Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Life in Records by Grant Thomas

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Grant’s My Life in Records. Using a full color palette, he takes snapshots and memories from his childhood and brings them to life for the reader. Grant and his two brothers are usually dressed in footie pajamas and wearing those cheap animal masks made from the highly combustible molded plastic and secured with a rubber band around the head. Both the pajamas and masks give the brothers an air of innocence. Grant and Paul are obsessed with Star Wars, Sesame Street, and playing records on their Fisher Price turntable. I had the same plastic turntable and mine was used to play the same Sesame Street record featuring Bert and Ernie, but more frequently the awesome Snoopy and the Red Baron Christmas album (even in July).

Grant does a fantastic job with layouts in this issue of My Life in Records. He’ll use traditional comics panels, but then dispense with them totally by switching to floating images and words. Music is a frequent theme in Grant’s comics and this one is no exception, the panel below shows a nice use of music and a more flexible use of the page. My Life in Records is $4 And you can grab a copy from Grant’s website.

As a side note, Grant’s work will be in an upcoming Fantagraphics anthology, Abstract Comics: The Anthology edited by Andrei Molotui.

Hey, this is it for 2008 probably. I might squeeze another review in tomorrow if things are slow. But good riddance to a troublesome year! Bring on 2009. Have fun tomorrow night, whatever you do. Kate and I will be safely ensconced in our low key local pub. No driving for us. Peace!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top Ten Mini-Comics of 2008
Man, what a year. Personally, this was an eventful year that both good and bad made me grow as a person. I’m not sure I want to repeat this kind of year again, but I have to admit that I’m better for it. I’m hopeful. Globally and nationally, I’d say the same thing applies - good and bad events of epic proportions - yet we’re still standing and dare I say it, hopeful. Here’s to growth and moving on to 2009.

But before we move on, there are the mini-comics of 2008. I didn’t read as many mini-comics this year as in years past. I didn’t go to MoCCA, SPX, or APE. For the first three quarters of the year, I only reviewed minis sporadically. Still, a ton of mini-comics found their way to the SIZE MATTERS office. I’ve read a stack that I haven’t reviewed yet and there are still several minis in the review pile that I haven’t opened. But when I think back over the year, there are several minis that stand out. Here, in no particular order, are the ten minis that I enjoyed the most in 2008.

Jessica by Jason Overby I hadn’t heard of Jason before this year, but I really, really dig his style and fresh way of communicating with the reader. I don’t think you can get any copies of Jessica, but SOLIPSIST'S DOODLES should still be available from Jason’s blog.

Wigger Haircut by Zach Hazard Vaupen Same thing with Zach. Who the hell is this guy? I enjoyed Wigger Haircut and The Diary of Lisa Frank, but the former gets the nod here because of Zach’s use of color.

Shitbeams on the Loose by Various Artists through Tender Loving Empire was a standout anthology in 2008. House Party by Lane Milburn Everything looks good from ClosedCaption Comics, but I really loved Lane’s House Party.

Nurse Nurse 2 by Katie Skelly I love Nurse Nurse! What a great character. Katie’s playful and sexy style perfectly suits this interplanetary story of a nurse/hero/adventurer. The Legend of Countess Saddenbrau is nothing to sneeze at either.

Selected Comics by James McShane

Over the last few years I’ve always made sure to grab James McShane’s tiny books masquerading as mini-comics. His cramped one panel pages are glued into an impossibly thick binding and they make irresistible objects. Now, James has published a larger format mini that collects selected minis from the period 2003 to 2008. Here are a few images from James’ blog that show the format.
Are You Man Enough by Phil McAndrew A felt mustache on the cover and a 5-page drum solo within? Yeah, that’s a 10 Best Mini.

Rabbit Shadows by Jason Viola

I haven’t reviewed this yet, but it’s a beautiful little mini-comic. Each page features one panel of gorgeously shaded and crosshatched art. Rabbit Shadows is the story of a rabbit mired in the day to day routine of work and TV. Suddenly, while walking, he discovers his shadow and begins to interact with and manipulate it. Jason’s mini clocks in at 44 pages for only $3 and it has a striking brown cover with a Rabbit Shadows sticker pasted in the upper center.

