Sunday Page: Jim Woodring

Every week on “Sunday Page” an author has to choose a single page from a comic book. It could be for sentimental reasons o for a particular technical achievement. The conversation could lose itself in the open water of the comic book world but it will always start with the questione: «If you had to choose a page from a comic book you love, what would you choose and why?».

This Sunday I’m out with Jim Woodring, author of Jim, Weathercraft and Frank. He was also animator and designer for Microsoft, creating the drawings for the Microsoft Comic Chat. As Massimo Giacon wrote, Woodring is an artist you don’t have to read, you just have to dream him.

wigglemuch

I wasn’t familiar with the comic, but I’ve read a little bit of its history online, it’s pretty interesting. Obvious question: why did you choose this particular comic?

I feel a deep spiritual connection to Herbert Crowley’s work. Dan Nadel brought this strip to the world’s attention by publishing it and others in his great book Art Out Of Time. Crowley is trying his damnedest to use the newspaper comic as a platform for expressing his personal philosophical and metaphysical notions. He was obviously a mystic. He used children’s poetry and infantile, static cartoon characters to express the most profound themes available to an artist. That Sisyiphean determination to labor hard is something I admire very much. I see him as heroic. Heroic and not at all tragic.

Nadel visited Crowley’s great-niece, I think it was, and photographed a lot of his work in her possession. Looking those images over I felt I had seen it all before. It was something more than a deja vu. It would not surprise me to learn that his personality was reincarnated in me, so familiar does his work seem. I understand him from the inside out.

Why that page?

This particular page expresses the most profound sentiments I have ever encountered in a comic. The themes dealt with – recognition of a transcendental personality, the special education afforded that personality by erstwhile inquisitors, the brutality of the world as a backdrop to enlightenment- are nourishing in themselves.

And of course the punchline is a jaw-dropper; “…this… has happened to you.” What has happened to the Wigglemuch? Death has happened to the Wigglemuch.  You just don’t get messages like that in the funnies anymore.

The more I think about it the more I see how there’s a lot a things in common with your works, in both the contents and the style (the symmetry, the surreal quality, the frog-like aspect of the character).

True. It’s strange, but I’d never heard of it or Crowley til the book came out.

So what’s you take on the comic?

The scenes depicted seem a little arcane at first blush but on close examination they bury the needle on the Mysteriometer. We can see that the events unfold in a series of rooms with different equipment, charts and galleries of observing creatures but we are given almost no clues as to what the details signify. And yet, if we examine them we can understand them through the responses of our inner selves. This, to me, is poetry, the real thing.