Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Collection catchup: I get behind on webcomics too

Goats: Showcase Showdown
By Jonathan Rosenberg

This is the third volume in the aptly named "Infinite Pendergast Cycle", which seems like it could go on and on forever (although it has to catch up to the online comic's current output sometime), pouring more and more amusing absurdity involving interdimensional travel, cosmic hacking, demons, Woody Allen, Mayan apocalypse, drunkenness, insanity, and mindless violence into the bottomless container that Jon Rosenberg has created.  It's engaging stuff, in the "what sort of weird, silly shit is going to come up next" sort of way rather than any sort of pressing need to know how it will all turn out.  Things just sort of happen here, and then more things happen, and so on, but it's all so absurd and unpredictable, with a basis in smart-seeming (or perhaps just aimed at the right type of nerd) sci-fi.  At one point, characters discover that their lives are being written by a couple monkey programmers who are getting rich selling graphic novel versions of whatever happens in the book, and this leads to the discovery of a typewriter that can rewrite the universe.  There's a demon seeking a box of matches that can burn reality, a murderous baby chicken in a cyborg body, a turtle that controls a pocket universe/reality programming suite, and much other ridiculousness, including lots of deeply nerdy jokes.  The story does take an odd turn about two thirds of the way through this volume, when most of the cast suddenly dies and one character takes over a demonic software company, leading to lots of jokes about corporate culture and the internet, like a deranged Dilbert or something.  But it's still pretty damn funny, and while the artwork itself isn't amazing or anything (beyond a strikingly bizarre image here and there), the coloring is superb.  It's certainly something that makes me want to keep reading, if only to experience random hilarity like this:


Penny Arcade, volume 6: The Halls Below
By Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik

Speaking of webcomics, this is probably the most revered one on the entire internet, having built up not only a  huge following, but a respectable side business of conventions and charities.  That's interesting to see, because it's a strange comic, one that is very unique to its creators' sensibilities, like nothing else out there.  It originally was a mediocre strip about video games, gamers, and the accoutrements of that culture, a decent source of that sort of humor with the added factor of Holkins and Krahulik's personalities.  But as the years went on, the two became weirder and more experimental, growing exponentially in their writing and artistic abilities, so by this point in the run (this volume collects the entirety of the series from 2005), they were firing on all cylinders, not content to just make jokes about whatever games were in the news that week.  Instead, we get jokes about how horrifying it would be to newspaper editors if Penny Arcade tried to replace Garfield, Hollywood buying any stupid/"cool" idea, amusing wordplay, or just general antagonism between Holkins and Krahulik's stand-in characters, Tycho and Gabe.  Strips often start off referring to some game or system, but then veer into weird, intentionally awkward bits of violence or sexual references.  Pacing is strange, with the main joke often coming in the second panel of the standard three-panel strip, with the final frame being all about reaction, rather than a punch line.  As crude and lowbrow as much of the humor is, the style is actually pretty avant garde, with the creators trusting each other and their audience to come up with something that amuses them and trust that everyone else will be able to follow along.

As with most all webcomics, this material is still available to read for free online, but the print version does come with commentary for every strip by Holkins, and it's revealing and well-written, explaining references that might not have survived the sands of time, commenting on his and Krahulik's working relationship, pointing out jokes that didn't really work, and adding another layer to the already-amusing comics on display. The whole thing might be borderline unreadable without some of this, although Krahulik's art certainly stands on its own, having evolved by this point into a loose-limbed, expressive cartooniness that's just plain pleasing to look at.  It's a fun read, and if you don't fancy trawling through the online archives, these collections are the way to go.

Unbeatable: Hotter than Hell
Written by Matthias Wolf
Art by Carlos E. Gomez
Buy it on Amazon

