It is a rare thing when an artist can combine the adorable, the morbid, and frightening. Rarer still is the ability to do all of these things while completely silent. Gustavo Duarte is a Brazilian cartoonist and I have completely fallen in love with his work. Monsters! And Other Stories is a collection of three of his comics that will be released tomorrow by Dark Horse, and I’m sure it will be many of our introduction to this criminally under-represented artist. I cannot think of the last time I was so thoroughly charmed and entertained by a series of comics, and I think you’ll agree.
The first thing you’ll notice about these shorts is the art. Duarte is a sublime cartoonist, with a style that is both simple and vastly complex. His style blends the classic smile and bounce of a Disney cartoon with more attention to detail than a person would assume a cartoon requires. And it’s that little extra that makes all the difference. The cartoons are largely monochrome, but the expression of the characters–the out of this world antics they become involved with–all of this will make you feel as if they were in full color.
Which brings us, of course, to Duarte’s wonderful stories. In these worlds, a man becomes a pig, two birds attempt to solve a murder mystery, and a trio of colossal beasts are outsmarted by an old man who reads Aleister Crowley. Told entirely in pantomime, the stories have a children’s book whimsy to them that is undercut by splashes of morbid violence. It is to Mr. Duarte’s credit that no matter how bleak these brief slashes are, the charming world he has built them into somehow keeps you from remembering some of the more sordid bits. Instead, you come away from Monsters! laughing like an excited child.
The combination of dark and light, friendly and disturbing–there’s definitely a Jeff Smith quality to what Duarte does in these books, just on a smaller scale. I breezed through these stories twice in one sitting, and found myself growing more and more charmed with his style and his sense of humor. I love this book. This is Mickey Mouse if he had a curiosity for the morbid (also, if Mickey Mouse was actually funny–Mickey Mouse is not funny). And in the age of brooding antiheroes, it’s good to have something childish that is clearly meant for adults.