Thursday, September 29, 2005

Three Very Small Comics: Volume II by Tom Gauld Well, I’ve finally managed to read a dozen or so of the mini-comics I picked up from SPX this past weekend. Now as I sift through the crate of mini-comics, the first thing that strikes my eye to review is Tom Gauld’s Three Very Small Comics: Volume II. The Three Very Small Comics are tucked into a tiny brown envelope with a sticker on the front.

The first Very Small Comic is “Invasion.” A guy arrives at a foreign land by boat. He meets a lone shepherd and claims the land as his own. The shepherd is nonplussed and offers the invader a meal and warm bed. The invader accepts. The next morning he leaves in his boat promising to return. As he pushes off from shore he’s slain by a hail of arrows.

The story is really that simple. It’s nothing earth shattering, but there’s a subtlety in telling the tale that Gauld has mastered like very few others. Let’s start with the art. The first page features a cross section of a patiently crosshatched sea topped by a flat surface. The only thing breaking up the sea’s surface is the black silhouette of the invader in his dinghy. The sky around him is filled with slashing rain that meets the sea, but the rain remains separate as a background. There’s a clear demarcation between the sea and the rain. It’s visually striking.
After two pages of the invader docking his boat and trudging through the rain, he climbs a hillside and announces to a lonely shepherd, “I hereby claim this land for my king and country.” The shepherd’s response? “OK.” They start making small talk about the land, seemingly oblivious to the driving rain until the shepherd mentions, “The grazing’s good. All the rain you can see.” The invader turns towards the reader, as he considers the constant rain, and replies, “Uh huh.” It goes on like that for sixteen pages until the invader goes down under the barrage of arrows on the second to last page. The combination of Gauld’s sly visual structuring and simple pacing combine effectively, making this mini an understated, but entertaining comic.

And there are two more mini-comics in the envelope! Remember the second and third tier robots from Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back? In several scenes you could see these boxy little droids and robots in various states of disrepair or maybe slowly trekking from point A to point B. Gaul’s “The Robots Broke Out Of The Factory And Fled As Far As Their Batteries Would Allow” reminded me of those droids. A long thick piece of paper is folded, accordion style, and each page has a drawing of a robot that has run out of juice. The first one, B-7061, is standing in a field with slightly outstretched arms. There’s a bird sitting on its head. A group of robots have expired on another page. Robot TLJ-012 has fallen over on its side. TLJ-009 was able to go about a dozen feet farther, but it’s also managed to stay upright. Inexplicably, robot TLJ-011 has lodged itself in the boughs of a leafless tree.
The last mini included with Three Very Small Comics: Volume II is “Our Hero Battles Twenty-Six Alphabeticised Terrors.” Very Small is a bit of a misnomer here; this one unfolds to a near tabloid sized broad sheet. There are twenty-six panels each containing our hero, sword in hand, facing a new “alphabeticised” foe.
Visit Tom's website Cabanon Press to check out more of Gauld's work. He's got a lot of art samples and he shares the site with Simone Lia.

I had planned on reviewing Drew Weing’s excellent Blar, but Mike Manley beat me to the punch. Mike says, “This might be the nicest comic I bought at the show as a design and production, simple yet elegant. It's oblong format is also cool. I love to see this type of experimentation with formats, something the Babymen always hate. Fuck putting everything in a goddam plastic bag! I also picked up a few other books from Little House Comics that I'll review soon. I look forward to more Blar!” Go read Mike’s full review of Blar and Damien Jay’s Probe.

Look for the a post by Kate tomorrow featuring a couple more reviews of mini-comics she liked and some general thoughts on some she didn’t.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Guest Post on SPX by Kate Nyland
Although Shawn and I have only been married for a few months, we have lived together for years and thus I’ve been subjected to his obsession with comics for quite some time. I grumbled under my breath about how his long white boxes detracted from the atmosphere of our college apartment. Last summer, when he ebayed most of his collection, I was pretty disgruntled at being the post office envoy by default (as a teacher, I had a few months off). Now, my spirits perk up when I see a package in the mail (a near-daily occurrence) – perhaps it’s a forgotten-about lipstick I had ordered or a care package from Mom - only to discover it’s a parcel of comics. Lest you think I negatively dwell on Shawn’s hobby, note that I took a course (The History of Comic Art) in college that was fascinating, and I sometimes incorporated graphic novels into my lesson plans as a social studies teacher. I loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Hell, I came up with both of Shawn’s column titles. However, I’m not a full-fledged comic fan and can’t imagine I ever will be. I’m ambivalent about comics due to a lot of the issues Shawn often rants about in Past the Front Racks – the gaming tournaments in the back of the store, the costumes, the objectification of women on too many covers, the comic lovers who spend thousands of dollars a year collecting statues…I will address other (less superficial) reasons for my conflicting feelings about comics in a future post.

Our idea for my guest posts this week was this: take an outsider (me) to SPX with $30 to burn and see what I think about the expo and the mini-comics I picked up. Are my musings indicative of what the general public thinks of comics? No. Do they represent what women think of this art form? Of course not. They are my personal observations and should not be extrapolated. I picked up twenty-one minis in all, but in each post I am only going to review a few of the ones I found to be extraordinary.

First of all, SPX itself. I was impressed that most of the attendees looked and acted liked regulars from our local Punk Rock Night, not The Simpson’s Comic Book Guy. Although it was crowded, I was pleasantly surprised that, unlike my other comic con experience, I wasn’t “accidentally” felt up. It was difficult to visit a table without feeling (mostly self-induced) pressure to buy something, so as Shawn instructed, if the offerings of a table looked dubious, I didn’t make eye contact and just kept on walking. (If I didn’t visit a stall it may very well have been because Shawn had told me he already had everything from it and there was no need for me to buy it again.)