This is a sequel to a self-published graphic novel that came out in 2007, in which a kid spends hundreds of lifetimes constantly fighting history's greatest warriors in order to become the gatekeeper between heaven and hell.  It wasn't great, but it was a lean, mean story that never stopped moving, throwing constant violence onto the page right up to the end.  This second volume tries to open up the world of the story a bit, to mixed results.  Heimen Dale, the protagonist, gets killed early on (by a gun, which isn't allowed in his stomping grounds of limbo, although it's never stated whether having one there is "impossible" or just frowned upon) and sent to hell, where he meets up with the god Thor (who, in an apparent attempt to separate him from his Marvel Comics counterpart, sports a cowboy hat, solid gold teeth, and a love of heavy metal music), and the two of them set off to find a way out.  That seems like a concept for a decent adventure story, but it gets sidetracked almost immediately when they end up at a demon bar where they spend almost the entire volume doing a lot of drinking and gladiatorial monster fighting.  It's a strange way to pace the book, with forward plot movement ground to a halt early on, perhaps as an attempt to do character work between Heimen and Thor, although that mostly just comes off as awkward, with some pretty regrettable dialogue about women and manliness and such.  The art doesn't fare much better; there's some decent action, but nothing that really astonishes like it should; the demon designs are only so-so; and the sexy women that constantly tempt Heimen to betray his (possibly imaginary?) girlfriend are all the same balloon-breasted, wasp-waisted babes that show up in the portfolios of artists who desperately want to break into the industry (and don't forget the nudity helpfully covered by wisps of smoke.  Just draw nipples and/or penises; it's not that big of a deal!).  The best image by far is [SPOILER] that of Heimen, having given into his gluttonous urges, with a huge potbelly and a ridiculous crown for some reason.  It's hilarious. [END SPOILER]  That's the best thing about the book: the occasional surprise, like the inclusion of Heimen's nine grandmothers (his father is the Norse god Heimdall, so maybe this is a mythological reference, but it just seems funny to me), who are all hot chicks in different costumes like "naughty schoolgirl", "tattooed leather chick", or "scantily-clad superheroine", many of them carrying ridiculously oversized weapons like a giant hammer.  There are odd music references, like a demon named the Lizard King who was the one who possessed Jim Morrison and wrote all his songs, or a different demon who looks like John Lennon and gets people hooked on imagination drugs.  If there was more of this oddball material, the book might feel like something unique and interesting, but as it is, it's a generic demon-fighting thing with vapidly stylish anime-esque art.  Oh well, one can always hope the next volume turns up the strangeness and eases up on the dumbness.  It could happen.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

James Stokoe, I'll get you yet

Here's the most arresting panel (or splash page, whatever) that I've seen recently, from Orc Stain #4:

Holy crap, just look at that hole!  The point of view staring directly down into it gives a vertiginous stomach twist to the scene, such that you wonder when first looking at it if it's a huge hole in the ground (which would make the buildings at the bottom be laying at a strange horizontal angle), a hole in the side of a mountain, or if it's somehow a warp in spacetime or something.  Subsequent pages make it clear that it's in the side of a mountain, but even with that knowledge, I still get a bit of vertigo when staring at it, which is kind of crazy for a two-dimensional representation of such an obviously fantastical scene.  That makes it pretty damn effective, if you ask me, and I love what James Stokoe is doing with this series, just constantly throwing weird shit on the page and letting the reader try to keep up.  I hope it never ends.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Octopus Pie: That sounds disgusting

Elsewhere: I reviewed the graphic novel A God Somewhere over at IndiePulp.  It's not bad, but don't go in expecting the next Watchmen.  It's more like a decent human story with a really violent superhero thing wedged in the middle.  Worth a read though.

Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn
By Meredith Gran

Webcomics come in all shapes and flavors these days, from short gag strips, to serialized storylines (comic and serious), to full-on graphic novels posted a page at a time, to experiments pushing the limits of the medium.  There's a ton of content out there to be found, but one can rest assured that the quality material is going to rise to the top and gain deserved recognition, considering the vast numbers of readers, fans, and commentators paying attention to what's available.  That seems to be the case with Meredith Gran and Octopus Pie, her slice-of-life strip (which fits into the "serialized story, with each page functioning as a stand-alone strip" format) about two roommates living in Brooklyn and having wacky adventures.  The series is available to read in its entirety online, but the first two years have now been collected in this volume, an oddly square-shaped affair that adds blank space above and below each rectangular strip and prints the originally black-and-white art in a sickly green ink.  It's a weird presentation, but it's still an enjoyable read, although it takes a little bit to really get going. At first, it's a fairly standard gag-a-day strip, following uptight twentysomething Eve, who begins the book looking for a roommate and gets set up with a childhood friend by her mom.  The friend, Hannah, in a wild and crazy twist, is a pot-smoking nutjob, always causing trouble and making a big ruckus, like those lovable stoners are prone to do.  And so the story goes for a while, ambling along with goofy plots and slowly introducing a supporting cast (Hannah's boyfriend, an always-cheerful hippie whose eyes are never visible; the angry, squiggly-nosed manager at the organic food store where Eve works; Hannah's dealer, who ends up being Eve's sometimes boyfriend).  It seems like a learning period, with humor that often seems forced, and art that, despite a strong grasp of character design and lively movement from the start, sees some odd, distracting quirks pop up here and there, like Gran's style of drawing Hannah with her eyes open and closed at the same time (no, she doesn't wear glasses):

