Tag Archive for minicomics

Review: Teen Boat!

teenboatTeen Boat! (2012, Clarion Books) is about a teenage boy who turns into a boat named Teen Boat (in case, you know, the title didn’t immediately tip you off to that), Originally a series of (Ignatz Award-winning) minicomics, creators Dave Roman and John Green pull in amazing amount pop culture influences (Turbo Teen is an obvious reference point, as are teen dramas like Dawson’s Creek) into something that’s still fun and original. Trust me when I tell you that Teen Boat! is really one of the best things ever.

Teen Boat is mostly a typical teenager — he has a platonic best friend, Joey, and is in love with the exchange student Niña Pinta Santa Maria. He tries to impress the cool kids and he gets into trouble. He runs for class president and gets a part-time job. And yes, quite often he turns into a boat.

Roman and Green clearly had a so much fun making this — there’s a giddiness to the writing and the goal seemed mostly to make each other laugh first. They throw in pirates just because, why not? The characters travel to Italy mostly so Teen Boat can fall in love with a gondola (and the silent montage sequence of the date between Teen Boat — in his boat form — and the gondola is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen). There are explosions and mysteries and monster trucks. The writing is quick and clever and Green’s art has an animator’s eye for character design and expression. The rich primary colors do give a new dimension to the art that wasn’t present in the minis.

Despite all the references that are packed in here, Roman and Green just use those as a starting point. They provide a bit of a backdrop and texture, but the book doesn’t rely on them for its humor. If you’re too young to be familiar with them (or just don’t catch them), the book is still a delight.

I have one tiny complaint, though, but I want to emphasize it’s tiny. I don’t think the new material has quite the same energy as the material that appeared in the minicomics. I think this is probably only something you’d noticed if you’ve read the minis and that’s not to say I was at all disappointed. It’s all such great fun I just almost felt like I needed to complain about something.

Buy this book! Read it! Laugh! Tell your friends! I absolutely love that things like Teen Boat! exist in this world.

And just to link to it again, here’s Abby Denson‘s Teen Boat! song:

Small Press Expo 2011 reviews: The Men!

Like I said, I’m going to give equal time to the men whose comics I purchased at SPX!

(I do think there are more comics — including the ones my boyfriend will let me borrow — that will be forthcoming, but this will likely be the last SPX-related post.)

Ghost RabbitDakota McFadzean
It’s a bad idea to read this comic when you’re both physically and emotionally exhausted. Don’t get me wrong — Dakota McFadzean’s meditation on life and death told through a cartoon rabbit and a little girl is both beautiful and heartfelt, but it will sneak up on you. And if you’re like me, you’ll finish the comic and burst into tears. McFadzean’s art has an intimacy and expansiveness — he makes the moments of this comic feel personal and insignificant and that lends a poignancy to the quiet story he’s telling here. More than anything else I picked up at SPX, I was surprised and effected by this comic. I’m happy to read what else McFadzean does, but I think he’s already figured it out. (Even if he did make me cry.)

Space Office #2John Green
Why would you dislike this? This is your life. Fine, you’re not in an office in space, but this is still your life.

John Green’s take on office life is both preposterous and utterly accurate. Yes, you don’t work with robots, but maybe you might as well. His drawings have a playful, animated quality that’s easy to relate to. Our hapless hero Xander just wants to do his job but has to deal with offended aliens and surly staple bots. This comic will make your job seem not so bad after all. Or at least it will make you laugh.

Luke Holds Off – A Love & Sex StoryJeremy Nguyen
Jeremy Nguyen’s sensitive tale of a high schooler deciding to wait to have sex with his girlfriend may seem to fall into the typical introspective “real-life” comics at first glance, but there’s definitely something meaningful and evocative about it. Nguyen’s art is bold, simple and lovely. His characters look and behave like real people and he does a masterful job of communicating the intimate conflicts of living. I admire his ambition with this comic more than I like it, though — I know where he was trying to go comparing Luke’s desire to hold of sleeping with his girlfriend with his father’s infidelity, but I don’t know if it quite works. Overall, though, it’s a thoughtful story about a moment of growing up and I can’t find much fault with it. Nguyen has a winning style and a distinctive voice. Even if this comic isn’t exactly what I wanted, I know others will be.

