Some times, the books published by Fantagraphics are just too weird for me. The new books by David Sandlin are a good example (with luck, I’ll have reviews up soon on those too). But then, Fantagraphics puts out some things that are a wonderful addition to the comics world and some that make me wonder why I give a damn about superheroes at all.
Not so strange as The Alphabetical Ballad of Carnality nor so transcendent as Ghost World, is the upcoming book Beasts!, a 200-page encyclopedia of mythical-type creatures that were once believed to exist. The entries are straightforward, without the slightest sliding of tongue into cheek. Here’s an example:
“Resembling a bulging, walking stomach, the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs lurks in the waters of Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne, which has long been considered a portal to hell by the Swiss. Although the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs is rarely seen upon the shores and hills surrounding this otherwise idyllic and photogenic lake, eyewitness accounts agree on the misshapen beast’s malevolent, firespouting eyes. “
The book (with a list price of about $29) is an interesting addition to the shelves of anyone with an interest in cryptozoology, but what puts it over the top is the art. For each of the couple hundred creatures, there is a full-page illustration. These range from completely ridiculous to comical to serious and threatening. For the Bautatsch-ah-ilgs, for instance, Jesse LeDoux drew a giant pink caterpillar with its tail wrapped around mountains and huge belches of flames pouring over the earth. (Of course, this being Fantagraphics, there is a nice drawing of the Boraro, apparently noted for their “enormous phalli”)
The art styles are so wildly varying (about 100 artists contributed to the project) that there’s something for everyone, and fledling artists will find plenty of inspiration and reference material. Oh, but don’t read it if you’re planning to visit Italy’s Aventine Hill. At least, unless you want forewarning of the three-headed giant spider that may or may not devour you.