Sunday, December 25, 2022

31 Days Of CCS, #25 Andy Warner

Andy Warner's versatile and pleasing line has led him to a cottage industry of writing the histories of familiar things. His first book was A Brief History Of Everyday Objects, and he's back in his wheelhouse with Andy Warner's Oddball Histories: Pests And Pets. Overall, this is a densely text-heavy comic that is still a light read thanks to just enough visual space and an amiable writing style that makes a reader want to turn the page and see what's next. 

In a non-narrative book that is essentially just a collection of interesting anecdotes, Warner nonetheless is able to establish a throughline in this comic. By focusing specifically on animals associated with humans, he's able to make this comic as much about people as it is about animals. Raising and domesticating animals has been crucial for food and companionship since the dawn of civilization. In fact, Warner makes a compelling that civilization as we understand it would not be possible without humans domesticating animals, and horses in particular. He also notes the side-effects of civilization attracting pests that are highly adaptive. 

Dividing the book into "creatures we find cute," "creatures we find useful," and "creatures that find us useful" clarifies this narrative, and he further whets the reader's appetite at the beginning of each chapter by noting a fact about an animal and giving the page number where this is explained. It's a clever way to keep things moving and pique interest in the subjects, by baiting the reader with weird facts and anecdotes while still referring to the overarching narrative of how humans and animals are connected. 

It helps that Warner's line has a nice, thick weight to it, and that fellow CCS grad Luke Healy did the colors for the book. The colors are bright but not overly vibrant, and they never interfere with Warner's line. Warner also adds a lot of humor into the book, giving the animals funny dialogue without going overboard. That humor helps leaven things like animals bringing the plague, the ways animals are frequently used for war, and of course the way humans hunt some animals to extinction. None of these things are the focus of the book, but Warner is careful to include them. The result is a funny, informative, colorful collection of facts that hang together because of Warner's overall organizing precepts. Warner has a knack for whittling down mountains of research and information into a readable gestalt.

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