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order individual issues of Just A Man for $1 ($2 intn'l)
About the author & artist:
Brian John Mitchell has been writing mini-comics for a few years including Lost Kisses, XO, & Worms. He also makes music under the names Remora, Vlor, & Small Life Form & runs Silber Records & the webzine
Andrew White thinks comics are really great. He draws a lot of them. He also attends Brown University in Rhode Island. You can find more of his work at his blog.
Just A Man #4
One of the many reasons I caution people not to take these reviews too seriously is that I do them every day. Well, I try to do them every day, but I come pretty close. As that’s the case, I’m reading these in all sorts of moods, and I’m sure there have been times when a crappy mood has translated into an unfavorable review, something I take every precaution to avoid, but there’s no way I’ve been anywhere near 100% successful. I mention all this because I had a negative reaction to the last issue of Brian’s Marked series, which was odd because I’ve been a fan of pretty much all of his other series (including the first issue of Marked!). So was it my mood? The comic? Road construction pounding in my ears while I was trying to type? I’m not sure, but will have a chance to revisit it when the next issue of that series comes out. Either way, I still absolutely love this one. This time around our hero has just discovered his wife (who he thought murdered in the first issue) is still alive, and that the “daughter” he has been sent to free from whorehouse is not the man’s daughter at all. Our hero frees another whore and gives her some new cash to start a new life and has a confrontation with the man who hired him for his “daughter”, so we’re still going to have to wait at least an issue to see what’s up with his wife. Fine by me, I’ve been enjoying every bit of this and am fine with him keeping it going for as long as possible. I’m a sucker for the hopeless gunman trying to get his revenge on the people who wronged him, and if things aren’t as cut and dried as we’ve been led to believe, well, so much the better. Things are rarely as black and white as depicted in most western stories, and the shades of gray are a welcome addition. I’m assuming you people are already keeping up with this series, but if you’re not and if you wanted to check out just one of his books, I’d go with this one. Or Lost Kisses, I love that one too. Or Worms, that’s creepy as hell. Or maybe XO… $1
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth
Mitchell’s short and crisp
declarative sentences evoke a certain mood. They’re rooted in the type
of sparse prose that fans of Hemingway enjoy, and I consider myself very
much a part of that lot. It’s lines like “I decided to set the whore free,”
which come off unequivocally. They evoke a tone and instantly place the
reader in a specific world. Here, we find characters torn between being
resigned to fate and actually fighting to make a difference. With its premise
centered around avenging a death, picking up odd jobs, and some raw Western
roots, Just A Man feels almost like a very indie cousin to DC Comics’ Jonah
Hex. I’m glad to see an effort to change up the layouts and no longer rely
on just static captions and dialogue scrolling systematically across the
bottom of the page. This was my main criticism for previous Silber Media
books and here I see varying placement and some varied panel design breaking
things up nicely. White’s art employs good use of negative space with a
surprising level of detail and fine line work considering its miniature
size. Structurally, the size of the Silber Media books means that creators
can’t typically get more than one quick line of dialogue onto a page, so
it forces a reader to speed through rather than linger on a page or any
individual image. It works so fast that it almost comes off like a kid’s
flip book. Casual readers will really feel cheated unless they consciously
alter their reading habits. When you do alter your mindset and stop to
notice, there are some beautiful and iconic images to be found, such as
the cowboy riding on the horizon with the high sun in the sky. For just
$1 each, the growing Silber Media library is worth checking out, and Just
A Man is one of their better efforts. Grade A.
~ Justin Giampaoli, Poopsheet Foundation
Just a Man #4 is really gritty,
and within its 44 or so pages shares a part of a great and dark tale about
a man that, well, is just a man trying to get through life and make his
way in strange circumstances. The man finds out that his wife is still
alive and continues his search for her. He also is hired by another man
to free a woman from a whorehouse under the guise that she is the hiring
Is that all that happens within 44 pages, you ask? That’s nearly twice the size of a normal comic book. It’s plenty when Silber Media is involved. They have an extremely small and limited format on purpose. I definitely want to know more about this man, why his wife is still alive, and especially if he ever finds her. The curiosity eats at me!
~ Karen Maeda, Sequential Tart
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.
~ Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues
If the Noir Western exists as a legitimate genre and not just something my head concocted just now, Just a Man is a brilliant example of it—tight script, sparse yet beautiful art, and a complete (and brutal) story in 56 panels. A man comes home from working in the fields to find his house ablaze, his infant son killed and his wife missing. He gets his rifle and goes to deliver what he hopes is justice. A nihilistic haiku of vengeance, Just a Man is probably the best minicomic I’ve read in ages. I don’t necessarily wish for a sequel (that would ruin the perfection of the ending), but I’d like to see more collaborations between Mitchell and White.
I received two new issues
of JUST A MAN, numbers 2 and 3. When last we left our vengeful cowboy,
he had killed the man that was responsible for the death of the cowboy’s
wife and kids. Now he’s on the run, and he takes a gig as a hired gun to
retrieve a young woman stuck in a brothel. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been
told the entire truth… about the girl, and perhaps a great many other things.
Either way, his sanity might also be at risk. Artist Andrew White uses
thin linework and as much detail as he can fit into the small panels in
order to set the mood and make sure the old west milieu shines through.
The story here is also pretty decent. I’m liking this one.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room
Brian John Mitchell publishes
an ever-growing collection of micro mini comix through his Silber Media
outfit. Just A Man is western written by Mitchell and drawn by Andrew White.
The story is continued from issue to issue, but each one features a full
chapter that can be appreciated on its own. Mitchell provides an opening
recap of past events on page one, so it's easy for old and new readers
to get (back) up to speed quickly.
Like Mitchell's other titles each page of Just A Man features a single illustration with narration below. Most of the story is narration, with only occasional dialogue that appears in word balloons inside the full page panel.
In issue #1 our Man returns from tending his crops only to discover his family gone and his farmhouse in flames. He kills the local land baron McTeague and is left homeless and alone.