The pacing is a bit choppy at this point as well; one storyline sees Eve trying to come up with a "viral" marketing campaign for the store where she works, but she bombs out and ends up just submitting a crude drawing of a dog  and a word balloon stating "The fukken shit".  As one would predict, the ad (which was printed in The New York Times, which seems like an odd place to start a viral campaign) becomes a big hit, and Eve gets celebrated as a star, leading to the expected acting like a jerk to her friends and realization of what is really important.  It's pretty standard stuff, but the strange thing is how fast and jerky the plot moves, as if most of these events are happening off-panel and we're only treated to the necessary moments.  It's only a matter of a few pages between the ad getting huge and the status quo resuming, which might be why it seems so obvious; there's only space for the expected plot points.  Not every chapter is like this, but it's a definite example of the roughness of the first third of the book or so.

And then, a little less than halfway through (which means the strip had been running almost a year at this point), there's a moment in which Octopus Pie suddenly realizes its potential, in a story in which Hannah drags Eve along to go ice skating, leading to this gorgeous panel:

For whatever reason, this elegant bit of physical movement marks the exact point at which the humor suddenly stops feeling forced, but now flows from the characters and how they relate to each other and their surroundings.  The stories now seem less about the wacky things that happen to the characters and more about them living their lives and experiencing the glorious unpredictability of early-twenties existence, along with a bit of anxiety about where it's all going to lead.  Characters seem to enjoy spending time together, and friendships and relationships make sense, instead of seeming like types forced together for comedy's sake.  Gran explores some of the strange aspects of life, such as why we strive for acceptance from people we don't even like (in a story in which Eve gets an in with the local hipster crowd when she nurses an injured bird back to health and starts carrying it around on her shoulder) or how we're sometimes hesitant to have one group of our friends interact with another (in a chapter which sees Eve's nerd pals and Hannah's stoner buds clash and end up facing off in an epic laser tag battle).  It's an impressive maturity, even if it does bring along a few somewhat tiresome scenes in which Eve gets in a conversation with some character or another about her anxieties regarding herself and the world and her future and whatnot.

And the rest of the volume continues in that direction, seeing some very enjoyable writing and plenty of really nice cartooning from Gran.  She has an impressively expressive, cartoony style, with each character remaining distinct in their body shape, posture, movement, and expressions.  Eve sports a perpetual frown and glare, usually withdrawn and aware of anybody watching, while Hannah is exuberantly loose-limbed and huge-eyed, always grinning or shouting:

But as simplified as the art might seem, there's plenty of detail there to ground things in some semblance of reality, like the realistically-styled skirts, pants, and sweaters that the girls wear, the changing hairstyles they sport, or the sights and activities of the city around them.  It's also nice to see Gran experiment with her art style; she uses what appears to be a pen in one chapter to limit the lines to a uniform, thin width:

Then follows that with a chapter full of lushly-brushed ink lines:

That's the definite pleasure in this volume: seeing an already-formidable talent grow and develop further.  It helps that the characters are fun to spend time with, and their antics are often quite funny.  It's also nice to see a creator unafraid of profanity or the frank depiction and discussion of sex, both of which are certainly present at this time in one's life.  One can only expect that the upward trajectory continues; Meredith Gran will soon be quite the artistic force to be reckoned with.  Now when does the next book come out?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Six Ditkovian motifs (other than the obvious ones) learned from The Art of Ditko

The Art of Ditko
By Steve Ditko
Edited by Craig Yoe

When it comes to artistic traits that Steve Ditko was known for, the onest that probably first spring to mind are expressive hands and crazy, psychedelic mindscapes, and like any halfway-decent collection of his work, this book is full of those.  But there's more to what he did, and Craig Yoe, in this collection that draws from the various stories Ditko illustrated for Charlton in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, demonstrates several additional aspects of his artistic personality, showing that there was a lot more to him than Spider-Man, Dr. Strange, and Objectivism.  Here are a few that I noticed:

1.  Jumbled montage panels

Ditko was never a slouch at depicting action, but when it came to depicting a flurry of activity in a small space, he often used a neat technique in which several images were jumbled together within the same panel, making for an effective feel of wild, frenetic movement:

He could also use this to show a bunch of activity all at once, like a character searching for something in different locations, and it works remarkably well, making things clear and understandable, even with so many images packed together and overlapping each other.  It's certainly something that's harder than it looks.

