Here at Quirk Books we love comics. No duh. We even have a monthly Quirk Comics Club, when Quirk staffers meet over lunch for a show-and-tell of comics we’re buying, reading, and making. Check out our neat club pin:
We love comics of all sorts, from superhero books to indie memoirs to vintage newspaper strips to the weird artsy stuff to anything with cats in it. But there’s a special place in our heart for one particular comic book iteration: the mini-comic (a.k.a. mini comic or minicomic, but let’s go with mini-comic).
What is a mini-comic?
Don’t let the name fool you; a mini-comic doesn’t have to be small, as master of comics Jessica Abel points out. But very often they're mini in stature for practical reasons, because mini-comics are a favorite method for independent comics makers to self-produce, promote, and sell their work. Creators typically make mini-comics in small batches, usually reproducing them by means of photocopier or desktop publishing hardware. When you spot a mini-comic in the wild, it’s likely to be littler than a standard published comic (because paper costs add up), and it’s probably been folded, stapled and/or bound by hand (by the artist and whatever friends and family they can con into helping).
Exception: Welcome to the Pleasure Dome by Ian Sampson is not only a mega-sized mini-comic, it unfolds into a poster-sized final panel.
The Schulz Library, at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River, Vermont, has upwards of 3,000 mini-comics in its collection. Their curators offer this definition:
A mini-comic is small, inexpensive, short-run comic, often handmade by the creator. Typically they are about half-letter in size, since that's easiest to produce, but our collection (known as the Zine Garden) includes mini-comics that are the size of a matchbook to huge 11×17 handmade books and everything in between.
“We don't have hard and fast criteria, there's a bit of ‘we know it when we see it,’ ” Schulz librarian Jarad Greene tells us. "But usually, it's folded and stapled/stitched by hand. Self-published, perfect bound books that don't have an ISBN are sometimes included as well.”
Why are mini-comics awesome?
For so many reasons!
For one thing, a mini-comic is like a unfiltered channel of creativity, direct from the cartoonist’s brain. There are precious few barriers to creating a mini-comic—if you have time, paper, drawing implements and an idea, you’re pretty much set. Comics artists and writers can use mini-comics to experiment with concepts that wouldn’t work in larger, longer, or traditionally-published formats. A mini-comic can run with a crazy idea that might be harder to sustain in full-length comic…and that goes not just for the story and art, but also size, shape, color, packaging, and production method. You can try almost anything in a minicomic.
Destination Earth, a mini-comic by Debbie Fong, includes a fold-out diary kept by the cat-astronaut protagonist.
Mini-comics can handle personal stories, like Kate McDonough's exploration of living with social anxiety, or simple concepts, like her documentation of bizarre items she encountered while working at a thrift shop.
They’re incredibly diverse. Mini-comics can be as appealingly simple or exquisitely complex as their creators decides to make them. Some minis are minimal, just line drawings on a folded sheet or paper. Others are like little jewels, with intricate art, creative packaging, unusual shapes and sizes, fancy bindings, and/or sophisticated printing techniques.
Mark Burrier's Show Off creates dark humor with simple line-drawings.
Rachel Bard's tiny mini-comic Come Back Soon , about as tall as a jumbo paper clip, comes with a teensier comic inside it. Her Growing Hope is printed in metallic gold ink on dark blue cardstock, and comes in a wrap-around band with a cutout in front.
They suggest a personal touch. Though they’re a reproduced medium, like all comics, many mini-comics havea hand-made quality that reminds you there’s a real person on the other end…someone who took the time to plan and print and cut and fold and staple and pack them. You can buy mini-comics at comic shows and chat with a creator who might go on to become famous (comic book famous, that is…but sometimes that's still pretty famous!). If you order a mini-comic online, you might get a hand-written thank you note with your purchase. Blockbuster comics and million-seller graphic novels are great, but minis remind us that comics are a vehicle for individual creativity at all levels, and can travel from creator's brain to reader's hands with fewer stops in between tham most media.