Pope Hats #2Ethan Rilly
I have not read Pope Hats #1, but I didn’t feel lost reading this. Franny is likeable and easy to relate to — a young woman who doesn’t know if she really wants to be on the career path she’s on — and Ethan Rilly renders her with sensitivity and grace. I loved following her and I absolutely wanted to know more about her. The other stories feel a little less effective, though. While Rilly’s art shines clearly, the extended monologue of “Gould Speaks” come across a little rambling and while I liked seeing Franny as a child, it’s a story that feels a little added in.

But really, as soon as Pope Hats is complete and collected, I am going to be lining up to buy it. My complaints are little ones.

Small Press Expo 2011 reviews: The Ladies!

Don’t you worry — I will get to comics by men I bought at SPX. I just needed a way of breaking them up. Sometimes I sort mini-comics into alphabetical order, or color, or size and then just divide them in half that way. The divisions are usually fairly arbitrary and just whatever entertains me.

This time, though, I do want to highlight some of the awesome women who exhibited their comics at SPX. I always seek comics by women and I don’t think Small Press Expo made much of a secret of how much we support women making comics. I think it was determined that 40 percent of our exhibitors were female — we have a list! While I totally understand that a good number of female creators just want to be seen as creators (and that’s something I absolutely get), I also don’t want their contributions to get lost or overlooked.

Vezere Valley Venture!Megan Baehr

This travelogue chronicles Megan Baehr’s trip to France to view cave paintings as she does research for her upcoming graphic novel, The Lore Keeper. Like most travelogue comics, there’s not really a specific plot but just movement from one event to the next. Baehr’s artwork is crisp and clear and her enthusiasm for her subject matter is infectious. I’d already been interested in The Lore Keeper‘s progression, but this definitely pushed me into the realm of excitement.

Bug Boys #1-2Laura Knetzger

These are cute. While I think Laura Knetzger still has some growing to do as both and artist and a storyteller, I admire her playfully inventive stories about a pair of beetles and their world. I definitely think the concept is there and I came to enjoy her cartoony, surreal art as I saw more of it. She’s someone I’m going to be watching, definitely.

Frog & Owl: Regret Is for the WeakMolly Lawless

Molly Lawless did not have her baby during Small Press Expo (although there was a period of time on Sunday she was away from her table and I was trying to start the rumor she had gone into labor. It didn’t work). That’s too bad because I’d told her that if she did have her baby at SPX, her baby would get in free for life. (It’s just as well — I probably didn’t have the authority to offer such a thing, anyway.)

Frog & Owl collects Lawless’ webcomic of the same name. It’s ridiculous, weird, incisive and hilarious. There’s no coherent storyline that connect the comics — instead, it’s just quips and random observations. The oddity and the strange formality of Lawless’ art may not be for everyone (although I don’t know who you people would be), but this is definitely the best comic you’re not reading. You should feel lucky that it’s not too late to start.

What’s the Word?: True Tales of a Woman on the GoCathy Leamy

I will always buy comics by Cathy Leamy every time I see her. Always.

What’s the Word? is a series of vignettes all based around single words — everything from “vacay” to “multitudes.” Leamy’s spirit and sense of adventure shines through and the expressive way she draws herself and others communicates simple, every day moments beautifully. Her comics are always a good time and this was no exception.

The Bad-Ass HabitLaura Terry

I honestly think in any other year, Laura Terry’s gorgeous and inventive “Morning Song” would’ve easily won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Mini-Comic. I don’t have any issue about Box Brown’s win there — it was a strong list of nominees, after all — but Terry’s comic was one of those instances where it was like “Yes, this is why I’m reading comics.”

The Bad-Ass Habit … well, yes, this is why I’m reading comics, too. It’s a nun fighting werewolves! What’s wrong with you if you don’t like that?

Terry’s art is refined and powerful and this comic feels delightfully too short and the action speaks of a greater promise. I want to know more about this werewolf-fighting nun! Why is she fighting werewolves? I want to see her fight more werewolves! I’ve spent the past couple of days recommending this to everyone (and they’ve all said “That sounds awesome.”)

YakitoriAndrea Tsurumi

I enjoyed Andrea Tsurumi’s Terka 1 that I picked up last year (and I guess, sadly, I didn’t realize there was more of it out this year …) so I was interested to see what else she’s done. She’s a young artist with a fairly clear vision, and I like weird horror that she creates. Yakitori evokes Japanese yokai fairly obviously and menacingly, and I love her well-detailed, open pages. I’m absolutely going to keep going back for her comics.