Tegne Issue Two by Various Artists I discovered Tegne through David Birchall (Extricate)

There’s too much going on inside this densely packed collaboration to mention here, but look for a full review in a few weeks.

My Life in Records by Grant Thomas This is still in the review stack, but I’ve enjoyed reading it and can’t wait to share some images with you next week. Stand by for a review of this during Christmas week.

That’s it, the ten mini-comics that stood out for me in 2008. Please give these folks some love and consider purchasing their work. If you are reading this and you read SIZE MATTERS regularly, thank you for sticking around. I’m so grateful that there are people out there who love making mini-comics and I’m grateful that you love to read them.

Have a wonderful holiday, travel safe, and take care of each other. Kate, Chloe, and I are off to Michigan for Christmas this year. I’ll probably squeeze a review of My Life in Records in next week, but other than that the SIZE MATTERS offices will be shut down for the holidays.

Peace, Cheers, and Best Wishes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pockmarked Apocalypse by Jeff Lok Here is a large-sized mini that makes good use of the extended real estate on each page. In issue one of Pockmarked Apocalypse, Jeff immediately sets up a sparse and isolated backdrop for the main character. We see him wake up alone, walk through a barely furnished house, and confront an empty refrigerator. It definitely feels post-apocalyptic and we haven’t even seen outside the house yet. Then Jeff opens the vantage point considerably with a full page panel showing the view outside the man’s window. An Exxon station sits halfway down a pockmarked highway. The first issue of Pockmarked Apocalypse is well crafted to create a sense of foreboding and the unknown. Jeff drops some plot points (a love interest and a man wandering on the cracked highway) into the mix as he goes, but he’s cagey enough to leave the reader wondering who the main character is and what's led to this point.

Jeff's art relies heavily on repeated, slanted lines as shading. As a result, the pages are lighter in tone and feel than one might expect for the setting of the story. Although, midway through this issue, he mixes things up by using black panels dotted with the headlights of semi-trucks. The pencils are a bit shaky at times, especially in close shots of fingers or hands, but the shakiness isn't necessarily distractingfor the reader.

Pockmarked Apocalypse is 24 pages and this issue is the first of eight planned issues. Contact Jeff for details. You can get your very own copy for $5 at the I Know Joe Kimple online store.

Here's another nice review by Sarah Morean over at The Daily Crosshatch.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Shannon Smith's Best Mini-Comics of 2008

I love these lists and here's comrade Shannon Smith's.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Good Minnesotan Issue Three by Various Artists I’ll let my earlier post this week provide the background and details of The Good Minnesotan and spend more time on this third issue of TGM. Raighne and Meghan Hogan have brought more people into the fold, welcoming Noah Harmon, Toby Jones, Madeline Queripel, Abby Mullen, Anna Bongiovanni, Reynold Kissling, and Danno Klonowski to their stable of contributing artists.

Twelve stories are featured over 104 black and white pages. Many of the stories are short two to three page affairs, while the longest story, “Fuckleberry Hinn,” by John and Luke Holden clocks in at 23 pages. The third issue of TGM seems less daring and more in line with traditional panel comics. Overall it’s less interesting visually, but probably more solid story wise.

For the purposes of this review, I’ll hit the highlights. In “It’s Much Worse,” Toby Jones tells his tale of battling a mouse and what happens when he finally prevails. Toby’s comic is honest and engaging. The art is a bit cartoonish, but it matches his story well. Madeline Queripel, who draws the twitching mouse in Toby’s story, has one page in TGM 3. It’s a great page though. Her art is tight, expressive, and very appealing.

