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May
19

Pinocchio by Winshluss: Read this Now.

It’s been a while since a comic really rocked my world to a degree that made me rush online to extol its virtues–I think maybe 2008’s Gus and His Gang by Christophe Blain is the last such book–but the recent English translation of Pinnochio by Winshluss is one for sure. This book is a masterpiece. I was on the fence about whether to do a post about this book, since I don’t really have much to say about it other than, “this is awesome,” but for the sake of spreading the word and showing off some of this amazing artwork, here goes…

I don’t know much about the cartoonist Winshluss and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information about him online. This fairly sparse Lambiek Comicopedia entry was about the only authoritative thing I could find in English. This book’s been on my radar for a while though, ever since Drawn did a blog post on the French edition about a year ago. While I’d assume Winshluss is well-known in France (the book took the festival prize at Angouleme the previous year), only recently has an English translation been available, thanks to publisher Last Gasp. I’m not 100% sure the book is on shelves everywhere in the U.S. at this very minute, but I picked mine up in person at The Beguiling in Toronto and I’ve heard mention that it’s in the most recent Previews--so, if it’s not out everywhere now, it should be shortly.

Here’s the cover. It seems to be identical to the French edition other than the name of the publisher:

To say that the book is a retelling of the original Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi would be really stretching the word “retelling.” It’s more of a re-imagining, or even re-writing, of the story using the basic Collodi characters as a jumping-off point. Winshluss takes the core characters (Pinocchio, Geppetto), adds some invented ones, and then sort of goes from there. The main character is of course Pinocchio himself:

As you can see, he’s not a puppet but a robot. As in the original story, he was invented/built by Geppetto, here:

In the Winshluss version, though, he’s designed as a war machine–a weapon that Geppetto thinks he can get rich with by selling it to the military. Predictably, all does not go as planned: The robot goes haywire because an insect–Jiminy Cockroach (more on him later)–takes up residence in the Robot’s head and shorts some of his circuitry. The slightly deranged Pinocchio then spends most of the rest of the book having bizarre adventures in Winshluss’s beautifully-drawn–but really nightmarish–fairy tale world.

One of the most striking things about this book is how Winshluss has takes the basic Pinocchio story, breaks it down into its most basic components, adds his own elements, and then re-assembles it into a complex and incredibly creative narrative that’s composed of a a bunch of different sub-plots that all masterfully loop back together by the book’s conclusion. Just a few of the strands running parallel to–and interlocking with–the main Pinocchio/robot story are… These two hobos:

(Yes, the French refuse to come in second in anything–even racist caricaturing. In your face, Spain!)

Also, there’s a story arc involving the “Slehzy Seven,” a Seven Dwarfs stand-in, whose interest in Snow White is, shall I say…. less than Platonic:

Pinocchio by  Winshluss also includes–among other things–a story arc about a giant fish called Dogzilla, a monarch who’s displaced by a revolutionary clown/mime, a hard-boiled/hard-drinking detective, a homage to Superman that takes place in the American heartland, a lesbian love affair, a murder and dismemberment, and and end-of-the world bomb plot.

Not sold yet? Well, here’s the other thing that’s truly stunning about this book: the amazing artwork. Winshluss employs a staggering array of different drawing styles in this book, all of them jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Here’re a few:

This is Winshluss’s “default” style. About 3/4 of the book is drawn like this–and is for the most part entirely pantomime.

All the Jiminy Cockroach stuff, though, is drawn like this:

Jiminy is, incidentally, an amoral, obnoxious, freeloading, alcoholic wanna-be writer who has delusions of grandeur but who never actually writes anything.

Winshluss also does these really beautiful painted images, usually but not always as splash pages:

The afore-mentioned Superman-ish story is drawn in this monochromatic “sketchy” style:

Even more unusual and impressive: Winshluss sometimes combines some of these different styles in the same page, or even in the same image, as here:

There are even a few one-off stylistic occurrences, like this black/orange duo-tone spread (edit – as pointed out in the comments to this post, this is a stylistic reference to Chick tracts!):

Whew!

At some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll have more things to say–and more substantive things to say–about this book, but for now all I’ve really got is this: READ IT. That’s what I might do (again) right now.

4 comments

1 ping

  1. Matthewwave says:

    This is a great comic book that I think might be getting more attention if it hadn’t hit comic book stores via Diamond the same day as Chester Brown’s Paying for It. Thanx for giving it some much-deserved attention!

    Some points about Pinocchio:

    1) That “one-off stylistic occurrence” — the “black/orange duo-tone spread” — is a Jack Chick track!

    2) I felt really bad for the penguin.

    3) One of the many, many reasons I love Pinocchio is that its creator’s name is Winshluss, and whenever I think of his name, I hear The Roches’ version of Good King Wenceslas in my head… and I love that recording.

    Matthew

  2. Ben says:

    Hey, thanks for the comments! I’d probably have totally missed this book as well amidst the Paying For It hoopla if I hadn’t been keeping an eye out for it because of that Drawn! article (and also seeing some some pics of the pre-release Last Gasp copy posted to Twitter around Wonder-Con time). It’s a fantastic book for sure.

    Re. the Chick Tract stuff: that thought had occurred to me, but I wasn’t sure if Chick tracts were as culturally ubiquitous in France as they are here. The color scheme looks like the cover of a Chick tract for sure, but usually the interiors are B&W. There’s a page from an ACME that’s done in a similar duo-tone style that I should probably reference as well.

  3. Ben says:

    OK, I re-read that spread I posted. Given the apocalyptic nature of it, it’s for sure a Chick tract reference. Good call!

  4. Matthewwave says:

    But, you know, I totally missed that about the color scheme! But, you’re right — he took the color scheme of a Jack Chick track *cover* and applied it to a Jack Chick track *interior.*

    I wonder why he chose to do that. Did he mis-remember Jack Chick tracks? I’m thinking it’s more likely that at some point in the process of conceiving and making those two pages he felt two pages of that design wouldn’t look so hot in black and white, and that he figured the best solution would be to, yeah, take a color that would look right on a Chick cover and use it in a one-color/b&w scheme.

    Matthew

  1. My Top Three Most Overlooked Books Of 2011 » Ben Towle: Cartoonist, Educator, Hobo says:

    [...] this book has been, do a Google search for it. The fourth result you’ll get will likely be my review on this very blog. You can read that blog entry to get an idea of what an amazing book this is. It’s been out [...]

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