Wostok & Grabowski – Daddy is so Far Away…We Must Find Him! (1998)
Daddy is so Far Away…We Must Find Him! is a cool book. It was released in 1998 by Slab-o-Concrete Publications and was created by Serbian comics creators, Wostok & Grabowski (with translations and editing by Chris Watson, and a short introduction by Jim Woodring.) I wasn’t able to find out much about Wostok & Grabowksi because most of the websites that discuss them are written in not-English, and since I was brought up in the American education system, I only know how to read in English… This is a real bummer, too, because this book is brilliant, and I’d like to know more about the people who made it.
What we have in these pages are the thrilling adventures of two-year-old, Poposhak, and her creepy, talking dog, Flowers. The comic opens with Poposhak and Flowers standing by a fresh grave, and Poposhak asks, “Is Mummy asleep?” Flowers, with tears dripping from beneath his thick glasses, answers, “Yes, Poposhak your mother sleeps…Forever!” And then the two-year-old asks where her father is, and the dog points to a strange building, out of which the last few feet of a beard are poking through an open door. Unfortunately, Poposhak’s father’s beard is incredibly long, so when they go into the building, they see the beard continues on through the building and out an open window on the other side of the structure. Though disappointed that her father isn’t here, the toddler finds something else that makes her happy: a pistol in a holster is hanging from one of the walls in the room, and Poposhak yells, “I want that toy!” She grabs the gun, and Flowers tells her it’s a dangerous weapon, not a toy, so she should put it back. Instead, Poposhak does a Dirty Harry impersonation, pointing the gun at Flowers with a scowl on her face…and the dog allows her to keep the weapon (as opposed to seeing whether or not he feels lucky…punk…)
So, armed with a pistol and in the company of a talking dog, two-year-old Poposhak begins the search for her missing father, following his incredibly long beard through numerous adventures, and pursued by a four-headed, hunchback monster that wants to eat her, as well as other odd creatures…
The book is WEIRD. It’s surreal (in the true sense—being an exploration of the unconscious mind and, specifically, dream reality.) It’s nonsensical and hilarious and disturbing (in a silly way), and it kind of reminds me of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine animated film, both in content and art style (only without the vibrant color.) The art is all black and white, with a cool, underground comics / indie vibe. I love the style, personally, with its sketchy, shaky line and weird shapes and lots of crosshatching and light / dark contrasts, and there are also a number of nods to pop culture and other comics creators throughout the book. In one scene, where Poposhak and Flowers are about to search the bottom of an ocean for the girl’s father, Poposhak dreams that some unseen benefactor hands her a pair of “diving helmets” that look like the heads of Mickey and Goofy, and when she wakes up, the “helmets” are sitting at her feet. In an “extra” adventure, after the main story, Jim Woodring’s character, “Frank,” shows up, running from one of the four-headed hunchbacks that usually chase Poposhak, and then the entire sequence becomes a Little Nemo in Slumberland dream (ala Winsor McCay.) These nods to Wostok & Grabowski’s influences are clever and funny, AND they also help to explain some of the weirdness in the book. (Both McCay and Woodring include a TON of surreal fantasy and dream imagery in their comics… I’ll have to review works by both of these guys in the near future!)
The GOOD news is, even though the book is twenty years old, it’s not impossible to find (although copies range anywhere from $8 bucks to over $50 on A-zon!!!) Regardless, it’s a fun, whimsical, fairly creepy book—which doesn’t bother following conventional storytelling structures. I suppose some folks might be a bit put off by that, but I actually enjoy the more abstract storytelling style. (More like a dream this way.) It doesn’t really cuss or have any gore (or even much violence), but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to give this book to any little kids. They wouldn’t get most of the references, anyway—but also because it’s probably not good for little kids to see a toddler running around, unsupervised, with a pistol. The book is also remarkably silly, so maybe parents of middle schoolers, who aren’t afraid to let their kids watch Ren & Stimpy or Spongebob or Fritz the Cat won’t find too much to complain about here. However, I think the book was INTENDED for more of an adult audience, especially for those folks who are into underground comics, like Woodring’s Frank. For these folks, this book is going to be immensely entertaining. It’s short, weird, nonsensical, and creepy! (Just like me!)
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Supreme Bunny Lord of The P.E.W.)
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