I picked up JP Coovert’s Blind because of the attractive packaging (100% recycled, acid-free paper in earth tones that complemented the story) and I enjoyed the short, sparse The Giving Tree-esque tale of a guy who loved a tree and the man responsible for its demise. The beauty of this mini lies in its simplicity.
the monkeynauts by Sarah Becan is also an attractively-produced mini. Bombo the Monkey relays the true accounts of simians who were employed by the US government to test space flight. The art is a breathtaking mix of Xeroxed silkscreen images and real pictures. Anyone who loves animals (not the “oh, I love cute cuddly puppies!” variety but the “how could these wonderful creatures be used for food/clothing/entertainment” kind of animal lover) would be moved by this mini, especially when reading the chilling last page. After reading this on Saturday, I’ve thought about it a lot since. It has stayed with me, a good test for any art form.
Kevin Huizenga’s Or Else is technically not a mini, but is so genius that I wanted to mention it here. Of the little vignettes, I particularly liked “I Stand Up For Zen” and “Al and Gertrude,” stories that really resonated with me. In the latter tale, Huizenga works in an understated manner to tell a very sad and human story. In the former, the author, at the time a graphic designer for a wholesale distributor, grappled with whether or not to help advertise “Power Bead” bracelets. The example below shows the creativity Huizenga uses with page layout in this comic.
In my next post I will review a few more minis and then give some general (nameless, title-less) thoughts on the minis I wasn’t as keen on.

Monday, September 26, 2005

SPX 2005 Report
This one will be centered on mini-comics as this is SIZE MATTERS. I’ll have a more publisher-oriented report tomorrow at Comic World News.
This year’s version of SPX was even more fun than last year’s show. At a show that seems to manufacture crazy amounts of positive energy, the smiles and hearty handshakes were off the chart. Friday afternoon seemed a bit slow as far as foot traffic, and almost everyone I talked to lamented poor sales. But the crowd on Saturday was often two or three deep at the more popular tables and there were bottlenecks at some well-attended corners.

For a mini-comic fan, SPX is almost overwhelming. Just the USS Catastrophe, Bodega Distribution, Sparkplug Comics and Global Hobo tables would be enough to make you dizzy, but everywhere you turn there’s another table full of mini-comics.

I started out by grabbing a copy of Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw. Couch Tag is the story of Jesse’s thirteen cats that he had growing up and when I asked him if it would make me cry, he said probably. I haven’t read it yet.

Sparkplug and Global Hobo were right next to each other and between those tables I picked up about a dozen mini-comics, including the second issue of Reklaw’s Slow Wave, The Secret Voice by Zack Soto, the latest Service Industry by T. Edward Bak, and Stefan Gruber’s tiny Handy & Army. At the Sparkplug table I talked to Austin English about his beautiful Christina & Charles book. He showed me a stack of pages from another color book that he’s working on.

I met Jamie Tanner finally and he gave me copies of his two latest mini-comics, Diamonds and Always in Love & Other Stories of Death and Dismemberment. The latter is over fifty pages of Tannery goodness. I’ll probably try to hold off on reading these. I also learned a very valuable lesson Saturday. Jamie had about a dozen small watercolors for sale at the ridiculously cheap price of $20. One of them was an adorable little wooden bird resting on top of a street corner gas lamp. I didn’t buy it on Friday, because my bag was already overstuffed with goodies. On Saturday, it had been sold. Oh, the humanity!

John Mejias (Paping) was sharing a table with the Partyka crew and I grabbed issues twelve and thirteen of Paping. Issue twelve is constructed of one long piece of paper folded into a box with a lid and issue thirteen is printed in two colors on a NYC subway map. I met the very nice and talented Shawn Cheng for the first time, so now I’ve met all four of the Partyka people. I also bought a collection of “Daily Drawings” from the table. It was the only thing that I didn’t already have.

At the Little House table I picked up a copy of Drew Weing’s new Blar mini-comic. It’s early and I haven’t even looked at half of the minis that I brought home, but so far this is my favorite mini from the show. Drew and Eleanor were both so kind and personable. Their table was one of the most visually inventive ones at the show. Right next to them I met Joey Weiser. Like everyone I spoke with Joey was a super nice person. He gave me his two latest minis, including Tales of Unusual Circumstance number two that features another adventure of “The Unremarkable Tree Frog.” Awesome.

At the Buenaventura Press table I bought an issue of Julie Doucet’s mini-comic Sophie Punt. I think I paid twenty-five dollars for it, but I didn’t care. It’s Julie Doucet. I also took the plunge and bought a Sammy Harkham print. Alvin Buenaventura is a great guy and he’s got perfect taste in comics. There was a galley print of the book Elvis Road by Helge Reumann and Xavier Robel. That’s going to be exquisite. As I was paying I spied Tom Gauld’s comics and added Three Very Small Comics Volume Two.

Dan Zettwoch and Ted May were manning the USS Catastrophe table and Dan had a new mini-comic called Schematic Comics. This comic has some strips that were published in Arthur. Now I don’t have to find Arthur to read them, but maybe I should. There are some damn good cartoonists to be found in there.

At Jordan Crane’s table I found a mini-comic that I didn’t have called The Life Unlucky. I somehow found the strength to resist the deluxe version of The Clouds Above, but after flipping through a gorgeous copy of Non issue five, I bought the Non. I couldn't believe Jordan remembered an order I had placed almost two years ago. His table was one of the most colorful on the floor and SPX cover artist Brian Ralph was sharing it with copies of his books and a cool t-shirt that I'm sorry I didn't buy.

