Wednesday, January 31, 2007

mouse cheese cat by Grant Thomas

This is one versatile mini-comic. mouse cheese cat is a tiny (2.75" x 2.5") hand folded and hand cut comic containing many stories. Grant Thomas takes a sheet of paper, folds it, precisely cuts it, then folds it up accordian style. At some point in this process, Thomas draws a very simple story. Well, actually it's two separate stories - one across the top of each page, and one across the bottom. When you unfold the comic, it's almost difficult to keep following the story: other stories in other directions beckon with each new page. I've unfolded it and scanned a portion to give you a rough idea.

Each mini has a nice paper band that slips over it. On the band Thomas has scrawled his signature, the date and the the number of the comic. Mine is number 15 out of 450.

Visit Thomas' website store for your own copy. It's only $3 and Thomas accepts PayPal.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Night and Day by Sarah Becan
Night and Day, from Sarah Becan and Chicago-based Shortpants Press, is another perfect example of what mini-comics can do so well. In just over 50 pages, Becan creates a tight, engrossing story of love and insecurity. This mini is the third of the loosely connected Shuteye series. I haven’t read one or two, but the third one stands alone as one of the finest story-based minis I’ve read in some time.

The screen-printed cover is an eye-catching sparkle tinged charcoal. The two main characters, Ari and Theo, sit on the steps of an abandoned house watching fireflies light the night sky. On the back cover, a short synopsis of the story grabs your attention.

”While walking through the wilderness of the northern Midwest, a couple stumbles upon a mysterious abandoned house and suddenly find themselves off the map.”

I liked this touch; reminds you of picking up a novel and checking out the back cover for a description. “Off the map,” is also a perfect description of this tale. That subtle phrase captures the essence of this tale of a newly engaged couple. Theo is a grad student in a family of intellectuals and atheists. Ari never went to college and her dad is a teamster. Despite her distaste for roughing it in the wilderness, Ari finds herself happy to have Theo all to her own. She’s never felt good enough around Theo’s family or roommates. In the Wisconsin wilderness, she feels more comfortable in her own skin.

While wandering through the woods, Ari catches just a single glimpse of a mysterious house above the tree line. It disappears only to return when they take an unexpected detour. The abandoned house becomes the main character suddenly, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to spoil Becan’s wonderful tale here.

The visual details in Night and Day are served by simple shapes and generous grey-based shading. Becan’s art exists in some kind of comic art middle-ground. It’s more realistic than cartoonish, but she’s confident enough in her line to just give her figures a basic shape and her faces simple expressions. Eyes and mouths are often just tiny circles. Yet, you’re never guessing at the emotions of her characters.

Night and Day will only set you back $4. It's available from the Shortpants Press website. While you're there, check out this lovely review of Oliver East's Trains Are Mint. You know we love our Trains Are Mint here at the SIZE MATTERS offices.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Site to keep an eye on...

Craig Atkinson's Cafe Royal looks like it will be delivering the visual goods from the UK.

I LOVE this image from Craig's own comic, Happy Birthday. For a couple of months, I've had this idea of a mini-comic full of various artist submissions around the theme of vintage stereos and boom boxes. Stand by...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Odd Pair from Awkward Books

Emma Rendel of Awkward Books makes some damn gorgeous books.

The above covers are from Deathgirls’ Diary and Deathgirls’ Birthday.
Immediately, you notice that Rendel’s books are exquisitely crafted. Both Deathgirl books feature color covers and several full color pages inside. Her art has much less in common with comics and feels more like a combination of Marcel Dzama, Amy Cutler, and Richard Scarry. That probably sounds odd, but that’s the first thing that popped in my head after reading these two books. Her characters are either absurdly elongated or oddly compact. They possess this otherwordly, kind of fable-ish quality that strikes you at times about Dzama or Cutler.

Pretty neat stuff.

Deathgirls’ Diary shows a confused Deathgirl. She has a crush on Carebear, and his sudden birthday invitation sends her over the top. His family is not amused with her present.
Rendel uses the left hand page for the colorful art. On the right side, Deathgirl’s diary entries are scrawled in a young girl’s hand. It’s interesting how the size, thickness and color of the handwriting pulsates and shifts with the girl’s mood, giving you a window into her conflicted emotions. All but one page features a wide swath of bright red matching the girl’s dress on the front cover. This common thread holds the story together visually.

After the following page spread, Deathgirl’s Birthday abandons the pattern of art on the left and story on the right.
The text is mostly framed by the effect of that special lines paper kids use when they are just learning to print. This time it’s Deathgirl’s birthday party, but Carebear appears in this story as well. She shyly hands him an invite.

