May 3, 2007


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Beasts! edited by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics Books, 2007, 200 pages)
Reviewed by Eric W. Saeger

Harcover coffee-table compendium of mythological creatures illustrated by a dense variety of artists, mostly of punk and/or minimalist persuasions. For 30 years now, comics publisher Fantagraphics has foisted upon the world a wide variety of chicken soup for the disaffected soul — Artbabe, Love and Rockets, Gil Hernandez’ Heartbreak Soup and so forth — thus you shouldn’t go in expecting painstakingly worked Frazetta-level fantasy; it’s an A-Z scrapbook collection of first impressions laid out as a series of full-page drawings with corresponding text in classic font.

There’s a lot to learn outside of the usual vampires (here painted with a liberal dose of red spray by Sam Weber in a primitive Rich Corben style) and werewolves (alt-rock CD cover sadboy silliness from Chris Silas Neal). What eventually dawns on you is how ancient legend served as the cinema of its day, not strictly as some sort of ruling-class methodology intended to keep proletariats a-feared and controllable. Here you’ll encounter the Scottish deer demon Sianach, for example, and the Filipino Aswang, which sucks out the unborn child of its prey using its long tongue and tweezing nails, leaving in the fetus’s place a replica made of sticks and assorted junk. There’s certainly enough weirdness here to have kept Mulder and Scully employed for a dozen more TV seasons.

Dan Grzeca’s version of the Gorgon is reminiscent of Kandinsky, while Kevin Dart’s human-eating amphibian Odontotyrannus is aptly imagined in the form of a ’50s sci-fi movie poster complete with bikini girls. Dean Yeagle’s contribution is hysterical, a Dog of Darkness (Barguest) rendered as a slobbering, horned spazz-mutt (named Snookums according to his dog tag) obviously out to run down Ren and Stimpy and use them as chew toys. B