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The púca of 'Project: Cryptid' will take you on a frightening ride
AHOY

Comic Books

The púca of ‘Project: Cryptid’ will take you on a frightening ride

Still less scary than Uber.

AHOY Comics’ Project: Cryptid series continues to be a fun and creative romp through the monsters of folklore and cryptozoology.  In issue #9’s tale, “A Pooka Shill,” writer Kirk Vanderbeek and artist Shane Oakley take us on a wild ride with the legendary trickster spirit, the púca (sometimes spelled “pooka”).

Even if you’re not well-versed in Irish folklore, the origin of the story, you may have still heard of this creature by way of the 1950 movie, Harvey.  That film was, in turn, based on the 1944 Pulitzer Prize winning play by Mary Chase, which centered on a lovable goof named Elwood P. Dowd, who had the fortune (or perhaps misfortune) of being friends with a mischievous púca named Harvey that preferred to remain invisible, when not appearing as a 6-foot tall rabbit.

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Shape-changers that most often take the form of a black horse, púcas are famous for their particular habit of taking the very, very drunk on extraordinarily improbable gallops. Many a púca tale concerns a bedraggled and confused Irishman who awakes in an unexpected place with foggy memories of wild adventure and has to wonder — did I dream all that? These creatures fit well within the folklore of the wee folk, the good folk, the fae — you know, goblins and fairies and the like.

The púca of 'Project: Cryptid' will take you on a frightening ride

Vanderbeek has crafted a tight, action-packed story brought to life by the art of Shane Oakley, whose mastery of lines and coloring remind me a bit of Mike Mignola. Oakley walks you through what at first appears to be the classic púca encounter, between a very inebriated but mundane person who gets carried away by the “helpful” fairy-folk in the guise of a mad, glowing-eyed stallion. But if you think you’re just getting an illustrated generic example of a púca ride, you’re mistaken.

No spoilers here, but I found “A Pooka Shill” to be a refreshingly efficient bit of storytelling that hinted at a larger and more interesting world I’d like to see explored further.  And there’s an Office joke buried in this tale for which I doff my hat in salute.

In general, Project: Cryptid plays well into the way that folklore, fiction and real experiences all interchange with each other, all the time, and across all media and modes of communication. If you come into these stories well-informed of what to expect, you’ll find yourself surprised at the clever ways the creators take your expectations and bend them like rails to take you on a ride. Like a púca might.

Puca Project Cryptid

AHOY

In general, Project: Cryptid plays well into the way that folklore, fiction and real experiences all interchange with each other, all the time, and across all media and modes of communication. If you come into these stories well-informed of what to expect, you’ll find yourself surprised at the clever ways the creators take your expectations and bend them like rails to take you on a ride. Like a púca might.

AIPT Science is co-presented by AIPT and the New York City Skeptics.

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