2.  Bulging eyes

The hands get all the attention, but Ditko managed to use eyes really well too, especially when demonstrating fear or obsession.  He uses a goofy technique here and there in which disembodied eyes overlap other action occurring in a panel, and it's hella creepy:

There's something about the inclusion of the lids rather than just the eyeballs, or the blank space between the eyes, that seems unnatural, and it's just offputting enough to lend an extra bit of weirdness to stories, which, judging by the selections here, could certainly use some spicing up.

3.  Shapely women

In fact, many of these stories were pretty terribly derivative, full of cheesy "horror", predictable twists, and lame dialogue.  But Ditko managed to make them sing, classing up the place with all the neat visual hooks, and even adding some sex appeal, which was something he wasn't really known for.  It's a shame though, because he could deliver, whether showing off mystical temptresses:

Sci-fi femmes fatale:

Beach babes:

Or just barfly eye candy:

I especially like that last one; the classic Ditko spiderweb design on her shirt kind of makes her the ultimate Ditko babe.

4.  Goofy "host" characters

Since Tales from the Crypt and other such comics established the wisecracking emcee character, it seems like every horror series had to have them, and the ones in these Charlton books are kind of lame.  But Ditko still managed to give them each their own personalities, which is saying something.  Dr. Graves, of The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, is a smoking-jacket-wearing professional, warning readers of the dangers of bad living.  Dr. Haunt, of This Magazine is Haunted, is more of a silent observer, lurking in the shadows (or between panels) and watching events unfold:

The Mysterious Traveler, of Tales of the Mysterious Traveler, is even more dispassionate, just blank-facedly peeping on his stories:

And Mr. Dedd, of Ghostly Tales, is the wisecracking jokester, making terrible puns and observing the goings-on of his characters with a smirk at all the bad stuff that happens:

The whole "host" idea is a goofy device, but like the rest of the silliness that abounds in these stories, Ditko makes it work.

5.  Cool formal tricks

And here's where it gets really cool.  Working for cheap for Charlton must have given Ditko the opportunity to experiment, try out new ideas, and see what he could do with the comics format, and he came up with some great stuff here, really pushing the limits of the way stories could be told with panels on paper.  One story which sees Dr. Graves supposedly searching through his files for information regarding the tale he's telling turns every panel border into the shape of a file folder, starting out with fairly standard layouts, but as the story goes on and becomes more frantic and fast-paced, eventually seeing panels/folders angled and tilted every which way, in all three dimensions:

In at least one story, Dr. Haunt lives up to his magazine's title, appearing as a ghost peering out from holes within the pages themselves, even tearing them open to get a better view of the proceedings:

And there was always the trusty standbys, like having a narrator manipulate the page directly:

It's pretty amazing to see what Ditko came up with nearly half a century ago.  Modern cartoonists could do well to study these ideas and put them to use in stories that deserve them.

6.  Other great visual ideas

The great visuals didn't stop with the formalism either.  Ditko was doing some exciting stuff, coming up with ways to show action and emotion, depict supernatural effects that can't really be shown literally, or convey mood through innovative designs and layouts.  And every so often, he came up with some incredible visuals, with the foremost (judging by Yoe's effusive praise and placement of it just after the book's title page) being a depiction of time travel that gives the page a 3-D effect and perfectly demonstrates the idea of hurling backward into the past:

Stuff like this makes this book worth reading, just to get a glimpse of one of the masters of the medium at work.  Sure, his Marvel stuff is fine, and he came up with some enjoyably weird concepts later, but there's nothing like seeing a talented artist at the top of his game trying out idea after idea and livening up what would be unreadable dreck in anybody else's hands.  Let's hope more people check this book out and learn from it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Signifiers: They signify my confusion

Elsewhere: I wrote about Iron Man 2 for The Factual Opinion, and in the first of what will hopefully be a bunch of regular pieces for Indie Pulp, I reviewed the first volume of Sweet Tooth, which I think I liked less than most.

Links: Kevin Church continues to expand his webcomics empire, starting a new series called FIGHT!, which is illustrated by Tracie Mauk.  Looks like fun.

