Eleanor and the Egret 5: Discussion

By Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers

Eleanor and the Egret 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

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Drew: What moral do we take away from heroic self-sacrifice? We undoubtedly see nobility in a hero prizing the life and safety of others more than their own, but our own takeaway is likely much more modest — we might sacrifice our material comfort or time for the benefit of others, if not our lives. But is “self-sacrifice is good” the only way to look at those stories? Is it possible to look at a hero laying down their life for others and identify with those others — not the hero making the sacrifice, but the beneficiaries of that sacrifice? Is it possible that we see the hero’s death less as a noble choice and more as satisfying a cosmic need for heroes to die — a “sacrifice” in a very different sense of the word? It’s the kind of conclusion you might expect of a world-ending sci-fi computer to draw, but it’s also embedded in the idiosyncratic resolution of John Layman and Sam Kieth’s Eleanor and the Egret. Continue reading

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Surprises in the Details of Eleanor and the Egret 4

by Drew Baumgartner

Eleanor and the Egret 4

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

We call this story “Man in Hole,” but it needn’t be about a man and it needn’t be about somebody getting into a hole — it’s just a good way to remember it: Somebody gets into trouble and gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get sick of it.

Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve always been attracted to the kind of abstract narrative shapes Vonnegut famously catalogued in his Master’s Thesis — there’s something fascinating at the thought that virtually all stories draw from a narrow range of narrative trajectories. But, of course, looking at narratives in such an abstract way overlooks a lot of the texture and details that actually makes stories so thrilling in the first place. That is, while we might take it for a given that the man gets out of the whole, we can still be surprised at exactly how that happens. Those details are what distinguishes one narrative from another, yet even then, they can often feel rote and predictable. Not so with Eleanor and the Egret 4, which uses the cartoon logic of its high-concept premise to deliver some truly unexpected twists. Continue reading

Explaining the Absurd in Eleanor and the Egret 3

by Drew Baumgartner

Eleanor and the Egret 3

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

One of my favorite Loony Tunes premises was that of “Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog,” the rival canines attempting to eat/protect a herd of sheep, respectively. Those cartoons are full of all of the great slapstick and expressions that make classic Chuck Jones cartoons such a pleasure, but by favorite gag is that, at the start and end of the day, Ralph and Sam punch their timecards — they’re just doing their jobs. Any other adversarial relationship in Loony Tunes, whether it’s Elmer Fudd and Bugs, Sylvester and Tweetie, or the (similarly designed) Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner, needs no further explanation; the motivations of the characters are enough to carry the gags. Ralph and Sam, though, have a reason beyond their apparent animal natures, something that tilts at the nonsensical task of explaining the cartoon logic of these characters. It somehow grounds them in reality while simultaneously heightening the absurdity of the situations they’re in. Eleanor and the Egret has always reveled in its own kind of absurdity, but issue 3 starts to reveal Eleanor’s backstory, hinting at some human emotions at the core of this cartoony world. Continue reading