In issue #2 our Man makes his way across the plains, finds a new town, and a new job. Of course, it's not an easy job as issue #3 reveals. It's a rescue mission, but as our Man gets deeper into the assignment he finds himself struggling to untangle the truth.
Mitchell's story unfolds at a steady pace with each chapter taking the unlikely hero in new directions. By the third installment complications arise and the already shaken hero wonders what's real and who can be trusted. Like good pulp fiction, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger leaving the reader anxious for the next installment.
White's artwork is simple but effective. Much of his part of the storytelling is conveyed in long shots. He keeps the characters distant except for an occasional dramatic close-up. Likewise, he concentrates on a straightforward approach to the action, occasionally lingering on a symbolic image like a whiskey glass or a raven.
~ Richard Krauss, Midnight Fiction
This series features terse
stories set firmly in the tradition set by the likes of the man with no
name, and Jonah Hex. (Forgive me, these are the only western characters
that I know). The man in question in this one sees something terrible happen
to his family, and sets out to wreak vengeance on those who have wronged
him. Of course, this leads to a few developments that see a new phase in
his life arise.
While the first two issues of this series set up a status quo, things go absolutely insane in the third bit, as the man sees someone from his past turn up in an unexpected way. A great series if you like the tense quiet of the western.
~ Brandon Schatz, Comixtreme
Instead of giving a plot
summary of the series thus far, I’ll say this — Just A Man is the best
western film that’s never been made.
I loved the first issue of this title, which was a perfect mini-comic journey into violent depravity. Now, the second and third installments step things up to a whole new level.
I turned the pages furiously as I read because Andrew White’s art is extremely engaging. It’s raw and sparse, but the perfect compliment to Brian John Mitchell’s candid script.
~ Nick Marino, AudioShocker
Somehow with pages no bigger
than a movie ticket stub in size, Brian John Mitchell & Andrew White
dish out a tale of mayhem & old west justice that burns & bleeds
harder & heavier than many films from the same genre. If this comic
isn't worth your dollar then I don't know what is.
~ Jason Young, Gutter Trash
Hey look, it is a series
after all! If you’re confused go back and read the review for the
last issue, where I kvetched endlessly about the merits of this as a one-shot
versus as a series. Judging from the most recent pile of books sent
my way this isn’t his only new series. If the man keeps up this ridiculous
pace he might want to put together some sort of index so we can all keep
up. This time around our hero has finished off the people who killed
his wife and child and is left with an understandable emptiness.
Adrift, he goes to sleep on the back of his horse and lets it take him
to his next destination, wherever that may be. He’s also on the lookout
for some of McTeague’s men who may be out looking for revenge, although
he’s at a bit of a loss to explain why he should go on living. He
eventually has a reason to live drop into his lap, or at least a way to
have a meaningful death, which we’ll learn more about the next time around.
Feels like I may have spoiled too much with this one, but the pacing of
these makes it a bit too easy to summarize. That’s right, it’s somehow
Brian’s fault. Sure, I’ll stick with that. Anyway, my opinion
of this series went up considerably now that I know it IS a series, as
who doesn’t like a good western about a man on the run? It’s officially
worth a look as far as I’m concerned.
~ Optical Sloth
What the hell? Sorry,
us “professional” reviewers need to give you readers more to work with
but… what the hell? Brian has expertly flipped the motive behind
our hero completely around with this issue, and he caught me completely
by surprise. In this issue our hero takes off towards the whorehouse,
at the request of a man in town who says that his daughter is working there
and he wants to get her back. He makes his way to the whorehouse,
finds the girl in question, and manages to grab her and head her towards
the door… when his wife calls his name. She’s at the whorehouse too,
and she has a gun on him. His reaction to this is, well, a little
odd. It’s my personal (and constantly changing) rule that everything
after the midway point of a book is a spoiler, so I can’t say too much,
but this naturally sets our hero to wondering about everything that has
happened in the last couple of issues. He has McTeague’s men after
him (looking for revenge), men from the whorehouse after him (looking for
the woman he basically kidnapped), and then he’s confronted with another
moral dilemma when the woman he’s taken says that she is not the daughter
of that man after all, just somebody he wants as his own personal whore.
This is by far the best issue of the series, and the other two were pretty
damned good already. It takes some talent to make a straightforward
western revenge story into something else entirely, and Brian did it flawlessly.
Check it out, it’s a tough competition but this may end up being his best
series of all.
~ Optical Sloth
small things are great,mini
things are even better.
4 mini comics,each more or less self contained,each different,& each totally worth your time.
xo & just a man are fictitious short stories sparingly illustrated,while lost kisses is a biographical comic with angst & stick figures.
lastly,worms seems to be a horror/sci-fi mini comic.
these would succeed without the gimic of their seriously reduced size,but the format & stories all compliment the medium well.
$8 for 10 readable mini comics is a far better deal than most out there.
~ Maximum Rock & Roll
Wow, these little suckers
put the "mini" in "minicomic." They're just under an inch and a half square,
limiting the comics they contain to one image-caption pairing per page.
It's an interesting constraint to work impose upon oneself, given that
auteur Brian John Mitchell is already up against his own inability to draw.
That's not a subjective assessment, by the way--we're not talking Jeffrey
Brown lo-fi or Brian Chippendale noise or John Porcellino minimalism or
Anders Nilsen stick figures or anything else that's a matter of taste in
the Mitchell-drawn Lost Kisses, we're talking actual stick figures, with
little happy-face faces and five even tinier sticks for fingers. Mitchell's
enthusiasm for making comics outstripped his ability to master even its
most basic necessities. Which is kinda cute, I'll admit, and works well
enough for the kind of ramshackle navel-gazing confessional humor he's
doing in that particular series, but the air of self-indulgence is unmistakable.
Making matters worse is a problem with image flow--I know, hard to believe
given that you're just dealing with one tiny picture and caption on every
page. But Mitchell places the drawings on top of the captions even though
the drawings respond to what's said in the captions, so that you either
have to read bottom-to-top or constantly spoil the gag for yourself. I
have no idea why he does that way--surely he noticed it doesn't scan? I
don't think it's a formal innovation done for effect, like Chippendale's
chutes-and-ladders layouts--I just think it's a mistake.
