Late seventies and early eighties s kids television was weird. It was mainly made by burnt out hippies from the sixties who hated children so was often quite disturbing. You have the choice between an overweight man in a too tight white body stocking or a cartoon cat that sounded like foxes mating instructing you on the safe way to cross the road. You had snuff films telling children not to run in front of trains, fly kites near electricity pylons or to eat all of mummy's happy pills that she takes to get through another day of life with daddy. I remember a TV show, for young children mind, set in a dolls house. After everyone had gone to bed, the dolls came to life and had exciting stop motion adventures. Over thirty years later all I can remember clearly is that towards the end of season one a new doll is introduced, a wicked, spoilt doll. She won't play nicely with the other dolls. She finds a lit candle and starts messing about, oblivious to the danger. In the nick of time the nicest and kindest of the other dolls, who the omniscience narrator has reminded us each episode is also the most flammable, saves her from the flame but goes up in a puff of smoke herself. And is the evil doll chastened and wiser for the experience? No, not a bit of it. The owners never find out where the other doll has disappeared to and the evil doll comes back next season as vile as ever. So the moral is kids, make sure you surround yourself with good-natured patsies to take the fall for all of your selfish decisions.
I thought of this when reading 'Beautiful Darkness' as it has that precise air of early 80s morality-fail. British kids that have read 'The Dandy' are probably aware of 'The Numbskulls', tiny characters that live inside the human body driving us, one controls the legs, one controls the arms, there's a little man for the duodenum, another for the ears and so on. In this they inhabit the body of a young girl and while it's not entirely clear what their job was, if they were driving her about they've not done a very good job because she's dead, deep in an unnamed forest. The various tiny more or less human characters that inhabited this body climb out and then proceed to go all 'Lord of the Flies' on one another. It's survival of the fittest but when you have nothing and your not even as tall as the maggots that start to devour what was your home you're probably not far off the bottom of the local food chain.
The story by Marie Pommepuy and Fabien Vehlmann is incredibly dark and cynical, clearly people annoyed by all those stories where the cute children and family pets survive a disaster for no good reason. Here cheats prosper and good deeds lead to often violent death. Aurora is our main character, if all these weird little people are in some way part of the dead child that she might be the soul or morality. She attempts to organise the survivors together to survive but through ant attacks, poison and several amoral members of their own species she is fighting a losing battle. This is all lovingly rendered in gorgeous watercolours by Kerascoët. Is there a point to this? Not really. I think it's trying to find the black humour in horror, but the two don't really gel, the horror diffuses the comedy and the comedy sabotages the horror. There are some horrific deaths and some funny deaths. There are some sad deaths and a few well-deserved deaths. It's a death buffet.
If you don't know WWE then you probably only know Andre the Giant from the 'Obey' stickers or the eminently quotable 'The Princess Bride'. Box Brown's 'Andre the Giant: Life and Legend' is another entry in the burgeoning area of comic biography. Despite being 232 pages long this is a very quick overview of the life and career of a unique individual and someone who is there at the start of the WWE. Andre Roussimoff was born in France in 1946. Due to both gigantism and acromegaly he was a distinctive 7 1/2 feet tall and 600 pounds, or 42 stone in real money. With stats like that it was probably inevitable that he would turn to wrestling, first in France and then around the world are primarily in Japan and the United States. The book concentrates on his American fights, the whole staged notion of the thing, his rise in the seventies as a 'Babyface' and then his 'decline' in the eighties as a 'heel'. This is interspersed with many scenes in bars displaying his heroic tolerance for alcohol. In fact, other than a few short scenes of him on talk shows and a few pages about what his fellow actors on 'The Princess Bride' remembered this book gives the impression that when he wasn't in the ring he was in a bar somewhere. Box Brown's art style is a very simple monochrome one. He has to label all the characters that appear in this, like Hulk Hogan or Bad News Brown, but that's the nature of biography not a comment on the art. He manages to convey some of the movement of wrestling but the majority of these and the endless bar scenes have a static amd staged quality. In the end this comes over not as a biography of Andre's private life but his public one and Brown does get some of the drama of what is one of the oddest American sports across.
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