There’s something delightfully imaginative about Jay Fosgitt’s Bodie Troll compilation. Fosgitt’s character, Bodie, is reminiscent of a six-year-old hyperactive kid brother who straddles the line between grossing you out and warming your heart with his naïve innocence. Bounding out of his dark hole under the bridge in the opening pages, a fearsome, towering, troll overturns the idyllic pastoral landscape of Hagadorn, vaulting and roaring at any passersby who dare set hoof on his bridge. The page layout itself becomes off-kilter, frantically trying to accommodate a monster that is ultimately no larger or less adorable than a baby goat. As the page straightens itself back out into a regular grid, Bodie furtively probes his unimpressed audience: “Um… Aren’t cha gonna beg? Just a little? Couldn’t hurt.” Such highly energetic sequences punctuated by flat monotone punchlines deftly demonstrate how a flexible story structure can reveal a character’s emotional responses throughout the tale. A troll, who can only play at being terrifying in his own fantasies, is brought down by a blaze of baby goat kisses in the story’s first few pages, revealing how frustrating it can feel when others don’t see you as powerfully as you would like to be seen. The enduring crankiness of this beautifully undercut little character set against a sort of Seussian background is enough to worm its way even into the most resistant of hearts.
Though his paradoxical character design opens the reader up to Bodie’s story, Fosgitt’s world-creation in this text is utterly breathtaking. Fosgitt’s scenery is more than capable of enchantment. Its soft pastel colors, rounded lines, and dappled sunlight make you feel as though you are traversing some kind of Chaucerian idyllic landscape. The twisting and turning scenic lines will wind you deeper and deeper into Hagadorn’s quaint village with each new page. Through such whimsical and inviting lines, Fosgitt teaches the reader how to see his world. It would be a mistake in Fosgitt’s world to only pay attention to the scene’s action or scan the foreground of his images. Fosgitt draws to delight you with the details; his text comes alive in the distant backgrounds, where characters and creatures alike have dozens of tiny stories to tell all around the main tale. These gems create a fully rounded, fanciful story-world, they keep you gasping in wonder, filled with joyful admiration, and tickled pink at their playful silliness. Fosgitt’s imagery becomes an Alice in Wonderland visual labyrinth where each panel becomes a wondrous new rabbit hole to deeply explore.
Silly and playful and paradoxical as these little stories are, they are beautiful to behold. Charmed by their sights and the imaginative invention, you are liable to become much more invested in this little troll and his tales than perhaps you thought possible. Bodie’s big heart is what makes him as adorable as he is to the townspeople and the reader alike. His humorous bridge-guarding is as much Bodie’s way of protecting his home and his friends as it is a comic gag. Though he tries to be respected and admired through strength and fear, he’s really adored for his loyalty and gentleness towards the people he cares about. Though at times self-centric and hopelessly unawares of the havoc he inadvertently wreaks, at heart Bodie is the kind of unexpected hero we all hope to be when it really counts.