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August 11, 2013

Here are some more reviews, more or less in the order in which they appeared online. There are some spoilers, so if you haven't read the book yet, beware!.

Many thanks to these thoughtful reviewers.

©2013 Publishers' Weekly

Starred review.
In this follow-up to the much lauded Percy Gloom, Malkasian (Temperance) shows us what happens when her hero wakes up after a rather long nap in a barrel, and immediately sets to work finding his mother, all the while thinking about, and longing for, his beloved Miss Margaret. The world is different from how Percy remembers it, and he makes the acquaintance of the disagreeable Mr. Tetzel, who helps Percy travel around the world, back to his beloved homeland. The absurdist nature of the landscape Malkasian creates is reward enough in itself, calling to mind at certain moments the bizarre world Yuichi Yokoyama creates in Garden. But more than just absurdism is in play, and both the book’s spellbinding illustrations and charming narrative are wonderfully evocative. Percy may see things that a character like Mr. Tetzel dismisses as nonsense, but he sees with such clarity that the reader cannot similarly dismiss him. Impossible to overlook as well is how charming this love story is—never saccharin or conventional or recycled. It’s not an easy thing to create a sequel to a story that was lauded for its originality, but this work makes us think it is. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/08/2013

© 2013 New York Journal of Books:
Reviewed by Mark Squirek Released: June 15, 2013
Publisher: Fantagraphics (200 pages)

“... the artist fills every panel with joy.”

When Percy Gloom falls asleep he is not sure how long he will be out. Each time he rises he is unsure as to how long he has been out. Sometimes it is a year; sometimes it may be 200 years. Each time he awakens he has to find what remains of his previous waking hours and build something new.

The world he travels, as laid out by writer and artist Cathy Malkasian, is a softly penciled, shaded landscape with mostly rounded edges that is a mixture of browns, light blacks and shadows.

While the world Ms. Malkasian brings to life may appear surreal to some, it is actually as real a mix of rolling hills, harsh train stations, rolling seas, swirling forests and manicured landscapes as anything we see in our own lives.

As Gloom sets out to find his missing mother he walks with a firm belief that what he has lost during his prolonged slumber is still out there for him. Inside his hat he carries a reminder of what was best from his last waking round, a headband given to him by the beautiful Miss Margret. In his darkest moments, times filled with boredom or frustration, the presence of this reminder fuels him. A precious talisman that means nothing to anyone else but for him is his world.

A quite fable of immortality, hope, longing and singing goats, Wake Up, Percy Gloom captures the wonderful and unpredictable nature of our lives. It reminds us that much of what we are is actually the connections, both good and bad, that we share with others.

Like the best of fables much of what Ms. Malkasian creates is deeply rooted in the eternal traditions of storytelling. When his mother has to tell her friend Horace something uncomfortable she wears the mask of a bird. Much as a shaman once did when delivering messages from the other side.

There is a book containing hints of the future. A book once written as a lark has suddenly become the word of the land. Its followers justifying their selfish actions by what they believe they read in the book. Using the book as proof of their own vision, they refuse to acknowledge the idea behind the book’s creation.

Much of Gloom’s journey is in the company of a governmental bureaucrat who believes that he can control the skies. He takes Gloom on a train ride that is as false as the promises made by any corrupt politician. Driven by his self importance the official finds that fate and nature can sabotage the best of men. And yet, after all he sees and experiences, in the end he stands in defense of his own delusions, reluctant to see what the universe may have shown him, somewhat proud of his accomplishments.

When he and Gloom finally get into a fight they literally kick each other in their respective bottoms until they collapse in exhaustion. Each man filled with pride at the fact of what they have done. The battle in truth accomplished nothing. Except maybe a couple of men with newly sore bottoms.

Like Aesop, Disney and other ancient storytellers, Ms. Malkasian has animals sing and sometimes talk. Nature bears the fruit of living and in one case; a tree literally creates ready-made furniture. In another passage fireflies arrive from nowhere to light his way so that Percy can read the instruction on a box of muffin mix that his mother has left him for when he awakes.

Gloom walks through the story with a strength and dignity that belies his outward appearance. He holds the belief that every day matters and the next one will be even better. His dreams of Miss Margret’s attention propel him forward with strength inspired by true love.

In a graphic novel filled with exceptional art, lush dreamscapes and characters of rich beauty, Ms. Malkasian brings simple moments to life that show us the depth of someone’s heart.

Traveling with Percy’s mother, Horace speaks about a reoccurring dream. He remembers being on his grandfather’s farm and being small enough to sit in a bucket. As he sits a sound begins to form in the distance. Horace the baby looks around in wonder as trees begin to fatten with apples and begin to fall from the sky.