You've probably seen Tom Gauld's cartoons in The New York Times, The Guardian, and in his books published by Drawn & Quarterly. But he once published mini-comics through his own (now defunct) small press.
They’re cheap! Inexpensive, that is. There’s not much risk in spending a few bucks to sample the work of artists you’re not familiar with and bring their nutty ideas home with you. And at few bucks a pop, you can quickly build your own mini-comics library.
So we're agreed…mini-comics are awesome! But where does one find these insanely amazing treasues? Good question…check out our How to Find the Greatest Mini-Comics post for more details! If you're already dying to make your own comic, check out How to Make a Mini-Comic: Part 1, How to Make a Mini-Comic: Part 2, and Mini Comics: The Wrap-Up for ideas!
Mini-comics displayed are from the personal collections of Quirk Books Comics Club members and are intended as a small and subjective sampling of the ever-expanding universe of mini-comics.
Posted by Quirk Books Staff
The rise of the anti-hero has been long heralded in pop culture, especially in the era of Peak TV. The Tony Sopranos and Walter Whites of television have battled their inner demons as morally ambiguous protagonists. While this is a less common archetype in recent science fiction and fantasy films, there are a few who step forward to test their level of morality.
Posted by Nick Beard
The X-Files are back!
From 1993 to 2002, The X-Files brought conspiracy theories, Area 51, weirdos who need to eat women’s body fat to stay alive—and of course, alien abductions—right into our homes. Now, the aliens that abducted people on The X Files were not particularly nice to their human captives, but we at Quirk believe not all aliens are bad. Here are five aliens we wouldn’t mind being abducted by.
Posted by E.H. Kern
Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Your pals at Quirk Books would like to celebrate the occasion with that most Irish of gifts: a story. Have you ever wondered who would win in a no holds-barred battle between the beloved Bishop of Ireland and the infamous King of Monsters? Of course you have. Now you can find out, in this free 5-chapter battle royale. Check out the exerpt below, then if you like it download the FREE PDF for the complete senses-shattering saga. It's the Shamrock Saint verse the Green Gargantua…with the fate of all mankind hanging in the balance!
Posted by Rick Chillot
Most people think of Cinco de Mayo as an adult holiday, but this year the powers that be at the comic book companies have made it a family day.
Every year for the past decade, summer has been kicked off in the comic book world by Free Comic Book Day. The event normally coincides with the release of the first major comic book movie of the summer season. This year that film is The Avengers which will open in theaters on Friday, May 4th. Free Comic Book Day is coordinated by Diamond Comics Distributors and involves all of the major and some of the independent comic book companies.
The best part about the event, is that it is a great day to spend as a family. Comic shops have a tendency to go all out for the day, many of them making it an event where artists and fans can come together and discuss their love for comics. Can you just go down to your local comic shop and pick up some free books, then split? Sure. There’s nothing stopping you from doing that.
But instead of just making it comic book hour, why not do what the title of the event recommends. Make a day of it. If you have kids, pack them up in the family car and take them down to your local shop. If not take your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, younger sibling or friends down to pick up some books. This event is the perfect time to bring people closer together by allowing them to share their passion for comics.
Posted by David Winnick
Okay seriously, what is it about repurposed dictionary pages and illustrated art? Not too long ago I swooned over Collagorama’s Dandy Cat prints, and now the comic-book, video-game loving geek in me is losing it over Goblinhut’s Etsy shop, which is full of all my favorite superhero and gaming characters, printed on upcycled dictionary sheets.
Each print measures 10.75” x 7.5” and are made with vintage dictionary pages. According to Luke, the artist behind the Etsy shop, “each piece is made to order [and] every page is unique.”
According to his listings, sales from his Etsy shop help pay for his education. So please, go support this talented guy. His illustrations are fantastic. And make sure you pick up more than just one. All of Luke’s prints are buy two, get one free.
Goblin Hut @ Etsy
Posted by Eric Smith