At the Cantab Publishing table I ran into Alex Lukas and purchased his new mini-comic Fire. This one has a section of black pages sandwiched between your standard white pages. The black pages show the firefighter being menaced by the black face of fire and smoke. Also at the Cantab table, I met the face behind the excellent magazine The Drama, Joel Speasmaker.

I spent a ridiculous amount of money at The Ganzfield/PaperRad table. After somehow managing to resist the $30 Ben Jones book (now I’m kicking myself), I bought the The Ganzfield 4-Pac Fun Pack! that includes the best Batman stories that I’ve seen in years. I also grabbed a copy of Fuckable Comics number six and a mini called Gif Papel. Between Ben Jones strips there are colorful collages of images from old comics circa 1980; this is a really neat comic.

I ran into Matthew Thurber when Kate was with me. Kate and I lamented over our failed plans to move to NYC, but Matthew gave us some hope. He also gave me a copy of the new Paper Rodeo, which I hadn't even seen yet.

Somehow I ended up with three copies of Bleep the Peeper. Two regular versions and the silk-screened cover version from Chris Pitzer. J. Chris Campbell blessed me with his Fat Pack, which isn’t a s kinky as it sounds. It’s a manila envelope full of his tiny mini-comics.

I met Matt Dembicki and grabbed the fifth issue of Mr. Big. the new baddie was just what I expected! Matt was a super nice guy and he told me that there will be a Mr Big trade collecting issues one through seven. It looks like issues one and two are all gone.

I met Mark McMurray and he had a Dumb Jersy White Boy 2.5 in color. He was also very nice and looked just like he does in his comics. I met Marcos Perez and Justin Fox. Marcos had three new Carl is the Awesome mini-comics and Justin had an issue of Lincoln isn’t the Awesome. Poor Lincoln is a hedgehog. Next to mini-comic funnyman Pat Lewis, I met Ed Piskor. I’ve got a few of his Deviant Funniesmini-comics that look great.

Look, there are piles of mini-comics that I haven’t even opened yet and many names that I haven’t mentioned. Starting tomorrow, there will be SPX reviews mixed in with review minis sent in over the past month. Also, I took Kate to the show with me for about an hour. She purchased twenty mini-comics with thirty dollars and she’ll be doing a few guest posts this week reviewing the comics she bought and giving her general impressions from the show as an “outsider.”

Also tomorrow, I’ll post my publisher-oriented SPX review at Comic World News. Here's another shot of the SPX haul. Had to stand on the couch to get this one. Hope everyone had a great time at the show!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Link to Pictures from SPX 2005
Rather than loading the photos into Blogger and using up precious space, I've posted a Flickr badge on an old website. Go here to check them out.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

SPX was great. Details later.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Live from Gaithersburg: A Short SPX Update

I took a bunch of photos today, but this one was the only one that didn't need cropped or anything. It's a picture of the Paping and Partyka table (that's John Mejias and Sara Edward-Corbett) and it captures what I love about SPX - a table groaning under the weight of stacks of mini-comics.

Today was a bit overwhelming, and I kept forgetting that I could go slowly and come back tomorrow. I met several people for the first time after talking to them through email. It was really neat to meet Jaime Tanner, Joey Weiser, Drew and Eleanor from Little House, Alvin Bueneventura, Jordan Crane, Shawn Cheng, Matt Deimbecki, and Austin English for the first time. Damn, I know I'm forgetting other people I met. It was also great to reconnect with people I already knew.

I had one HUGE problem. My bag filled up way too quickly and I only bought one book, Non #5. Everything else was a mini-comic, print or shirt. I rewarded myself with a Sammy Harkham print of the character Iris on her roof from his latest story in the Drawn & Quarterly Showcase. Alvin of Bueneventura Press was kind enough to hold it for me and did his best to try and find something suitable to carry it in.

Tomorrow, I'm going back bright and early with Kate in tow. I thought it would be neat to let her go around and pick up some mini-comics and review them with an outsider's perspective for the site.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Tomorrow is SPX
Today's the last day of the countdown. So, here's the last picture to get your mini-comic juices flowing.
Our flight leaves this afternoon and we'll be heading to the airport straight from work. Kate and I are hoping to hit our old standby vegetarian restaurant The Vegetable Garden in Rockville (just north of Bethesda) tonight.

There may not be posting tomorrow, just depends on my schedule. I'm taking a camera, so maybe I'll post some initial thoughts and pictures. No promises though. To everyone who has emailed in the last couple of days, I'm looking forward to catching up with you at the show. This should be a great time. And I'll come home with enough mini-comics to fuel this blog for months.

*If I haven't posted reviews of your mini-comic yet from September or late August, I will when I get back from SPX. I'm keeping submissions separate and in the order that they were received, so you won't have to take a back seat to SPX booty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

SPX Exhibitor Map Online at SPX Site
Finally the map of tables for SPX exhibitors is up. Go look for a full size version.

Thanks to John Bintz (V-64A) for the heads up.
Two Days to SPX

A really good thread to keep on top of for SPX is this one at The Comics Journal board. Jeff Mason started this as a public service to check up aon what different creators will be bringing to SPX this year. It's a good preview of what will be on sale and it might help you compile your shopping list. I find that I need to write down what I want to try to pick up, because as soon as I walk into the show I get distracted like a kid in a candy shop.

I really love Jaime Tanner’s mini-comics and looks like he’ll have at least two that I haven't had the chance to pick up anywhere else.
The first is DIAMONDS, a "32-page minicomic involving sisters, dreams, severed limbs and a bunch of birds." Of course there are birds!

