Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days

Imagine the dream that may result from lying on the couch late at night with a fever, having just fallen asleep to David Lynch's Lost Highway on the television, followed by black and white Fleischer Brothers cartoons that you maybe catch bits and pieces of as you drift in and out of semi-consciousness, and you'll get some idea of the sorts of feelings Al Columbia's book, Pim & Francie: The Golden Bear Days will conjure within you. The book is a collection of short stories, most only partially completed, as well as drawings and single-panel cartoons, all centered around the Pim and Francie characters, a creepy-cute boy and girl cartoon duo who sometimes seem to be lovers, sometimes brother and sister, sometimes maybe both. The black and white comics and art are often printed as visibly damaged, with creases, tears, and tape visible over the original artwork. There is not a narrative in the traditional sense, only the barest suggestion of stories about these characters and their nightmarish world. As in a dream or nightmare, just when you think you've got a handle on things, perspectives and identities shift. Pim and Francie are sometimes the victims in these horror stories, sometimes the monsters. Their grandparents are depicted both as loving caregivers and as dangerous maniacs. A few motifs show up several times throughout the book: the haunted forest; broken dolls or other cartoon figures; knives and razorblades; a cartoonish, sunny landscape revealed as a frayed illusion obscuring a dingy reality behind the curtain. Al Columbia has worked in comics for a long time and been long-admired. This first published collection of his work shows off his talents to great effect. A frightening horror show of a comic you won't soon forget.


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