Minis Monday: White Mountain Mini Motherload

Posted by on August 30th, 2010 at 1:00 PM


From Crybaby, ©2010 Robyn Chapman.


Robyn Chapman

edited by Chuck Forsman and Max de Radigues

After co-founder James Sturm and instructor Stephen Bissette, there’s no person I more strongly associate with the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont than Robyn Chapman, in large part because she so faithfully squired me around the facility when I visited (paper hoarders can refer to TCJ #281). Her comic, Crybaby, was originally published in Vermont’s alternative weekly paper, 7 Days, although it’s hard to imagine that version having the impact her story has in this fine little (3 ¼” x 3 ¾”) book.

This freestanding Crybaby strongly reminds of — and takes off from — the pleasures and virtues of an illustrated novel. When well done, those books distinguish themselves with their sensitive, revealing depictions of pivotal, dramatic or emblematic moments of their narratives. Such pictures deepen and advance the impact of the words and add a level of appreciation.

With a lone exception, Crybaby is recounted with one single, straightforward line drawing per page. Collectively the images are the epitome of clarity and brevity, accomplished without complicating texture or contextual surplus. As in an illustrated novel, each picture deepens and immeasurably advances the verbal narrative, only here Chapman has cropped her text to a haiku’s economy of specificity and concreteness.

With so short a tale, every single page makes its own pivotal advance in the arc of situation/predicament, backstory, real-time development and resolution. That means every single drawing gets to frame a pivotal, emblematic, significant moment that materially enhances story and refines expression. But unlike illustrated novels, here every occasion of relevance is visualized, thus solidifying Crybaby‘s credentials as full-bodied sequential narrative. In fact, it stands as a superlative representation of the medium’s idiomatic structure. Its concluding “kicker,” its leave-’em-laughing topper, only wraps everything up with a perfectly fitting bow.


Contrasting sharply with Crybaby in approach, temperament and physical scale is the overflowing cornucopia that is Caboose. This is a newspaper-tabloid-sized anthology by “cartoonists and students who stay for a day or several years in White River Junction,” a village, according to one strip, of 2,500 residents and roughly 40 cartoonists.

For the most, Caboose is a mosaic of small-town life as fodder for a broad roster of creative talents. On a late page, fully 37 contributors offer self-portraits with their heads replaced by those of animals. The gallery includes a fair number of well-known names as well as — at the risk of being overly familiar — a number of old friends and new acquaintances.

Caboose was edited by Chuck Forsman and Max de Radigues who also provided some comics. But because of matters of space, patience and fairness, that’s about the last of any name-dropping you’ll see here. There are simply more nifty bits of cartooning, more worthwhile asides, more transporting glimpses, more pleasing interludes and more intriguing constructions than can be honorably précised here. Moreover, your faves, I’m pretty sure, would differ from mine.

In part this is due, as I said, to my having visited institution, town and environs. So as of the opening page, with its evocative drawings of the East India Salvage company and the Polka Dot Restaurant, I might be more immediately receptive than you. And when a facing strip by Jon Chad (oops!) depicts a certain sensibility in a certain environment, i.e. “The Horse in a One Horse Town,” I’m completely hooked by the verisimilitude and frankness.

Contributions to Caboose range in size from full- to half-page with some smaller still. Polished, considered reflections greatly outweigh more casual and spontaneous offerings; there’s little evidence of a tossed together commitment. Likely no one wants to look lightweight in this company. Just about all strips offer some comment about life in, life prior to or life after “the Junc” and Center so there’s at least that much of an affiliation with autobiography. Several of those faves of mine, though, use localized experiences as the springboard for legitimate, telling — and funny — elaborations on a theme… you know who you are, penguin opining why the Center shouldn’t forsake its cold-weather isolation for a sunnier clime and you “Grown-Up Babies in ‘The Land of No Women.'”


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2 Responses to “Minis Monday: White Mountain Mini Motherload”

  1. johnrplatt says:

    I have both of these, and they’re great.

    Caboose can be downloaded at their website for those who want it immediately.

    There’s a typo in the link for Robyn Chapman’s website.

  2. PatBarrett says:

    Thanks for the Grown-Up Babies shout out!