Minis Monday: ill! & C. Frakes’ Guilty Pleasures / Jon Chad’s Guilty Pleasures

Posted by on December 27th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

ill!; Joe Lambert; B&W; 16 pp.; Self-published; joe “at” submarinesubmarine.com

C. Frakes’ Guilty Pleasures / Jon Chad’s Guilty Pleasures; B&W; 12 pp. Self-published; www.tragicrelief.blogspot.com and jonchad.com

Lest old acquaintance be forgot, these two books close out Minis Monday 2010, having missed inclusion in earlier collective reviews of favored — and oft cited — self-publishing cartoonists.

During this column’s celebration of minis from Joe Lambert, somehow his nifty ill! went overlooked. I’m nor sure if this will translate into the Journal site font, but on this diminutive (4 ¼” x 2 ¾”) comic’s front cover, the stylized block letters spelling out the title can also be read upside down with equal conviction.

I bring this up because size and orientation aren’t incidental with Lambert. In every one of his comics, he has demonstrated that any and all material aspects and every potentially expressive feature are in play and at his disposal. Here, amid a decorative and functional elaboration of the block lettering motif, a small figure suffers, as title suggests, of being under the weather. (How under? A fellow victim sneezes the beard stubble off his face).

Texture, intensity and symptoms are conveyed through a uniform red and a uniform blue, shaded to purpose as necessary. Hues and characters are set off on bright white fields of satisfying, substantial paper pages. Everything’s a creative device and perhaps the only familiar ingredient from the greater Lambert canon is the ultimate conclusion to the story.

Guilty Pleasures is a dual-covered flipbook from known and recognizable hands: C. Frakes, whose work appears in this column with frequency, and Jon Chad, less often seen but memorably, with The BAD-ventures of Bobo Backslack and especially the strikingly formatted Leo Geo.

Pleasures is personal and the pair’s dip into single-paged, autobiographical admissions is appealing. Given themes and dispositions of their prior comics, the material here comes fresh and even intriguing, as it could inform and comment on that other work.

As for the Guilty aspect, these perceived dishonors are rendered with all the blithe embarrassment they deserve. Chad depicts himself as having weaknesses for diversions while he’s drawing and for food. As an avid consumer of tokusatsu, live-action Japanese special effects-laden shows, he’s wide-eyed and openmouthed both as a child and as an adult. Frakes owns up to a fondness for costumes, costume dramas and soda.

At bottom it is hardly essential that you be able to identify or commiserate with these proffered shames. Knowing of tokusatsu or which Merchant/ Ivory film is playing or which song sung while spaz-dancing remains completely beside the point. Chad and Frakes convey their enthusiasms as a facet of life, a source of vitality functionally indistinguishable from creative wellsprings. (Hey, an artist’s gotta eat … An artist’s gotta dance…) If psychotherapy can be regarded as the talking cure, this is a cartooning cure where nothing much cries out for remedy.

In a very tangible if completely happenstance way, ill! and Guilty Pleasures offer a bracing, recapitulating coda — at least for me — at year’s end, a manifested sense that youth and talent and engagement and the medium and the unquenchable sustaineth, baby. Accordingly, we’ll take that cup of kindness yet.

ill! images ©2010 Joseph Lambert, Guilty Pleasures ©2010 Colleen Frakes and Jon Chad

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