Minicomics May Be Small, But They Pack Big Thrills
Shouldn't minicomics be obsolete by now? Printed by their creators in tiny batches and sold for a few bucks at "alternative" comic shops and conventions, they're as cumbersome to produce as they are to obtain. It would be much more sensible for the artists to just put up their work online — right?
Fortunately, these artists aren't interested in being sensible. They're in love with the unique tangibility of print on paper, the sight and feel of pages under their fingers. It's a powerful yen, as evidenced by the recent resurgence of printed books in the larger publishing world. There are enough artists who share it to make minicomics a thriving and diverse genre. Some of these creations really are "mini" — they may be 4"x6" or smaller, or contain only eight pages. Even if they're magazine-sized, they take some work to discover. Here are three you won't want to overlook.
Bonnie N. Collide, Nine to Five by Monica Gallagher
There's something both earthy and retro about Monica Gallagher's style — which is perfectly in keeping with the nature of her brazenly femme heroine, Bonnie N. Collide. Bonnie is a roller derby skater with a dull day job, a tumultuous love life and a motley circle of friends (the latter includes a gay werewolf). When a sideswipe in the ring leaves her with a black eye, it doesn't make her cancel her hot date; instead, she paints a huge starburst over the left side of her face. "You look amazing! Do you want to have a Jem marathon?" the date asks. "Would I?!" she replies, thrilled. (Not to worry — familiarity with Jem and the Holograms is not necessary to appreciate this comic.) Gallagher's shaggy hatching and close-enough approach to drawing anatomy give these four-panel strips intense vitality.
You Don't Get There from Here by Carrie McNinch
You don't get much more authentic than You Don't Get There from Here. Carrie McNinch has been documenting her life in comics since the late '80s. In recent years she's been drawing her struggles with depression and life's day-to-day challenges in palm-sized booklets and online. McNinch's flat, unassuming drawing style is perfect for expressing her innate optimism — her lines all seem to smile. Her three-panel strips often concern utterly prosaic matters, yet manage to be funny and uplifting. "I took Munx for a walk around the neighborhood loop and saw the drummer for Guns 'N' Roses cooking dinner," she writes in one panel. In another strip, she recalls, "When I drove home a song I had forgotten about played on the radio and suddenly the moment turned unexpectedly perfect." The song is "Doot-Doot" by Freur, an '80s act that gave birth to Underworld; even McNinch's moment of kismet is offbeat and dense with context. Also check out her comic Excerpts From Seven Non-fiction Books I Read.
by Alex Nall
Newcomer Alex Nall has produced various comics, among them Chad Chuckle: 9th Grade English Teacher and Morbid Dork issues 1-2. Aloof,though, is notable for being a perfect example of the minicomic form; its chaotic lines and distinctive tone — ironical, biographical, juvenile — are paradigmatic. "Good morning," a man's partner tells him, proffering coffee. "It only goes downhill from here." "Why do you sweat so much?" a young student asks her teacher. "Why do you care?" he replies. Nall's drawings are vigorous scribbles, and he takes no prisoners when it comes to inflicting his missteps on the reader. But the energy behind his pen is palpable. Aloofnumbers 1 and 2, alas, are sold out on Nall's online store. You'll have to look for them in your local comic shop.
Thanks to Shaenon Garrity, Andrew Farago of the Cartoon Art Museum () and Liz at Quimby's Bookstore in Chicago for suggesting titles for this story.
has written about books for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and Salon.com.She tweets at @EtelkaL.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.