Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A morality tale, set in DUMBO

By Chuck O’Donnell

DUMBO is now the stuff of legend.

In the new short comic book story, “DUMBO, A Pagan Walks Among Us,” the neighborhood gets its own fable, thanks to musician JG Thirlwell’s careful cadence and artist Jen Ferguson’s protean pallet of pencils, watercolors, inks, pastels and acrylics.

The two DUMBO neighbors collaborated on the piece for “Cousin Corinne’s Reminder #3,” an anthology published by BookCourt that champions Brooklyn’s authors, photographers, artists and cartoonists, including novelist Emma Straub and comic book artist Josh Neufeld.

“I was asked to write something about Brooklyn and I thought it would work to write about something that illustrates the changing face of Brooklyn,” said Thirlwell.

His story begins with couples sipping coffee as they stroll down the street, passing mothers out for leisurely walks with their kids in today’s “dainty DUMBO” — a safe haven for poets and indie filmmakers. Then the story flashes back to the balmy Saturday afternoon when Thirlwell was slashed on the hand by a mugger on York Street when he first moved here in the 1980s.

The police soon apprehend a man they’re pretty sure cut Thrilwell. But Thirlwell is presented with a moral dilemma when he isn’t sure he can identify the man. Does he go along with the cops, who strongly suggest which man in the lineup he should pick? Or does he listen to his nagging conscience that whispers he might be sending the wrong man to jail?

Ferguson saw Thirlwell’s story of as an urban fable, so she gave the comic book a little bit of an “Alice in Wonderland” whimsy by depicting the characters as rabbits.

“Employing the rabbit characters fits squarely in the tradition of the fable, where anthropomorphized creatures tell a moral or folk tale,” said Ferguson.

“Besides,” she said, “I just like to draw rabbits.”

“Cousin Corinne’s Reminder # 3” release party at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875-3677], July 14 at 7 pm. Free. For info, visit


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