Menstruation Station: Menarche AboardJen Vaughn

Jen Vaughn is one of those people who is incredibly good for comics. I am absolutely serious. You need to pay attention to this woman.

These stories deal with the various aspects of a woman’s period — from the metaphorical (“It feels like a circus down there!”) to the disappointingly practical. It’s probably uncomfortable subject matter for some (in other words, men) but all too easy to relate to for the rest of us (in other words, women). Vaughn’s art has a lovely precision that’s not too formal and retains a sense of fun. She moves between reality and weirder realms with an understated ease.

Philadelphia Alternative Comic Con & minicomic reviews


I thought Philadelphia Alternative Comic Con was pretty great even if it was pretty silly that I went.

This is not something I’m blaming on PACC itself at all. While Philadelphia is only (supposedly) three hours away, we went without much preparation and most things seemed to be against us (car worries, weather, traffic). It took us much longer to get there than we thought it was going to and we didn’t really plan too much about what else to do while we were there. (And most of the people I was there to see? Yeah, I’ll be seeing them again next week at Baltimore Comic Con. So yes, silly.)

But I’m glad I went. PACC is a wonderfully run small show and I was impressed with the level and diversity of talent that was packed into such a small space. Part of me would love to see it grow — obviously, there is a good deal of interest in comics in the Philadelphia area — but the other part of me wants it to stay exactly as it is. We need small press shows like this — where almost anyone with access to a photocopier and a stapler is welcome. Shows like this remind me of what a vital, living medium comics is. And that’s pretty great.

Almost without meaning to, I only bought minicomics made by women. Maybe that speaks to my own personal tastes more than anything else, but I also think it says that there were plenty of awesome female creators exhibiting there. It was a small space, sure, but even within that small space, I got to pick and choose.

So comics!

The Fox and the GrapesCarey Pietsch
An adorable and liberal retelling of the Aesop fable, this is fun and playful. Yes, I love talking animals, but I love the humor that Pietsch brings to this tale. Her art is cartoony and cute, but it’s elevated by her intuitive sense of movement and progression. I loved this.

Garakuta (aka Happy Sappy Fun Time #2) – Erina Davidson
The most I could find out about Davidson is that she is/was a student at Rhode Island School of Design. And part of me is like “Of course she is.” I mean no disrespect there, though — this is fun. There is a sort of freedom to the energy of it, and it’s definitely very open. Parts of it are vulgar, but it doesn’t seem like it’s meant to be shocking. Davidson has a good sense of design — her images are bold and youthful. I think she may have some growing to do in terms of subject matter, but I’m more than happy to see where she goes next.

How to Be Lolita – Jojo
The website listed in the back of this comic (www.funkyjewels.com) just goes to an expired domain/squatter page, so I don’t have any more info on Jojo. That makes me sad since this is cute and fun. She can certainly draw the details of fashion and while I think there’s a slight mocking tone (because Lolita fashion is ridiculous), there’s also a genuine appreciation for it.

Penny-FarthingMandy Dunn
This is a neat wordless comic, mostly about a penny-farthing bicycle and a hot air balloon. But really, what it’s “about” is irrelevant — it’s about the progression of the images and the contrast of the colors (orange and blue). I always love discovering comics like this — ones that do something unexpected and a bit different.

Virtual DateJen Tong
Tong’s tale of meeting people online is beautiful, heartfelt and surreal. The tumbling progression of the layouts of her pages are amazing and the sensitivity she shows her characters is impressive in the short amount of time we get to know them. She’s already a star in my mind — and she deserves to be in yours.

Holly Holly Hobby Hobby #2Anni Altshuler and Leah Mackin
This falls into the weird area between “zine” and “comic.” It has many of the qualities of both — but mostly, it’s composed of abstract images that aren’t exactly sequential. I love the experimental nature of this, though — mini minicomics are inserted into the pages — and there’s a definite admirable artistry to it.

No Talent Hack! The Mini-ComicCyn Why
I go to shows like PACC for creators like Cyn Why. Granted, I usually don’t know when I’m going that I’m going for creators like her, but they make it worth it. She had such a delightful enthusiasm for comics that is was impossible not to be charmed — not to mention she was drawing Jean-Luc Picard in glitter pens in every comic purchased (complete with a cute come-on — at the point I bought mine, she said she had to start recycling them, but I got “You’ll be Number One in my heart”). But I’m supposed to talk about her comics, right? The first half of this is about the hazards of karaoke, and range from bad song choices with too-long guitar solos to the trouble of forgetting verses to songs. The second half is her and her husband planning how awesome they’ll be when they hit their 30th anniversary (maybe robots but no plasma cannons). Why’s art has an adorable manga-inspired quality to it that’s open and delightful. After reading this and meeting her, I absolutely want to get more of her stuff.