Which is what makes the other three comics in the envelope Mitchell sent me all the more surprising. Not due to the presence of other artists, mind you--White's work on Just a Man is scratchily effective, particularly with some effects involving sun glare and flames, but Traub aims for abstraction and ends up coming out just sorta sloppy, while Gardner's basic cartoony figures look like they came from any number of entry-level webcomics or student-newspaper strips. No, what's impressive here is how the physical constraints of Mitchell's tiny format are made to enhance his storytelling. When you have so little room that simply printing a sentence at a legible size eats up half your page, you've gotta keep things terse, so why not go hard-boiled and tale tales of murder and mayhem committed by flat-affect protagonists? Just a Man is a Western morality play of violent retribution; a couple of moments overstate the case, I think, but in general it's a chilling thing, with some memorable facial expressions from White and a surprisingly, refreshingly open and un-cliche ending. XO is a series, but this is apparently the origin story for its blase hitman protagonist, and believe me you didn't need to know this to appreciate the bracing matter-of-factness with which the character unwittingly but unhesitatingly graduates from selling drugs to eliminating an exceedingly minor threat to that undertaking. Worms is the least effective of the trio--the art just doesn't do what it wants to do--but the story seems like an engaging enough Cold Heat-style weird-tale sci-fi mindfuck involving a young woman in peril and fighting to break free, and it sure does take a turn for the suddenly brutal at one point. In more assured hands, all three could be really killer melds of form and function. As it stands, they're maybe not quite there, but if you wanted to spend a measly buck per book, even just to examine what they do right and what they do wrong, you'd have my blessing.
~ Sean T. Collins, Attention Deficit Disorderly Too Flat
It is always cool to get
a package of these minicomics from Silber Media. They are the size of a
pack of matches and each take a bout as long to read as the average TV
commercial break. If I were not a mean old miser they would would be perfect
to pass around to my friends. (If I had friends.) In a perfect world, little
comics like these would be on the check out counter of my nearest gas station.
You can find out more and order these for yourself at Silber Media.
Here is a look at the most recent batch:
Just A Man
Words by Brian John Mitchell with art by Andrew White.
At 56 panels/pages this is the strongest of these matchbook sized minis I've seen. The story is a simple western revenge scenario without any real innovations or twists but the execution is quite impressive considering the page/panel count and size. The art is probably the most ambitious I've seen in one of these matchbook minis which is to say that each panel holds about as much drawing as a panel smaller than a matchbook can hold and still make sense. I like White's drawing here. Flipping back through it for a re-read I find that the pages tell the story well without the text.
Lost Kisses #9
By Brian John Mitchell.
Like previous Lost Kisses this book contains one page gag comics where a stick figure talks or interacts with other stick figures and the gag is accompanied by text which tells what I assume is the more honest truth about the situation. The theme in this issue seems to be the artist's relationship with his friends. The gags work as self-deprecating humor in a simple way that might work on a t-shirt but the text gives it a punch of brutal honesty. It's like ironic catch phrases served up with an anti-irony vaccine. The two things kind of wash each other and leave me with feelings neither or elation or sympathy. A bit like a mild punch in the stomach.
Lost Kisses #10
By Brian John Mitchell.
This book continues the formula of the last issues but focuses it's attention on the artist's relation to love and uneasiness with his friends' affection toward him. It would be easy for this sort of introspective self-analysis to become depressing (and that does seem to be the default setting for a lot of auto-bio and diary comics) but the juxtaposition between gags and text keeps things light. There is a tongue-in-cheek self awareness about it that keeps you just a few feet on the funny side of whether or not you need to worry about the artist's potential suicide.
Story and words by Brian John Mitchell with art by Melissa Spence Gardner.
Gardner's minimal Archie style cartooning mixed with Mitchell's Tarantino style characters and situations makes for a fun little read. The story itself is over the top and unbelievable but the character's delivery is so understated that I'm right there with him in every panel. I think the pacing and length are just right making this a really enjoyable episodic narrative. Not quite like a TV sitcom but exactly right for the trip to the bathroom during the commercials.
Story and words by Brian John Mitchell with artwork by Kimberlee Traub.
This comic continues Mitchell and Traub's Lynchian horror adventure. The narrative is a stream of consciousness nightmare. The story does not really move far beyond the previous issues. The character is moving in baby steps as she tries to figure out what is happening to her. Traub does a good job of setting up the scene, action and emotion in as few brush strokes as possible. It's like narrative flash art. Considering the format, each panel represents a clever choice on Traub's part.
~ Shannon Smith, File Under Other
Minimalism can be annoying
if there's nothing solid there. The bedrock artistic product better be
interesting or impactual enough to warrant the sparse quality of its formula.
In the case of Brian John Mitchell's line of matchbook-small mini-comics the messages meticulously imprinted on their tiny pages are short but sweet enough to work expertly.
"Just A Man" is a straight story of revenge better and more effective than any John Huston or Sam Peckinpah film.
"Worms" is a cute little thumbnail of Dadaism that should fill the void for viewers of davidlynch.com that missed a membership payment.
But the crowning achievement in this series, the crazy, quirky coup d' grace that is most deserving of straining your eyeballs is "Lost Kisses," a group of strips with stick figures standing in for Mitchell himself and his sundry self-deprecating and contradictory thoughts about himself and his predispositions.
"I don't always acknowledge my own existence," he writes in one of them. "I could be a figment of your imagination." If this doesn't speak for a society steeped in narcissism, cerebral contusion and damaging self-analysis, I don't know what does. Probably I need to shrink about it.
As I wait to see Dr. Katz to talk about this I read more "Lost Kisses" and wonder why a TV network hasn't snapped these mini-comics up for minisodes yet.
The artwork by Andrew White, Kimberlee Traub and Melissa Spence Gardner is tailored for the screen and Mitchell's words ache to be expounded on. But for now they remain neatly tucked in their cute little dimebag-like sleeves.
