Form and Function From the MoCCA Festival

Posted by on May 3rd, 2010 at 5:41 AM

Rob reviews several minicomics heavy on unusual formal presentation that he got at the MoCCA Art Festival.  Included are TOOTH/NAIL, BLOOD/WATER and HUNT/PECK by Eve Englezos & Josh Moutray and BIG FEET BIG FRIENDS by Carolyn Kelsey.

One of the more interesting features of the sort of handmade comics one gets at a convention like MoCCA is the way they take advantage of the formal properties of comics.  At the most extreme end, you have hand-crafted art objects like the three offerings from the icecreamlandia collective of Eve Englezos and Josh Moutray. Their bone-dry humor and clear-line drawings have been amusing me for quite a long time, and I’ve always wished their work was more widely known.

The three new minis they made for MoCCA were unusual for them in that they were meant to be read and then flipped upside-down and read the other way–with each artist contributing a different story, instead of the usual way in which they collaborate. Englezos uses a very clear line and a naturalistic style, but is always going after a gag. In “Nail”, she presents figures from history and fiction with ridiculously long and detailed fingernails as part of the “Nail Salon All-Stars”. In “Blood”, we flip through some drawings of a family until we unfold the pages to reveal a family tree and their motives for murdering the family’s patriarch. “Peck”‘s pages fold out for one image of a detailed drawing of birds with human faces at a feast.

Moutray’s line is much simpler and more cartoony, and he’s happy to simply present funny drawings, like “Tooth”‘s array of overbites or “Hunt”‘s set of cheerful animals with targets drawn on them (ending with a unicorn). “Water”‘s use of horizontal lines for a series of gags about being in the water was genuinely striking in the way he also used simple geometric shapes and curves. These comics are the perfect marriage of form and function: they are beautiful to hold and hilarious to read. The silkscreened covers and intricate folding schemes enhance the actual content of the stories, instead of distracting from it.

SVA graduate Caroline Kelsey uses a familiar format to deliver her gags. BIG FEET BIG FRIENDS is a small mini in roughly the same shape and format as a Jack Chick tract. This is a cute comic that tells us “the facts” about Sasquatch, mimicking Chick down to the typeset lettering and urges to act. Kelsey’s clear-line drawings were well-suited for working on such a small scale. The main problem with this comic is that after a rollicking beginning, it didn’t escalate its gags to match the sort of stakes-raising one would see from Chick. Instead, the gag just peters out after the reader is disabused of myths about Sasquatch. It’s a pleasant read that falls short of fully taking advantage of its format and premise.

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