Guest Post the Second by Kate Nyland Meow, by Jesse Reklaw, is a treasure. The cover is a delightful scrap of wallpaper with the title and a picture of a cat silk-screened onto it. Although it set me back $5, it is worth every penny. Each of the sixteen technicolor paintings of cats is a little work of art. “Cat Women,” the final picture, consists of three motley women and a little cat, all in dominatrix gear. Two pages adjacent to each other each have three cats in similar poses, but it took looking at their titles (listed on a page at the end of the mini) to really get the difference between the two. On the left, we have “Good Cats,” looking dapper as they clean themselves, sleep, and lounge about. In contrast, on the right you’ll find “Bad Cats.” They have shifty gazes and ragged ears. Most cat-owning readers will probably identify more with the latter than the former. Below are two paintings, “Pile of Cats” and “Space Cat,” to show the more whimsical side of this mini.
I appreciate The Probe by Damien Jay because although it includes no dialogue, it is visually packed. Smaller than a deck of cards, with a silk-screened cover, this mini has nine panels on almost every page. In the beginning, a rabbit wakes up and is overcome with boredom. Since the mini ends with the rabbit in a near-identical state of tedium, one wonders if the rabbit simply imagined what transpired in between. The action occurs when an alien tries to lure the rabbit out of his den, using a carrot, in order to study him.
Jamie Tanner’s Barry Pago: Crime Scene Photographer violates the mandate I always give Shawn before he passes along anything comic-related to me: no sad stories about animals. I still haven’t forgiven him for Goodbye, Chunky Rice. I picked this mini up on my own at SPX and was immediately awed by the art. There is so much texture on every page. Even the most inanimate of objects (rugs, tables, bathtubs) come to life when drawn with Tanner’s pen. The tale is equally as nuanced. The title character, an anthropomorphic penguin, has brought his son, Walt, along on a job – several gruesome murders need to be documented. Pago likes to, ahem, engage with the victims to the detriment of his son, who wants to follow in the footsteps of his dad and take a picture. The disregard of Walt by Pago leads to chilling consequences, although Pago’s callousness remains untouched up through the last page.
General Thoughts I would imagine something that prevents many people from becoming comic lovers is the feeling of not getting enough bang for your buck. I spent $30 on minis and felt as though many of them lacked substance. Had I spent that money on a good novel, I would have had hours of entertainment. More than several of the minis left me empty. They weren’t horrible, they weren’t stellar, they were just eh – barely blips on the radar. A few times, I exclaimed incredulously to Shawn something along the lines of, “$3.50 for this?!?” Some were trite; others had the uncomfortable air of an adolescent boy trying to show off how crude he could be. I really enjoyed the minis I reviewed and would have paid more for them than I did. Couch Tag by Jesse Reklaw, which Shawn snagged first but I would have undoubtedly picked up had he not, was what I wish more minis were like. Dense, thought-provoking, and memorable, it was just as fulfilling as a chapter out of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
One of Shawn’s quirks is that he does not like short stories. If his favorite author publishes a book of them, he isn’t tempted to buy it. Even compilations including many of his favorite authors get ignored at the bookstore! He feels that maybe a few of the pieces would be fantastic, but the rest don’t have enough development for him to bother. This, ultimately, is how I feel about minis-comics. I understand there is blood, sweat, and tears poured in to the making of every mini. Shawn and I made our own once and can attest to that. As much as I want to love minis to the same extent Shawn does, I don’t. I appreciate the work that it takes to make them, and will continue to read the outstanding ones Shawn passes my way, but I’d rather read a novel - or a book of short stories.