He'll also have "most of my old minis, including ALWAYS IN LOVE AND OTHER STORIES OF DEATH AND DISMEMBERMENT, which debuted at MoCCA a few months ago - 64 pages, about half from various anthologies, half new." Yay, I don't have that one either. Tanner's link is on the left under mini-comic cretors and he puts out consistently good minis.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Damn You Pat Lewis

I’ve been busy this week with work, my regular column and daily updates to this blog. I’d pretty much given myself the night off from anything productive, besides straightening up the SIZE MATTERS review pile. I was comfortingly goofing off and drinking my second Sierra Nevada when I ran across the Pat’s mini-comics. I picked up Prowl and Hideous: A Monster Romance and it was all over.

After picking myself off of the floor after reading Hideous, I figured I owed Pat a quick review of his mini-comics.

Pat Lewis is a funny bastard and his mini-comics will make you laugh. End of story. Prowl is a wordless sixteen-page mini-comic about alien abduction, but…man is there a twist. These are some sorry aliens when they discover that the teenage girl they abduct has a dark secret.

Prowl is a wordless comic, but it’s action packed. For the ridiculous price of one dollar, you’ll have crazy fun. Visit Pat’s online catalog for details.

Next up is Hideous: A Monster Romance that looks suspiciously like the cover of Jeffrey Brown’s Clumsy. In fact, on the back cover it reads “Apologies to Jeffrey Brown.” Hideous illustrates the trajectory of a relationship between a monster and the girl that he meets on the internet. There’s a disconnect at first as the monster, Ga’agn’oth, waits in the cafĂ© for the girl that never shows. In a weird coincidence that’s never explained, she’s spent the night banging Ga’agn’oth’s roommate.
Somehow they overcome this rocky start and a girl (Megan) and a monster find something that resembles love. But it’s not easy. Ga’agn’oth (Megan calls him Scott, because she can’t properly pronounce his name) has two 18 inch tongues.

Any further writing and I feel like I’ll ruin this comic. Just send Pat Lewis three dollars for both of these comics and tell me “Thank you” later. I still have a copy of Abominable to review, so stay tuned.
Mint On Your Pillow by Rebecca Strom
Rebecca Strom’s Mint On Your Pillow is a charming lo-fi mini-comic. Each issue is sixteen pages of impromptu sketches and brief snapshots of her life. Whether she’s standing in the middle of St. Mark’s Comics amazed at the selection or celebrating the beginning of summer, her sketches and drawings are intimate and inviting. There’s no standard panel structure, no pattern to the pages, but there’s a genuine and easy rhythm. Strom bounces from shopping at IKEA, to beers and fries, and then up pops the little girl who plays drums for the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. It’s refreshing to have no idea where the next page will take you.

Instead of an attempt to enlighten and entertain the reader, these comics seem to be a way for Strom to record the details of her life that matter to her at that certain time. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Think of Mint On Your Pillow as a journal comic, an attempt to capture fleeting moments of a life being lived.

Strom’s art is very straightforward. It’s sketchy and loose rather than detailed and planned out. This makes each page an impromptu riff in a slightly longer composition. Mint On Your Pillow is an excellent example of doing more with less. Issues one, two and four are standard mini-comic size with covers made of colored printer paper. For some reason, she went all out with issue three and made it a digest sized mini with a stiff orange cover.

There are no prices on these issues, but you could give Rebecca a shout at or and see if she has any for sale.
Three Days to SPX

Here are a few tables that are sure to have a bunch of mini-comics available.

USS Catastrophe will have a good portion of their website stock, I expect. And you'll get to chat with Dan, Kevin and Ted.

The Global Hobo table should be jam packed as well according to a post over at TCJ:

Global Hobo will be there! Right next to pals at Sparkplug comic books.
Hobo artists in attendance:
John Isaacson, Jesse Reklaw, Geoff Vasile, and David Youngblood.
Debut books at the Hobo Table:
Apartment Varmint by Geoff Vasile et. al.
Catch Me If You Can by Briana
DIY Silkscreening #2 by John Isaacson
Foxkit #1 by Eleanor Davis, Lance Simmons, David Youngblood, and Chris Wright
I Like Eating #2 by Thien Pham
Slow Wave Mini #2 by Jesse Reklaw
Souvenir by Rina Ayuyang
Thingpart by Joe Sayers
Tuesday by Tom Neely

Plus Global Hobo will have about 40 other recent minis,
T-shirts, and an art show with work by Andrice
Arp, Fredo, Lark Pien, Jesse Reklaw, and Zack
Two minis nominated for 2005 Ignatzes will be at the table--
Cough Tag #2 by Jesse Reklaw
Monday by Andy Hartzell

Also Wide Awake Press will have several new minis:
You'll get a nice helping of newness when you stop by the WAP table.
Duane Ballenger's
Haunted Samidge
A thief hides out in a haunted House.
J Chris Campbell's
Save Me
An Evil Pirate toys with a person stranded on a rock.
Why doesn't lewis like dogs? And what does hit sit funny.
So (the more economical machine printed version)
Bleep the Peeper The 2005 Indie Island Jam comic with 13 different artists.
Done on the floor of the Heroes Convention in Charlotte.
Some will even have a special screen printed cover by

Partyka will also have a table loaded down with goodies if past SPX shows are any indication.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Four Days to SPX

Stacks of mini-comics as far as the eye can see. What a glorious picture.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Five Days Until SPX

Look at Justin Madson's eyes in this picture. He's probably one of the nicest guys in mini-comics, but notice the haunting look of madness in his gaze. As SPX gets even closer, you'll notice the same look in your own eyes.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Six Days to SPX
Less than a week to Bethesda. Who's going? I know David Welsh, Kevin Melrose, Johanna Draper Carlson, and Eliot Johnson are all going. Ed Cunard says probably, maybe. I haven't talked to fellow CWN columnist Rich Watson, but I imagine he'll be there.

