Last week we took a look at an issue of Colin Tedfordâs Before Sleep (a series since completed and awaiting compilation, I now know thanks to a kind update). Tedford, along with Dan Barlow, co-founded the Trees and Hills Comics Group, a loose tribe of cartoonists in Vermont, New Hampshire and western Massachusetts. According to a nifty mini put out last Free Comic Day, the group is dedicated to making and publishing comics as a means of sharing resources and building âcreative connections in our diverse communities.â This desire to have comics serve both an artistic and a social function gets showcased here, in the form of what appears to be the groupâs flagship title and with work from a committed member.
Trees and Hills Comics Group; $5
As a collective project, Seeds is âan anthology of comics about foodâ created by Trees and Hills. Seeds reflects the groupâs dedication to communal and individual diversity as demonstrated by a come-one-come-all inclusiveness. Accordingly, contributions vary widely in terms of scale, ambition, refinement of message and visual and verbal abilities. As such, Seeds is more a cooperative project of participatory creative democracy than an aesthetic object meant to reflect a meritocracy.
Such variety pretty much insures that every reader will find something of note and interest within, beginning with the clever packaging that includes an envelope of vegetable seeds tucked inside the cover. The spiritual bottom line for Seeds is one of support for local sustainable agriculture and the individual choices that abet same. Its material bottom line is that a functioning organism thrives through both nutrition and roughage. As comics, success of individual offerings often hinges on the considered marriage of artistic ability and expressive intent.Â The best pieces â such as Tedfordâs funny, lucid four-page âApple Rantâ triggered by finding Washington State fruit trucked into a grocery store in his apple-rich region â manage to find their balance in the blending.
Mimiâs Doughnuts Zine #17, $4 and Hour 72!
By Marek Bennett
Marek Bennettâs contribution to the Seeds anthology is also entitled âSeeds.â The segment is a slice of a longer tale in which hard-working rodent farmers learn a painful larger truth about pesticides. That expanded tale is fleshed out and brought to temporary resolution in issue #17 of Bennettâs ongoing Mimiâs Doughnut Zine. Much of the rest of the zine collects a dozen strips he did for regional papers based on the ongoing communal life centered around a local doughnut shop. The establishment hosts a social sphere now grown wide enough to encompass, as shown here, a grass-roots campaign against a proposed power plant. Mimiâs has an open, friendly style that comfortably embraces the contemplation of serious issues as well as the humor inherent in talking squirrels.
An evolution of Bennettâs style, albeit under duress, is reflected in his oversized Hour 72!, a volume consisting of three of his 24-hour comics. The first is a sketchy spy spoof heavily indebted to film clichÃ©s in which the then-President is depicted as a conniving (wait for itâ¦) squirrel. The second features a big-paneled, heavily inked, imaginative fantasy in which everyday objects are animate, offering a world of âinfinite possibilitiesâ around slumbering humans. Immediately below this tale, a âdownstairsâ strip offers observations and journalistic moments of the 24 Hour Comic Day experience from the practicing authorâs perspective. Its immediacy and intimacy are guileless, engaging and rewarding. The final comic, from 2006, expands upon such event reportage with a wild mix of field notes, reflection, fact and whimsy, all subject to the vagaries of creative focus during the resolute and the wobbly stretches of the 24-hour ordeal. Bennett describes his comics as âpleasant.â They are.