Minis Monday: The Widow Reminisces Over a Plate of Vegetables, Mimi’s Doughnut Zine #19: Health

Posted by on January 17th, 2011 at 1:00 PM

The Widow Reminisces Over a Plate of Vegetables; Alexander Danner, author, and Stephanie Smith, artist; B&W; 6 pp.; Self-published; alexander “”at”” and stephanie”‘at””

Mimi’s Doughnut Zine #19: Health; By Marek Bennett; B&W; 27 pp.; Self-published;

I am told that devout Muslims do not undertake the sacred Haj until all their outstanding worldly debts are repaid. This comforts at the moment as I find myself unable to really get on with 2011 until I’ve fulfilled my obligations to some comics gathered in 2010.

The Widow Reminisces Over a Plate of Vegetables is a re-imagining of a poem by Alexander Danner adapted by Danner and rendered by Stephanie Smith. It’s a graceful arc of triggered thought and pained reflection, of loss and the reconfiguration of prior resentments. In keeping with its poetic origins, there’s more still, deeper still, depending on reader receptivity.

Verbally the comic is guileless and puts on no airs. The visuals complement what is written and make explicit what is not. Although panels stretch to panoramas and wide shots, impact lies in individual expression. What I like about Smith’s postures and faces is that they are not reflective of their most primped moments, at their most graphically optimal, photogenic and distilled — a vegetable is poised too close to the mouth; emotions are too immediate, too broad, as they might be when one is unselfconscious and unguarded; robust memories contrast to frailer realities.

Sympathies are undermined, however, in the choice of detailing and method of illustrative refinement. A blanket of Benday dotting of varying densities provides texture and adds shading. When too ambitious, it competes with more delicate linework, obscuring finesse, intruding on faces. Sights accumulate an overall gritty feel. I assume this is the result of some form of computer-aided layering, a mechanical distraction from the more precise, ethereal pangs evoked.

In contrast, Marek Bennett’s 19th issue of Mimi’s Doughnuts Zine is flagrantly handmade and a product of a 24-Hour-Comic stint to boot. This number differs from other Mimi’s Zines as well as the “usual” 24-hour-event product, in that it is a series of shorter segments and strips all devoted to matters of health, health care and reform of same. So it winds up being, again in contrast, as communal and public as Widow is individual and intimate.

Despite the comic’s animated, congenial delivery in cartoon streamlining, this is one sobering anthology of wellbeing interruptus, of malady and misfortune made geometrically more dire through incompetence, corporate malfeasance, bureaucratic indifference and simple if pandemic civic apathy. For the most, episodes are given dates and complaints, inflicted without discrimination upon Bennett himself (as autobiography) and upon scarcely more differentiated members of “a small cast of stick figures — a single family, if you notice such continuity among stick figures.”

Actually, the comic’s real strength is that you do recognize the continuity among them, among us, because, regarding the allergies, coughs and skin, heart, cholesterol, kidney, blood, face and finger problems, there but for the grace of God go you and your loved ones, afflicted, unprovided for and worried sicker. (Oh, you have medical coverage? Swell for you and may you dream on uninterrupted upon your bed of tissue.)

Segments progress through anywhere from a single to a quartet of pages. It doesn’t do, exactly, to call them “stories;”  they are more instances, episodes that form a social mosaic, a patchwork portrait that backfills the book’s ominous frontispiece, the more considered, decidedly non-stick-figured scene from a cemetery, “A Child’s Grave.”

So then: a pair of comics that can be read relatively quickly but not lightly, one on death and longing, the other on life and hardship. Happy New Year, everybody!

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