Reaching for the heavens, his arms stretched out in pure joy, baby Horace screams with delight as the apples fall to earth through the evening. Together he and his grandfather sit laughing for what seems hours. The acceptance of life and the beauty it can give us if we reach out and take it in... the look on the baby’s face is joy incarnate.

Ms. Malkasian’s experience in the world of animation and cartooning gives the story a highly unique flow. She is able to cross time and manipulate narrative in such a way that we never feel lost, but she challenges us with overlapping stories and by allowing characters to move across a single panel with multiple thoughts.

Her expert use of light, such as the shadows that are cast when apples fall to the ground, brings a familiar sense of the real so that we feel as if we are part of this strange and compelling world.

With timeless elements of tradition, science fiction, philosophy, and the look of a cartoon that may have once appeared exactly once during the early experimental days of Nickelodeon, the artist fills every panel with joy.

Wake Up, Percy Gloom reminds us that every single moment is important because at any second apples may bloom and fall from the sky.


©2013 Win Wiacek, at

There are a lot of graphic novels out there these days, and even the most in-tune fan or dedicated aficionado just can’t read everything new being published – and that’s not even counting the historical wealth of already published material that’s been released since the dawn of trade paperbacks and comics albums at the end of the 1970s.

A perfect case in point is Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian which was released in 2007 and which I completely missed. However, as soon as I read my review copy of the sequel Wake Up, Percy Gloom – the subject of today’s rave review – I realised what an utter joy I had missed and determined to track a copy down.

Whilst that’s happening however, let’s look at one of the best comics fantasy books I’ve read in all my many years…

Someplace, sometime far stranger than here or now, an innocuous little man who loved helping people lost his wife and left his ordered, simple life.

Actually it wasn’t that simple: although Percy is meek and gentle and desperately keen to help everybody, his lazy-eye and enormous head – which lights up when he’s happy – often creates false impressions amongst people who are at best rude and often just plain mean.

He’s also had some rather distressing news recently.

His Mum revealed to him that he is, like her, immortal but prone to naps which can take anything from months to decades. It’s why everything always seems so different every time he wakes up in the “morning”…

After his last kip he found true affection with Margaret, whom he met at his new job in a failing company…

Now we find them enjoying a sailboat ride as she searches for her long-lost twin. Percy has never been happier. As they reach a new land however Margaret realises her search is nearly over and, as she realises her growing affection for Percy, her extremely contented companion begins to feel very sleepy…

Percy’s mum is even more unique than her son. She has been alive for millennia and spends her maternal days shepherding humanity; devising devices and inventing awesome, clever things, such as the barrel which always collected her slumbering son wherever he’s dropped off and safely storing him until he awakes again.

Unfortunately one of her previous diversions – a joke-book – has become, over the last five centuries, the World’s Holy Book: an unshakable, adamant and infallible guide to living and the eternal Rewards Beyond, utterly believed as gospel by the short-lived, unquestioning and remarkably po-faced people.

Sadly the gag most misunderstood by the ardent the worshippers was the 29th Prophecy which said that after 182,515 days – just after tea-time – Voatzle would drop from the sky and land on The Good and The Lucky. By every cleric’s calculations that’s tomorrow afternoon…

Appalled at the people’s literal-mindedness, Mum has been busily building the Paradise the self-deluded worshippers are expecting and – now that she’s almost finished – is delighted to learn that Percy is waking up. Dispatching his barrel to a location that will appear familiar to her drowsy boy, Mum then pops off to meet her current beau Horace – a quiet and contemplative grandfather and extremely ingenious gardener/topiarist who knows her as dear old Clara…

Whilst ensuring Percy’s safe awakening, Clara reveals her true nature to Horace and discloses the cheese-based disguise secrets which have enabled her to maintain the imposture of aging, blithely unaware that there has been a little hitch…

When Percy succumbed to slumber he was with his adored Margaret but now, as he languorously comes to on a lovely moonlit night, he has no idea that only a year has passed. The counting device in his barrel has malfunctioned and one year has become 200…

Still groggy and heartbroken that his Margaret has long gone, Percy sets off across this odd land to find his mum; once again an innocuous, naively innocent wanderer in a very bizarre place and time. He has no idea that it’s only this odd because the all those true believers are excited that Voatzle is finally coming and are absorbed in performing their final rites and rituals…

As he progresses Percy meets and takes charge of the brusquely tragic Mr. Tetzel who accidentally locked himself out of his very small country and now must travel right around the world in a straight line to get back to the front door again. Not far away the morose Margaret has been deeply heartened by finally rendezvousing with sister Lily, who in turn will introduce her to Percy’s extended family too…

You meet a lot of people and make many friends if you live forever – including, it would seem, other immortals – and as Mum introduces Horace to her own affably eternal inner circle – and the talking goats – Percy’s peregrinations have also resulted in a few shocks.

