Sunday, December 30, 2012

Panel Patter's Favorite Mini-Comics of 2012


It's that time of year again!  Time for those of us with blogs to talk about what we liked from 2012.  I know most of these use "Best of" in their terminology, and I even did in 2011, but I just hate the use of the word "best."  It implies you have reviewed all of the candidates.  This year, I am going back to favorites.

Today we look at mini-comics, a category that I've read from pretty consistently for the past few years, but usually at least a year behind.  In 2012, I made an effort to read mini-comics as they were coming out, and the result is a list that I think is a better representation of the wonderful and talented creators working on the East Coast in the field of mini-comics.  A special shout-out to Retrofit comics for really working to bring quality creators to my attention.

You'll note I said "East Coast."  Like zines, mini-comics are regionalized by nature.  I know that this is the age of the internet and theoretically, you can get mini-comics from anywhere, even outside the US.  (This is true, since I belong to an Australian Mini-Comic of the Month club.)  However, I think that in the world of mini-comics, we tend to gravitate towards those we see, and I live in Maryland, so the folks I see the most are those who make the shows on the East Coast.  My selections here are based on what *I* have encountered and read over 2012.  I'm sure there are some really great minis I didn't meet this year.

Without further ado, here we go:

10:  Kaijuphabet by Joey Weiser

There were quite a few alphabet-themed books in 2012, thanks to the group art blog projects, started by Ben Towle and others.  Joey's book stands in for the rest of them here, and gets the nod because his theme was Toho and other Japanese movie monsters.  I've been a fan of those characters since before I could read, and so anyone drawing them is going to grab my attention.  Joey finds some really obscure ones, too, and doesn't cheat to get to all letters of the alphabet.  Drawn in his signature style, this is a great way to start off my list.

9:  Monday Saddies (Steve Seck)
Steve moves some of his non-Life is Good characters into their own feature, starting with an oversized mini that features a sadistic take on Yogi Bear and the Ranger.  Seck is merciless in his skewering and makes everyone in the comic about as horrible a creature as possible, while still keeping the jokes fresh.  His characters are angular and jarring, which works well with the material.  Where Life is Good is about trying to deal with imperfect people, Monday Saddies is pointing and laughing at people who make you feel better about yourself.

8:  Relics (Whit Taylor)
Whit Taylor is one of my new favorites, and I need to write more about her in 2013.  Her mini-comics remind me a lot of Katie Omberg in terms of style and personal reflection (though what they are reflecting on is different).  I selected Relics because I also love wandering museums and have done so in just about all of my relationships and a good number of my friendships over the years.  This combination of commentary on the museum and commentary on her own life makes for a great mini-comic.

7:  Gay Kid 4 (Katie Omberg)

Speaking of Katie, her most recent entry in the Gay Kid series finds her moving into ever-increasingly uncomfortable personal territory.  This time, the story is about an early expression of her sexuality that not only was rejected, but let to the loss of a friend as well.  I don't think you have to have Katie's exact struggles to appreciate these comics, but if you are all involved in LGBT matters, this series really hits home. I hope we see more in 2013, if Katie is willing to share.

6:  Magic Bullet Anthology (DC Conspiracy)

Moving into its third year now, the Magic Bullet anthology just keeps getting better.  Whether it's regulars like Rafer Roberts (and Nightmare the Rat) and the Curls Studio team (Roxy and Dean) or new faces, the overall quality of this free anthology is higher than many I've paid for.  The last issue, which featured an end of the world theme, may have been the best yet.

5:  Gold Star (John Martz)
A combination of New Yorker-style cartoons and short scenes tell the story of a newly minted award winner who has trouble dealing with the success presented to him.  It's a great slow-burn comic, as the two narratives wind together to explain just why our protagonist is off his game.  I think it's also just a bit of a commentary on the nature of awards as well, hidden within.  The art is very simplistic but it works perfectly and was a surprise favorite for me.  This is the first of three Retrofit comics on my list.

4:  Super Lobotomy (Sara Lindo)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away (Pittsburgh), I read a mini-comic called Lobotomy and instantly fell in love with the imaginative style of Sara Lindo.  Now her first(?) characters are back in a new, wordless adventure where our more imaginative brain wants to be a superhero in the worst way--and succeeds at being the worst superhero.  Plenty of nifty silent-movie like tricks are employed by Sara and the story, like its predecessor, has an uplifting message at the end.

3:  1999 (Noah Van Sciver)

Van Sciver did more than just The Hypo this year, including this Retrofit installment that takes place near the supposed end of the world.  A rather unpleasant loser who lives with his mom and words at a knock-off Subway gets into an affair with a miserably married woman, making both of their lives worse in the process.  Drawn in Van Sciver's scratchy style that gives the whole thing the perfect mood, this is a clinic on how to do a case study of miserable people.

2:  Hotel Le Jolie (Jared Cullum)

I'd like to thank Rob Ullman for this one, as he was tabling with Jared, which called my attention to his stuff.  This story is about making choices, something that I frequently find on my mind, as a young adult with a promising career has an unlikely run-in with a woman he knew in school.  Circumstances have always kept the two apart, and now he must make a fateful choice about whether to choose his current life or the one he might have had.  Cullum's linework is amazing, as he uses a lot of long strokes to create shadow for the sequence of events and his people have a look of realism with only the most basic of lines.  It's great stuff, and highly recommended.

1:  Flocks (L. Nichols)

Looking inwardly is something that mini-comics can do better than any other form of comic, I think.  I've been a big fan of autobiographical comics since finding the now-ending American Elf by James Kochalka, and even fictional stories about personal conflict definitely attract me to them.  Flocks is especially close to me and gets my number one slot without a doubt, by being a chronicle of trying to deal with being a lesbian in  a personal world where such an idea is shunned and considered sinful.  Nichols opens her heart on the page, using an avatar of a primitive doll that walks through her life, trying to find some way to change what she knows to be true--and that she believes (at this point in the story) will drive her straight to hell.  Incredibly crafted, with finely drawn portrayals of the other characters (thus showing how different she is) and using the medium of comics to great effect with visuals, this Retrofit-published work is my favorite mini-comic of 2012.

Honorable Mention:  Big Deal Comics (Patrick Dean), Dr. W C (Andrew Cohen), Go for the Eyes (Monica Gallagher), The Mark (Box Brown), and Mermin Theatre (Joey Weiser).

That's my final list!  Hope you have enjoyed, and keep reading great comics!

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