The swirling red background hints at the distance between the two youngsters. The heart on her invite matches the one on Carebear’s shirt. He looks indifferent or disgusted. The next page shows some other kids slipping their invites in the trash. Carebear rips his in two. This is a cruel story, but Deathgirl does eventually get her “number one wish” on her list.

Rendel apologizes for her books being so “bloody expensive,” but you shouldn’t let the 5 pounds British (including shipping) stop you from buying her work. Go to Awkward Books and check it out. She sent another book withthese, so keep an eye out for that review soon. It’s a full size flipbook with the same awesome art.

Monday, January 22, 2007

My beloved Colts are in the Super Bowl.

And it's against the Bears.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Panel: Travel by Various Artists
Travel is the eighth volume of the Panel anthology from the Columbus, Ohio Ferret Press. Each volume develops from a central theme, i.e. luck, myth, or music. This time out it’s the concept of travel.

Inside, the artists and writers take turns creating short tales with the central theme. Sean McGurr and Tim McClurg’s “Good Humor” involves a very unappetizing ice cream cart in Central America. Tony Goins runs into a crusty hitchhiker with a strange request, and Craig Bogart’s character in “Fat Man Walking” decides to walk across the country.

Matt Kish depicts travel on a higher plane – reincarnation by indecision.
In “Bystander,” Dara Naraghi and Andy Bennett craft an intriguing collection of snapshots that tell the story of why a young woman really travels.
Tom Williams ends the book with “VEGASS,” a funny series of postcards arranged to record a weekend in Las Vegas. An overweight, shirtless loser runs into trouble with the law after overdoing it, “I really crossed a line pissing on that nun. I know that now.” Over just a few pages, he’s stumbled from wide-eyed excitement to growing shame. Williams possesses a confident line and a nice disregard for traditional page structure.

In between the opening pages and Williams’ finale, Travel, like most anthologies, is a mixed bag of good and bad. In “A Day in West Virginia,” Dan Barlow’s art is bold and sketchy. He looks to be influenced by Becky Cloonan. The only problem here is that the text and word balloons do not mesh with the rougher art. The rectangles and word balloons are too perfectly formed by computer, and the lettering is computer font as well. The art and the text are at odds with each other, rather than working seamlessly together.

This same thing happens in “Transcendence” by Steve Black and Sean McGurr. Black’s art is perfectly suited for the subject matter – a praying monk with a yearning for travel – but the too perfect text boxes and computer font clash with the images of a monk mentally rising from his static existence.

Now I feel like I’m harping on the PANEL gang here, but I mean it in the most constructive way... A third story, “Uprooted,” by Matt Kish and Steve Black, combines a delicate, photo-realistic rendition (almost like Jiro Taniguchi’s The Walking Man) of a woman wistfully gazing at past homes and apartments, with sterile computer font and angular text boxes. It's less jarring here, but the font fails to do justice to the art.

To end this review on a high note, I’d like to point out the excellent construction of Panel: Travel. The central theme of travel is perfectly captured. Travel looks exactly like a passport. If you see it on the table from across the room, it’s a passport. Keeping the theme in a clever way, the index looks like an online map of highlighted locations.
Panel: Travel contains 9 stories in 52 pages. Check out Ferret Press for more details. Also check out the always entertaining blog for random goodness.
Get Busy, Mini-Comic Makers

You know what this is, right?

From James Sime:

Submissions for the fifth-annual Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics will be accepted until March 15th at midnight. "In 2007 one mini-comic creator's career will be forever changed," said Sime, "So fire up your xerox machines and get ready to submit your minis for the fifth annual Isotope Award!"

Details here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Class of 2006: Real Quotes from Real Students by Various Artists
God help us...

Sean McGurr, of Jury Rigged Comics, collected some quotes from high school student essays. To accompany the quotes, McGurr enlisted his pals from PANEL/Ferret Press to provide artistically rendered headshots of the students. To top it off, McGurr places snarky quotes at the top of each page.

The finished product looks like this.
And this.
Honestly, I had a difficult time choosing which pages to show here. The student that rambled on about the type of woman Teddy Roosevelt was proved kind of hard to resist.

The student quotes are awkwardly funny, but when you combine them with the headlines and the headshots, each page is solid. The contributors in this volume are Andy Bennett, Steve Black, Tony Goins, Matt Kish, Tim McClurg, Sean McGurr, and Tom Williams.

Class of 2006: Real Quotes from Real Students is the third volume in a series. Sean has more books planned in the series, so if you are an artist that is interested in contributing a headshot for a future volume, you can get the info at Jury Rigged Comics.

Class of 2006 is $1.50 and available at the Jury Rigged website. Look for a review of PANEL: Travel on Monday.

