Earth Day With Jim Woodring and Friends

« Oh Beautiful for smoggy skies, insecticided grain,
For strip-mined mountain’s majesty above the asphalt plain.
America, America, man sheds his waste on thee,
And hides the pines with billboard signs, from sea to oily sea. » ― George Carlin

On this day, the forty-ninth edition of Earth Day, we feature some little-seen work (by his usual audience, at any rate) by Jim Woodring and his collaborator Scott Deschaine*. Given the current political climate, an increasingly dire state of affairs, I’ll (mostly) skip the chit-chat and make with the visual riches.

Among the Woodring / Deschaine collaborations, One Green Tree (1990) is the masterpiece, and the only full-on Woodring, visually-speaking, with its expressive inks, unsimplified art and lush palette.
An interior (in more than one sense) page from One Green Tree, a sixteen-pager. Full marks to Deschaine, a science popularizer of the first order, and a cartoonist himself, which goes a long way in explaining the success of these collaborations.
Incidentally, Woodring drew himself into the story as the friendly guide, Mr. Underwood.
As it happens, Earth Day 2019’s theme is « Protect Our Species », and few species need more protection than the gentle elephant.
An excerpt from An Elephant’s Life (1999), written by Mike Benton and Scott Deschaine, illustrated by Woodring.
Search for Soil (2000, Discovery Comics) features Woodring in a simpler style, but it’s still gorgeous and effective. And hey, a Tiny Perfect Mole!
And for those of you who may find this all too earnest, cute and family-friendly, I’ve saved a Woodring piece to soothe your savage brow. This is the one-shot Northwest Cartoon Cookery (1995, Starhead Comix), also featuring fine work by J.R. Williams, Donna Barr, Ellen Forney, Roberta Gregory, Michael Dougan, Mark Zingarelli… and a couple of pages of Ed Brubaker’s dismal artwork.

« What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. » ― Chris Maser, Forest Primeval: The Natural History of an Ancient Forest


*French family names, after spending some time in English-speaking lands, tend to distort in interesting ways: “Deschaine” makes no grammatical sense. It likely started out as “Deschaînes” (of the chains), or its homonym, Deschênes ou Duchêne (of the Oaks or the Oak). Sometimes, the name gets so badly distorted that it’s quite unpronounceable: Shia LaBeouf  (Leboeuf, the ox) or Cara Delevingne (Delavigne, of the vine)… not that I’d want to utter these names, save perhaps as curses.

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