The Minicomics of Nomi Kane

Posted by on December 1st, 2010 at 5:41 AM

Rob reviews a batch of minicomics from CCS cartoonist Nomi Kane.

Nomi Kane is a young cartoonist with an appealing line and a whimsical sense of design.  Each of the four minis reviewed here is attractive and eye-catching in its own way.  Chutzpah! is bound with a blue ribbon that matches the midnight-blue color scheme of its cover.  SXSW 2010 is bound with a course bit of yarn and printed on paper with rounded edges that have punched-out designs.  Admit One is bound with a paper ribbon designed to look like a bit of celluloid.  Babushka has all sorts of sparkly geegaws glued to its cover.  As a draftsman, what Kane does best at this point is character design, especially her expressive and naturalistic faces.  To a certain degree, she tends to feature herself as a character in all of her stories, be they fictional or autobiographical.

Chutzpah! is Kane’s version of a superhero story, about a zaftig young Jewish woman named Rachel who gains the magical power to give others self-confidence and nerve, or “chutzpah”.  This comic is an odd melange of genres, as we see slice-of-life, coming-of-age and ethnic traditions mixing with superhero suspense.  Rachel, dressed in an outfit complete with cape and star-of-David belt buckle design, wanders around providing chutzpah for those who need it.  Kane adds in a bit of suspense by giving Rachel a stalker (or arch-enemy), leaving the comic on a cliff-hanger.  This is Kane’s most impressive comic in the set, going from emotional note to emotional note with ease and providing a fantasy structure that’s remarkably easy to swallow.

SXSW 2010 is a brief autobio comic detailing the highlights of her trip to SXSW, the music festival in Austin, that she attended with her parents.  Kane has a way of integrating observations about her experiences with small but important family moments in a manner that evokes warmth and intimacy, all while making gentle wisecracks.  Admit One takes that a step further, as Kane & collaborator Jen Vaughn adapt a section of the Cartoon College documentary (about the Center for Cartoon Studies), with each artist taking a single page and four panels.  Kane’s portion is about how Vaughn inspires her and how her presence makes her far more productive.  Vaughn’s portion, on the other hand, talks about how much she loves Kane but laments her presence as a distraction…before realizing that someone was recording her thoughts.  It’s a clever and unexpected punchline for a comic that seemed like straightforward autobio.

Babushka shows off Kane’s skills in doing silent comics.  This is a little vignette about a babushka (the Russian nesting doll) who spies a musical donkey souvenir across the way.  She manages to work her way down to him, wind him up and enjoy a dance.  This comic is a disposable trifle, but it’s charming and well-drawn.  Like many cartoonists at CCS, Kane is trying to figure out what kind of artist she wants to be.  Her stories are all about space and ease–they’re in no hurry to get anywhere in particular, instead inviting the reader to relax and luxuriate in small details and friendly environments.  What she needs to work on most is the way bodies relate to each other in space and tightening up the way she renders hands.  Hands are an important part of her storytelling, and adding just a bit more detail and focus to them would make them snap off the page.

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