Comics are the greatest story-telling medium ever, combining words and art to build a narrative. But minicomics are like haiku: They set a mood, make a point, surprise the reader— communicate—in a spare, evocative way. Being small makes them seem more intimate; the fact that they are often produced by hand by the artist/writer makes them very personal. Minicomics may be twee, but they are rarely pretentious.
I have a small (obviously) collection, tiny booklets I’ve picked up here and there. One of my favorites is “Things I Saw and Did, Pt. 1” by dom the deer, who made a little pamphlet of her 2010 vacation in Paris and London, not because she had some heavy realization to impart but just because she had an impulse to share the fun. It’s very sweet.
Meanwhile, in Europe, where comix art is more generally appreciated, the folks at B.ü.L.B. in Geneva had the idea of issuing minis in box sets. They’ve been publishing sequential art since 1997, and apparently making a living at it—something that is unlikely ever to happen here in the US. I assumed their government was supporting them, because that’s the sort of thing governments do over there, but they claim to be unsubsidized, and their “manifesto” gives a shout-out to the D.I.Y. ethos of mid-80s hardcore, especially straightedge. (I’m reading a Google translation from French, though, so who knows?) In the past, I’ve picked up a couple of B.ü.L.B boxes at MoCCA and enjoyed them very much.
Each boxed set has five 1¼” x 2¾” 22-page accordions “bound” with a rubber band, each by a different artist, some well-known here (Chris Ware, Jad Fair, Ivan Brunetti), others not so much. Recently, B.ü.L.B sent me a copy of Box 2W Set Y (Charles Burns, etc.), which is how I discovered the work of the Swiss/German collaborative duo It’s Raining Elephants. Their mini, “Sunrise,” was my favorite of the set.
Thanks to the Interwebs, you can find and buy minicomics without having to hang around the fringes of some distressing comic convention. If you want to buy American mass-market comics, though—well, actually, why would you want to? I’ve found that most people have a dim idea that there’s still a spinner rack full of Richie-Rich and Superman and Caspar and Fantastic Four … somewhere … maybe at the grocery store? Isn’t that where they used to have them? If the latest news coverage of a superhero who’s “died” or come out as gay or whatever does cause you to want to go buy a comic, you pretty much have to call a special phone number to locate a comic-book retailer, and then drive to a special store in a sad little strip mall, and then deal with the pimply-faced 17-year-old loser who, no matter how many Eisner awards you have, will call you “Ma’am” as if it were an insult. Well, maybe not that last part, that might just be me, but the rest of it, absolutely. And then, when you actually find a comic book, you see: Rob Liefeld.
Bill Hanstock and Brandon Stroud have written a couple of brilliant articles reviewing the worst of Rob Liefeld’s "art," which must have been extremely difficult since it’s all so horrendous, plus they actually had to look at so much of it that it’s a wonder they haven’t both gone blind in self-defense. Here’s Part I, and here’s Part II. In Part II they say, “In the years between 1986 and 2011, not once did an editor crack open a FedEx package containing Liefeld's art, slide out the inked pages, and say, "What the shit am I looking at?" For 25 years, just "Beautiful! Send this to the letterer! Wouldn't change a thing!" So I guess what I'm saying is ... maybe Rob Liefeld isn't history's greatest monster?”
That is correct. Yes, that’s exactly what happens. Mainstream comic book editors are wonderful examples of what Erroll Morris refers to as the Anosognosic’s Dilemma: They don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know that they don’t know anything about art, because they don’t know that there’s anything to know. Same with writing. Same with editing. Same with any kind of business management. To know these things is not a requirement for the job. What comic book editors know is, for example, who inked issue 28 of Secret Origins in 1988.
It was Bob Lewis, inking over Rob Liefeld.