2007 Isotope Award Contenders

Isotope Award

Last month, the winner of the Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics was announced as Max Riffner’s Quick Step. One of my readers asked me to talk about what other books I would have nominated. So here they are… the best of the batch, as I saw them, in no particular order.

The Executioner Is a Lonely Man

Written by Sam Costello, art by Brian A. LaFramboise

This caught my eye not only because of its skill but because of its unusual subject matter: the relationship between two men on death row. It’s horror, but unlike the too commonly seen visceral, blood-soaked zombie comics currently popular, it’s all psychological. The expression-centered, heavy on faces, grey-toned art carries the thoughtful dialogue, creating a moody whole suitable for immediate re-reading.

Sequential Life

by Mathew Digges

Sequential Life panel

The small press collection of daily life strips is an overused concept, but Digges makes it work here. Perhaps it’s because his comics started as letters to his girlfriend, giving them more content than some. Perhaps it’s his oddly simplified figures, with their creepy blank eyes. Or maybe it’s just that I related to many of his concerns and fears.

His second strip, dealing with the creative process, hit a particular note, about trying to not think too much, and working out of desperation. I also appreciated his Valentine’s Day strip, where he and his sweetie appreciate each other for the small things. And his “lazy bones” strip wonderfully captures the feeling of a day off. There are cats included, which is a cliché for journal comics, but he captures their fluidity of movement well. Read strips online.

I walk with my wife in the evening

by Christopher Davis

This is the kind of odd way of looking at life that I read comics for, showing me another way of thinking about things, accompanied by lovely thin-line illustrations. Below its surface are meditations on class distinctions, the importance of money, the possibility of disaster, and the fear that permeates today’s daily life. It’s a disturbing indictment of how psychologically tortured we are, that we no longer have mental room for simple pleasures. View Davis’ art or read Shawn Hoke’s review.

Oil Can Drive

by Sean Tiffany

This last one doesn’t belong here, really. It’s a slipcovered full-color comic with CD marked 15 out of 20. Instead of a minicomic, it more resembles a limited-edition special collector’s item.

I remember reading Tiffany’s Exit 6, oh, 10-12 years ago now. I liked it, but as happens to so many small press efforts, it never concluded. The artist has great style and creative ideas, but it’s tough to sign on to the introductory chapter of a large adventure by anyone without knowing there’s major support (read: money) and commitment to conclude behind it.

Ok, enough digression. The story is about a rock band in a post-apocalyptic America. The CD is a natural tie-in, containing their music. It’s a familiar concept, taking the idea of punk rebellion one step further. Oni Press has a similar-sounding book coming out in July, Apocalipstix. With a gorilla and a young boy in the band, it also reminded me of Grease Monkey.

It’s an eye-catching package, but with so much to set up — new world, ongoing premise, set of characters — the comic itself is mostly introduction. The impression I came away with was that of surface flash over substance, which is probably unfair of me. Still, very nice limited edition. Sean has talked about his Isotope experience, which was a fascinating glimpse into the “other side” of the event.


  • “The best of the batch…”

    I’m blushing, Johanna. Thank you.

  • Christopher Davis

    Wow. Thanks for the very unexpected (and very kind) review of my comic.

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