Mr. Big

Mr. Big covers subject matter not often seen in comics — it’s like a true-life nature special. The animals aren’t cartoony or turned into little people; instead, they’re carefully observed and drawn in their natural habitat.

Mr. Big cover

Carol and Matt Dembicki present a quiet meditation on the cycle of life. Mr. Big is the large snapping turtle whose presence affects everything that lives in his pond, including ducks, frogs, bugs, and fish. After establishing this little world at day and at night, the artists focus on one fish’s attempts to get rid of the turtle. Other animals question this decision, preferring the villain they know to what may arise to take his place. A murder (group) of crows watch over it all with their own plots.

The night scenes are particularly striking, since they’re done with white pencil on black pages. The use of negative space is challenging. The drawings, especially of an owl, are masterful in outlining creatures with minimal suggestion of their edges. With encroaching civilization, these dark nights, with little ambient light, are rare, and I’m pleased to see them captured here.

The unusual subject, the pond with its inhabitants, is attractively executed. This is the kind of simple, quiet natural view that many people no longer have the opportunity to see. The perspective, demonstrating an appreciation for the way things have been and a distrust of change without clear benefit, is also unusual. The afterword, by a keeper at the National Zoo, identifies the intruder as an Asian snakehead fish and explains the biology behind the story.

The book can be ordered from the publisher’s website. It won the 2007 Howard E. Day Memorial Prize at the SPACE show in Ohio. A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.

2 Responses to “Mr. Big”

  1. A Map in the Dirt » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] their members. But it reminded me of a variety of influences — Native American folktales, nature comics, chase suspense sequences, murder mysteries (as animals are picked off one by one), mystic fables, […]

  2. *District Comics — Recommended » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] anthology, edited by Matt Dembicki (Mr. Big), is accurately subtitled “An Unconventional History of Washington, DC”. District […]




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