May minicomic review roundup, part 2

You’ve read part 1, obviously. Now, onto part 2!

Great Caution and Bets Are Off/Cakewalk: Nate Powell (and Mark Long, Jim Demonakos and Rachel Bormann)
If you want to tell stories about the suburbs in comic form, this is how you do it.

Honestly, it almost feels a little silly to try to review Nate Powell’s work because he’s that good (and that he has all kinds of big names publishing his work and he still makes minicomics is amazing and wonderful). His art is sensitive and gorgeous. In lesser hands, it would come across as self-indulgent, but Powell manages to make it thoughtful and meaningful. “Great Caution” features excerpts from his upcoming graphic novels Any Empire (Top Shelf) and The Silence of Our Friends (First Second, written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos). Both seem to speak of what’s been hidden behind closed doors and that the political easily becomes the personal. “Bets Are Off/Cakewalk” seem a little more personal — the first is based on a Pretty Girls Make Graves song and the second is a painful story told by Rachel Bormann.

I am usually pretty critical of autobiographical stories (even if they’re veiled ones) since I think most people’s lives just aren’t that interesting. But Powell and those he works with — they can tell all the autobio stories they want.

Twentieth Anniversary Box Set — A Minicomics Celebration: Pam Bliss
Pam Bliss has been making minicomics since 1989. That, in my mind, basically makes her cooler than just about anyone else. This set features the first minicomic she created — “Tales from the Interstate 1” as well as a twentieth anniversary “remix” version of it, a list of notes about the changes between the two versions, as well as three other minicomics. It is a lot of fun to see Bliss’ art become more refined over the years, moving from a looser, more sketchy style to cleaner and slightly more cartoony. I love the playful New Age vibe of her work. These are plenty of fun and I wish her 20 more years of making comics. I want to keep reading.

White Out: Leslie Anderson
As the name would imply, this is a pair of tales drawn in white on black paper (I won’t assume she used actual White-Out as her medium, but I could be wrong). The first, “The Napping Deeps” is an amusing story about Cthulhu misplacing his teddy bear (yes, you did read that right). Throughout, Anderson pulls in various mythological figures and the high-contrast art (mostly white on black, obviously) gives it an odd, moody quality that serves it well. The second story, “Grey Horses,” is a little more meditative and in some ways more about the words than the images. I did feel like Anderson was reaching for something she didn’t quite get to, but I admire her ambition and that she did something completely different from most minicomics I’ve seen. I think she’s someone to watch.

Eat the Babies — SPACE 2011 Preview: Brady Dale Russell
This is a sampler of Brady Dale Russell’s fairly young webcomic about a television with arms and legs, among other things. It has its own delightful philosophical bend — there is a lot of politics and social commentary here — but Russell’s quirky art, while maybe not the most refined, works really well in comic form. If the subject matter appeals to you, you’ll probably like the comic. For my part, the more I read of it, the more I liked it. (I did meet and hang out with Russell at SPACE this year, so if you want to take that into account, feel free.)

Miners Mutiny #1 – Prospecting: Emily Stackhouse and Nicholas Shanan
This is not a minicomic as I traditionally define it (which is, for the most part, something creators printed out and put together themselves). It has the shape and form of your usual comic. I’m throwing it into this batch, though, because I can. Miners Mutiny is a pretty traditional Western by Emily Stackhouse (art and words) and Nicholas Shanan (words, layout and lettering) that follows Bill (who has various place names appended to the front of his, depending on where he ends up), who comes to California during the Gold Rush. There is a prostitute named Rose with whom he has a history with. And, of course, danger in the mine and in the town itself. The dialogue is pitch-perfect — neither too modern nor trying too hard to be “period.” Stackhouse’s sketchy, old-fashioned art is beautifully rendered in sepia tones. My tiny complaint about this is that the typeface used in the word balloons feels a little too modern, but really, that’s just me being super-picky. I loved it. I want to think we’re all on the cusp of the rediscovery of the Western, and if Stackhouse and Shanan are going to lead the way, I’m more than happy to follow.

Miners Mutiny provided by the creators.