J. Chris Campbell - He makes a lot of mini-comics
Last year at SPX, J. Chris Campbell handed me what he calls his "Fat Pack." No, the term “Fat Pack” is not a euphemism for something dirty, it’s a plain brown envelope stuffed with mini-comics - a lot of mini-comics. It’s kind of a daunting package, really, but I sat down with it last night and picked out a few minis of his that stood out. The first thing that strikes you about Campbell’s minis, is that they all have nice color covers. Most of them are quarter paper sized, cut in half on the vertical line so they are wider than they are tall. A couple of them are quarter page sized, and one is an eighth of a page size. Once you open them, another thing jumps out at you. Campbell focuses on the figures and their speech; there’s very little background and almost no shading. It’s comic making stripped down to lines, shapes, and word balloons. His comics are short, sweet, and usually absurd.
In Save Me a man is stranded on the top of a tall rock in the middle of the ocean. A pirate ship pulls up and offers to rescue him, but the man has no money. The conversation is very dry and polite between the two parties, but the pirate ship begins to pull away saying, “Good day then,” once it’s apparent the man has no way to pay for his passage. As the ship pulls away, the desperate man screams, “I’ll give you 5,000 for safe passage to Alderaan.” Well, everyone knows that Alderaan is no more. But then again, this is a tale about pirates, maybe they mean a different Alderaan. No, it’s the same Alderaan, and the pirate politely explains that Alderaan is no more, “I’m afraid I have bad news…”
So is a wordless mini that has a different feel to it. Much of Campbell’s work is done with the aid of a computer, but this one is totally freehand. The lines have a bit more life to them, although maybe it’s the story that involves a ladybug, an aphid, a rabbit, a bird, a lizard, an alien, and a top. The bunny is watching the ladybug as it struggles on its back. The top has landed on a see saw and knocked the ladybug off. All the characters get involved in this drama, but the bird is upset that the alien disturbed its newly hatched chicks.
I liked Mail Stop the best out of all the mini-comics in the “Fat Pack.” It matches Campbell’s subtle sense of humor in his comics, which often takes several pages to be revealed. A guy is standing at a mailbox, we assume it’s his own mailbox, opening and reading the mail. He laughs at a funny card, and then whines about TV Guide’s take on the upcoming fall season. But it’s not his mailbox. It’s not his mail. It’s his ex-wife’s, or ex-girlfriend’s, mailbox and she discovers him reading through her mail. I read this at Barnes & Noble last night and almost spit coffee out of my nose.
Another thing I enjoy about Campbell’s mini-comics is the little notes in the indices. After the copyright statement and all the legal yap, he sometimes puts in a little message; maybe it’s about where to get the best sweet tea or a problem he’s having with his back. In Mail Stop it’s a little message about our hero Lewis and what happens to him after he’s busted going through someone else’s mail. You can get a copy of Mail Stop at the Wide Awake Press website for $2. You should go do that now, it’s 40 pages of fun.
You can also still get the “Fat Pack” from Campbell’s website for only $25. That’s about a dozen mini-comics and a now a copy of Zig Zag # 1 from AdHouse Books.