January 5, 2014

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2 Island Brat Series Minis from Colleen Frakes

Island Brat 2
Written and Illustrated by Colleen Frakes 
Self-Published

Colleen Frakes continues her memories of living on a now-defunct prison island in this second mini that shows how very different things are when you're almost as confined as the inmates.

No teen feels like they have a lot of freedom, but for Frakes, this was incredibly true. In a very small community of prison employees, everything she did was magnified. It's small town mentality taken to the extreme, and being taken into that space, where the only contact with the outside world comes from an infrequent ferry, is frankly, a bit terrifying.

Life on the Island. Not exactly a dream locale.
Frakes takes a very academic look at the proceedings, which is admirable. It would be hard not to be resentful that no one wanted to come to your 16th birthday party because of where you live and in the end, it's interrupted by the specter of a prison escapee, but if Colleen feels that way, you'd never know it from the text that accompanies her thick, inked illustrations. Even the revelation that she was closer to the prisoner than anyone would ever want to be has a level of detachment I don't think I could manage.

As with the first mini, Colleen jumps around a bit, talking about coming to the island, the troubles involved in living there, and the main tale about her birthday party. The idea of being a different kind of friend depending on the situation really rang true for me, as I remember folks who would talk to me in one venue, like Church, who wouldn't look my way if we were at K-Mart and passed in the aisle.

It's really fascinating reading because of the unique nature of her father's job, combined with the normal things we'd read about in a teenage memoir. When you add Frakes's art to the picture, with its heavy inks that ground the work, the two combine for an autobiographical mini that's well worth grabbing.

Ghosts and Pizza (Island Brat 3)
Written and Illustrated by Colleen Frakes
Self-Published

Another mini from Frakes talking about her life on the prison island, this time focusing on two specific elements, both of which are quite close to my heart--ghosts and pizza!

The opening story, in which Frakes moves away from the small, tight panels and offers full, quarter-sized images of the places on McNeil Island, talks about all the places that could have been haunted in her teenage home, but weren't. Making everything look suitably abandoned, Frakes discusses the nature of supposed ghosts and where you might find them. She ends with a good point--if you were a ghost, would you want to stay where you were most miserable, or perhaps even died, alone?

I am a huge fan of Frakes' art, and I even own two custom watercolor commissions from her (with a plan to eventually get an entire series), making her one of the few folks I've gotten multiple pieces from. Getting to see her show larger depictions of McNeil is a real treat here, one that I hope she'll consider doing more of in the future. Seeing a wing of the prison, with cross-bars on the windows that don't quite fit perfectly, make you imagine the world Colleen lived in better than if every piece fit together perfectly. Her selections on what to feature, whether it's a deserted pier or old bowling pins, really made this part of the story work well for me.

The plan!
Pizza, the second story, is another trip down memory lane, as Frakes and her sister decide that they really want a takeout pizza, and craft an elaborate plan to get it, involving careful timing of ferry boats and delivery guarantees. Unfortunately, they're thwarted, and leave with empty stomachs in this cute story that's incredibly playful. (I do wonder if the ending was true!)

Returning to the tight panel work of Island Brat 1 and 2, Frakes take her characters through the story, with a lot of expressiveness. You can see the enthusiasm--and eventual frustration--of the girls in their eyes and body language, as Colleen concentrates on them to drive the story while giving the backgrounds just enough for the reader to have a sense of place.

Ghosts and Pizza is another fun entry in this series, and I hope we get to see more, soon.

You can purchase these comics directly from Colleen Frakes here.