Two Minis From Gabrielle Nowicki

Posted by on November 13th, 2010 at 5:03 AM

Rob reviews two minis from first-time cartoonist Gabrielle Nowicki, Worng and The Curse Of The Parsimonious Great Aunt.

Gabrielle Nowicki is a fine artist who has just begun experimenting with cartooning.  Her first two efforts, The Curse Of The Parsimonious Great Aunt and Worng, are so different that they scarcely seem to be from the same artist.  The former mini is done in the style of Edward Gorey or perhaps Charles Addams, as two wicked little children murder their awful great aunt in an effort to get more candy for Halloween.   This comic has a lot of problems, mostly in terms of design and narration.  Nowicki’s renderings are excellent; they’re evocative of Gorey without aping him too directly.  The children in particular are fun to look at.

The narrative font is awkward both because of its placement (beneath the panels) and the way it clashes with the dialogue.  Essentially, the narrative over-explains the action described both by text and dialogue and feels tacked-on.  The ugliness of the font also clashes with the hand lettering.  The other problem with the comic is that its use of color is garish while adding little to the overall impact of the page.  Indeed, the color detracts from Nowicki’s linework and design.  This is unfortunate because there are some amusing ideas to be found in this comic, especially in just how awful everyone involved happens to be.

If that particular experiment was a misfire, then Worng is a delightful success.  This is very much comics-as-poetry in the vein of John Hankiewicz or (especially) Warren Craghead, mixed in with the random elements of Dada.  Nowicki took six snippets of text from six different sources, mixed up the words, and then used an interesting double-page spread technique to create an elliptical narrative.  On the left hand side of the spread, Nowicki deconstructs a narrative caption in a manner similar to the way Craghead uses words as visual objects as well as signifiers of textual meaning.  By connecting each word with an arrow and forcing the reader to follow the words across the page, Nowicki emphasizes the complexity or simplicity of each thought.

On the right side of the page, Nowicki presents an image that the text evokes, supplementing it with occasional dialogue.  The images here are frequently intensely-rendered and mysterious (much like a Hankiewicz comic).  The random bits of text cohere to tell a tale of war-scarred land, grief, ominous rainclouds and the fact that children find a way to play anyway.  Nowicki really hit on something with this comic, as she discovered a technique that seems to suit her well.  It’s not quite stream-of-consciousness or random–there’s intentionality in the texts she chooses as well as what she chooses to do with the words she randomly selects–but it’s an interesting way of jump-starting one’s imagination by limiting one’s choice of tools at hand.  It will be interesting to see how Nowicki further decides to experiment with comics, especially if she decides to tell longer narratives.  She certainly seems to have a talent for playing around with the form, and I hope she follows those instincts rather than feel compelled to draw more conventional comics.

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