There are a few talented creators going as well.

Anyone else?
Image from the SPX website photo gallery.

Friday, September 16, 2005

One Week to SPX
Leading up to SPX, I'll post a picture a day from past shows just to get you excited about this year’s show. Your passion will grow each day until about mid next week when you'll start waking up at night and wandering around in the dark with a stapler in your hand. By Thursday, your extremities will start shaking and you may find yourself doodling on the clothing of strangers with a crow-quill pen. You'll probably tear some clothing and get in trouble, but when they see the wild look in your eyes, they’ll back away. Trust me. By the day of the show at 2pm, you'll be foaming at the mouth and running towards the Holiday Inn Select in Bethesda with your wadded up cash clenched tightly in your shaking fist.

Be nice to the volunteers though when you pay for your ticket. They are there because they love comics too. They're on your side. And after all, they were shaking and foaming at the mouth just hours earlier. We’re all excited.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Andy Runton's SPX Poster!

Man, it seems like it was just yesterday that Chris Staros sent me a couple of Owly mini-comics. This was before any Owly books were published by Top Shelf. We talked about how Andy looked to have a bright future in comics. I think he's doing okay.

Saw this at Christopher Butcher's pad.

I'll be heading out to SPX in a week. Yay!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Panel: Home by the folks at Ferret Press
Hmm, the comic anthology. It’s certainly a dicey proposition for both creators and readers. It’s rare that you’ll like everything in any anthology that you read, but I’ve found it’s even rarer when it comes to mini-comics anthologies. The folks at Ferret Press sent a few issues of their elegantly packaged anthology Panel, and the issue I picked up today to review is a mixed bag.

The Fall 2004 issue of Panel is titled Home. Each story addresses the concept of home in a different way to different degrees of success. “Inside/Out,” Andy Bennett’s wordless tale of a cat that gets stuck outside and how it gets back in, worked well as an opener for this anthology. The black cat’s features are just blurred enough for this cat to be “any cat” as opposed to “this cat.” The less detailed features of the cat make this a more universal story and I enjoyed the way the cat reacted to its environment. The cat’s idea of home is firmly centered inside (on the back of the couch to be exact) and he/she begins and ends the story in the same position.
The art in Tim McClurg’s “Chubby” doesn’t work for me. He uses a mixture of very thick and thin lines to create his characters and backgrounds, and sometimes this makes the art look too “chunky.” He may be trying to add variety to his line, but it’s too jarring in this story. It’s a decent anecdote of small town hijinx though and the art might not bother you as much as it bothered me.
“Pilgrim” by Matt Kish is a short wordless tale about an astronaut that gets disconnected from his lifeline in space. It’s short, effective and it stays with you after reading it. This one is visually pleasing as the panels are divided by the inky blackness of space and the bright white of the astronaut’s space suit.

“Buried Talents” by Craig Bogart would make a good short story. As it is now, it’s merely okay as a comic. The computer font lettering pulls me out of the story, which is a shame because the narrative is extremely personal. However, the font makes it feel less personal and kind of rushed. The art is serviceable, but it doesn’t do quite enough for me to remedy the problem that I had with the font lettering. The story is solid, if a bit melodramatic at times, but this could be a much better comic with a few minor changes.

“Xiang/Home” by Sean McGurr (words) and Dan Barlow (art) is a very charming little tale of a nine-month old girl adopted from China. It’s told from the perspective of the adopting father and his concerns make me think that he will make a wonderful parent for this girl. Unfortunately, this story has the same problem as “Buried Talents” – the computer lettering font. In both stories, the font actually works against the story. This might just be a personal preference but I like hand lettering in mini-comics. It feels more natural for the format. I have horrible handwriting, so I succumbed once and made a mini with computer lettering. My wife liked it better, but it just felt fake to me. Now, I’ve retreated back into the very messy and tedious world of my own crappy hand lettering. It works better with the amateurish art anyway.

Back to Panel: Home; the last story in this anthology, “Cribs” by Tom Williams is a little scattered. It’s a play on the MTV show, but instead of visiting musicians they visit Tom Williams the cartoonist. Let me say up front I loved the ending to this story and Williams draws some adorable doe-eyed squirrels. But – you knew there would be a but – it seems a little too madcap. There’s a roommate who spends all day shooting squirrels off of an electric line, Sebastian Bach hiding behind a Tawny Kitaen poster, and an excitable monkey that colors with oranges. Tom’s art is actually very fluid. His character has a great comic face with shining black eyes and an expressive mouth. Reading this you get the sense that Tom’s home must be very hectic.

So there you go, six stories by seven different creators. I ended up liking half of them and then quibbling over things like lettering and lines that are too thick. Panel: Home is a forty page three dollar book and it has excellent production qualities. The thick creamy yellow cover folds over from the back cover that’s about three inches longer than the front cover. There’s a round white sticker with an old fashioned skeleton key to hold the back flap over the front. To the right of the key sticker is a enlarged keyhole opening. Inside the front cover is an index, but it’s in the form of an apartment buzzer with name plates underneath to show the names of the stories and the creators. It’s a pretty snazzy package.

You can check out the perviews of each story at the Ferret Press Books section.
You've probably seen this already.

