Minis Monday: Freddy and Dear Bill, A Month of Weekly Hourlies

Posted by on February 22nd, 2010 at 1:00 PM

Minis, joy of man’s desiring. Women’s, too!

As usual, these were gathered at the inaugural Maine Comics Arts Festival held in Portland last year.

Freddy and Dear Bill

Melissa Mendes

These comics by Melissa Mendes are the strip equivalent of haikus, rigorously trimmed distillations of concrete, evocative moments bespeaking clarity and insight. Like those terse, concrete poems, these cartoons achieve an air of untroubled spontaneity. But instead of reflecting upon the natural world, they preoccupy themselves with social and domestic conditions rooted in — should we be so lucky — shared experience.

That’s particularly true with Freddy and its straightforward appeal to childhood memories. These short takes meditate on the labors of that age: playing, eating, imagining, sleeping. Mendes captures the gratuitous exuberance, unapologetic self-absorption and temporary if complete repose, all with a warm, uncomplicated, unassuming equanimity. When bits hit home they do so with a tingle of recognition and reawakened appreciation … like the last panel of “Beach,” with its look of satisfied exhaustion after a jam-packed day; or the two, facing pages, one devoted to a wooly, sniffing pooch, the other to mom, at night.

Dear Bill is a mini in the truest original physical sense, but folded longways. It is simplicity itself in action: two figures drawn atop black and white photographs of a mountainous ridge. At the bottom, as if retort or the briefest extract from an imaginary letter, captions carry the artist’s wish and writer’s intent, crystalizing the full significance of what we view. As a representative of the classic form, it’s the old dog still doing great tricks.

A Month of Weekly Hourlies

Lucy Kinsley

Lucy Kinsley’s A Month of Weekly Hourlies represents a daring gambit in autobiographical comics and not for its format alone. Subtitled “Wednesday Hourly Comics For January, 2009″ the booklet provides a tier, usually of two panels, for each of Kinsey’s waking hours during the four Wednesdays of the month (February’s Super Bowl Sunday is a bonus). With that allocation, not much room is available for considered reflection or artistic treatment, so unless one’s life is inhumanly interesting (or utterly consumed by gag-cartoon situations), the alignment risks preserving snapshots of quotidian existence at its most pedestrian. Or worse. In contrast to Kinsley’s French Milk, this comic suggests what happens when unchecked personal observations go without the inspiration of Parisian sights, the excitements of foreign travel and the invigoration of fresh experience.

Kinsley’s art remains congenially accomplished and appealing, which only serves to put her family-friendly, almost all-ages content at further risk. Or as she notes, “There is too much cuteness in our house (and in this comic).” In Milk Kinsley envisioned herself as tour guide for French society, dispensing info on “the party scandals, and where/ how they fucked, shat, and picked their noses.” Nothing so spirited must have occurred for her on January Wednesdays this year. (Oh wait, the inside of a nose was itched). The front cover remains an elegant, emblematic encapsulation of the booklet’s interior life.

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