Minis Monday: Crooked Teeth #2 & #3 and The Archer

Posted by on May 10th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Crooked Teeth #2 & #3 and The Archer
By Nate Doyle

I’m still trying to tender full faith and credit to the minis and handmades gathered at last year’s Maine Comics Arts Festival in Portland even as the next gathering is in the offing (, which brings us to a trio of comics from Nate Doyle.

His Crooked Teeth is a personalized anthology series mixing stories, autobiography, sketches, panoramic “splash panels,” diary strips and pertinent notes. The overriding spirit is one of experimentation and variety, of successive and eager road tests of a number of different forms pursuing a number of possible tacks for Doyle’s thoughts and comics.

Issue #2 appears the smoother tour through the gear box. It covers a lot of promising territory in idiosyncratic chunks. The wraparound cover is emblematic, with its urban seascape in front and a fantastic creature on back, as if symbolizing the juxtaposed intimacy of reality and fancy. The first segment, in fact, offers Cindy Arias’ verbal visit through “My Apartment,” with Doyle’s art charged to “relay some of the story in a totally different way.” In this case that means the walkabout is accompanied by surprising sexual graphics.

Elsewhere, Doyle muses on the futility of trying to trace his artistic influences even while offering graphic homage to cartoonists as diverse as Doucet, Crumb, Porcellino and Watterson. There’s also a stark emotional contrast found in back-to-back features: an indictment of “migratory, belligerent and pre-pubescent ‘Scum Fucks’” followed by the frustrated impotence and vivid remorse in the autobiographical “The Cat.”

Issue #3, although once again diversified and personal, seems to slip by a lot more quickly, beginning with the opening chapter of a proposed serialized story. The segment successfully introduces mystery and at least one principle player but is able in the space allotted to present little else (well, except the grounds of Doyle’s misgivings regarding the piece, as detailed in his intro, where he states that “the furthest thing from my intention [was] to have any sexist allusions or to make anyone uncomfortable”).

In the rest of the issue, a number of strips, sketches and profiles shuffle through Doyle’s different stylistic approaches. The most accessible at the scale provided is that of his airier cartooning done in open, expressive line; with it he dares to depict himself sick, his head “filled with ooze and obese goldfish” along with his pleasure at making comics that pushes his disease in remission.

After this diversity, testing and brevity, Doyle settles into a more sustained and elaborate narrative in The Archer, a comic-long fiction in three sections. It combines mundane daydreams, mundane realism, spectacle and dramatic sequence in a way not seen in Crooked Teeth, at least since that waterfront cover. The length here allows Doyle to raise expectations regarding plot, then confound them, only to revive and drive them to their appointed conclusion. A settled, consistent visual approach unifies the presentation although the degree of added detail fluctuates. This variation carries additional information (the relative speed of events) and guidance (how fast the material might be read), but variations in the size of panels and the scale of the drawings can also compromise the unity. As a reader you can see the reasons for visual compressions and luxurious expansions of individual moments, but for this longer story, a surer, more fluid shifting of gears would have enhanced the ride.

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