The Ticking (Top Shelf Productions)

The Ticking, like her previous comics, has all the heebie-jeebie shiver of the film Eraserhead, the freakiness of the cartoon The Oblongs, and the ugly-cute of a huge-eyed Walter Keane painting.

The Ticking (Top Shelf; 216 pgs B&W; $19.95)(W/A: Renee French)

Renee French is one creepy gal. Or, at least, her stories are creepy. The Ticking, like her previous comics, has all the heebie-jeebie shiver of the film Eraserhead, the freakiness of the cartoon The Oblongs, and the ugly-cute of a huge-eyed Walter Keane painting. It’s just a weird ride.

ticking_lg.gifA boy is born. He is deformed, with eyes on the sides of his head like a goldfish. His shamed father hides the family away on an island. With nothing to do and no one to talk to, the boy develops a talent for drawing. He draws flies (get it?). When a visitor finally comes to the island, Dad makes Son wear a monkey mask to hide his ugliness. The bathos is hilarious. By the time Dad introduces Son to Daughter, a chimpanzee in a dress, the material is so over-the-top bleak we’re in Mommie Dearest territory – more pain, thanks, and pass the popcorn, please!

French wins the day when she enrobes the creepy, pathetic and funny in a chocolate coating of redemption. Huh? Like, how? I’m not exactly sure. All I know is, the punishments this deformed loner endures – as ridiculous as they may be–pile up so heavy we’re ready for any kind of a break. So when the kid pulls his father’s toupee through a hole in a hotel wall and finds his chimp sister on the other side–oops! I’ve said too much.

French is known for her delicate scenes, drawn in a soft flurry of tiny pencil marks. Her painstaking attention to detail is at odds with the speed with which you’ll cruise through the book; there are only one or two panels on each page. Slow down to get her rhythm. Each panel is a window into the lugubrious and absurd. She wants you to stare at the ugly – and you can't help but oblige.

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