Minicomics Round-Up: Kelberman, Badman

Posted by on June 5th, 2010 at 8:47 AM

Rob reviews a variety of minis from Dina Kelberman and Derik Badman.

THE REGULAR MAN #8-9, by Dina Kelberman. These issues show off two of Kelberman’s most familiar tropes: a boldly intuitive use of color as a narrative device (in #9) and tongue-in-cheek self-flagellation (in #8).  As always, these little 4-page comics (including the found-art, conceptual covers; #9 is a US passport) delight me as a kind of storytelling I don’t see anywhere else in comics.  When asked at cons “what’s something unusual at this show for me to check out?”, I tend to steer them Kelberman’s way.

What I like about the way she does this series is that each issue, short as it is, expresses a coherent thought or feeling.  Issue #8 is dominated by Kelberman’s little tubular stand-in character finding herself unmotivated to draw because it’s summer and she feels like lying around.  That spiral of laziness first leads her to a familiar thought pattern (“none of this will even amount to ANYTHING”), then busting through that to finish the work, and then the realization that she felt the same way during winter.  Kelberman’s lettering is actually a bit key to her comics, modulating emotion and providing something bright for the reader’s eye to fall on.  #9 is a bit of silliness featuring the tubular stand-in trying to nurture her “pet” (a blob of paint) back to health before she leaves it behind.

20 OUT OF 30 DAYS, by Derik Badman.  This is a mini featuring Badman’s abstract comics and comics-as-poetry experiments.  While there’s a heavy John Hankiewicz influence to be found here (especially in the almost phenomenological “Description Comics”), I think that’s more of a matter of method than obvious intent.  For some of the comics, Badman abstracted images from other stories, like old Jesse Marsh comics or Barbara Stanwyck movies and gave them a new contextual meaning.  For some of the images, he hit the internet and got random bits of prose that seemed to fit.  For example, there’s one strip featuring pine trees in various stages with quotes about “pining away”.

More interesting were the ways he fractured a couple of images across panels (not unlike David Lasky), like one where we see a hear a bird’s song, see a telephone wire, and don’t see the actual bird until the end.  While Badman is nowhere near as skilled a craftsman as Hankiewicz or Lasky, his understanding of his own limitations seemed obvious, as he played to his strengths as a draftsman and relied heavily on color as a storytelling tool.

There’s a sense in which this is almost a kind of automatic comics-making, relying on using established images and text and giving them a new meaning.  Badman repurposed images that he found striking regardless of context, charging them with a new authorial intent that was far from random.  While the text was randomly generated, the use of the internet gave it a sort of coherency not usually found in cut-up text techniques.  The result was a comic full of images that concentrated on the isolation of a single moment, feeling or sensory experience.  Many of these  stories were wistful or desolate, but others zeroed in on the joys of an image in time and how it can linger. Badman tried to depict the way a smell, sight or visceral feeling can evoke a powerful memory, even (and sometimes especially) when that encounter was a fleeting one.   Stacking story after story of textual or color experiments gives the book a weight greater than the sum of its parts.

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