I also wanted to share a couple of links with SIZE MATTERS readers.
Neither are specifically mini-comics, but BrainNo Blog and Canicola have some cool art stuff. Check them both out.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Math Issue 14 by David Wien I reviewed issues 12 and 13 of Math in July of 2005. Those issues were a visual feast masquerading as a comic. Not much has changed this time out except for the physical size of Wien's playground. Math number 14's 20 oversized pages are playful, even lyrical, picture making. You'll find a story in these pages, but the images are the thing.

These could be the best waves ever drawn in a comic.
Don't believe me? Check out the way the waves crash onto the rocks on this page.

On the next page, the boat steers its way into a narrow channel; the wild sea becomes a calming ribbon of a stream.

Math has two centerfold images. The true centerfold is a stunner. Trees, grass, and bushes vibrate and bristle, and as you look closer at the foreground, a large, dark cat steps quietly.

Math is engaging art. Each page holds one image, and each image holds a world of possibility. The colorful cover is handprinted, and this $6 edition is limited to 820 copies. Talk to the good folks at Chicago Comics or Quimby's to get your copy.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Two Mini-Comics from David King

Despite the obvious artistic similarity between VICE-PRESIDENT, Shipping and Distribution Office Machines Company and Reliable Comics: Autumn 2006, David King manages to give each mini a very different vibe.

VICE PRESIDENT plods along at a depressing pace that draws on a combination of Jimmy Corrigan, Jordan Crane’s Last Lonely Saturday, and Ivan Brunetti ‘s swollen-headed characters. King gives the story a claustrophobic tempo where the reader is almost locked in with the character’s pathetic life. This is good comics at a very basic level. It’s drawn with a sure brushstroke and the result is immensely entertaining. The simple and tasteful cover is an attention getter as well.

In Reliable Comics: Autumn 2006, King stretches the characters and the canvas. This volume is split into three pieces, beginning with the larger than life, “The Class Liar.” “Class Liar” is a somewhat tedious collection of floating quotes emanating from shifting head shots of a grade school bully. I say somewhat tedious, because it feels kind of one note until the penultimate page, where the kid boils over from one line lies and boasts to just one word exclamations: “Crawdads!” “Yellowjackets!” This little trick perfectly captures the absurdity and excitement of a kid spouting off to his friends on the playground.

“Burger Stand Blues,” a short retro crime story about saving the local burger joint, and “Welby,” an ode to being in love with seven girls simultaneously, close out Reliable Comics. “Burger Stand Blues” is best captured by this geek meets dame page.
“Welby” is marked by the odd juxtaposition of describing each of his loves while using a picture of a plant.
David King has a website and a blog. Reliable Comics is $3 and VICE PRESIDENT is $2.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My Life in Records

A quick look at Grant Thomas’ My Life in Records would have been timelier two weeks ago. If I was paying attention perhaps I would have noted the subtitle, “Christmas Mini-Comic.” But alas, I’m always a small stack of mini-comics behind…

My Life in Records is a slick 22-page mini featuring a nostalgic cover that hints at a simpler time. Note the masks fastened with rubber bands, the record in young Grant’s hands, and of course, the one piece footie pajamas. This installment of My Life in Records details Thomas’ obsession with Christmas, and a Christmas record in particular. As he tells his story, Thomas fills in little details that resonated with my own childhood: the fascination with the family hi-fi and the one record that he was allowed to play with as a 3-year old. My own record was a Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup, and man those interior cover images made for some tense moments after the lights went out.

While Thomas and his brother look forward to Christmas, Thomas begins playing the Christmas record in July. His mother is outside gardening and hears the music, “Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing.” So Christmas comes early in his house, and Thomas plots the highlights of the weeks leading up to Christmas. His brother is convinced that he will get the “Castle o’ Grayskull” as his gift; in one panel Thomas clutches a Darth Vader figure.

Then somewhat abruptly the story shifts to the next year and the arrival of his sister. The details of his mother leaving for the hospital and the wait for her return are well done. Thomas captures the story from a kid’s eye view, but doesn’t resort to cheap devices or an overly maudlin tone. It feels real.

These strips were originally published as a webcomic, and in many ways they still have that feel. The pages are shiny and slick. The backgrounds are sparse, but spot colors are used to break up the panels in a non-organic way. Pages 8-10 look drawn with a mouse, while other pages appear more hand drawn.

Give Thomas’ work a look at his website.

It looks like you can purchase My Life in Records at his online store for $6. Check out his other work while you're there.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

RISD Wunderground Pictures
For the New Year, here are more pictures from the Wunderground exhibit. This set is from Gil Roth via Tom at Comics Reporter.

On a similar note, my Ninja book should be arriving today or tomorrow. Unless we don’t get mail today…