Daniel and Dawna Davis, known collectively as Steam Crow, refer to themselves as “a husband and wife team based in Phoenix, Arizona, who make friendly monster-inspired art, prints, books, and other oddities”. With a weird sense of humor and an extreme graphic-arts style to boot. Their books include Caught Creatures, a book of “monster haiku”. You can find that and much more at the Steam Crow web site, as well as a blog updating the latest of what they’re working on — and what’s the next convention or festival they’ll be appearing at.
Boston & NYC, Little, Brown & Co., March 2013 Hardcover $17.99 ([6 +] 285 [+ 7] pages)
Kindle $8.89. Illustrated by Charles Vess.
The age rating on this is “8 and up”. This is one of those “all ages” books like The Wind in the Willows that you will not want to miss just because it may be in the children’s section of your bookshop or public library. Seek it out! It is worth it.
Lillian Kindred is a little girl whose parents are dead and who lives with her Aunt on a farm at the edge of Tanglewood Forest. The book doesn’t say how old she is, so that’s probably not important. What is important is that she’s established as old enough to be allowed by other people to play in the forest alone, and young enough to look for fairies. One of the things that she sees is lots of cats wandering freely – feral cats and farm cats. She does not bother them, but she does put out dishes of fresh milk for them.
One day she falls asleep in the forest, and is bitten by a venomous snake. Vess’ illustration shows a coral snake; the worst kind. Wikipedia says that, “Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the breathing muscles; mechanical or artificial respiration, along with large doses of antivenom, are often required to save a victim's life.” Lillian does not have any of that. She is alone at the foot of a tree, dying.
This anthropomorphic graphic novel requires going back and forth several times to understand the complex and incomplete story. In a bleak landscape of perpetual winter, a civil war has ended but the losing revolutionaries are continuing a guerrilla warfare. James Hardin (rabbit), a secret agent of the Resistance, has stolen a top-secret document to distract the N.P.O. (National People’s Organization; roughly the militaristic government) from a planned sabotage of a train over a strategic bridge. General Hanslowe (lion) assigns Officer Pavel (crow) and Captain Engel (tiger) to track him down and get the document back. Engel berates Pavel as a coward for allowing Hardin to escape in the first place. During the search, the N.P.O. team does not realize that Pavel accidentally kills Hardin.
The surviving rebels (Giles, a goat; Timothy, a frog, and Charlotte, a fox) plan to carry through Hardin’s real plan. Hardin’s orphaned children, James Jr. and Patricia, trying to help, sneak away and board the train. James triggers the detonator prematurely, destroying the train but not the bridge.
The rabbit children are taken to a military orphanage for rebel children; Engel plans to use them to find their father, who he believes is still alive. Subsequent events show which of the children, and of the adults, is the stronger.
We are not men! We are chickens!!!
The Cartoon Brew website presents “Chicken Core: The Rise of Kings”, a 6’02" preview for an epic fantasy directed by Oricha Aliyu, about an oppressed kingdom of chickens (apparently all male) fighting against a dark crow overlord.
Not too impressive, until you consider that it has been made by a group of young self-taught animators in Lagos, Nigeria who formed the Sporedust Media studio just this May. With commentary on Nigeria’s nascent by-its-bootstraps animation industry by CB’s Amid Amidi.
The Cartoon Brew website has posted the trailer for the forthcoming French animated feature, The Day of the Crows/Le Jour des Corneilles, directed by Jean-Christophe Dessaint, to be released on 24 October.
The synopsis says nothing about it being an anthropomorphic feature, but the end of the 1:56 minute trailer (at 1:31) shows brief glimpses of animal-headed people in the forest – a tiger-man, a lynx-man, a horse-man, a frog-man, a deer-woman - “the ghosts haunting the forest”? The film reportedly received a standing ovation at the 2012 Annecy Festival.
Going by the trailer in French, this animated cartoon feature does not have enough anthropomorphic scenes to be called an anthropomorphic feature, except by very diehard fans – but, as I always say, watch the trailer and decide for yourself. Nothing is said about a forthcoming English-language release.
People, including scientists, have wondered for ages how intelligent crows are; alternately, under what conditions crows (or other animals) ever use tools as humans do. A recent video, shot at long distance in an uncontrolled situation, shows striking evidence of this. A crow finds a jar lid and takes it up to a snowy rooftop, where it stands on the lid and sleds down the roof. It then picks up the lid, returns to the rooftop, and sleds down again. Repeatedly.