This tender tale from Hic & Hoc takes the life of famed sideshow star Jo Jo The Dog Faced Boy into romantic fantasy realm as it follows him — or, rather, a fellow name Fedor, the real him — through the years in context of his friendship with a girl named Helena. The daughter of “the world’s strangest couple” — a bearded woman and a scaly man — Fedor and Helena bond young and live a life of separation and short visits that can’t contain the enormous feelings between them.
But Kelley looks at the idea of expectation and fantasy in context of the reality before you as he documents their relationship, in many ways juxtaposing the idea of Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy — a fictitious creation built around the real life appearance of Fedor — with the pining of unrequited love. Fedor spends most his life dreaming of Helena — it’s a relationship built of fantasy as much as the one he has with his own audience.
Kelley offers Fedor an out though, and that’s what brings the emotional tale full circle, examining the strength that fiction and fantasy have in our lives. We watch as Helena herself lives a life without Fedor and fashions her own entry to the world of her parents and Jo Jo, creating a literal and physical fiction on her own person in order to walk in the world without facing herself.
It’s a casual, very friendly unfolding of a story that could be morose, especially with its beautiful sepia cartooning. Fedor and Helena are charming friends, and Kelley opts for non-period language between them, which is a good choice, allowing us to grab onto the people he portrays rather than the curios they could have been.