Micro Minis Monday

Posted by on November 1st, 2010 at 1:00 PM


From Human Body Theater, ©2009 Maris Wicks.


Human Body Theater
Maris Wicks
Black and white (on salmon paper!) plus insert; 24 pp.

Joe Lambert
Black and white; 12 pp.

Here’s one of the informal standards by which I have adjudged this, these very days right here, to be the Golden Age of comics: There is really fine work being done at every economy of scale.

At the macro end of things, any number of exemplary comics are still being digested and absorbed: Crumb’s Genesis. Sacco’s Footnotes. Mazzucchelli’s Polyp. Campbell’s The Years Have Pants. Lemire’s Essex County. Insert your choice here (or wait a month until commentators bust out their version of this year’s “Best of” list. Or better yet, just loiter around the racks until the next big book turns up).

These jumbo jets of funnies get the lion’s share of publicity but I’m here (along with Rob Clough, fellow gleaner in minis fields) to tell you that smaller works of proportional achievement abound as well. Case in immediate point: two self-published comics that make your conventional mini seem bloated.

The biggest thing about Maris Wick’s The Human Body Theater Presents the Digestion of a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich is its full title. But honorably enough, the process is dutifully rendered from bite to toilet bowl in pages measuring 2″ by 2¾”. I’ve admired Wicks’ humor, amicability and disarming ingenuity before (in reviews of Duddits and Four Squares). In this micro mini, these virtues are put to pedagogical purposes producing a spirited presentation that kids will enjoy and adults understand, even as the PB & J protagonist spends most of the pages as an undifferentiated lump getting ever more so.

This is basic information well worth having regarding, frankly, just an astonishing and miraculous process. Wicks keeps awesomeness in perspective with a funky naturalism (or natural funkiness) and engaging trivia (1.5 liters of saliva a day?). Sure it leaves out info (Is the pancreas destined to forever be second fiddle to the gall bladder?) but it’s more fun than Grey’s Anatomy and more edifying than Gray’s Anatomy. Make sure your copy comes with the fold-out “poster” (comparatively expansive at 4″ x 5 ½”) where the whole system is aligned properly at relative size.

I’ve also admired the work of Joe Lambert in the past, but I cannot recall praising him for quite the qualities he exhibits here. Gag measures all of 2″ by 2″. Inside, generous margins reduce the actual dimensions of drawings to about half that. This may cut down on the potential for elaboration and visual sophistication but, oddly enough, the empty space frames the minimalist drawings with stately bearing, giving them a solidity, a formal stature, that belies their size.

This is hardly insignificant because characters are presented as bare outlines, little more than plumped stick figures. Their heads are ovals, lacking, for the most, facial features such as eyes. Yet dad sits by an open window, looking at his children play and we as readers are delivered, as promised, to the titular “gag.” It may not be all that much of a joke but like the whistling pig, it’s a wonder, given the circumstances, that it can be accomplished at all.

For all the diminished expectations its size might foster, this funnybook has a two-ply cover in colored ink, yet one more indication of care and craft lavished upon a physically unimposing object.


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