~ Bob Freville, Kotori Magazine
I have not had too much experience
with minicomics in the past, so I was excited to check out writer Brian
John Mitchell’s line of minicomics under the Silber Media banner.
Each comic is about the size of a matchbook and sells for $1. Most
of the pages feature one panel with text below them, giving them the feel
of a small storybook. After reading each of the four titles Mitchell
is currently writing, I was impressed with his ability to pack a good amount
of narrative into such a small package.
Here’s a rundown of the four titles I read:
“Just a Man” is a Western tale of a farmer that is out for vengeance after his family killed by people looking to get his land. The story is very reminiscent of some classic westerns (Unforgiven for example), but Mitchell does a great job of drawing you in with the main character’s tragedy, and also giving you plenty of payoff before the issue is over. The art by Andrew White is raw and really carries the emotion of the main character. This one was my favorite of the bunch.
“Worms” is sort of a sci-fi horror story about a woman who is the subject of some grisly experiments, which involve some kind of worms being injected into her bloodstream. I read issue #4, and it seems to be a turning point in the story, as the woman rises up against her captors, presumably tapping into some power that she’s developed because of the experiments. Kimberly Traub, a tattoo artist by trade, provides the art for this story, and it has an abstract, nightmarish quality to it that creeped me out (in a good way).
“XO” follows the story of a hitman, and issue #5 is a flashback tale of how he got started in his life of killing for hire. I enjoyed the dark humor of the book, and the origin story is ironic and funny. Melissa Spence Gardener’s art is solid and will appeal to more traditional comic books fans.
“Lost Kisses” is definitely the most personal book out of the four, as Mitchell takes a self-deprecating look at his own feelings and attitudes. He also provides the stick-figure art on the book, which gives it the feel of a diary entry. With issues #9 and #10, he explores his relationships with people, love and hate, and his own need (or lack thereof) for approval.
Brian John Mitchell definitely knows how to tell good stories within the parameters of a minicomic, and he’s paired himself up with artists that fit well with each individual title. I am interested in reading more of each of the four titles, and I’ll probably check out some of Silber Media’s other stuff as well. At $1 apiece, you certainly get your money’s worth.
~ Brian LeTendre, Secret Identity Podcast
Welcome to the first edition
of “Small Matters” – the mini comic feature here at the good ol’ Publitorium.
In the spirit of most minis, we’ll be posting these sporatically, when
content merits it.Thumbs up!
To kick things off, we have five minis to discuss – all of them written by Brian John Mitchell. Brian was nice enough to contact us via the internets and ask us if we’d like some free mini comics to review. Being entirely professional and such, I did not jump up and down with glee, shouting “Yesssssssssssssss” over and over again. Did. Not. Instead, I sent him an e-mail telling him that we’d be glad to give some of his minis a bit of a read-and-review. Soon after, I got five of these bad boys in the mail. When he said “mini comics”, he sure wasn’t kidding. But enough foreplay – let’s get to the goods.
WORMS #4 | I read this one first… and I’m not really quite sure what to think of it. Mitchell provides a little blurb at the beginning that gets the ball rolling, but as I continue to read the book, I find myself a little lost. The narrative is full of surreal content, as it details what I believe to be a woman waking up from medicated stupour, and finding herself trapped in horrible place where the nurses can send you to sleep just by speaking and worms crawl into your arms from IVs. In the end, I think I failed to get a good footing – but that could also be due to the fact that these kinds of stories rarely float my boat.
JUST A MAN #1 | This, on the other hand, is completely in my wheelhouse. It’s a simple story about a simple man living a simple life as a farmer in olden times, when his house burns down – his family (seemingly) along with it. So he goes all Die Hard, looking for revenge on the man what killed his family. I’m not exactly sure how he does it, but Mitchell really packs this one with a lot of story – even with a beginning that takes a few pages to set up a specifically terse atmosphere. Definitely worth a read.
XO #5 | Drug deals gone bad in this one. Each of these books seems to have a different style of narration – or rather, different narrators. With XO, the protagonist seems to be fairly laid back as he recounts the story of his first kill on the job. The whole thing starts out innocently enough, but then takes a sharp turn for the worse. There’s a bit of blood and a touch of “what-to-do-with-the-body” shenanigans, and then, it’s over. A really good read though. I’m definitely interested in the nameless protagonist and where he goes from here. Or heck, even how he even got to this point in his life.
LOST KISSES #9 & 10 | Ah, the auto-bio comics. A staple of the indie comic world. A lot of people I know are starting to get annoyed with stories like these, but not me. I could read about the trials and tribulations of the misunderstood for hours on end – because as much as the comics try to show how unique their suffering is… really, we’re all going through the same stuff. The players might be a little different, and the actual events might not completely lend themselves to readable drama, but it’s all life. We all pretend to hate it, but really, what would we be doing if we didn’t have one?
Anyway, in the realm of autobio, these are pretty good. All the drawings are very crude (these being done with stick figures – but really, am I one to talk?) but the narration more than makes up for it as Mitchell explores his own life, and his frustrations with it.
All in all these, were pretty great. I probably should’ve picked something other than Worms as the first read, as that one didn’t really seem to stand by itself as much as the others… but I have to admit, that I’m intrigued to see what his other offerings in these series’ are like. Even Worms, but to a lesser extent.
If any of these have tweaked your interest, definitely go over to the Sibler Media mini comic website and order some up. They’re pretty inexpensive, and they all come packaged in these small little comic bags (so many style points). Now, if only I had the gumption to make a tiny long box… that would be nifty.
~ Brandon Schatz, Pulphaus
I get a few comics in the
mail for review purposes, but I found something in my mail a couple of
weeks ago that was unlike the typical review package. It was a standard
business-sized envelope, not the usual big envelope I often find. Inside
I found a folded 8.5×11 information sheet and five tiny packets.
