The Little Endless Storybook graphic novel review
After a long hiatus, here I am sharing my review (before it gets posted where I usually contribute), of a charming graphic narrative.
Happy New Year Cheers!
The Little Endless Storybook. Written and illustrated by Jill Thompson.
Vertigo/DC Comics, NY, Mar. 2005, $9.95, hardcover, ISBN #: 1-401-20428-7. www.dccomics.com
Jill Thompson, acclaimed illustrator and creator of the beloved 'Scary
Godmother' series of books and comics, also contributed her artistic
talents, along with the best in the business, to the seminal and classic
Sandman comic book series conceived and written by Neil Gaiman over the
course of 76 epochal issues (later collected into 10 trade paperbacks),
published by DC's Vertigo imprint from 1988-1996. The Sandman stories,
intended for mature readers, concerns Gaiman's dark visions of the Dreaming,
its residents and its influence on the waking world and encompasses a wide
variety of elements from myth, folklore and legends mingled with modern
milieus. The principal characters of the original series, The Endless,
consist of 7 immortal siblings "that aren't gods but who existed before
humanity dreamed of gods and will exist after the last god is dead". They
embody and personify the cosmic concepts of (in order of age): Destiny,
Death, Dream (AKA The Sandman), Destruction, Desire, Despair and Delirium.
In "The Sandman: Brief Lives" sequence gathered in the 7th volume of the
series, Jill Thompson's visuals, combined with tales developing all The
Endless characters to a degree not seen before, made these ageless entities
equal in popularity to the titular Sandman, if not more so. Furthermore, in
a volume 6 prelude to "Brief Lives", Thompson whimsically conceived the
"Li'l Endless", depicting, in a vignette, these beings in the form of
ultra-cute, manga-style (as in Japanese comics) toddlers. This 1991
singular appearance proved so popular that fans have been begging for their
return ever since.
At long last, in 2001, Jill Thompson, in an unprecedented opportunity,
brought The Endless back to prominence once again in a prestige format,
glossy trade paperback "The Little Endless Storybook" where the 7 subjects
got presented in their diminutive, most charming form. This volume,
"recommended for mature readers of all ages", presenting its material very
much in the mode of a children's picture book, cannot be considered a comic
book in the orthodox sense, but since its source and inspiration is so
grounded in one of the most famous comics series ever - it is a must have
and a total delight. And a reasonably priced, recently reprinted (Mar. 2005) hardcover
edition is now available just about everywhere.
Printed with brief text on the left-hand page and a full page painting
facing it, the light and deceptively simple story concerns "princess"
Delirium's fluffy, perky-eared, wavy-tailed, medium-sized, motley-colored
dog Barnabus who loses her but she thinks just the opposite. Barnabus, his
mystical doghood notwithstanding, though charged with constantly keeping a
watchful vigil over Delirium, for a moment needs to use the facilities as it
were. While Barnabus goes off to use a nearby tree, he requests that
Delirium stay put until he returns shortly. Due to Delirium's
nature - quixotic, flighty, easily distracted - no sooner has Barnabus left
her sight than she determines HE is lost and that she must go looking for
him. Returning from his arboreal bathroom, Barnabus finds Delirium gone and
then embarks on a search for her, a journey that takes him through the
realms of all the other Endless until he becomes so delirious himself that
he then possesses the capability to find his "fizzy princess".
Thompson's writing here - witty, clever, sprightly and briskly flowing,
perfectly complements her exquisite artwork. In addition to the title page,
the book contains 24 full page paintings brilliantly rendered in her
skillful, vibrantly-colored watercolor (with mixed media) style. Her
remarkable control of her medium produces richly detailed images brimming
with glowing light, exciting compositions and whimsical energy. Each
illustration, crafted with such affection and care for the subject, rewards
repeated viewing of her charming, diminutive, expressive versions of The
Endless and of her blendings of intricate realistic objects with surreal and
fantastical backgrounds or vice versa. With such ingenious creativity on
every page, "The Little Endless Storybook" should delight fans of "The
Sandman" who understand the complex contexts from which this project sprang.
The uninitiated will enjoy it equally, simply for Jill Thompson's amazing
talent alone. This book represents a dream come true for anyone who
appreciates superb artwork and enchanting storytelling that can be savored
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