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.


Justin J Fox said...

Hi Shawn. Great meeting you this past weekend. Glad you got a copy of Gauld's Three Very Small Comics vol. II

It's easily one of the best packages I bought this past year. I adore Invasion and wish I had a nice big print of the alphabet warrior to hang in the rooms of unsuspecting children.

What a phenominal cartoonist. Oh, how I hate him.

Chris said...

Review "Blar" anyway. I'd be interested in what you thought of it.

Shawn Hoke said...

"Review "Blar" anyway. I'd be interested in what you thought of it."

Well, since I'm up to my shins in mini-comics waiting for their spotlight, I'll do a "mini-review" here.

I liked Blar for the same reasons. Immediately it struck a chord with me because of the "Thimble Theater" look of the characters. Or maybe "Thimble Theatre" crossed with a bit of Tezuka. More TT though.

I liked the rhythm that the early pages fell into; the pace of defeating foe after foe, then the "Whoops, shouldn't of cut off the maiden's head!" page hilarious. Then about midway through the book, the huge badguy lifts his arm up with Blar on top of it and it's like something from an early Marvel monster comic. It's really quite striking.

Then there's more of a quest part to the second half of the page, which kind of changes up the feel of the book. The lst panel is priceless.