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 (Rob_Croonenborghs@hotmail.com) 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.