terribly boring artwise. It looks mass-produced, and relies often on neon colours to overcompensate for boring line drawings. European comics are generally more often better drawn, but story wise can be very superficial, it’s true. But in the cases where I admire the art, I can often forgive simple storytelling. It helps that I have drawn as a hobby for years so I have strong reactions to the art, where I either quickly admire it or find it boring.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I would go crazy with no text. I need something to tie the art into…

    Liked by 1 person

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