Tim, a health care administrator, is struggling to get along. He’s determined not to be the kind of father his father was, and he provides his wife and daughter with the kind of stability that wasn’t available to him. When Tim’s father dies, Tim is left to find his half-brother Free, an ex-hippie still living a hippie lifestyle, and to settle his father’s estate. While rummaging through his father’s things, Tim comes across “The Savage,” a life-size statue of an African that used to frighten him when he was a child. Tim is intent on donating the statue to a museum, but his plans go awry when he learns that the statue is really a taxidermically treated African man. His efforts also bring closure to his relationship with Free. Eichler has provided a thought-provoking morality play that Bertozzi realizes in claustrophobic, effectively colored illustrations that echo Tim’s confusion. Not to be missed. —Stephen Weiner
Review in 7/27 Publisher’s Weekly
The first graphic novel written by The Colbert Report's Eichler is a light comedy about racism, with a hint of retooled movie proposal about it. It concerns a pair of half-brothers—square family man Tim Johnston and a spaced-out, trepanned loose cannon who calls himself “Free”—whose inheritance of their father's “museum of curiosities” includes the preserved, stuffed body of an African man in a loincloth and bone necklace, holding the remnants of a spear. Naturally, they want to get rid of the “Warrior,” as Tim prefers to call him—but getting rid of human remains turns out not to be as easy as driving them to a museum. Naturally, all kinds of uncomfortable associations about race and history burble up. Naturally, hijinks ensue. Bertozzi's artwork—a slightly cruder, much less detailed variation on the look of his graphic novel The Salon—unobtrusively whisks the story along; there's also a nuttier, bolder style for a series of dream sequences in which the “Warrior” becomes the focal point for all of Tim's anxieties. Even when the plot seems a little too formulaic (will everyone learn something by the end?), Eichler's crisp, snappy dialogue keeps it percolating.
Sacramento Book Review – 9/1
When Tim’s father dies, he and his brother, “Free,” are left with his worldly possessions—the most notable of which is a museum of curiosities. And while most of the items on display are little better than outright junk, one of them – which just so happens to be the subject of countless slightly traumatic childhood memories for both boys – just might be of interest to someone. “The Savage,” as he is lovingly referred to, turns out to be an actual stuffed African man. But what should be done with him?
Beneath the comedic guise that Stuffed! effects lay some unexpectedly deep subject matter. Race, family ties, “New Age” ideas, ant the ethics of museums can all be read here in a comprehensive, yet entertaining format. The story is engaging and surprisingly real. Many people work hard to avoid becoming like their parents, and all families have an eccentric member like Free. The artwork is skilled and fun, for the simple style is well-suited to this tale and Bertozzi has an amazing way with facial expressions. This is a fantastic debut effort, and hopefully, the world will see more great things from Eichler and Bertozzi in the future.
Review in 11/1 BCCB
In this full-color graphic novel, protagonist Tim Johnston is working at his boring desk job when he gets the phone call saying that his father is dying. The old man is a pitiless piece of work, so there is little sorrow at his passing, but Tim is shocked to learn that his father had no other assets than his “museum,” a collection of grotesqueries that tormented Tim and his estranged brother as children. Among these is a “savage,” a statue of an African male in a loincloth holding a raised but broken spear. Determined to do the right thing, Tim attempts to place the statue in a museum, only to find that it is an actual taxidermied human. The curator tries to find the man’s country of origin in order to return him, but then Tim’s drugged-out brother has other ideas about what to do with the family inheritance. The realistic cartoon art completes the text in a nonintrusive way, emphasizing the dark emotions that surface throughout their ordeal with exaggerated clarity, staging dreams through color changes, and augumenting character development through hair and clothing style. Issues of intergenerational and racial guilt percolate below the surface and break through in tense moments, particularly when the white suburban Johnstons try to find common ground with the black curator and his wife, and when the Johnstons have to deal with their dissipated relative, making this an emotionally and ethically challenging text for teen readers. Likewise, the humor here is dark and fairly subtle even for adults: mature teen readers will have no trouble understanding the deep wit, but they may not find that it hits their issues so much as those of their older relatives who are trying to sort through their feelings towards abusive parents, childhood fears and prejudices, and adult siblings.