Tiny Comics

[Originally written as part of a comic library blog/fundraiser.]

I already wrote about big comics, but I’m in no way size-ist. Where oversize comics can zoom out or shatter time, minicomics provide a sense of intimacy and allow images to own the confines of a page. Their minimal length often forces a cartoonist to leave out any chaff or bloat, focusing on the moments most important to the limited size of the narrative.

Also, they’re really easy to make! Here’s a video, and here’s a longer explanation by cartoonist & educator Jessica Abel. If someone’s interested in starting to make comics but can’t figure out where to start, making a couple minicomics is always a great catalyst.

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Out of the Odd Box: “The Worst Day of My Life”

It’s been over a week since my last post, and I’m still poring through Alec: The Years Have Pants. I still have about a hundred pages left. (Read along if you want. You can buy all 700 pages for $9.99 at the link above.)

I also read this proto-interview with Dave Eggers the other day. It’s all about selling out and why and how people write reviews, and Eggers sort of argues that negative reviews are worthless, and reviews in general are dishonest unless written by someone who’s worked in the same medium as the work being reviewed. Here’s a quote about considering the Flaming Lips as sellouts:

“That rule is clearly stated in the obligatory engrained computer-chip sellout manual that we were all given when we hit adolescence.

But this sellout manual serves only the lazy and small. Those who bestow sellouthood upon their former heroes are driven to do so by, first and foremost, the unshakable need to reduce. The average one of us – a taker-in of various and constant media, is absolutely overwhelmed – as he or she should be – with the sheer volume of artistic output in every conceivable medium given to the world every day – it is simply too much to begin to process or comprehend – and so we are forced to try to sort, to reduce. We designate, we label, we diminish, we create hierarchies and categories.

It’s sort of a long article, but it’s worth reading, and it’s related, in a sideways way, to why I’m solely keeping track of the comics I like. Believe me, there are tons of of books out there that I dislike, but I’ve never convinced someone to dislike a book they already enjoy, and even if I honestly believed that book was worthless, it would make my heart hurt to have someone agree with me and lose the magic of enjoying a story.

On the other hand, I have turned people on to books they didn’t know about or convinced them to give something a second look, and this has always been a good feeling.

That’s all prelude. Or tangent. Since I’m still digging through Alec, I thought I’d offer a look at a shorter work from my Odd Box.

That’s the Odd Box. It’s an old fruit shipping box that I keep my minicomics and giant comics and everything in between in. Here’s “The Worst Day of My Life” (click to enlarge, sorry I photographed this instead of scanning it, etc.).

“The Worst Day” came to me through a teacher in Texas who got it from a student. I’ve blocked out the author’s name at the teacher’s request. Here are the teacher’s words:

“I don’t really remember much about the context of the lesson. It was a writing class. I think they had to write something that told the same story but in a different format (traditional narrative writing). I didn’t teach the students anything about comic conventions which is why I was so surprised by [the] comic.

He was probably 13 or 14. I don’t remember anything about him personally except that he was a really quiet kid in school. I hardly ever heard him speak and when I did it was in Spanish. He wasn’t a special education student so I didn’t get to know him as well as the kids on my caseload.

I was impressed by his decision to not show the face of the character. I might have interpreted that in terms of his shyness but I don’t remember.”

I don’t know that I have much more to add. The lack of Kevin’s face is shy and distancing, but I think it also invites the reader to put him- or herself into Kevin’s place. I think most people have had days like this. The strip does a good job of mixing generality (back of the head, bland couch) with specificity (the construction of that big TV… or maybe I’m just too old to accept that big flatscreens are the most common televisions).

I also like the balance between the narration and pictured actions. I’ve talked a little bit about cartoonists making choices about what exact moments to show and from what angle, and I think the choices in this strip really enhance the despondency. The artist could have shown Kevin’s mom yelling, or he could have shown some sense of comfort in being in his room, but no, it’s just that hallway closing in at the end.