The Abominable Charles Christopher
Written and Illustrated by Karl Kerschl
If you only know Karl Kerschl from Superman comics and Teen Titans: Year One you likely love him, but you’re missing his best work. The Abominable Charles Christopher, Kerschl’s weekly web comic, is a poorly kept secret, but I still don’t see it talked about enough. Certainly not as much as it deserves.
At first look, ACC is about a sweet, but dim sasquatch-like creature. We don’t know his name at first, and maybe he doesn’t even have one, but he’s eventually called Charles Christopher and the name sticks. We don’t really know why he’s called that, but the one who gives him that name is a mysterious being whose motives we don’t yet understand. Maybe there’s nothing behind the name. Maybe it’s of vast importance.
You see, trouble is coming to the forest and it’s going to be up to Charles Christopher to stop it. Why? We don’t yet know that either. Will he be up to the task? It’s hard to see how he will.
For all his size and strength, Charles is a gentle, timid creature. He never talks, he sucks on a pacifier, and he spends most of the story-so-far going where others tell him to go and doing what they tell him to do. He’s an unlikely hero. But, we all know that those are the best kind.
It’s going to be a challenge for poor Charles to stand up to the men who have entered the woods with their traps and guns. Kerschl borrows a trick from Bambi and never shows human faces. Instead, we see man’s weapons and sometimes catch a silhouette through fog-enshrouded trees. It’s powerfully effective. It’s downright scary.
Alternating between lovable and horrifying ought to be enough range for most comics, but ACC goes further and adds laugh-out-loud humor. Just when things are getting really somber – sometimes overwhelmingly so – in Charles’ story, Kerschl cuts away to some of the other forest animals and makes you chuckle hard enough that people in the next cube are asking what you’re looking at. So, you know, be careful about reading at work unless you’re willing to share.
The forest animals include a dysfunctional family of birds (dad’s constantly in the doghouse for his late night partying and he’s seeing a cockroach therapist to help him through it), a pair of raccoons (one shouldered with the weight of the world; the other content to stare into space or clean between his toes), an entrepreneuring skunk who walks around the forest promoting her restaurant, and a rabbit who’s desperately, but unsuccessfully trying to woo a mate. And those are just the recurring characters. There are also otters, rats, squirrels, toads, and crabs, each as delightful and funny as the last. If you miss Jeff Smith’s possum family from Bone, this will more than make up for the loss.
Another side-story involves a bear with a Russian accent. His name is Vivol and he’s a sad character. Every once in a while Kerschl will flashback to “The Story of Vivol & Moon Bear” to explain why. It’s a Dumbo-like story in which young Vivol loses his mother while the two of them are living in a circus as performing animals. As an adult, Vivol is caged with a small bear with a moon-shaped patch of white fur on her forehead. I don’t know yet what happens to Moon Bear, but I’m as scared to find out as I am hopelessly intrigued.
I challenge you to find a more satisfying comic than The Abominable Charles Christopher. I’ve compared it to Disney a couple of times and I don’t mean to imply that it rips off those stories. It invokes them, but it does so skillfully and with every bit as much heart as those movies had. It’s not a fast-paced thrill-fest, but it is exciting, charming, terrifying, and funny in equal amounts and with equal levels of ability. It’s also free and if you start at the beginning, it’ll only take you about half-an-hour to catch up to date. After that, you’ll have a whole other reason to look forward to Wednesdays.
Five out of five cute little snow foxes who will not shut up.