Minis Monday

Posted by on January 11th, 2010 at 1:00 PM

We finally arrive at the second engine of this blog [the first being posts about the best comics of the year all year]: that of reviews of select minicomics. In doing so we adopt one of the enduring organizing forms of the classics, The Mickey Mouse Club, and its devotion of days of the week to specific themes, like “Anything Can Happen Day” and “Talent Roundup.” So Monday, at least ’round these parts, will henceforth be known as “Minis Monday,” a dedication that will continue, technical support and Internet willing, for the foreseeable future. (For those of you at this site from its beginning, this “Special Day” together now supersedes the earlier plan to offer up the reviews en masse.)

These minis were culled from the first annual Maine Comics Arts Festival held last year in Portland. My inspiration for that harvest and this reportage are Tom Spurgeon’s “Minimalism” columns in the Journal during the early 2000s. I am particularly indebted to his entry for issue #249, where he commented on the new minis he’d gathered at the latest Comic-Com International in San Diego, comics from the likes of such promising young talents as Souther Salazar, Sammy Harkham, Anders Nilsen, Jordan Crane and Gene Luen Yang. I’m not sayin’, mind you, I’m just sayin’ …

Let’s start with a pair from the convocation’s cartooning hosts, two comic-makers of Maine.

Coelacanthus Manifest

Michael Conner

Michael Conner’s self-published Coelacanthus makes my Journal “best of” list every year. For this convention he created Coelacanthus Manifest, less a creation myth than a profusion myth: not something from nothing but something from something, which in turn generates more of something else. Conner begins with only his star, a small stuffed bear named Asmwe, and his collection of “pipchicks,” the flimsy cardboard die-cut punch-outs from packages designed for wire-rack display. From there glorious, full-page tableaus record the startling transformational progression toward cornucopial excess. The pages are crammed with wondrously wrought objects. Eventually stability is achieved through the formal devices of the comics medium with a final resolution coming in the form of a sea of the series’ title species. So perhaps it is something of a secret origin. As usual, the immediate and persistent enticement is Conner’s realized vision, his fastidious depictions of idiosyncratic dream logic at work. Imagine Escher, in painstaking graphic longhand, taking cartoon dictation from Woodring … while he was channeling a sunny Ernst … who described an unusually odd Dr. Strange story by Ditko. Sort of.

(Click to view image at a larger size.) This panel is from Walking Christendom #12. [©2008 Dave Naybor]

Walking Christendom

Dave Naybor

Dave Naybor is something of a throwback to the “do your own thing” spirit of underground comics whereby artists satisfied their own creative itches first and welcomed like-minded fellow travelers along second. Today that feels like a refreshing bit of non-commercial waywardness, of non-art-school self-governance. Still, Naybor can frame his Walking Christendom with a succinct, high-concept pitch that accommodates modern attention spans: “It’s Dragonball meets My Dinner With Andre.”

Walking Christendom is a buddy adventure, a road comic of high jinks built from tall tales, wrestling matches, tavern poetry, cross-cultural joshing, romantic interludes, philosophical musings, and the general scrapes and fixes that inevitably accompany rambling and questing. Naybor’s dry humor keeps the proceedings light, employing a conversant vernacular not above anachronistic shout-outs done for amusement’s sake.

For this convention, Naybor readied a 15th issue of …Christendom in which he continues to refine his art and enhance reproduction methods. More critical still is his advances in visual storytelling, muscling narration around to play more naturally to his strengths as an artist. Dialogue can still require some concerted unpacking, but I remember My Dinner With Andre sounding better the second time through, too.

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