Although a native, the closeted Mr. Tetzel is an even stranger Stranger in a StrangeLand and his shocking manners require all Percy’s tact and forbearance to keep them from harm. Despite his selfish and cavalier attitude, the brusque banished martinet is all too human and secretly endures his own tragically lost love. However that small glimpse of common humanity is quickly quashed when a committee of Voatzle priests and prelates mistake the obnoxious official for the Dimpled Ambassador – Last Prophet of Voatzle. Moreover the deluded Tetzel believes it too…

Happily though, that clash with the inevitably outraged Holy zealots gives Percy his first clue of exactly how little time has actually passed and puts him on the path to a gloriously reunion with his much-missed Margaret…

Cathy Malkasian is another brilliant (and multi-award winning) animator who has seamlessly segued into graphic narrative and turned the medium on its head. You’ll have seen her screen work as designer, storyboarder and/or director on such features as Curious George, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, As Told by Ginger, Psyko Ferret, Stressed Eric, Rugrats, Jumanji, Duckman and elsewhere. Perhaps you’ve seen her aforementioned Percy Gloom debut or Temperance graphic novels. She is currently occupied creating the animatic series Hiding in Happytown on YouTube.

Her latest surreal and intoxicatingly-rendered fable manages the almost impossible trick of being simultaneously sad and eerie, funny and thrilling, astonishingly mature and ingenuously innocent and childlike, resulting in a brilliant, enthralling, evocative and wryly uplifting fable of loss and reunion in a fantastical realm as overwhelmingly convincing and real as Oz, Narnia or Alice’s Looking Glass Land.

If you crave the acme of comics storytelling, you must read this fabulous yarn.


©2013 Jeffrey O. Gustafson at

Cathy Malkasian is an extraordinary cartoonist whose debut graphic novel from 2007 was the unheralded masterpiece Percy Gloom. Part cutting satire, part fairy tale, part nightmare (and back again), in Percy Gloom Malkasian crafted a disarmingly simple tale about the overwhelming forces of loss, love, government & society, and religion. The titular Gloom, a short, balding little man, overly cautious about everything and doted upon by his mother; in a state of constant suffocation by the weight of the world, travels abroad for the first time, coming to the headquarters of his dream job located in an odd little city hiding some deep, dark secrets. At first, the story seems to be about breaking free of the constraints of life and taking chances, but very quickly takes many weird and wonderful turns and becomes something so much more - a story of profound heartbreak and loss, of redemption, and of freedom not just from the overwhelming weight of life but from the poison of corruption and power wielded by both the zealots and the broken. Percy Gloom was (still is) a book to be experienced, a work of surprising beauty and grace that has an emotional punch, packed with surprises that leap off the page and stick with you. Malkasian's unique art, charcoal-like cartoon illustrations both simple and versatile, solidified Percy Gloom as a breathless, stunning piece of art, and one of the best comics of 2007.

Her follow-up from 2010, Temperance, was no less assured, another richly detailed fantasy parable about belief and violence and the power of story. Her accomplishments as a fiercely unique visual storyteller are even more pronounced Temperance, weaving a narrative and visual spell rooted in the contrasting beauty of nature and expansive architecture of a stunning and wholly original citystate. It was with great anticipation that I awaited her new graphic novel, a sequel to Percy Gloom; I was not disappointed.

All of the strengths of her previous works are immediately evident in her new graphic novel (out this month from Fantagraphics) Wake Up, Percy Gloom!. Taking up where the last volume left off, Wake Up, Percy Gloom! follows Percy and his love Margaret as they embark on a quixotic journey in search of her supposed twin. Fate intervenes and Percy falls into one of his Rumpelstiltskinian sleeps - which can last many years (Percy, like his mother, is immortal). When he awakes, a series of misunderstandings leads him to believe that he's been out for 200 years, when really he's been asleep for just one year. As Percy meanders through a world he thinks is radically different than the one he left, he encounters a walled city and a government bureaucrat as shut off from reality as the city he worked for.. All the while, Percy's mother is coming to terms with a religion she accidentally created from a joke book she wrote centuries earlier. Their different stories intertwine and come together in entrancing moments of beauty and magic, vividly realized in Malkasian's extraordinary shaded pencil art.

Malkasian expands on the themes she wove in the first volume, using her remarkable fantasy world to comment on isolation, religion, government and the pain and terror and joy of love both unrequited and achieved. Wake Up, Percy Gloom! is another astonishing work from Malkasian, a beautiful and uplifting graphic novel filled with magic and loss and joy. Malkasian, a veteran animator and now highly accomplished cartoonist, once more delivers a work of startling power cementing herself as one of the most distinct and important voices in comics. For those unfamiliar with Malkasian, Wake Up, Percy Gloom! is a perfect introduction to her work - even the better if you go back and get her first two graphic novels, making a trilogy of astonishing works that weave an utterly captivating spell.