I haven't read this one yet, but it looks neat: a prequel comic to the movie Inception, by Udon.

The Signifiers #1
By Michael Neno
Buy it on the official site

Jack Kirby imitators are a dime a dozen, and have been for a good forty years, but every so often, somebody manages to get it right, using stylistic techniques and the forward-looking sensibility that actually fits the King's legacy, rather than slavishly imitating his visual tics or marching out his characters to reenact yet another cosmic dust-up.  Michael Neno is definitely trying for something more substantial than brightly-colored guys punching each other here, and even if he's not fully successful, he's managed to take something familiar and recognizable and make it unique and strange all over again, which is not easy to do.

This 48-page self-published black and white pamphlet is actually broken up into three separate stories, although they may all take place in the same "universe".  The first one, which shares the series' title, is probably the strangest, and also the hardest to follow, starting off with a splash page of a woman's screaming face, then revealing that her head sits on the body of a dog, and she's being tortured by three guys in weird costumes.  She gets rescued by a band of outsiders in a Big Daddy Roth hot rod, then the scene abruptly shifts to five years later, with the rest of the story following those outsiders as they live in a sort of walled-off slum on the edge of a wasteland.  There are some attacks by more weird people, hushed conversations about an impending danger, a boy who apparently has some sort of destiny as a leader, and discussions of a strange force known as The Voyst, and while little of it makes much sense, it's pretty arresting stuff, a weird world that Neno drops readers into and expects them to keep up.  Maybe more will be explained in future issues, but even this small portion is enough to bring a vital, breathing world to life, one that merits further exploring.  The crazy designs and odd dialogue rhythms really stand out, and there are at least a couple bravura sequences, like a scene in which one of the trio of aforementioned torturers turns out to be an amnesiac who stole his equipment and is interrogated by benign-seeming agents of the government (?), making for a nice escalation of danger and a sense of paranoia. There's also a single page sequence that follows a missile being fired as it races toward its target, accompanied by captions bearing the lyrics of a rap song about a girl named Maria, which is a cool, surreal touch.

The second story is a short one called "Nellie of Cosmic Brook Farm or: Cosmic House on the Prairie", and it is presented on every page as five tiers of two small panels that see an alien attacking a farm and the titular Nellie donning some Kirbytech equipment to fly up into the sky and fight it.  It's weird and goofy, with the small panels making everything claustrophobic, yet bursting out of the space that confines it.  Who knows if this is just a one-off story or if it will be followed up on, but it works great for a sort of breather in the middle of the issue, something that's plenty strange and exciting, but not as confounding as everything else.

Finally, we get to spend time with "Landlark, the Heat-Seeking Dwarf", an odd story about the polka-dotted short fellow being imprisoned by some mean guys, then escaping, falling in with some free-spirited hippies, and playing music with them on the street.  As with everything else in the comic, it's somewhat inexplicable, but there's a feeling of art and emotion being used to escape oppression, with Landlark's repeated catch phrase of "I came here to love!" and the happiness he seems to find with people who don't disdain him or seek to use him for unpleasant ends.  As with the other stories, it should be interesting to see if or how Neno follows this up.

This might not be for everybody, but for those who like to see a bit of pushing the limits of expression, Neno has put together something pretty fascinating here.  He's using familiar Kirby motifs, from the crazy technology, to the stilted dialogue, to recognizable artistic flourishes, but he's not slavishly copying from his inspiration, but using it as a starting point for something new.  It should be fascinating to see what else he can come up with as the series continues.

You can buy the comic from Neno's website (where it is also being serialized), and while you're there, be sure to check out his other ongoing bit of goofiness, a webcomic called The Mesh.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Miniature Comickal Entertainments

Don't worry, I'm not dead, and hopefully I'll be able to avoid that state of perpetual slowdown that happens to blogs when they peter out and die.  I just need to try to keep some momentum going.  Let's see if this helps...

Various Silber minicomics
Written by Brian John Mitchell
Art by Melissa Spence Gardner, Johnny Hoang, Jeremy Johnson, Brian John Mitchell, Eric Shonborn, Kimberlee Traub, Andrew White, and Jason Young
Buy them from Silber's website

Brian John Mitchell certainly has a very specific method when writing his minicomics (which take the "mini" part of the word especially literally, measuring about three square inches); being limited to one small panel and a caption per page, he usually sticks to first person narration describing whatever plot is occurring, but manages to branch into several surprising directions from there, covering genres from Western, to sci-fi, to horror, to drama, to annoying pontification (I reviewed several of them here).  The best taste of they style can probably be found in Silber Mini-Comics Sampler #1, which serves as an introduction to several of the series, although rather than excerpting any of them, it provides a short story from each, the equivalent of one-page strips in a regular-size book.  They all work pretty well as samples, although Western series Just a Man fares best, with Mitchell and artist Andrew White even going so far as to use two panels per page, an innovation which could stand to spread to other titles, given its effectiveness here.

