ELMER, published by SLG Publishing, has been released worldwide and reviews are coming in!
From Publisher’s Weekly:
Elmer: A Comic Book
Gerry Alanguilan, SLG (www.slgcomic.com), $12.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-59362-204-6
Jake Gallo is an angry young man, frustrated at his lack of employment and easily provoked by perceived slights. It is not until we are several pages into the book that we discover that he is also a talking, thinking chicken. He is no anomaly; decades earlier, all of chickenkind suddenly gained intelligence and speech; by the 2000s they are legally human. Jake’s father’s illness and subsequent death lead Jake to read his father’s account of the early days after the change; this in turn allows Alanguilan to show the reader the often horrific sequence of events that followed chickenkind’s sudden elevation to sapience. Used to seeing chickens as food or worse, humans are not shown at their best as they react, often violently, to this sudden alteration of the natural order. The gorgeous b&w art, full of lush pen work and strong expressions, takes what should be a self-evidently ludicrous proposition and somehow imbues it with plausibility, drawing readers into a brutal, blood-soaked tale of a transformed species and the outrage and savagery of their former owners. A peculiar but engaging work that deserves attention. (Nov.)
From Library Journal Review:
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because he could. After chickens became intelligent from a freak virus, civil unrest among men and fowl reigned for far too long. But finally the birds were internationally declared fellow humans. Elmer was one of the pioneers who lived through the awakening. Dying, he bequeaths his diary to disaffected son Jake, who reads with growing fascination his father’s story. As Jake struggles through understanding while sorting out interfamily tensions—with his grieving mother, nurse sister, and Hollywood star brother—he vows to publish Elmer’s diary as a tribute to those who struggled toward freedom before his hatching. Not funny, Alanguilan’s realistic, highly skilled black-and-white drawings suck you into this feather-clad race relations parable despite the internal dissonance it sets up. You want to find those chickens funny. But you can’t—think Orwell’s Animal Farm.
VERDICT Originally self-published in the Philippines, where Alanguilan lives, this unusual and affecting story is bound to evoke what-if discussions. Strongly recommended for teens and up in classrooms as well as libraries. Violence, strong language, and occasional sexual references and nudity.—M.C.
Gorgeously drawn, black-and-white artwork combines with outstanding storytelling in this modern-day fable of ethnic strife, identity, friendship, and family. The titular character has been a writer all his “human” life, keeping a secret diary that his son Jake discovers and reads after Elmer’s death. Along with his newly engaged sister and gay movie-star brother, Jake returns to his childhood home for Elmer’s last days, stays on for his funeral, and helps his newly widowed, delicate mother. Oh, and Jake and family are sentient, well-spoken chickens, a result of a never-explained but carefully depicted world event in 1979.
Elmer’s old human friend, Farmer Ben, offers Jake insight on Elmer’s past—both pre- and post-sentience—and advice as Jake works through his family’s victimization at the hands of Ben’s kind. Bloody world wars pitted chicken against man, and led to a wave of anti-chicken prejudice and even attempts at genocide before the UN declared chickens an equal part of humanity. Ethical and moral issues touch on wide-angle politics but also keep close to familial events in Jake’s childhood (bullying, child-parent strife) and adulthood (inter-“ethnic” marriage). The fine-lined artwork depicts the differences between sentient and pre-sentient chickens, while some full-page panels show the lush scenery and relative calm between action sequences. Set in Alanguilan’s Philippine homeland and marked by its culture, Elmer deserves a wide international readership (for teen collections, note some brief female nudity), and shows how the sequential-art format can challenge even such canonical predecessors as Animal Farm.
— Francisca Goldsmith
ELMER#1 on the iPhone for FREE!
A 26 page preview of ELMER, comprising essentially the first issue of the book, can now be read for FREE if you have an iPhone! Check it out here.