Jim Woodring was born in Los Angeles in 1952 and enjoyed a childhood full of poetry and perturbation among the snakes and tarantulas of the San Gabriel mountains. A self-taught artist, his works include his autobiographical comics (THE BOOK OF JIM, 1992), wordless cartoon stories (THE FRANK BOOK, 2004), his anecdotal charcoal drawings (SEEING THINGS, 2005), and the sculptures, vinyl figures, fabrics and gallery installations that have been made from his designs. He also has a blog.
Everyone who is into comics knows what the acclaimed graphic novels are. I have most of 'em and I recognize that they are magnificent achievements. On the other hand I haven't read many of them all the way through because despite their greatness they wore me out or bummed me out or left me out in some other way... like Moby Dick did. I never could get through that indisputably great book.
And so I'm going to recommend a graphic novel that is great because it is good, solid and delivers in spades what I most enjoy in a comic book; a comfortable mastery of the form, fun, surprises, a story I can get into and a light touch. In short its the kind of book you can flop down on the couch with of an afternoon, lie back and enjoy.
It's Ménage à Bughouse by Steve Lafler, published by CO2 and available here.
This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. -- Mark
Mind Blowing Movies: Bimbo's Initiation (1931), by Jim Woodring
[Video Link] I might have come to grips with the overwhelming mystery of life in a rational, organic manner if it weren't for a cartoon I saw on my family's old black and white TV in the mid '50s when I was three or four years old. This cartoon rang a bell so loud that I can still feel its reverberations.
It was "Bimbo's Initiation," produced by the Fleischer Brother Studios in 1931. I won't attempt to describe it; you can see it online. It's an ingenious piece of work, made by men who I now realize were well aware of its metaphysical content, as evidenced in part by the use of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld in the soundtrack. Perhaps its creators were trying to amuse themselves by making a cartoon that combined madcap whimsy with philosophical depth. Or maybe they were just high. Whatever their motivation and intent, "Bimbo's Initiation" became my prime symbolic interpreter, the foundation of my life's path and endlessly exploding bomb at the core of my creative output.
The reason that cartoon affected me as strongly as it did was that I thought it was real, that it depicted events that were happening in my neighborhood. I set out to find those rooms, those implements, that bicycle, that pool. I got a reputation as the little boy who looked into everything. Whenever I went into someone else's home the first thing I would do, if I could, was look behind their drapes.
Consequently I missed a lot of things that were actually going on, which caused me a lot of grief, one way and another. The pleasurable intensity of the delusion was well worth any trouble that resulted from it, though... and as I say, it gave me a livelihood.