But just in case you haven’t go read this adorable little web comic from two talented mini-comic creators, Dave Roman (Astronaut Elementary) and Raina Telgemeier (Take Out). Go read, it’s cute. It’s very cute, as cute as this page from Raina’s first issue of Take Out.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hey Everybody, It’s Comics by Cathy Leamy

I’ve got to start out here with I Survived Gwar. Give this comic to anyone, anyone I say, and they will think it’s cute. In this twelve-page (fourteen if you count the inside and back of the back cover which continues the story) mini-comic, Leamy spies an ad for the Gwar concert in the Boston Sunday Globe. “It was listed in the arts section, right next to ballet and jazz performances, which was a bit weird.” So what does she do? She goes. She picks out some clothes that wouldn’t stick out and wouldn’t “show stains” and she goes to Gwar. I like her already.
This is the most Gwar inspired fun I’ve had since the scene in Empire Records where the dude is eating pot brownies and thinks that Gwar is talking to him through the TV. Leamy draws the only conclusion one can from seeing Gwar in concert – they are kind of silly. What makes this mini absolutely hilarious is the picture of Leamy on the cover. She’s dot-eyed and freckle faced, and her arm is raised skyward with forefinger and pinkie pointing to the sky. Rock on Cathy Leamy. The back cover shows her leaving the concert wrapped in a long coat and scarf. Definitely not Gwar approved clothing.

Leamy also sent in two issue of her mini-comic Geraniums and Bacon. the first issue has the wonderful “Little Kid Dreams” piece where Leamy illustrates the kind of things that we all wished for as kids. Talking animal of choice, check. Picked first for kickball, check. Each page of this section is simply four separate panels with a title underneath. It’s a nice way to start a mini with something almost all of us can relate too. There are a couple of other short pieces including one that details her yearning to be good at something.

The longest story in this first issue is “Faith Crisis.” In this one Leamy outlines the struggle that most thinking individuals go through in regards to religion. But isn’t it all just a sham, she wonders. This one goes on a bit too long, but she redeems herself on the last page as her mother brings her character back down to earth.

Geraniums and Bacon issue two is a bit of a departure from number one. Leamy whips out a can of “Writer’s Enlightenment” to jazz up some pedestrian tales. The second such tale is almost startling in the way she blends fantasy with fiction. There’s an ad for “Lysol Gay-Away” that enterprising young homosexuals can spray to erase all trace of a gay lifestyle when parents pop in for an unexpected visit. Leamy closes the issue with an extended dream story where she discovers a land of geometric figures and gets overwhelmed by bees. The next thing you know she’s the voluptuous “Goddess of Sex and Math.”

Leamy’s art is uncomplicated and simplified. Her backgrounds give just enough information for the reader to process the scene and no more. It’s an example of her using what she’s comfortable with, without sacrificing content and entertainment. Cathy’s blog is at Her comic section is here and you can read the one page story "The Adventures of Milo Mercury and Ginger". You can also find her comics at Small Press Swap Meet.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Brian Ralph Cover to 2005 SPX Anthology

Anyone excited yet about SPX? I'm pretty psyched and if Ed calls me the day of this year with a sob story, I'm grabbing David and Eliot and we'll drive to Pennsylvania and drag his ass to Bethesda.
Back to the real world
Just got back from a wonderful weekend in Northern Michigan at Kate's grandparent's house on the lake. I didn't grow up near a lake, but now I wish I did. It was beautiful weather for boat rides and we took the boat dock apart for the winter. Fun times! There wasn't any internet access and I didn't watch any TV or hear any news (okay, I peeked in on the Notre Dame/Michigan game Saturday, I'm not a monk).

But anyway, when I got back home I was reminded of Hurricane Katrina and the terrible tragedy that's still unfolding. And I had this message in my inbox:

Email JP at or visit the website.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Rob Croonenborgh's Punch and I Love Short Shorts
A couple of years ago, and in a galaxy far, far away I reviewed mini-comics from time to time at another website. I even had a contest encouraging people to make their own mini-comics and email me scanned pages. There was a forum where all of the neat entries were posted and lots of fun was had by all. But that was a long time ago. And those links no longer exist. But there was this guy, Rob Croonenborghs from Belgium, who sent in an excellent mini-comic called Punch. Fast forward and I get an envelope last month from Belgium and it’s Rob again with Punch and another called I Love Short Shorts.

Punch is a 28-page mini-comic featuring a handful of stories. My favorite was the more minimalist “Mr. Ule.” Mr. Ule was having a very bad day trying to board the school bus, but his troubles would turn out to be much worse than that.

The other stories were pretty solid, but Croonenborghs’ art can get kind of heavy to my eyes. It’s really not bad to look at, the skills are all there and he has an interesting approach, but there’s a lot of black ink on the page. Many of the pages and gutter spaces are black, so it gives the whole story a heavier, inky feeling. “Mr. Ule” and “A Trashcan Love Story,” with their white pages, really opened up the art a bit and made the book more balanced visually.

There are a couple eye-popping scenes on the inkier pages though. The fifth page of “Zombie Country: Billy and Bob’s Big Vacation” is a stunning page. No amount of ink and shadow can hide the care that Croonenborghs put into structuring that page.

I Love Short Shorts feels more like a comic-comic rather than a mini-comic. It’s smaller dimension-wise than your standard comic, but it’s 32 pages divided into three sections. In Punch Croonenborghs handles the art and script, but in Short Shorts he takes care of the art and script in the western-themed “When the Shit Hits the Pants.” In the other two tales Croonenborghs manages the art while Alex de Campi (“6 Characters”) and Matthew Craig (“Healing Hans”) take over the writing chores.

