There are certain kinds of comics I need to make sure I find before Enosh. Not the action packed adventure tales or the humorous one liners, no those are all pretty safe. But when it comes to comics that wrap a detailed plot around a very man-versus-nature theme, I need to make sure I read through them first and post about them on Faceplant, before Enosh has a near fatal attack of short-sighted republicanism that leaves him gasping for breath and dumping barrels of oil into the Atlantic ocean while traveling to the baccarat tournament in Chicago.
The Abominable Charles Christopher, written and drawn by Karl Kerschl, is a somewhat poignant look at the effects humanity has had on nature, and more importantly, on a very peaceful, somewhat confusing sasquatch-thing. Or maybe it’s a look at what the animals in the forest are up to when we’re not paying attention. Or maybe it is none of these things and will turn out to be something entirely. Hell if I know.
The forest is alive, and it’s full of hundreds upon thousands of critters, each trying to make a living, just like you and me. From the entrepreneurial and somewhat sketchy skunk promoting Sissi Skunk brand sap cakes to the father bird having marital troubles, life in the forest mirrors our own. There’s a veritable rotating cast of characters to check up on throughout the story, and many of them never cross into the “main” story. See, right there I used quotes because I’m only assuming it’s the main story. I’m assuming this because it’s the one with Charles in it.
Large, with a dopey, vacant expression on his face and a bitchin’ mustache, Charles is (probably) the story’s protagonist. He never speaks a word, and spends much of his time wandering aimlessly around the forest in search of snacks, and having adventures by running into the other creatures in the forest. He’s a bit of an anomaly, too, and you never see any other companion sasquatches around. Charles simply is, and he is alone.
For their part, the creatures of the forest do their best to ignore Charles. This is probably the best way to go, since he’s not the talkative type, and has a tendency to be easily startled. When confronted, Charles usually shows off a very gentle nature, becoming physically upset when someone gets hurt or the murdered, and then typically high tails it from the scene. Shortly into the beginning of the tale, however, Charles comes across a lion that might not actually be a lion and is charged to head to a city that is steadily growing on the horizon, and to do… something to it.
But before you write this off as a dreary look at the horrors of human expansion and the ravages on the few remaining pockets of wildlife left, let me put you to rest. While some of the sections in this tale are downright heartbreaking, especially when Kerschl starts to delve into the history of forest old-timer and notable bear Vivol, these moments are liberally broken up with one of the many lighthearted plots that run alongside it. Some of the animals in these sub plots are also dealing with some very serious issues, but the way that they portray themselves, and the looks on their faces while they do it, will keep you laughing through the story.
The art here is top-notch. Each animal actually looks like the animal it’s supposed to look like, with nary an anthropomorphic cat girl to be found. It’s actually a lot like reading an internet adaptation for Bambi, if the characters in Bambi acted like adults, and if Bambi was not actually a horribly terrible film. Okay, I know this is a tangent, but you know how you can tell Bambi is awful? If the only two plot points you can remember is that Bambi’s mother got shot, and then later everything burns down. The rest is just introducing bullshit irrelevant characters they can sell as stuffed animals. But at least it wasn’t the Fox and the Hound. Don’t even get me started on that shit.
Okay, give me a second. Deep breaths, Tophat!
Right. Charles Christopher. Ahem. So, anyway, Charles Christopher is like an early Disney movie that is full of talking animals, but these talking animals don’t make me want to murder all animals just to be safe. In fact, the longer the tale draws on, the more you’ll want to see how each of your favorites is doing. Did that one baby bird ever take his first flight? Did the drunken papa bird get off the hook after forgetting his anniversary? How crazy is owl uncle Tino? And will that one rabbit ever get a date or will he be stuck playing Dungeons and Dragons with his porcupine friend?
Still, this might be a comic to avoid if, like Enosh, you want to burn down all wildlife and build Walmarts on every available piece of land. Imagery of traps and hunters, of cattle locked up and the hideous mistreatment of circus animals dots the piece and makes the comic into an interesting blend of humor and gut wrenching guilt that humanity, as a species, would let something like this continue. I felt the guilt pretty strong for a while there, but I was luckily able to deflect it by reminding myself that animals that are raised in captivity for food are delicious. Oh man, I ate this beef briquette sandwich the other day that was so good I almost hugged the nice lady behind the counter at City Barbeque. Also, I’ve never been to a circus, so I can’t verify if bears are actually being mistreated.
One of the major downsides of the comic is that it takes a while for the story to get moving. We’re treated to little snips and snippets of the story, interspersed with plenty of “meanwhile” comics, when sometimes all we really want to see is what happens next. What’s gonna happen to Charles? What’s the deal with Vivol? What, actually, is the point of Charles’ journey?
Anyway, the Abominable Charles Christopher updates every Wednesday, so it’s easy to fit into your web comic reading schedule with little to no trouble.