big box of comics, black and white, book review, Fantagraphics, fran, Frank, indie box, Indie Comics, Jim Woodring
Fran is the female counterpart to Jim Woodring’s Frank, a somewhat traditional “funny animal” cartoon character who lives in a completely untraditional world of mayhem, magical beings, mysterious objects, and massive acid trips. It’s a world where even when Woodring shows you exactly what is happening, you still wonder what the hell is happening! Frank stories are unpredictable and open to interpretation, and the Fran graphic novel is no exception.
Things start out simply enough. Fran and Frank are living in apparent marital bliss, where a morning of play fighting and teasing is just an expression of their mutual affection.
But when Frank and his pet chase down a creep who stole Frank’s sketchbook, they unearth a hole that leads to a subterranean cavern filled with presumably stolen wonders. Frank, being amoral or at least morally ambiguous, loots the cave and takes home the booty.
One of the treasures is a projector that, when worn on the head, projects the wearer’s memories like a movie. When Fran refuses to put it on her head, Frank loses his temper and screams at her.
As a result, she leaves him. When Frank realizes she’s gone, he is heartbroken, and beats himself up for being such a jerk.
The rest of the story primarily concerns Frank’s quest to follow Fran’s trail into the psychedelic wilderness and reunite with her. But there is more to Fran than meets the eye, and we discover several things about her that suggest she had good reason to not want her memories exposed to Frank via the projector. She violently slaughters some creeps who assault her, shacks up with a guy with a freaky face, and ultimately uses a shape-shifting deception to ditch Frank once again.
Frank doesn’t take it well. He lets loose a howl that brings down the heavens… or something!
From there, things get really weird. Frank’s journey takes unexpected twists and turns through a deranged cosmos loosely governed by cartoon physics and hallucinatory horror. Like the previous novel-length Frank adventures in Weathercraft and Congress of the Animals, Fran will keep you guessing about what could possibly happen next, and leave you pondering what it all means at the end.
Collector’s Guide: The 2013 hardcover edition of Fran is usually available at MyComicShop and on Amazon for about $20, and comes in a Kindle/Comixology version, too.