Five little plastic sleeves (the kind I imagine is normally used to distribute
personal amounts of cocaine) each contained a single mini-comic — much
more mini than the typical mini-comic. We’re talking about comics no bigger
than large postage stamps. Writer Brian John Mitchell offers a diverse
array of material — a western, a surreal story of murder conspiracy, a
Dexter-esque crime comic, and an autobiographical journal-like title —
that make for surprisingly engaging reads. It’s surprising in part because
the artwork for all of these projects is amateurish in tone, but Mitchell’s
scripts are solid. Thumbing through these tiny comics with my meaty mitts
was a bit of a pain in the ass, but it was an inconvenience that was ultimately
Just a Man #1: In terms of plotting, this was the strongest of these mini-comics. Mind you, that doesn’t mean will find an original story in these pages. It’s a Western about a simple farmer who seeks revenge on a greedy landowner after he finds his family killed and his home torched. We’ve seen this sort of fare in the genre before. What’s interesting about the story is how it’s constructed. This format only lends itself to a single panel per page, so the reader essentially gets a series of little splash pages. The limited space doesn’t allow for much dialogue or narrative text, but the story is never hindered by those limitations. Mitchell clearly understands his format and uses it well. Andrew White’s art is strong at first, but as the comic progresses, it gets rougher and more amateurish in nature. Still, it’s the most solid of the Silber mini-comics, both in terms of writing and visuals.
Lost Kisses #s 9-10: This is Mitchell’s personal journal of sorts, which he illustrates himself by means of stick figures. The art complements the thoughts he expresses in his script, but it’s so simple and crude in tone that it really doesn’t stay with the reader. Mitchell is surprisingly honest with Lost Kisses (assuming the main character/narrator is meant to be a reflection of him and not a character). He confesses to rudeness, self-involvement and anti-social behavior. But the narrator, as negative as he can be to others, is also true to himself. He’s uninterested in the facades of civility, and he appreciates that he’s as flawed as everyone around him, perhaps even moreso.
Worms #4: I really don’t know exactly what’s going on here as this is just a snippet of a larger story. it’ about a woman apparently in the throes of madness. She awakes in a hospital and manages to escape, perceiving energy around her that empowers her and parasites in the medicine that she’s meant to take. Adding to the confusion is the thoroughly surreal art provided by Kimberlee Traub. Mitchell’s script manages to give the reader some clues as to what he or she sees in the artwork. While the surreal tone of the visuals poses an obstacle, its fluid, weird quality also suits the main character’s apparent insanity.
XO #5: The overall look of Melissa Spence Gardner’s art looks like Archie meets Henry. Again, it’s amateur in tone, but it’s effective in that it mirrors the slightly innocent tone of the sociopath main character. Mitchell’s protagonist is a dichotomy. He sounds like a regular teen, but there’s a corrupt side to his character. He sees violence of a casual, necessary thing, but the target of that violence is painted in a distasteful light as well (even though he’s in the right). The oddly titled XO is curiously twisted, and I think I might be more intrigued by what the writer has to offer in this title if I’d read more than this single chapter.
Overall, these Silber mini-comics spotlight the versatility of the medium, the affordability of self-publishing and the passion of amateur creators whose independence allows them to play around with more experimental ideas and methods. These mini-comics lack polish, but they’re diverting all the same. Still, it’s odd that the quality that makes them truly unique — their tiny size — ends up making them seem disposable as well.
~ Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics
These are tiny micro-mini
comics, measuring about 2x2", and range from 16-40 pages each. Mitchell
is the writer for all of them and is also the (stick-figure) artist of
LOST KISSES. Most of these are parts of a series, all of which are easy
to pick up on as Mitchell hops from genre to genre. JUST A MAN, drawn by
Andrew White, is a sort of hard-bitten western, stripped of glory. A farmer
sees his house burned down, his infant son killed and his wife disappear.
He's pretty sure he knows who did it, and hunts them down, one by one.
I liked the voice Mitchell used for the character, but he overwrote this
story. That's not unusual for a writer collaborating with an artist, but
the story would have had a bit more power if the first-person narrative
had been sparer and he let the visuals carry the story.
WORMS and XO fall into the realms of sci-fi/horror and crime noir, respectively. WORMS had a zippy pace to it and appealingly minimalist art by Kimberlee Traub that fit the story nicely, one that featured a young woman who witnessed the death of her father and was the subject of an experiment in a lab. This issue found her gaining power through some strange worms, subduing her tormentor, and escaping. The single panel per page format fit with Traub's striking and hallucinatory imagery. XO had a similarly snappy pace to it but was let down by Melissa Spence Gardners art. It was competent, but it didn't fit the story's mood or add anything to Mitchell's narrative, which needed a moodier style.
The stand-outs in this set were Mitchell's issues of LOST KISSES. These stick-figure comics were first-person, meandering observations about human behavior and the narrator's own misanthropy. What's clever about these strips is precisely the same thing that hamstrung JUST A MAN: there's a narrative caption working against the image and dialogue on each page (it's a panel per page for all of these comics). However, in this comic, there's a comedic tension that arises as a result of that juxtaposition. Issue #10 was especially amusing, as it was a takedown of the concept of love and those who insist on expressing it, with the author worrying about falling for that fallacy himself. I love how unassuming and direct these comics are; there are no frills or pretensions here--just a writer and artists who are experimenting with a variety of means of expression.
~ Rob Clough, High-Low Comics
I wasn’t expecting Silber
Media’s business to be what it is when I visited their website. I spend
a lot of time looking at the websites of comics artists and writers. I’m
used to a certain format — a format that doesn’t include a recording business
and music publishing collective. (Though now that I think about it, I’m
not sure why I’m surprised.) The professionalism of the Silber Records
website does explain something, though. It explains the patient professional
follow-through that Brian John Mitchell has displayed in his correspondence
with Fantastic Fangirls regarding the reviews of his mini-comics. He’s
been polite but dogged in making sure his comics don’t drop off the radar.
That I remember to review them.
