Dec 8, 2015

Frank Finds What We're All Looking For

Since 1996, readers of independent comics have been treated to the adventures of Frank, a bipedal "funny animal" who looks like he escaped from a 1930s Max Fleischer cartoon. He inhabits a surreal, chaotic world called the Unifactor, surrounded by grotesque plants and animals, landforms that turn into people, monstrous god-like beings, monstrous demon-like beings, the spiritual emanations of real-world people, symbols, metaphors, and jivas (immortal essences shaped like gaudy tops).

The stories are wordless, except for an occasional cryptic remark. You are expected to find your own meanings.

It is crazy, weird, surreal fun, with lots of gay subtexts.

Frank's main nemesis is the Manhog, a naked, sweating, hedonistic hog-person,  The Manhog is often abused by his superiors in the Unifactor hierarchy, and, jealous of Frank's comfort and privilege, seeks revenge. But in one story he finds enlightenment through the ministrations of a caring friend or lover, and seeks out Frank to make amends.

One of the main sources of discord in the Unifactor is Whim, a demon-moon faced stick-being who conducts weird body-altering experiments and otherwise torments other beings.  But he, too, can be read with a gay subtext for his intensely physical interest in Frank.

So I thought.  But then I noticed some strong, almost Puritanical moralizing in Jim Woodring's comments.

Frank is "completely naive, capable of sinning by virtue of not knowing what he's really about."

Manhog is "an unholy hybrid of human ambivalence," who has sinned so much that he deserves all of the suffering he gets.

The beings in the Unifactor are inhabiting a spiritual realm, surrounded by myths and symbols, trying to find the ultimate reality that will explain their existence.

What is the ultimate reality?

In Congress of the Animals (2011), we find out.  Frank goes exploring, enters another realm of consciousness, and finds "what we all are looking for."  The ultimate reality.

A girl.

At first I thought I could still salvage Frank.  Maybe it wasn't a girl, maybe it was a boy, or a being of indeterminate gender.  Maybe "what we all are looking for" is a friend.

Nope, it's a girl named Fran.

Is the ultimate meaning of life creating art?  Helping people?  Exploring?  Finding God?

Nope, "what we are all looking for," is  heterosexual romance.

And erasing gay people from the world.