Mini-Comics Round-Up: Vigneault, Baylis, Fletschinger

Posted by on January 5th, 2011 at 3:47 AM

Rob reviews a variety of mini-comics.  Included are So Buttons Holiday Special #1, by Jonathan Baylis, et al; Beloved by E.J. Fletschinger; and Bird Brain #2-4, by Francois Vigneault.

So Buttons Holiday Special #1, by Jonathan Baylis, Thomas Boatwright, T.J. Kirsch & Paul Salvi.  This 8-pager is most notable for a cute “Christmukkah” story adapted from Baylis’ wife, who is a stand-up comedian.  The set-up (a young Jewish girl desperately wants to see Santa) and punchline (the department store Santa is Jewish…because who else will work on Christmas?) are both clever and ably assisted by T.J. Kirsch’s loose art that’s a bit reminiscent of Jack Davis.  Kirsch and Boatwright, two of Baylis’ steadiest collaborators, have steadily improved as Baylis has started to restrain himself a bit more with regard to his narrative captions.  In particular, he did a great job of capturing the comedic rhythm of his wife’s story in comics form.

Beloved, by E.S. Fletschinger.  This is a mostly silent little trifle about loneliness and loss.  An elderly man whose partner has died faces not just the fact that his partner is gone, but that he himself is in great health and will be around for a long time.  Fletschinger gets across the idea that the man is trying to carve out the next part of his life as much as he is reaching out to find someone new to talk to.  This twelve-page comic is deliberately paced, perhaps a bit too much.  The on-the-nose nature of the ending made many of its pages feel unnecessary, especially for such a simple sentiment.  Fletschinger’s greatest skill as an artist is his ability to set mood using the expressiveness of his characters without dialogue.  Indeed, the final page of the comic,  features an image of the man and his new friend hunched over a table, his new friend making an animated point while the man pays close attention, a warm smile on his face.  Fletschinger could have arrived at that image using many fewer pages without sacrificing the emotional core of his story, which only could have increased its impact.  It was instantly apparent that the man was grieving, given just a couple of panels, and equally apparent that he was now lonely, thanks to the character’s body language and face.  Showing a little less would give the reader a chance to work a little more.

Bird Brain #2-4, by Francois Vigneault.  These are beautiful little journal minicomics detailing Vigneault’s burgeoning interest in bird-watching.  The illustrations are heavily annotated with all sorts of personal observations, making it much more interesting than a more formal birdwatching journal; the color strips are especially lovely.  Vigneault also sprinkles in short strips, like “Heron Hunt”, that show a bird in action going after prey.  These zines are as much about Vigneault trying to get in touch with his local environment as they are about birds, as his afterwords reveal.  Recording these trips in such detail (even as an amateur) is a way of forcing himself to get out of his comfort zone, as well as meditate on the fact that the big birds he loves so much are unabashed predators.  Indeed, this kind of writing is every bit as revealing and autobiographical as a standard diary strip.

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