I have to admire that. The self-promotion aspect of self-publishing comics is among my weakest areas in this whole game — right after the actual production of the comics themselves, which I find to be nightmarish. I mean, I’ll mention right now that my comic, Cool Kids has issue #2 available for sale right now, along with a second printing of Cool Kids #1. And #3 is on schedule for September. But I don’t — as of yet — have the persistence that Mitchell shows.
See, he asked us to review his mini-comics. For the record, here’s the Fangirls’ policy on review:
Fantastic Fangirls will accept materials for the purpose of review. Acceptance of materials for review is not an agreement to review or mention the work on the site. If we do mention the work, we do not promise or commit to a positive review. We will make clear in the review the context in which we received the work and any professional or personal affiliations we have with the creative team. We do not accept money or valuable items in exchange for reviews. Materials sent for review will not be returned, whether or not we review the work.
Materials can be sent electronically to any of our emails. Physical copies of works are also accepted. Please email one of the Fangirls for mailing information.
In accordance with this statement, Mitchell sent me five of his mini-comics. Again, the professionalism of his outfit shows in the materials I received. Each mini-comic — and they are mini, each about 1.5 x 2 inches — was neat, trim, well-stapled, and in its own small plastic slipcover. The overall impression I got was that the producers of these comics treated them like art, and perhaps I should as well. Though tiny in dimension, each comic was 40 pages — front and back covers plus 36 pages of black-and-white text and art.
Scott McCloud, in his must-read book Understanding Comics defines the art form thusly: “com.ics (kom’iks) n.plural in form, used with a singular verb. 1. Juxtaposed pictoral and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” Brian John Mitchell’s works fit that definition well. Of the five mini-comics I received for review, three tell a portion of a story. Only Lost Kisses (of which I reviewed #9 and #10) doesn’t meet my criteria for story — there is little narrative, little action. It does, however, intend to and succeed at producing an aesthetic response in the reader.
Let’s take a closer look at Lost Kisses. This is probably my least favorite form of comics, or comix. The noodling autobiographical discussion of one’s self. Frequently including how unpleasant, petty, and diminished the author/narrator is, or how vile other people are. But I recognize that, if one likes that genre — if one likes things like the RAW Anthologies — then these are a good example of the type. Each page is one panel. Each panel contains a narrative and a simple stick-figure drawing in which characters interact. In the pages of Lost Kisses #9 and #10, Mitchell and/or the narrator discuss how badly he/they/one relates to other people. It’s not my idea of a good story, but it is well done for what it is.
I far preferred the other three comics I read. Mitchell sent Worms #4, XO #5, and Just a Man #1.
Just a Man is a western. It’s very decompressed, with panels and narration that convey a sense of the empty timelessness of a western landscape. The story is straightforward, and the simple art (by Andrew White) is evocative. I think my favorite was Worms, with art by Kimberlee Traub. Billed on the website as a sci-fi/horror comic, I’d have to agree. With only issue #4 in front of me I was plunked into the middle of the narrative, about a hospital, and imprisonment, and worms, and — Let’s just say it was creepy and evocative. Traub’s art is simple, stylized, and made me think of the nightmare child of Kandinsky and Miro.
Mitchell offers his comics for sale. He also offers many of the single issues in digital format, and some are available as short animations. I think I have to say that most of his work is not precisely my thing. But he is quite good at what he does. The stories are cleanly presented in a format that is pleasant to hold; as physical objects, Mitchell’s mini-comics are attractive and engaging.
Tell you what — go to the website and look for yourself. Check out the digital comics, look at the animations. See if you want to shell out the one, or two, or ten dollars to help an independent artist continue with his work.
~ Sigrid Ellis, Fantastic Fangirls
For this review I hopped
in my Way-Back Machine and revisited my brief love affair with 'zines and
mini comics in the mid-late nineties! While living in BC I consumed
many charming, low-grade-photocopied, hand stapled, DIY creations, and
this handful of 1.75" x 2.25" (approx) $1.00 comics from Silber Media in
Raleigh, North Carolina were a pleasant return to those days.
So let's start with "Just A Man" from Brian John Mitchell (words) & Andrew White (art):
Like all of the mini-comics reviewed here "Just A Man" starts off very strong with a simple, but gripping cover and an intriguing beginning for the story. As a big fan of westerns, I was happy to see a story about a simple, peaceful man ("I'm just a farmer." "I'm just a husband") working the land. It's not easy establishing a character or characters in such a limited amount of space but this does it well with both imagery and simple text. The second half of the book wasn't quite as strong for me as it seemed to resort to a few gunfighter cliches. Perhaps it could have been streamlined a bit more by jumping right from the death of the main antagonist to the visit with the doctor (which I really liked). All in all, this would be well worth the price of admission.
Next is "Worms" #4 from Brian John Mitchell & Kimberlee Traub:
Worms starts off with simple summary that gets us up to speed on the important parts of #1-3. The abstract art may be a little inaccessible for some readers, but conveys the condition of the narrator at the time of the story well enough for me. Strange and discomforting imagery was the highlight though with ideas like little worms moving from an IV drip into the veins or a nurse who is "light as a feather" and is thrown into storm clouds to be struck by lightning. Again, the end of the book wasn't the strongest part, but it could be because this one is more of a serial than the others.
Next is "XO" #5 from BJM & Melissa Spence Gardner:
XO's strength at the top is the first line of the comic: "My best friend's brother was the first person I was ever paid to kill." I'm immediately hooked and want to know more. Initially, I thought the juxtaposition between the noir-ish subject matter and the Archie-ish art was going to be a part of the story (both of which I liked) but I'm afraid the disconnect between the two remained throughout the story for me, much to its detriment. That could be due to not having read the first 4 issues though. I think I would have enjoyed seeing more of the "I'm the star in the movie that is my life" kind of mentality for the main character as his thought process seemed to be the highlight of this mini for me.
