The Minicomics of Maggie Morrill

Posted by on June 21st, 2010 at 5:26 AM

Rob reviews assorted issues of SUBCULTURE CLASH, by Maggie Morrill.

I was first introduced to the work of Maggie Morrill in the Candy or Medicine anthology, and was struck by her line and character design.  Her SUBCULTURE CLASH minicomics are a slapdash compilation of brief stories surrounding her cast of characters, random illustrations, clip art, scrawled-in comments (and the odd occasional bible verse), mazes, pop-culture discussions and other ephemera.  The comics are all over the place but still possess considerable charm, especially in the way that they are such a direct and personal expression of the artist. In that regard, these comics are quite enjoyable.

The problem with them is that some of her characters seem undercooked and superficial to an almost distracting degree.  The rough premise of the strip is that a number of characters, each roughly representing a subculture (punk, goth, riot grrrl, comics, coffeehouse poets, and an alien “grey”), interact with each other, gently poking fun at each other’s foibles.  Some of the characters are clearly mouthpieces for Morrill (and not just her cartoonist stand-in), and one gets the sense that each character represents some aspect of her interests or personality.

Morrill’s comics are least effective when she dives into genre or pop culture concerns; even the clever Morrill couldn’t wring something interesting out of a comic devoted to a zombie tale.  On the other hand, the comic where her zaftig character Trish gets into a fight at an art gallery show was the funniest of her stories.  In addition to a number of knowing local gags (the comic takes place in St. Louis), Morrill used a Will-Elder style visual-joke stacking technique.  The characters in the foreground and elements of the background both contributed to the humor of the strip, along with textual labels and other “eye-pops”.

What really carried the strip was Morrill’s character design, especially of Trish.  Every detail, down to her hippie-ish dress, jewelry, hairstyle and tremendous self-confidence, immediately evoked a character who lived and breathed.  As a bonus, Morrill has an intuitive sense of how characters should interact in the space of a panel, as well as great skill in depicting gesture and body language.  Those skills seemed to really pop when she was drawing Trish in particular.

Morrill clearly has a lot of talent, but these minis revealed a lack of focus.  In its present state, the ancillary material is actually the funniest aspect of the comic, though all of it’s at least pleasant to look at.  It’s clear that she’s worked hard at cleaning up her line and storytelling, and the sharpness of the newer material bears this out.  Morrill seems to be trying to figure out exactly what kind of storyteller she wants to become.  Her comics remind me a little of Terry Laban’s late, lamented TALES OF UNSUPERVISED EXISTENCE in the easy way she depicts slice-of-life episodes.  Morrill seems more adept at dialogue and character interaction than she is at delivering jokes, especially when she’s writing using her SUBCULTURE CLASH characters.  If she toned down the shtick a bit and developed her characters past the point of their surface qualities, she could have a compelling series.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags:

2 Responses to “The Minicomics of Maggie Morrill”

  1. Magzdilla says:

    thank you for taking the time to review my zines! I appreciate your honest critique.

    Although, be aware that the character of Trish would not take too kindly to the description of being Zaftig. :)

  2. Rob Clough says:

    Maggie,

    Thank you so much for sending them to me. Regarding Trish, I consider “zaftig” to be a high compliment!