June 30, 2011

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Three Mini-Comics from Gray Gunter and Company

A Brief History of the Grand Canyon
Written by Gray Gunter and Chris Hammer
Illustrated by Ryan Estrada
Self-Published

Other People You May Know
Written by Gray Gunter
Illustrated by Gray Gunter, Thor Fjalarsson, and Zach Basset
Self-Published

Sad Little Stories: My ABCs
Written by Gray Gunter
Illustrated by John Campbell, Kurt Wood, Ryan Estrada, and Nick Edwards
Self-Published

It's time to start reviewing the things I picked up at Heroes this year, and what better to lead off with than this set of stories from Gray Gunter and people he knows. Gunter is exactly the type of person I was seeking out at Heroes--a creator whose stuff might not make it up to the East Coast.

A Brief History of the Grand Canyon was described by Gunter as "the worst Wikipedia entry ever" and that's a pretty accurate description. It's also incredibly funny, featuring two rich magnates who are imaginary but aren't all that far from the 19th century barons we all know and loathe. They come together to make the Grand Canyon in a fit of drunken hilarity, complete with a cameo from a golem and Teddy Roosevelt. The jokes are well timed and drawn quite well by Estrada. I'd love to see more tall tales in this vein from Gunter. There's many an American landmark waiting to be skewered like this. It's by far the best of the bunch.

Other People You May Know is a set of five short stories, three of which are illustrated by Gunter and two have guest-artists. Gunter's written and drawn contributions are mostly gag strips which are not as clever as the idea of Grand Canyon. His third story is more serious, but overall, I think he works better with an artistic collaborator. The final story, Storyteller, is the best of the bunch here. A young man comes home only to find his father making him to be more than he is. Their struggle over the idea of success is quite well done, and I like the panel presentations of Bassett. Overall, however, this was the weakest of the three.

The last of this trio is Sad Little Stories: My ABCs, which feature small vignettes about things Gunter either did or overheard while in Atlanta, Boston, and Columbia. They're mostly illustrated notebook items, without a lot of expansion. It's part diary strip, part fictional story, and it's a bit strange because Gunter himself is not doing the art, as is usual with this sort of idea. The Atlanta bits with John Campbell are the best, as his just-above-stick-figure art somehow makes the ridiculous ideas seem perfectly normal. I also enjoyed the closing story, a tale of embarrassment on a car pooling trip to a wedding. I can totally see that happening to me, even if I rarely wear open-toed shoes these days.

Gunter is definitely a talented storyteller and I would pick up more of his work if I found it at a show sometime. I'd like to see him concentrate on making the stories longer, as I think the shorter efforts were the weakest ones in the two anthologies. If you are a fan of parodies, definitely grab A Brief History of the Grand Canyon, and if there's a few extra dollars in your wallet, see what else Gunter has to offer. This is definitely a mini-comics creator to watch, because I could easily see more stories like his collaboration with Estrada and Hammer turned into a cool indie comic book. Time will tell, and I know I'll be watching.