Finally is "Lost Kisses" #9 & 10 presumably from BJM on both the writing & art:
This is probably the fav' of the lot I got to review despite (partially because of) the stick-man art. Of the lot, this one is easily the most introspective and thoughtful as the opening line "I'm not sure hatred's better than apathy." attests. Imagine a thoughtful, slacker who is a self described misanthropist waxing philosophic about the temporary nature of life and how it affects peoples' opinions of him because he views them as "ephemeral" and "temporary"... or how love "Freaks [him] the fuck out." My favourite line on the latter subject was; "Sometimes I say "I love you" by accident when having sex or something." Hilarious. The contrast between heady subject matter and overly simplistic visuals emphasizes the cerebral strength of this comic while unapologetically ignoring the physical aspects. Definitely the most engaging for me.
All in all, I'd say Silber Media, Brian John Mitchell & friends are putting out fair to high quality comics that are easily worth their humble cover price, especially considering the challenge of conveying emotion and hooking the reader with such a limited medium. I'd say these treats from our neighbours to the south are worth every penny! Check 'em out at www.silbermedia.com
~ Where Monsters Dwell
These are the smallest comics
I've ever seen. Seriously, look at them. Their palmable size and tiny plastic
baggies bring to mind illicit substances, or secret messages that you have
to destroy after reading. Each page has only one panel and a line of text,
requiring the storytelling to be as compact as the packaging.
These match-book sized comics are written by Brian John Mitchell and put out by his indie distribution company, Silber Media. Issues of each of the four serialized titles can be ordered for a dollar each, though several issues are also available for free on the Silber site.
The books cover a range of genres; XO is a hitman power fantasy, Just a Man is a slow burning western, Lost Kisses is an sardonic, self-effacing confessional about Mitchell's personal life(illustrated almost entirely with grinning stick figures), and Worms is a paranoid headtrip that invovles worms, questionably ethical medical treatments, and other unpleasant things.
The common thread in each book is an understated, almost deadpan style of narration. Take for example the narration that accompanies the opening three pages of XO:
"I just killed someone for free.
I guess you could say I killed some people when I was younger....
...but none since I consider myself an adult."
This irrisistibly macabre hook is made even more distincitve by it's context; an adorably small booklet with illustrations that look more like a daily comic strip than the sort angular grit usuallly found in a crime graphic novel. The story unfolds with similarly passive descriptions of crime and murder, and the series ends up feeling like a slice-of-life diary comic by a sociopath. Whether it reads as creepy or funny is probably a matter of taste, but it's entertaining either way.
While several issues of XO can be read online, the highlight of the Silber Comics stable really needs to be read in print for the full effect. Only a single issue of Just A Man has been released so far, but in that 56 panel issue Mitchell and artist Andrew White tell a wild west story of revenge that evokes dread and suspence on every miniature page.
The dramatic weight of Just A Man is entwined with it's formal elements; having to focus your attention on stamp sized panels creates an bond between the reader and the stark desert world of the story. The limitations of size and length force the reader to consider the meaning behind each image and sentence, and as the plot turns more and more grim, the effect is hauntingly intimate.
Just A Man is a serious tale in a small package, and I highly reccomending spending the dollar it costs to have one delivered to your house. Read it in a public place for maximum effect; people will wonder what the hell you're holding that has you so engaged, and you'll feel like you're getting away with something.
~ Ana Hurka-Robles, Geekanerd
Five new micro-minicomics
from Brian John Mitchell. Taking a look…
JUST A MAN is drawn by Andrew White and tells the story of a farmer in the Old West that comes home to find his infant son dead and wife kidnapped into a fate unknown. The farmer then has to decide whether or not to wait for justice or quest for vengeance, and, well, that’d be a boring wait. Mitchell does a good job of getting mileage out of a classic Western story trope here, and White does a nice job in creating the panel-a-page approach used by Mitchell. Solid.
Melissa Spence Gardner draws XO #5, the continuing saga of a professional killer. Mitchell takes the story into flashback mode here, recalling the first time the character was paid to kill someone… his best friend’s brother. What surprises is that he creates some solid suspense as to whether or not he actually accomplished the deed. I’ve generally been enjoying the XO comics, and this is easily the best one to date. However, I think the real secret is that Mitchell and Gardner simply work best as a team. He’s learning how to write to her strengths, and she’s getting more skilled at using the format effectively. Very good.
WORMS #4 has Kimberlee Traub on art chores, and continues following the lead character as she tries to escape the strange hospital where she’s being held captive and experimented upon. Tired of the i.v. that’s allowing the worms into her body, she once again musters the strength to stand and begin to make her way towards the exit. Only a single nurse stands in her way- will she make it? WORMS has an interesting story going on, but I don’t feel like the micro-mini format really allows it the oxygen it needs to effectively tell the story, nor does it allow Traub the ability to do any real storytelling with the art- it’s just one abstract moment after another.
Closing things out are LOST KISSES #9-10, both drawn by Mitchell himself. LOST KISSES is an autobiographical comic, and to be blunt, it’s the weakest material he produces. I give him credit for putting things out in front of people: issue nine discusses why his friends’ wives and girlfriends hate him, and issue ten covers his inability to deal with being shown love. But while I think it’s supposed to come off as brave to discuss these things, the attitude he conveys makes him come across as a complete d-bag. (I don’t think that’s what Mitchell really had in mind.) There’s something really unpleasant about admitting you see someone’s wife or girlfriend as just another object to ignore, like a t-shirt. It mostly wants to make you put down the comic and punch the author in the junk.
As always, never a dull moment with the Silber micro-minis.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room
It's always fun to read one
of Mitchell's micro minis. Even better when you get several at one time.
The page count varies based on the story, but they're always so chubby
and pages are bursting to escape the pair of staples it takes to bind them.
Mitchell ships them in tiny plastic bags to keep them as flat as possible
during their trip through the mail.
The format for each is a full page panel on every page with a caption below. If there's any dialogue, it appears inside word balloons in the panel. Mitchell uses the format to great effect building tension and momentum in his dramatic series. The design is seamless for books without dialogue. Those with dialogue take a moment to adjust to because the natural tendency is to read the word balloon first. Once you get in the groove of caption first, balloon second, it's all good.
