SPX Spotlight: Jim Coon's Many Mini-Comics

This is part of Panel Patter's SPX Spotlight, a series of reviews of work from creators or publishers who will be attending SPX in 2011 leading up to the show on September 10th and 11th, 2011!

All comics referenced below are written and illustrated by Jim Coon and are self-published as Last Dollar Comics.

It's hard to remember my first experienced at the Small Press Expo. I really had no idea what to expect, and a lot of the first trip to Bethesda is a blur for me.

I distinctly remember Jim Coon, however, because he had a large number of small mini-comics, buttons, and other items laid out on his table. And just about all of them were exactly 100 Lincoln pennies.

Fortunately for Jim, that's not how I paid him.

I used nickels.*

However I paid isn't really important. What's important for you to know is that his comics, while admittedly short, are a lot of fun to read. Coon often uses old science fiction and fantasy tropes in his work, giving them some sort of twist, usually sarcasm, that makes them worth re-reading in brief graphical form.
Take Robert the Robot Conquers the World, in which a boy's toy ends up going on a rampage of unthinkable proportions, all with a cavalier tone that belies the incredible seriousness usual given to such a plot in the old 1950s movies.

Or perhaps you'd prefer to see what happens when King Kong is faced with a reject from a later Godzilla flick. Rather than go for the traditional melodrama, Coon opts to use it as a forum on the stupidity of the people who populate these kinds of stories. Why are they tying up giant apes--and where do they get them in the first place?

This sort of story deconstruction walks a fine line. Done improperly, the writer comes off as jaded and attempting to be hip by blowing off that stuff that might have brought him or her joy as a child. However, Coon manages to skirt that line just enough, falling more into the territory of Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than, say, Scream.

Not all of Coon's work has this much irony. Little Lost Yeti is more of a demented version of a Rankin-Bass Christmas special, complete with a guest appearance by Santa Claus. There's a heartwarming tale within the jokes, if you know where to look.

I'm not sure if Samurai Cat is still available, but it, too, showed some sense of a more serious side to Coon's work. As with any Japanese-themed tail, there was honor and duty to be carried out. I've since lost my copy of that six-part(?) series, but it was definitely a favorite from SPX past.

Perhaps the cutest thing I've read from Mr. Coon is Little Frank. Shaped differently from most of his comics, this is an old-fashioned fairy tale with a distinct moral and just a little bit of magic. What I like best about the story is that it references other legends without actually following any one of them very closely. You'll see and hear the echoes but in the end, the story takes it own unique turn.

Coon's artwork, like many who deal in the realm of parody, is made up of just enough lines to get the job done. The covers that accompany this review are pretty typical of his style in their interiors. He is able to make the stories work by providing just enough of the visual gag to drive the story. You're not going to read a Last Dollar Comic for the artwork. You're in this mostly for the fun mashups of old tropes.
Similarly, there are sometimes issues with Coon's verbiage. In some cases, the attempt to be both sincere and yet detached from the material makes for some clunky text, especially when the action is being narrated instead of written out into dialog.

I am also a bit disappointed by the change from $1 comics to $2. While I know that making comics is more expensive, it makes it that much harder to pick up a short work like Yeti when it's only a 1/8th size comic that's effectively two printed standard pages.

Despite those issues, I still like Coon's work, and will be curious to see what his newest comic, which appears to be a Sesame Street parody, is all about. If you're looking for a quick read with a solid joke or two, Coon's comics should be a must stop on your SPX tour.

If you can't make it to SPX, Coon has an Etsy store which you can find here, complete with sample pages of the comics.

*Not really. It was actually dimes.