Ed Moorman’s “Polaroids” shows off his solid cartooning chops. He tells an engaging story paced by his appealing style and smart use of shading and black space. Anna Bongiovanni’s “To Take Back” is a startling two-page, wordless piece that either features a mother’s brutality or overwhelming love. Nicholas Breutzman, who appeared in issue two of TGM, provides the best story in this book. “My Town” shows us what happens to the meth addicts of his town, men who have taken to the surrounding pine forests for safe haven. Nicholas does a masterful job of setting the visual stage for his monologue; teenagers who venture to o close to the forest are depicted running away screaming and the meth heads peer from the darkness of the trees at houses flooded by the light of day. He floats the text of his monologue above, below, and inside his panels. Sentences are broken up almost randomly and words and spaces are stretched to meet his space needs. The third issue of The Good Minnesotan is $12 and available at the 2D CLOUD website. Also check out the Good Minnesotan blog.
After School Comic Program Needs Support

Mini-comic creator and all around good guy, Grant Thomas shared some info with me about his very cool after school program. “After School Independent Comic Book Creators” lets fifth graders make their own mini-comics. Grant says they will learn about the “screen printing process to produce full color covers for their books. They will need a screen printing kit, ink and colored paper to produce their book.” Here are a few early scans of some of the work.

Barbie vs. Jason Dude The Duck Hunt Sounds awesome, doesn’t it? If you love this idea, the program could really use your support. From the DonorsChoose website:

“Our club needs quality drawing materials, such as bristol board, blue pencils and inking markers, to learn how professional comic book artists make their images… They will need a screen printing kit, ink and colored paper to produce their book.”

Here’s where you can donate. They need $528 dollars for supplies and only need $110 to reach their goal.

BTW, I haven't forgot about issue 3 of Good Minnesotan. Crazy week, but a review of issue three is coming later tonight! Sorry for the delay.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Good Minnesotan Issues 1 and 2 by Various Artists through 2D CLOUD Publishing Good Minnesotan is an impressive collection of art and comics compiled and edited by Raighne and Meghan Hogan. This description, from the first issue, is concise and accurate: “Good Minnesotan is a comic/sequential art compendium. The focus of the collections will be experiments in story-telling through the printed form with an obvious keen look at comics all over the board. We give a hard push on the local crowd and those just cutting their teeth on the medium.

The first issue, largely featuring work by Raighne, with supporting roles by Meghan and Justin Skarhus, is dark and menacing. This issue appears heavily influenced by David Mack, Dave McKean, and strangely enough in the first story, Jim Mahfood. Nothing in here is content to simply rest on the page. You encounter abrupt, sometimes confusing, shifts in narrative, as well as artistic jumps in perspective and structure. Raighne uses pencils, inks, watercolors and charcoal to construct a changing palette of textures and depth.
While the first issue of Good Minnesotan is solid, it’s the second issue where I feel like it hits an artistic stride. Raighne and Meghan have now brought more artists into the fold, including Ed Moorman, Gail Kern, Joseph Nixon, Alex Witts, Luke Holden, John Holden, and Nicholas Breutzman.

“Back Pages,” by Ed Moorman and “The Ripoff,” by Nicholas Breutzman and John Holden, are the most traditional “comics” pieces in this 86-page issue. They both feature your standard comics panel structure. Ed Moorman’s “Back Pages” features a reporter hounding a 1966 Bob Dylan as Dylan continually escapes the reporter’s queries. Ed uses a nice balance of black ink and traditional shading to create balanced and visually pleasing panels. For instance, most scenes feature a black-clad Dylan sharing the scene with a lighter, crosshatched suit-wearing reporter.

In Nicholas Breutzman and John Holden’s “The Ripoff” a guy is keen on showing a girl his pierced penis. I won’t give away the story here totally, but the events of the story are accurately represented by the title. Ouch! Anyway, the art here, and I’m only guessing that Nicholas is the artist by the bios provided, is very polished and would seem right at home in an anthology like Fantagraphics’ Mome.

