The Unifactor. A world born of the intellect, hallucinations and waking dreams of its author. An expanse which might just as well be called the Unimind, a pantheistic unshifting wonderland of the soul; instinctive in its creation and consistent in its mythology.
We first catch sight of one of its substrates in the stained glass window of a mansion or temple Frank has been assigned to clean.
These Jivas, the immortal essences found in all living beings, are sometimes espied in deaths forseen…
… and at other times encountered as watchful guardians.
The architect of this realm, Jim Wooding, revealed their origin through his delirious journals where they have been strange visitors from the very first.
In the episode above, the dancing shiva (Nataraja) and then the author form the Sanskrit character for the syllable, Aum, breaking the illusion of all earthly existence. He is stripped bare of outward trappings and spun into the recognizable shapes which drift through the Unifactor, their only identifying marks being the band of eyes which crown their “foreheads”.
In what may be a related episode, the pedlar that adopts Pupshaw and Pushpaw following Frank’s apparent death and entombment in Weathercraft…
…is seen in an earlier adventure selling Frank a selectively efficacious top…
…a toy which is powerless against both Frank and Pupshaw who are childlike fools, but transformative when grasped by Manhog who becomes ensnared in a dry husk….
…which only a mother could love (and does).
As suggested by the author in a recent video presentation , the sorcerers or demi-gods which grace the cover of Weathercraft are also agents of change overseeing senescence, transitory growth, decay and ephemeral transformation.
The creatures prod the geriatric frog with their sticks, in this merely aping their predecessor in the form of Frank.
Their dress is suggestive of Indo-Aryan chic, their purpose impossible to divine.
The organizing element in the Unifactor are the lines scraped into the sky, ground and building walls which the artist dismisses (somewhat facetiously) as:
“…illegible sentences – revenge fantasies about my enemies, sex daydreams – that I write to relieve the drugery.”
They give the artwork the firmness and gravity of old prints. It is through these lines that the hags alter the shape of reality and animals…
…turning the Newtonian certainty of straight lines into a planned chaos which emanates like the waves of some strange ocean; a body of water not dissimilar or limited to that surrounding the island of Lanka (home of multi-headed Ravana), …
[Indian miniature showing a scene from the Ramayana]
…pervasive enough to cover even the walls of Whim’s (scientist and taskmaster of the Unifactor) cave, the folds of which Manhog disappears into in Woodring’s latest book.
These subterranean folds lead Manhog into the stomach of the fish which we first saw some pages earlier swallowing an inebriated Frank whole.
Perhaps a vision of Jonah, perhaps a distant memory of Vishnu as a fish rescuing the Vedas.
For the first time, this hapless figure, this half-man, half-animal is a picture of heroism and nobility, his metamorphosis achieved not through cosmic dances or tops but by cruelties inflicted on him by that creature of many masks and tricks, Whim.
Earlier in Weathercraft, an infernal creature plucked from the pig-man’s gullet sanctions enlightenment.
He who once resembled the demons surrounding the decapitated Ravana…
… becomes whole and fully clothed, now cognizant of his true nature.
Yet it should be noted, that this revelation of the inner workings of the universe…
…. achieved through richly deserved torture and anguish (for he is both a proven murderer and cannibal)…
[From an earlier adventure in the Frank series]
…was attained by pure chance many years earlier by his foolishly wise counterpart, Frank.
So much for the intellect.
The dedicated tourist can do no better than to stop by Amy Poodle’s abode in the realm of The Mindless Ones to understand the “preference for the aesthetic over the intellectual, the emotional over the cerebral, the imaginal over the physical” in most readers appreciation of Frank:
“Resonance, not cause and effect, is the prime-mover in Frank. The story tells itself the way it feels it should. We don’t necessarily understand all its contortions…but they make organic sense. This isn’t work to be empirically read, but to be watered. We watch it grow.”
This is a guide through the Unifactor which Woodring himself calls “the single best piece of writing” he has “ever seen on the lives and times of the thrice-lucky chuckbuster”. It is a fine example of the critical gloss and is an elaboration of Frank as filtered through half assimilated memories of anthromorphs and old cartoons (Disney and Fleischer; now filled with terrible sentient landscapes, architecture and fauna) – the “reassuring” and “cyclical” nature of these animations now displaced from their sense of indestructibility into a world of atrophy to become a meditation on existence and perception.
Other guides to the Unifactor and Weathercraft:
(1) A complete presentation of Weathercraft by Jim Woodring at Flog in which the bare bones of the plot are made crystal clear.