Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

From the Small Press (Really Small)

Posted by Don MacPherson on August 5th, 2009

Silber Media mini-comics
Writer: Brian John Michell
Artists: Andrew White, Brian John Michell, Kimberlee Traub & Melissa Spence Gardner
Publisher: Silber Media
Price: $1 US each ($2 international)

I get a few comics in the mail for review purposes, but I found something in my mail a couple of weeks ago that was unlike the typical review package. It was a standard business-sized envelope, not the usual big envelope I often find. Inside I found a folded 8.5×11 information sheet and five tiny packets. Five little plastic sleeves (the kind I imagine is normally used to distribute personal amounts of cocaine) each contained a single a mini-comic — much more mini than the typical mini-comic. We’re talking about comics no bigger than large postage stamps. Writer Brian John Michell offers a diverse array of material — a western, a surreal story of murder of conspiracy, a Dexter-esque crime comic and an autobiographical, journal-like title — that make for surprisingly engaging reads. It’s surprising in part because the artwork for all of these projects is amateurish in tone, but Michell’s scripts are solid. Thumbing through these tiny comics with my meaty mitts was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it was an inconvenience that was ultimately worthwhile.

Just a Man #1: In terms of plotting, this was the strongest of these mini-comics. Mind you, that doesn’t mean will find an original story in these pages. It’s a Western about a simple farmer who seeks revenge on a greedy landowner after he finds his family killed and his home torched. We’ve seen this sort of fare in the genre before. What’s interesting about the story is how it’s constructed. This format only lends itself to a single panel per page, so the reader essentially gets a series of little splash pages. The limited space doesn’t allow for much dialogue or narrative text, but the story is never hindered by those limitations. Michell clearly understands his format and uses it well. Andrew White’s art is strong at first, but as the comic progresses, it gets rougher and more amateurish in nature. Still, it’s the most solid of the Silber mini-comics, both in terms of writing and visuals.

Lost Kisses #s 9-10: This is Michell’s personal journal of sorts, which he illustrates himself by means of stick figures. The art complements the thoughts he expresses in his script, but it’s so simple and crude in tone that it really doesn’t stay with the reader. Michell is surprisingly honest with Lost Kisses (assuming the main character/narrator is meant to be a reflection of him and not a character). He confesses to rudeness, self-involvement and anti-social behavior. But the narrator, as negative as he can be to others, is also true to himself. He’s uninterested in the facades of civility, and he appreciates that he’s as flawed as everyone around him, perhaps even moreso.

Worms #4: I really don’t know exactly what’s going on here as this is just a snippet of a larger story. it’ about a woman apparently in the throes of madness. She awakes in a hospital and manages to escape, perceiving energy around her that empowers her and parasites in the medicine that she’s meant to take. Adding to the confusion is the thoroughly surreal art provided by Kimberlee Traub. Michell’s script manages to give the reader some clues as to what he or she sees in the artwork. While the surreal tone of the visuals poses an obstacle, its fluid, weird quality also suits the main character’s apparent insanity.

XO artXO #5: The overall look of Melissa Spence Gardner’s art looks like Archie meets Henry. Again, it’s amateur in tone, but it’s effective in that it mirrors the slightly innocent tone of the sociopath main character. Michell’s protagonist is a dichotomy. He sounds like a regular teen, but there’s a corrupt side to his character. He sees violence of a casual, necessary thing, but the target of that violence is painted in a distasteful light as well (even though he’s in the right). The oddly titled XO is curiously twisted, and I think I might be more intrigued by what the writer has to offer in this title if I’d read more than this single chapter.

Overall, these Silber mini-comics spotlight the versatility of the medium, the affordability of self-publishing and the passion of amateur creators whose independence allows them to play around with more experimental ideas and methods. These mini-comics lack polish, but they’re diverting all the same. Still, it’s odd that the quality that makes them truly unique — their tiny size — ends up making them seem disposable as well. 6/10

For more information about Silber Media and its mini-comics, check out its website.

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