I was pleasantly surprised by both “6 Characters” and “Healing Hans.” It’s no secret that I would rather read a story where someone functions as a cartoonist (both art and writing) rather than read something by a creative team. It’s a preference I have. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ignore or dismiss something by a creative team; it just means I have a preference. De Campi’s tale is an atmospheric meditation on the creative process and Croonenborghs’ moody art suits it perfectly. Here the black pages and borders are a natural fit as a writer seems to be haunted by a book that she hasn’t written yet. She’s obsessed with it regardless of how much time she’s spent putting pen to paper. This is a great short story and it’s the first thing I’ve read from De Campi. She’s got a website and it looks like I’m woefully under-informed about any other work she has done. I need to get out to the comic shop more.

“Healing Hands,” written by Matthew Craig and illustrated by Croonenborghs, is a super hero story. It's one of thousands written published every year, but it feels more comfortable than your standard super hero story. Hans was smaller than his friends and the bullies at his school, but he was angry and not afraid to use whatever object he found at hand to defend himself. Of course this path leads to trouble and Hans has a difficult life until he’s visited by a stranger who teaches him the way of the “blue-flame.” This story feels a little unfinished and there are obvious similarities to many other origin stories (That’s a difficult trick to set your character apart. Well, my character was eating a strawberry Pop-Tart that had fallen into a vat of radioactive fluid, when he was bitten by a strange black widow spider…), but this short tale felt more organic, more alive. Maybe it’s the lack of flashy color and shiny pages, but “Healing Hans” felt more real than your standard super hero fare.

You can read a color version of “Healing Hans” on Matthew’s website. While you're at Matthew's website read his Hondle the Dog stories. Hondle's a good dog.

Email Rob Croonenborghs ( for information about how to get your hands on Punch or I Love Short Shorts. Rob’s got a unique perspective and visual style that doesn’t always work for me, but when it clicks, it really clicks.
Mini-Comic Artists Getting Involved with Hurrican Katrina Relief Efforts

From Warren Craghead:

For a 25$ donation I will draw ANYTHING you want - name it, I'll draw it, or if you like I'll pick something. I'm a pretty good drawer. The drawing may include collage. Contact me via email. I'll do this project for one month, until October 2, and I'll post here what I send out.

Details are here.

Also from Rob Ullman:

Through the end of September, all profits earned via sales of original art though the website will be donated to the Red Cross for the express purpose of aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Details here.

And since, I’m already bumming you out… If you are in a position to donate money to the relief effort, I’ve added a donation link to the right for The Humane Society’s Katrina Disaster Relief Effort. I know the human suffering is overwhelming, but it kills me to think about all of the pets left behind in this disaster. I don’t know about you, but I would be one of those crazy people on the news refusing to leave without my cats. The Humane Society has assembled teams to save animals in the hardest hit areas.

Here is some information from the latest HSUS disaster relief update:
Dear Shawn,
After initially being blocked from entering the most devastated areas in Louisiana and Mississippi, HSUS Disaster Animal Response Teams (DART) have been working around the clock to help save stranded and sick animals.

What we are finding is truly heartbreaking – animals trapped in flooded houses, caregivers wandering the streets desperately searching for their beloved pets, and nearly destroyed animal shelters where the surviving animals have spent days keeping their heads above water in their cages.

But this is why we are here and why we are counting on our supporters to help spread the word about our disaster efforts on the Gulf Coast.

Block after block, our teams are entering homes and apartments, sometimes forced to break into them, searching for stranded animals.

Again, if you can donate, please do so. Here’s the Humane Society’s webpage if you’re interested in learning more.

And email Warren Craghead and make him draw you something crazy for a $25 donation.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Joey Weiser's Rejected Strip for SPX 2005 Anthology

Yes, the 2005 SPX Anthology is going to be amazing. That's an impressive group of contributors. It's a shame though when fun strips like Joey Weiser's don't make the cut. Check out his submission here. It's fun stuff.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

See How Pretty, See How Smart #3 by Sean McCarthy and others

Sean McCarthy’s See How Pretty, See How Smart is not only the perfect showcase for his own work, it’s an opportunity for other Partyka members and allies to do pieces shorter than their own projects. Each section of these books takes up only two to six pages and the shorter format/shared environment seems to allow for greater risk taking. The physical size of this book is much larger than a typical mini-comic and it needs to be, especially considering the space that McCarthy’s images need to slowly writhe and creep their way into your brain.
Sean’s work is equal parts beauty and horror. He mixes bold lines and stippled patterns of pencil and ink to create a monstrous orgy of animals and beasts devouring, fighting, fucking, and evolving. Lost within the body of beasts are swirling pencil point patterns that meander and converge into recognizable figures. A quick glance gives you a simple impression of intertwining creatures, but a closer inspection reveals an amalgamation of bodies, organs and limbs. In issue four of See How Pretty, See How Smart, Sean gives you a peek behind his work in the form of rough sketches that are as fascinating as the finished product.

Sections by several other creators fill out each issue of See How Pretty, See How Smart. Issue three has work from Sean McCarthy, Andy Bodor, Zak Smith, Craig Taylor, Jeffrey Lewis, Shawn Cheng, Theo Rosenblum, and Matt Wiegle.

