Minis Monday: Mo’ Joe

Posted by on November 8th, 2010 at 1:00 PM


All images ©2008, 2010 Joseph Lambert.


Black and white; 24 pp.
Black and white; 32 pp.
Full color; 20 pp.
All by Joe Lambert
All self-published

I don’t know about you, but last week’s glimpse at the micro-mini Gag really whetted my appetite for more Joe Lambert. Accordingly, here are three of his books picked up last May at Maine’s Comics Arts Festival in Portland.

Lambert’s highest profile work is no doubt his Turtle, Keep it Steady! included by editor Lynda Barry in the 2008 edition of the Best American Comics series. I felt, forum aside, that the original mini of the tale was the superior version. That’s because Lambert, as was just seen with Gag, affords each of his comics their own unique and considered framework, presenting his funnies most flatteringly in terms of scale, format, pacing, ornamentation and packaging. They are wrought objects of obvious handcraft, conceived and executed with care, imagination and attention.



Tantrum, for instance, has a wrap of seemingly handmade paper and you need to be attentive yourself to realize the covers fold out into patterned endpaper flaps that depict the two principle characters. That’s not the point, of course, but it does provide a sense of discovery, of added goodness, of satisfying “rightness” similar to the sense one initially felt upon realizing that Chris Ware’s flat paper constructs were fully capable of actual assembly.

Tantrum follows the exploits of a frolicking if unbridled child beginning with dog torment and leading eventually to the monumental outburst of the titular fury. But mere description of content is always the least of it with Lambert because the miraculous needs to be seen, to be understood, even anticipated, as a corollary of perfectly innocuous occurrences and eminently reasonable actions, particularly when human emotions dictate direction and momentum.

Take Everyday, which begins each of the seven days of the week with the same incident (though rest assured intelligently recommenced each time): Two kids fight in the house and are banished outdoors. Every day the continued expression of towering rage and frustration is followed in due course by a stunning and often mortal outcome (as was the case with Lambert’s I Will Bite You!, the fantastic involves a convergence of the celestial and the terrestrial). It’s a progression reliably timed and regular as comic-strip clockwork whether it takes two pages to unfold on some days or as many as eight on others. In tempo there’s a bit of Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo, especially in terms of fabulous inconsequence. There’s also some of Edward Gorey in the figuration and a touch of Escher to the book’s design. But again, description and spoiler warnings are much beside the point, just as they would be for McCay, Gorey and M.C. Escher. Seeing’s the thing. Every day.

Tantrum measures 2-½” x 5″, Everyday 5″x 7-½”. Done in 2008, food/fall at 7″ x 10-½” is the most conventionally sized delivery of the sumptuous and astonishing. Each of the comic’s material elements is a fit object of scrutiny: pages, panels, creatures, covers, endpapers, flyleaves, motifs. The two stories — one of remarkable interstellar appetite, the other of father and son regarding the change of seasons — are inventive and lush. The former is wordless, the second, for Lambert, almost verbose. In both, the colors are substantive, deep and solid. They hold in reserve the looser, more expressive renderings seen in the later comics. “fall,” in particular, reminds in coloring and content of those glorious Sunday excursions Frank King chronicled for Walt and Skeezix in the autumn countryside, but here with towering, very mortal personification of the seasons.



Wow. Ware, McCay, Gorey, Escher, King and Lynda Barry’s esteem. You’d almost think there was something going on, wouldn’t you?


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