In addition to her stellar work assembling The Tiny Report year-in and year-out (an absolutely essential guide for small-press readers), Robyn Chapman is also responsible for putting out an eclectic and superbly-curated (dare I use the term) range of minis under her Paper Rocket Mini Comics imprint. Recently a handful of these have come into my possession, showcasing the work of two amazingly talented cartoonists, so let’s not dawdle, there’s too much great stuff to talk about —
Dear Missy is the latest (as in just-released) of Daryl Seitchik’s autobio comics told from the point of view of her eight-year-old (or thereabouts) self in the form of diary entries. This one’s especially painful and poignant in that she relates to Missy (that’s the name of her just-referenced diary in case you hadn’t sussed it out) the events surrounding her parents’ divorce as a poem. Bittersweet to say the least, even heartbreaking, but Seitchik — who’s been doing these on and off for a few years now, although each can and should certainly be read and enjoyed on its own merits — is simply too damn good a cartoonist to allow her admittedly-cute work to fall prey to the easy trappings of cloying sentimentalism or rose-tinted nostalgia. Rather, this is heartfelt and authentic storytelling relayed from a unique and respectfully-presented vantage point, illustrated in a deceptively “simple” style that belies the sheer amount of effort that goes into getting every cleanly-rendered line exactly right. You wanna pick this kid up, hold her, and tell her everything’s going to be alright — she’s probably plenty sharp enough to know you’re full of BS, but that doesn’t mean she sure couldn’t use a hug.
Colin Lidston is a painter and arts educator by trade who’s relatively new to the world of cartooning, but he’s mastered his new medium of choice quickly, as evidenced by the near-flawless debut that is 2016’s The Age Of Elves #1. Centered on a group of four friends who are big into the world of role-playing games and taking place right at the turn of this century when all are about to begin their senior year of high school, Lidston shows a virtuoso facility for both understanding and communicating the subtleties of group dynamics, and his artwork is detailed, emotive, and stylish in an entirely unforced manner that doesn’t seek to bowl you over but understands exactly how to draw you in. Budding artist Sarah Loeb is our main point of reader identification, but her “nerdy” cohorts Bram, Evan, and Jamie are all well-realized characters in their own right and you’ll be immediately enthralled by the foibles, flaws, and charms of each of them. We’ve all seen slice-of-life stories done a million times over, but seldom this well. Lidston’s vision is fully-formed and his skill is just plain undeniable.
The Age Of Elves #2, published in 2017, sees our quartet hitting the road from Baltimore to Milwaukee, where they’ll be attending the gigantic gaming convention known as Gen Con, and while Lidston’s art remains as strong as ever, it’s his writing that really stands out in this chapter, given that almost all of the comic takes place in a car and there’s nothing really going on apart from conversation. yet he manages to glue you to every single line of dialogue. He’s got the “teenage voice” down pat, and even if none of these kids are remotely like you were at that age (assuming you’re not still that age, or even younger), you’ll be able to relate to their concerns, empathize with their individual situations (Sarah’s nervous excitement at the prospect of meeting her idol from the fantasy illustration milieu is particularly infectious), and really dig the privilege of getting to know them all just a little bit better.
The Age Of Elves #3 is the most recent entry in the series, having just come out toward the tail end of 2018, and continues the awesomeness, with our protagonists having arrived at Gen Con and settling in for what they hope will be the best weekend of their lives to date. Sarah meets a middle-aged couple who LARP as vampires, there’s a 1920s-themed dance, everybody’s having a blast — but when one of our foursome pulls a drunken disappearing act, tensions among the group begin to boil over and we learn that it’s not all roses with the geeky teens. What’s left unsaid is every bit as intriguing as what’s said, and if you’re not absolutely hooked on this story by the end of this installment, then seriously — I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you.
Dear Missy and issues one and two of The Age Of Elves each sell for $4.00, while The Age Of Elves #3, which boasts a bit of a higher page count, goes for $5.00. All provide excellent value for money in terms of sheer reading enjoyment and can be ordered directly from Paper Rocket at http://thetinyreport.storenvy.com/