The regular Just a Man series continues as well, with the fourth issue seeing our hero, an Eastwood-esque no-longer-retired gunfighter continue his mission of vengeance against, well, everyone, taking time to rescue a prostitute and track down an evil rich man.  It works, with the same grittiness that was present in the first issue, although this installment seems to be one of those middle chapters that ties up some plot threads and sets up more for future issues.  And although it's probably the least offensive along these lines, there are a couple moments in which the narration describes exactly what is happening on-panel (a gunshot paired with a caption reading "I fire." is the worst offender), rather than using the limited page space to let the art do the work.  Overall, though, this is probably the best of the bunch.

XO is another decent series, with the sixth issue seeing its teenage murderer taking a road trip to drop off a dead body with somebody who takes care of that sort of thing.  Most of the story sees him ruminating on his future, as teenagers are wont to do, with the dark joke of the purpose of his journey underscoring the mundanity of his thoughts.  Melissa Spence Gardner's art serves its purpose well (when the captions aren't compressing it into to a sliver of an already tiny page), giving the character and those around him a bland, unemotional feeling as they commit terrible deeds.  As a whole, this series might end up being a striking darkly comic crime story; it's certainly another of the better series here.

Another series that has potential is Cops & Crooks, which takes the interesting approach of splitting its story into two halves, presented as a flip-book and illustrated by two different artists, Jason Young and Eric Shonborn.  The idea here seems to be to present two equal-and-opposite protagonists who follow their respective fathers into careers of crime-fighting and cop-killing, destined to meet at some point in the future.  This first issue is dedicated entirely to setup, and reading the two halves back to back seems a bit repetitive, since they are designed to mirror each other, but this could certainly turn into something interesting, depending on how intricate Mitchell is planning to get with his structure.

And then there are the other series, those which don't really make the grade.  Worms, which seemed like a creepy, psychedelic bit of horror in a previous issue, seems like more crude imagery (courtesy of Kimberlee Traub) and nonsense about psychic powers or something in its sixth issue.  Marked, a series about a guy who gets possessed by a demon in order to kill other demons, could be halfway decent, but it is ruined by Jeremy Johnson's ugly, Rob Liefeld-like art.  And Mecha, which appears to be Mitchell's attempt at a sci-fi epic if only because of its "large" size (a whole 2"x2"!), rolls out every cliche in the book, from alien invasion, forced gladiatorial combat, and rugged freedom fighters to an abandoned giant robot that just might be the savior of humanity.  It could get better, but this first issue is pretty dire, with an attempt at detailed art by Johnny Hoang that isn't done any favors by the small size and a hard-to-read script font for the captions.

However, any way you swing it, Mitchell and company have a neat little (ha ha) enterprise going here, throwing comic after comic at the wall and seeing what sticks.  Not everything works, but the comics are unique and continue to make good use of their format.  When it comes to minicomics, that's not bad at all.

Veggie Dog Saturn #4
By Jason Young
Buy it from Buyer Beware Comics

Jason Young, one of the artists of the aforementioned Cops & Crooks, also has this minicomic series, which is more along the lines of the standard minicomics model, telling autobiographical stories of his childhood at a more readable size, but while the format is familiar, the comics are quite entertaining and well-made.  Young varies his approach, telling stories of different lengths and using different styles of telling the story, from presenting them as a standard anecdote, to having his adult self relate the tales directly to readers, to narrating via caption.  And the anecdotes themselves are interesting and entertaining, whether a simple memory of receiving a head wound, a story about Young and his brother constructing an elaborate monetary/barter system using plastic figurines before they discovered real money, or the proud moment when Young discovered the tantalizing world of bikini magazines.  He's got a good sense of pacing and can sell the humorous moments well, although a strip about discovering the effects of racism also serves to demonstrate his more serious side too.  Overall, it's a nice example of the genre, if minicomics can be said to have one.  If I saw this on a convention table, I would be happy to lay down a few bucks for it.