Worms is a sci-fi/horror series. The heroine is trapped inside an institution, drugged, and hooked up to an IV drip filled with worms. The latest episode is #4. It's more fun to start at the beginning of the series but Mitchell is kind enough to start each issue with a short recap of the previous action. Worms is drawn by Kimberly Traub. Issue four is quite the psychotropic adventure and provides a hint of hope for "our girl" in her hopelessly horrible hostel.
Lost Kisses is a comedy series with Mitchell's sometimes hilarious, sometimes glib ruminations on love and relationships. Each issue is a self-contained exploration. His most prolific title, the first ten issues of Lost Kisses are available individually in print or digitally in a DVD collection with a few bonus features. BTW, Mitchell illustrates the stick figure cast of Lost Kisses when he's not writing or producing music CDs.
Mitchell describes XO as his darkest mini comic, the humanization of an anti-hero. And here I thought is was going to be all kisses and hugs. Issue #5 opens with: "My best friend's brother was the first person I was ever paid to kill." Now that's an opening line that grabs you and fits the page-turning design of these micro minis perfectly. Drawn by Melissa Spence Gardner, it's another winner.
Just a Man is Mitchell's newest title and surprisingly, it's a western. Like his other dramatic titles, Mitchell starts building tension and conflict immediately until it erupts in a western showdown that doesn't disappoint. The ending is twisted—a satisfying, but quirky conclusion with room for more should the series continue. It's drawn by Andrew White.
Mitchell is a prolific author. If you like his comics I believe he's looking for more artists to render his growing list of titles. He can be contacted via Silber Media, where you can read and order issues of Worms, Lost Kisses, XO, and Just A Man. For bundled deals check out the Silber Media Comics page.
~ Richard Krauss, Poopsheet Foundation
Can you tell a story with
only one panel per page? That's what the folks at Silber Media did with
their mini-comics and although the format is unusual, they seemed to have
pulled it off with the unique style that is Indy Comics.
The art in the mini's isn't your everyday glitz and glam that much of the industry relies on. It sports its own unique style that changes with each mini.
Just a Man features a story of a man on a mission. With only fifty-six panels to work with total, Brian John Mitchell and Andrew White managed to take what seems a simple tale and tell a story that had captured my interest and made me wonder what the next installment had in store for our gun-toting' farmer. White's use of scratchy almost sketch-like art brings you into the era the story takes place in and compliments the story.
Worms #4 was one of those issues that made you think about what was happening in the issue. Seeing an insane asylum or possibly recovery treatment center from the perspective of a delusional mind was a unique way to bring a story to life. Kimberly Traub's art is reminiscent of the broken and chaotic scenes that make up dreams and the visual metaphors the mini uses seem to be indicative to its ability to make your own mind try to figure out what exactly is happening.
XO #5 takes us into the world of narcotics as part of the everday life. Melissa Spence Gardner brings a more familiar drawing style to this comic, adding details some of the other mini's left untouched. The story itself didn't quite capture my imagination and seemed a bit unreal presenting character interactions to the reader that just didn't seem genuine.
Lost Kisses 9 & 10 looks like a blog in the form of a miniature comic book, with each issue appearing to be a blog entry. The issues make you wonder if this is honestly how the author feels about life or if it's just a character he's created to bring to Lost Kisses. The issue uses a strange style of a combination of word balloons and narrator dialogue boxes on every panel. The character in the story many times begins his thoughts in the balloon and they finish in the narrator box. It struck me as odd, but to each his own.
I applaud the attempt to create and publish your own material and the unique way in which it was accomplished, however I have to say that all in all, I wasn't excited about the comics and at a dollar each, I can't say I'd recommend them. To be fair I should note that you can also get a bundle of 10 for $8, but to be honest, even though some of the comics managed to keep my attention, I wasn't happy enough with them to order more.
~ Steven Sykora, Project Fanboy
Silber Media does a lot of
things, and one of those things is making tiny little hand-written, hand-drawn
mini comics that are about the size of match books. The makers of these
little comics have released a new batch for fans of theirs to check out.
Lost Kisses # 9 & #10
Lost Kisses is a series that follows characters in their simplest form: as stick figures. These stick figures like to offer up a lot of thoughts and philosophies about the world around us, and more specifically, they dive into the ruthlessly painful world of romance and relationships.
A bit of a trippy mind-screw of a ride, Worms tells the story of a girl who mysterious wakes up in a hospital, attached to an IV filled with worms that are making their way into her system. Over time, the girl begins to find herself getting stronger as she attempts to escape the evil hospital.
Here’s a tale in the same vein as Dexter, where a murdering hitman makes an effort to slide back into every day society — a task that turns out to be just as difficult as it sounds.
Just A Man
Just A Man is Silber Media’s new take on the Western genre. It tells the story of a man who has been wronged, and seeks justice and cold, hard revenge on those who are responsible.
All comics are written by Brian John Mitchell and can be found at Silber Media’s official site. Comics will only run you about $1 each, or can be picked up in bundles.
~ Geeks of Doom
Dans la série mini-comics,
on connaissait les 2 Watts box de Bülb comix (la set U étant
la dernière en date), ou encore les ‘John Master John’ de Ibn Al
Rabin. Outre Atlantique, Brian John Mitchell, réalise plusieurs
séries de mini-comics, format presque carré autour de 5 cm,
entre 20 et 40 pages. Seul, il signe l'humoristique ‘Lost Kisses’, articulé
sur une situation ou réflexion dessinée (au style enfantin)
et d'une légende décalée ou en contrepoint. Il écrit
d'autres séries avec différents dessinateurs, ‘Just a Man’
avec Andrew Shite, ‘worms’ avec Kimberlee Traub, ‘XO’ avec Melissa Spence
Gardner. Tout ceci est à découvrir, avec de nombreux extraits
(en vidéo et au format comics numérique), et à commander
sur la partie comics du site Silber Media. Brian John Mitchell n'édite
pas seulement des comics, mais aussi de la musique, voir et écouter
la partie music!
~ Le Zata