The rest of this issue is more experimental. Meghan Hogan has a couple of pieces that are more prose or poem than comic. “Too Much Time on Land” is a swimmer’s meditation on limits accompanied by moody charcoal and painted images. “Yard Work” is a woman’s internal conversation pasted over bold, sketchy drawings of a brooding character named John. Page 31 is particularly moving and convincing. This is good honest work. Over three side by side panels, Meghan moves from manic, looping pencils that crash and converge on each other, to a middle panel of thick lines and relative clarity. The last panel is a close up of John’s face – one unblinking eye confronting the reader. Joseph Nixon’s untitled piece is less artistically dark. His pages are open and use floating drawings anchored in plenty of white space. Joseph mixes large graffiti-influenced words with sketched buildings and figures. Alex Witt and Raighne Hogan have an extended piece titled “Cloak of the Moon.” A revolutionary coup d'├ętat leader is haunted by visions of a “pale skinned whore“ intent on ending his new rule and life. Raignhe’s art perfectly matches the tone of Alex's tale. The pages of Luke Holden’s untitled work feature 28 tiny, silent panels on each page. Luke’s work here could be called micro-stories – successive drawings that show barely perceptible gaps of time elapsing from panel to panel. Your eyes flow over uninterrupted scenes that represent short bursts of action. His drawings are deceptively simple, but ultimately charming. Luke's work reminds me a bit of Brian Chippendale's art, but less chaotic and without the snaking reading pattern. Tune in tomorrow for a review of Good Minnesotan issue 3.

Buy issue 1 for $5 and issue 2 for $12 at the 2D CLOUD's online store. To keep up on the latest regarding TGM, check out the Good Minnesotan blog.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Comics on Fire by Paul Hack Paul Hack’s first mini-comic, Comics on Fire is a 24-page collection of unrelated one and two page gag strips. Paul’s art is basic and rather flat, but he’s not afraid to experiment with shapes and styles. “Landscape with Robot,” the first strip in the book, is his most ambitious. You can tell that he took the time to add texture to the planet’s surface and the close up shots of the robot reveal some minor shading that adds to the overall appearance of the panel. The rest of the strips are less textured and full, but not without charm. Quick highlights of Comics on Fire include “Asteroids,” which takes you briefly inside the minds of the asteroids from the old Atari game, and ”Understand Body Language,’ which serves as a handy way to sort out the body language of unicorns, insects, tentacled creatures, and spike tailed reptiles. Who knew that a unicorn’s glowing horn indicates deceptiveness on the part of the unicorn. This is real world stuff that could come in handy one day. Towards then end of Comics on Fire, what at first appears to be a throwaway page featuring a robot zombie, strangely turns out to be the strongest piece in this mini. An excellently crafted three-legged robot zombie delivers a monologue lamenting his inability to eat either brains or gears in the face of his overpowering need to consume them.

Comics on Fire issue one is $3 at Paul’s blog.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Liz Baillie’s Mini-Comic of the Month Club Another neat idea, this one courtesy of Liz Baillie - a mini-comic of the month club! From Liz’s website:

“Every month in 2009 I will release a new minicomic, not previously released, all-new material. These comics will be available exclusively to those lucky voyeurs who choose to subscribe and receive these comics in their mailbox once a month. They will not be available for individual sale, you have to be a member of the Club to get them. The Club comics will NOT include any comics that are part of an existing series (no issues of MBH, no issues of Freewheel, no new series). Each comic will be its own thing.

The comics will most likely include bizarro random ideas I came up with but couldn't fit anywhere else. Some of them will be weird formal experiments that are unlike my other work. Some of them will probably make you shake your head and go "Buh?" And some of them might be awesome! Maybe I'll do a 24 hour comic! Maybe I'll experiment with some weird packaging!

BONUS: All members of the Minicomic of the Month Club get a MEMBERSHIP CARD! WTF, right? How cool is that? You know you want to be in the club!”

It looks like you can do six months for $20 or a full year for $40, with shipping included in the price.

More information is available from Liz here and here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

This Looks Cool- Uncle Envelope Kristin Lindner has created Uncle Envelope, a subscription mailing service for kids that are too old for Highlights and too smart and cool for tween magazines. The idea is that your favorite non-creepy uncle, Uncle Envelope, travels the world looking for cool and interesting things to send you. Uncle Envelope will inlcude comics, games, papercraft projects by talented artists from all over, including Corinne Mucha, Alec Longstreth, Joshua Ray Stephens (of the astonishing "Moth or the Flame"), and Sarah Becan. A year's worth of Uncle Envelope mailings is only $36, which makes it a pretty affordable and unique gift for your favorite smart and cool kids.

Artists that are interested in participating can submit their work here.

More info about Uncle Envelope.

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season. I came home from DC to many mini-comics in the mailbox. Time to get back to work!