Written by Rudyard Kipling and P. Craig Russell
Art by P. Craig Russell
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Look for... the bare necessities. The simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife! I mean the bare necessities - Old Mother Nature's recipes - that brings the bare necessities of life. Wherever I wander, wherever I roam, I couldn't be fonder of my big home: The bees are buzzin' in the tree to make some honey just for me - when you look under the rocks and plants and take a glance at the fancy ants (Then maybe try a few!) The bare necessities of life will come to you (They'll come to you!) Look for the bare necessities - the simple bare necessities - forget about your worries and your strife! I mean the bare necessities - that's why a bear can rest at ease -with just the bare necessities of life. Now when you pick a pawpaw - or a prickly pear - and you prick a raw paw: next time beware! Don't pick the prickly pear by the paw - when you pick a pear - try to use the claw - but you don't need to use the claw when you pick a pear of the big pawpaw. Have I given you a clue ? The bare necessities of life will come to you. (They'll come to you!) So just try and relax, yeah cool it - fall apart in my backyard 'cause let me tell you something little britches: if you act like that bee acts, uh uh you're working too hard: and don't spend your time lookin' around for something you want that can't be found: when you find out you can live without it and go along not thinkin' about it I'll tell you something true: The bare necessities of life will come to you.
Ok. So. Now we're got that out of the way - know this - this book is nothing like Disney's Jungle Book. Ok? Ok.
For those of you that didn't know - this may come something as a shock - but before it was a popular children's cartoon The Jungle Book was a slightly forbidding seeming book (at least to my eyes) written by the heavy-weight British imperialist Rudyard Kipling (basically the grandfather of Britpop). A loose collection of moral folk tales which lay on the life lessons with a heavy and stern hand in that way the Victorians seem to dig so very much The Jungle Book features names you'll probably recognize like Baloo, Kaa and - obviously - Mowgli the boy cub.
P. Craig Russell - a comic book legend who began way back in 1972 - is most recently best known (at least to me) for his Neil Gaiman adaptations Sandman: The Dream Hunters and Coraline - is the man responsible for this lavish and magnificent interpretation of these three stories from The Jungle Book (altho if you want to be clever about it - they're actually from The Second Jungle Book a sequel first published in 1895 - so yeah). No - it doesn't matter if you haven't read the book or seen the film because all the necessary information is included - and really The Jungle Book isn't really about a long over-arching narrative - but rather more a succession of small stories that can each be enjoyed individually - like apples picked from a tree.
For me - it was nice to experience Kipling's language at first-hand and get a sense of how - yeah - dude could really write (and compared to popular modern authors - sorry guys and girls - it's funny how much more weighty people back in the day could make their words seem - maybe there was a problem with Earth's gravity or something?) and it's nice to luxuriate in it's solemn tones. But - hell - the man draw is P. Craig Russell's classical seeming artwork which manages to feel somehow stately and grand - yet is still spry enough to capture fleeting moments like the shape of the tips of a foot as it breaks out of the water - disturbing the reflection of the moon: a panel so nice that I was tempted to cut it out and stick it on my wall (not that I would - because - hey - it's a library book).
At points I've often complained that the art in American comics (and let's face it - it is mostly the American comic) seems sloppy and rushed and half-done. Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book Stories is a really good example to hold up in order to say: yes. This is how it's done. Here's how to tell a story and make things look real real nice at the same time.
Further reading: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, Buddha, Coraline, Don Quixote, City of Glass, The Hobbit.
All comments welcome.