The most distinctive packaging of a minicomic at the Small Press Expo came from The Heather and Ben Show. They do an internet puppet cartoon show, and to promote themselves, they had little Chinese takeout boxes full of postage stamp-sized mini-minis. Most of these were nothing more than a title, two panels, and a final web address, but it was fun opening the box and peering inside at each one. There are samples at that site.
The next one, I’m just going to quote their website: “Broken Chain is a wordless short story comic about a guy and a girl who live in the same apartment building and the games they play as they court each other.” You can download a 40-page preview at the site as a PDF or CBR or read it online. I find that wordless comics can sometimes be a bit puzzling, as it takes more effort to figure out the artist’s intent at times, but it’s a great way for creators to challenge themselves.
Several webcomic creators were there, passing out postcards and selling compilations of their strips. I find that I’m very adverse to buying something that can be found on the web for free. Perhaps I just haven’t seen a strip I’ve loved enough to want to reread it. Questionable Content comes closest, and artist Jeph Jacques was at the show, but after I said “I like your work”, I didn’t know what else to do, because I didn’t want to buy a t-shirt. Is the nature of fan/creator interaction inherently different with webcomics than with print?
I also picked up an amusing postcard for Wondermark.com, a webcomic that uses old-fashioned (like circa the 1900s) style clip art to make funnies. I liked enough of what I sampled, due to the contrast between the art and the modern tone of the text, that I added it to my RSS feed to keep up with new strips.
You know, it is a heck of a lot easier to recommend something that lives online. I don’t have to worry if I’m describing it fully enough; instead, I just point readers to the site, say what I thought, and they can check it out for themselves. Then again, that might make critics obsolete. Although I think there will always be room for selected lists, because people are too busy to look at everything out there. Someone’s got to provide a filter.
SquareCatComics puts a slight twist on the daily journal comic; Jennifer draws herself as a cat (well, mostly a rectangle with ears, thus the name) and her boyfriend as a bird (cylinder with beak). Cute, in small doses, but not very memorable.
While I was doing my final, in-depth pass of the room, I was trying to look at every table. While I was examining yet another minicomic, the artist was apparently checking out my press pass. I look up, and he says “didn’t you used to be in Legion fandom?” I said, yeah, I was. He thought he remembered my name, and we discussed the current series briefly (he hadn’t tried it, I thought it was ok but didn’t have the emotional punch for me anymore). Then he handed me one of his minis, titled “Legion of Super-Heroes Sketchbook”. He explained that he wanted to draw the characters but he didn’t draw in anything like a traditional superhero style, and this was the result.
It was really odd in a neat way. David King‘s art reminds me of 50s advertising, especially when it comes to cute mascots. The faces alternately look like Bob Hope (who also appears in one pinup) and Richard Nixon with Orphan Annie’s dot eyes and for the women, the zaftig figures of an old men’s cartoon. Most of the pages are simple character illustrations, but there are two four-page comic sections, with silly gags more suited to Boys’ Life than LSH. His preview page links for this comic are broken, which is a shame, because there’s no substitute for seeing it for yourself.
I’ll close with a wonderfully demented idea. “Willy Wonka Candyman” looks at the Chocolate Factory head through a Scarface filter, inspired by the original drawings of Oompa Loompas as African Pygmies. It’s “what if Wonka was a slave trader”.
The sketchy art bears witness to its origins as a 24-hour-comic attempt, but it hangs together surprisingly well. Everything familiar from the children’s story is cast in new light, even a drug-addled freak-out and child abuse. Silly and mean, but quite amusing to the jaded. You can read it here.