The cover to issue three by Sara Edward Corbett and Zak Smith is endlessly fascinating and the inside of both front and back covers feature John Mejias designs. Inside issue three things begin with Andy Bodor’s “Bunny and Ghoul.” Bunny and Ghoul stayed up too late watching “dancing dawgs,” and then they arrive at the radio station just in time for an on-air appearance. I’m not sure why they’re applying make-up for a radio gig, but things don’t go very well for Bunny and Ghoul. Bodor has a pleasant chunky style of drawing that uses rounded, stocky figures and ink wash backgrounds. Occasionally, he uses type font in addition to lettering, but it’s usually to drive home a point or to indicate the voice of someone other than the two main characters. The story is absurd, but kind of charming. The first panel is a close-up of the bunny and the ghoul sleeping in bed. The bunny has his mouth wide open as if he’s snoring and the ghoul has drool dripping from his mouth.

After five full page drawings from Sean McCarthy, Zak Smith has a bit called “Monsters Review Records” with two martini slurping monsters, uh, reviewing records in the voice of “distinguished gentlemen.” Here’s a page for your enjoyment.

Craig Taylor also provides seven pages of fairly abstract work titled “Marginalia of an Aesthete.” I would have liked to see these in color rather than black and white. The forms and shapes are interesting, but having only black and gray minimizes the effect of the images a bit. Taylor has an absolutely startling image to begin his section of issue four, which I found more remarkable than his work in issue three. Taylor also provides the striking cover to issue four.

Jeffrey Lewis has a four-page low brow Canterbury Tales strip titled “The Canterburied Tales” in issue three. Each character tells their story and each one is more far out than the previous tale. I’ll give you four words to describe this story: zombies, necrophilia, and Einstein’s brain. Lewis’ section most closely resembles a traditional comic format, but it’s EC Comics meets Robert Crumb.

Next, Shawn Cheng fills four pages with drawings of “100 Boys.” Each boy is actually a young monster and one of them looks like the guy in Vengeance at Cackling Mountain.

Theo Rosenblum provides a creepy “The Birth of Death” story that tracks death from an asteroid, a graveyard, a reanimated alligator and then finally into a regurgitated dog’s body. Initially I was turned off by the unfinished pencil shading in used in this strip; it gave the story an almost unfinished look. But the playfulness that Rosenblum uses with the art in his section overcame my hesitation. Rosenblum’s version of death snakes though panel borders in this silent tale and there’s a delicious glimpse on the second page of the story of what lies below the buried caskets in the cemetery. There’s a cavern with pipes and attached machinery, as well as a beast holding onto a burning torch that lights up the cavern. Theo, where's the mini-comic featuring this cavern, already?

Matt Wiegle closes the book with two pages of made up creatures. I’m charmed by anything that Matt puts down on paper, so these were a perfect way to end this issue. Here are four of his creatures for you to enjoy.
See How Pretty, See How Smart is about monsters. It’s about the slightly surreal. It’s a way for Sean McCarthy and friends to stretch their imagination and art in a collaborative environment. It may not be for everyone, but it works very well for the brave or the foolish. Here’s the preview link where you can check out several more samples of art from issue three featuring Andy Bodor, Sean McCarthy, Zak Smith, Jeffrey Lewis, and Craig Taylor.

I’ve got a few more mini-comics to review from Partyka, but they will be spaced out a bit over the next month or so. I really hope you’ve found something that you like between the four books that I’ve reviewed so far. Again, check out the Partyka online catalogue for some online samples of their work.

Again, I’m sorry for the delays in posting this week. Everything is back in order at the Size Matters office and there is a large stack of minis just waiting to be discovered.
Techincal Difficulties have hit the Size Matters offices.

I haven't had internet access at home, but that's being fixed tonight. Look for a post on Sean McCarthy's See How Pretty, See How Smart very soon. Then we'll be back on a regular schedule. Sorry for any delays.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

See-Saw by Sara Edward-Corbett

Continuing our Partyka theme this week, we’ve got Sara Edward-Corbett’s See-Saw. This mini is a collection of her See-Saw strips from The New York Press and it’s a gorgeous book.

First off it’s kind of big (8.5” x 9.25”). I had a difficult time arranging it to fit in my scanner. The cover is double-layer stiff red paper with a three color silkscreen design on the front. I think the Partyka offices may have run out of staples at some point, because this one also has a hand-stitched binding. Inside the back cover she has sewed a piece of thick felt fabric that has a silkscreened picture of a duck holding an umbrella. This felt creates a small pocket that holds a neat “cootie catcher” (I had no idea that that’s what they called those things) with sketches on each of the folded surfaces. She has put a lot of work into this collection, it makes me weary just thinking about it.

On the inside there are 36 pages with full page strips from The New York Press. The art in these strips is meticulous and warm. The backgrounds are heavily detailed; Edward-Corbett has definitely got skills when it comes to creating interesting backgrounds and objects. Her classroom desks and walls are so well-rendered that you almost feel like you’re back in grade school. On a couple of pages, you’ll notice a picture of a duck on the classroom wall that matches the felt duck on the inside back cover. You don’t see too many ducks with umbrellas.

The strips in See-Saw are solid and often hilarious. The cast of characters revolves around two girls and two boys and the very weird things that they say and think. As in Peanuts, out of the mouths of babes comes very adult conversations and phrases, but then there’s also plenty of juvenile fare. Chucky’s favorite term is “Fart Knocker,” and yes, one of the characters actually tries to puzzle out what the term means. The set up is this: One of the girls, Meals, is in love with Chucky, but he wants nothing to do with her attentions. Olga and Georgie are brother and sister. Olga is best friends with Meals and Georgie has a weird relationship with Chucky. Georgie and Chucky are friends, but Georgie takes a lot of abuse from Chucky in these pages.

See-Saw is 36 pages and it will set you back $8. Feast your eyes on
a four page preview
, though it’s really eight pages as each preview page actually shows you two facing pages.

Once again, here’s the website for you to explore.