10 Small Press Comics You Might Have Missed

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You know the gripe. Every convention, like SDCC, has a million events happening, and a million things that people are trying to promote and sell. It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype of, say, DC Comics’ newest graphic novels or Marvel Entertainment’s latest film. Stuff like that demands our attention and blows up the Twittersphere. Unfortunately, so do Glee and Twilight announcements.

But at this year’s SDCC we didn’t forget about the comics creators overshadowed by all that hype. We sought out their booths in the Small Press and Artists’ Alley areas of the convention, and left with these comics worth mentioning. By no means is this an incluse list, so if you have any comics you think your fellow Topless Roboteers should check out, please mention them in the comments!

10) Tommy by John Ulloa, Al Bondiga and Juan Navarro


From Creature Entertainment, Tommy illuminates a grim tale of a pet rabbit and a boy intertwined by schizophrenia, or so it seems. Writing team John Ulloa and Al Bondiga take up dialogue and captions that remind us of 1950s horror comics (lots of telling even when the artwork shows us). But they have some medicine: Juan Navarro’s twisted and cartoony renderings of the rabbit and the boy’s surroundings, including his ill-fated mother. When issue #1 ends, we’re left wondering who’s really dead, and who’s just really fucked up.

9) The Dreaming Sea Vol. 2 by Tammy Stellanova


While its a fun collection of her diaries and such, Tammy Stellanova’s The Dreaming Sea Vol. 2 has some wonkiness, like most dreams we’ve heard about. Some stories have lettering issues, but that could be due to the panel sizing in this print. The upside is that her art style changes every chapter, perhaps as a way to separate one from the other, so you get a sampling of her talent. We think her best work — lettering, writing and all — is contained in the poetic narrative “I am in the Desert” and “The Story of Kamaui,” about a beaked whale.

8) Hells Dachshunds by Reid Psaltis


Reid Psaltis offers this quick, minicomic about wiener dogs that ambush a semi-truck. His bold lines, heavy use of shadow and definition add a sort of creepiness to a story that’s equal parts cute and weird. Its ending leaves us wanting more, wondering what happened to that seemingly innocent driver – and wondering what the pack will bite into next. Zombies, perhaps?

7) Swimming in Sake by Pinguino Kolb


Pinguino Kolb made this a freebie at SDCC. An ashcan comic, it’s about her adventures in Japan, where she — yes, literally — swims in sake, and later decides to climb Mount Fuji. The artwork, in this case, is fairly simple, so much so that it doesn’t distract from the humorous, self-deprecating narrative. More of her travelogues like Swimming in Sake debut later this year via Sawdust Press.

6) Lackluster World by Eric Adams


We all have those days where everything succcckkkkksssss. For Fahrenheit Monahan, the lead of Eric Adams’ Lackluster World series, every day sucks, and that’s putting it mildly. Think Office Space coupled with Jesus freaks and purgatory, plus the underbelly of journalism. We could put more ideas in your head, but Adams work has original ink. He illustrates a world of sardonic gloom, and it’s better than lackluster.

5) Naps by Karen Knighton

Pocket-sized and simple, Naps is a awesomely adorable minicomic that tells a story with non-sequential images and sequential sketches of a bird. It’s hard to explain. Or is it? We aren’t stressing too much about the comic, though. Naps are relaxing. This is, too.

4) The Fall of Atlas by Sarah Becan


Sarah Becan makes minicomics based on dreams, as strange and scary as they are. The Fall of Atlas follows Dave’s dream — or is it a nightmare? — about flying, shadowy figures, and, well, the fall of one giant statue. Becan’s black and white line art, together with sparse dialogue, leave the comic open to interpretation. We’ll sleep on it.

3) Denial. by the Students of High Tech High


There’s no denying that Denial. punches us in the gut with these lines: “They say change is never easy. You fight to hold on, and you fight to let go.” (Nevermind that it’s from The Wonder Years.) They define a sad story about the last man on earth, Jake, being hunted by aliens. High school kids wrote and drew Denial. under the guidance of art teacher/comics creator Patrick Yurrick. Though their skills vary, they together have a Denial. that’s psychedelic, eery and unique.

2) Real Axe #1 by JF Frankel


Recovering barbarian Wenduhl and his sarcastic axe, Marrow Douser, are the best worst team at the center of Real Axe, written and drawn by JF Frankel. It’s an anachronistic comedy that hacks away at fantasy and the whimsical nature of pizza, dough and all, introducing us to the town of Sweetneck. By the end of issue #1, we’re not sure if Wenduhl is looking to be a lover, fighter, or delivery driver. Or all three, even. Here’s hoping we find out more. Frankel has sharp humor and drawing with larger-than-life characters. At minimum, he could make this a comic strip.

1) Love Hurts by Murilo Martins


Whether you’re broken hearted, Love Hurts is an independent book worth hunting down. It’s full of some irony and lovelorn humor, not too mention Martins’ love for art a la Chris Ware. And no, you won’t find the Martins pining for someone (including Chris Ware), but you will find his illustrated love letter to the band R.E.M., a rad example of music explained by way of comics. The rest of his book is a contrast, offering short stories about, say, a tattoo, a space dog and box-shaped heart. There’s simply more to love than the band.