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xo is our darkest mini-comic.  A humanization of an anti-hero.

story & words - Brian John Mitchell
artwork - Melissa Spence Gardner

order a physical copy of individual issues for $1.50 ($2.50 intn'l) (includes shipping)
XO issue 
XO issue (international) 
order physical copies of #1-#7 for $6 ($8 international)
Issue #1 Click here to see the digital version or watch it at IFC Medialab or YouTube
Issue #2 Click here to see the digital version or watch it at IFC Medialab or YouTube
Issue #3 Click here to see the digital version or watch it at YouTube
Brian did an interview about xo at Jazma Online
Here's some digital comics (Need a digital comic reader?  Try CDisplay for PC or FeedFace View for Apple)
read a PDF of XO #1 | read a CBZ of XO #1
read a PDF of XO #2 | read a CBZ of XO #2
read a PDF of XO #3 | read a CBZ of XO #3
read a PDF of XO #4 | read a CBZ of XO #4
read a PDF of XO #5 | read a CBZ of XO #5
read a PDF of XO #6 | read a CBZ of XO #6
read a PDF of XO #7 | read a CBZ of XO #7
artist bios:
Melissa Spence Gardner draws comics. She does other stuff occasionally, but mostly she draws comics. Did I mention that she draws comics?  Melissa was born in San Francisco.  Her first memory is of the pink blanket that she was industriously swaddled in and thinking, “Have they invented Hello Kitty yet?”
As a young child Melissa dreamed of the day that she could use the word summer as a verb.  Her doodles were unremarkable.  By the age of nine all that she had contributed to modern society was a piece of yarn that she would demand that her mother tie through the belt loop at the back of her pants.  She called this innovation a “tail.”
Melissa claims to have been the first college student in Wisconsin to have both a tattoo and an eye-brow piercing.  She enjoyed strolling through the mall &watching mothers grip the hands of their small children & eye her warily.
When she lost a bet with Bobcat Goldthwait in a bar in Thailand, she suddenly found herself spending a year abroad, studying in Scottland.  Oddly, she has never drawn a strip that has incorporated either plaid or kilts.  She has however drawn cheap bastards.
Melissa is the artist behind Strange Snow.  In her Madison, Wisconsin home she is never far from a pen & a stack of paper.  Drawing comics is her passion.  Observing life & displaying it for you is her dream.

Brian John Mitchell wanted to be a writer as a child, but it didn't work out because he lost interest when he found out it wouldn't come easily for him.  He had short stories & poetry  published a few times when he was 17.   At  19 he started a music zine called QRD which still continues online.  At 21 he self-produced a hand stitched book of short stories called Subhorrea which was followed by the yet to be printed 4 Hours Old.  At 22 he started the now defunct business-card-sized zine Random Kisses, a poetry zine with an edge towards swearing & violence.  At 23 he started Zombie Kisses, a zine about life after a zombie plague & personal responsibilities.  At 29 he started his first on-going comic, Lost Kisses which is 50% Lad-Lit & 50% Charlie Brown.  He is best known as the head of Silber Records & for his musical works under the names Remora & Small Life Formxo is his first comic collaboration & a first attempt at a clear power fantasy story.

Reviews:
XO #6
It feels like I haven’t reviewed an issue of XO in ages.  Granted, that certainly isn’t Brian’s fault, as he continues to crank out these minis at a ridiculous pace.  Luckily he’s more than smart enough to put a recap on the first page, so people with spotty memories like me have a chance to get caught up.  In the last issue there was the small matter of a murder and what to do with the body, so this issue takes care of all that.  It’s less suspenseful than you might think, as the main character is given an address to take the body and goes on his merry way.  Nobody seems to suspect anything, our hero gets cover at his work so nothing is out of the ordinary, and all he has to do is take a 12 hour drive down to Miami.  Oh, and did I mention that our hero is 16 and has never left the area?  After all the murders of the first few issues this one was downright serene, as the narrator contemplates the fact that he could now never become a writer (writers have to write what they know, and he can never risk news of the murder getting out) and wonders what other career he could come up with.  By the end of the issue he has a pretty good idea, but why spoil that for you?  In case people see the vast body of work that Brian has put out over the last couple of years and want to try something but don’t know where to start, I’m going to suggest going for a full series instead of getting one or two issues of everything.  In the mood for a fantastic western revenge story?  Get Just A Man.  Like to read about failed relationships, or at least relationships that left serious emotional scars?  Lost Kisses is for you.  How about creepy government paranoia and parasitical invasion?  Worms, my good chap (or chapette).  Or, if “in over his head but still preternaturally calm about it”, why not try XO?  $5 gets you pretty much any of the series I mentioned, and who doesn’t have $5 stashed away somewhere for good comics?
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth

This is the story of a boy (16-years-old) who kills people. Why? The same reason you think about it — only he acts on it. In this issue, he drives a car with a body in the trunk 12 hours to a man who will deal with it. On the way, he thinks about possible futures, and by the time he's headed home he has a better idea.
Not much happens in this volume. It functions to move the plot along: he's able to get rid of his latest body and thinks about his past and future life choices. While that helps in the overall picture, it's not a good place to jump in. Each page contains text and one panel with art that's not bad. There are a good variety of perspectives too; I particularly like how the interior of the car and bus are handled. There's some rather good and pointed humor in this issue — especailly considering we're reading an inexpensive comic book. That alone makes it enjoyable if you know anything about the "glamorous" life of writing, art, or comics.
~ Sheena McNeil, Sequential Tart

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.
~ Matthew J. Brady, Warren Peace Sings the Blues

Earlier Issues
You know what I love most about this particular series?  It’s the fact that the murders have all been, on some level or another, justifiable.  Granted, it’s been just barely justifiable in some cases (#3, for example, and this one) but there’s a case to be made for the fact that murderer was mostly trying to do the right thing.  In this issue a young drug dealer is confronted by the brother of a man to whom he’s dealing drugs.  He mentions this problem to his partner, who mentions it to the supplier, and is offered $5000 to take care of the problem along with assistance in getting rid of the body, but any action to be taken is purely up to the dealer.  The dealer confronts the brother, meaning only to talk, but he confronts him while the guy is working on his car and he ends up getting accidentally killed in a manner that’s familiar to anybody who has ever worked under a car hood who has an active imagination.  The comic ends a little abruptly, as we’re left to wonder exactly how this dealer is going to get rid of the body, but I still love all the ambiguity.  Brian is doing an excellent job of giving all of his series a distinct voice, and the contribution of Melissa with the art has to be at least mentioned.  That death shot was a particularly gruesome panel and she manages to make all of these deaths seem like they could be happening to somebody you know, no small feat.
~ Kevin Bramer, Optical Sloth

Watching the misadventures of a teenage drug-dealer cum hitman is one thing, but when it looks like a backup story in an Archie digest, I can’t help feeling that it lost me somewhere along the way. It’s not that Gardner’s art is bad—I rather enjoy it on its own merits—just misplaced. If the focus of xo was a teenage drug-dealer it might have genuinely worked, but the hitman element seems really out of place in nearly every regard. In A Complete Lowlife, Ed Brubaker’s semi-autobiographical main character was an amoral scumbag, but you believed the things that happened to him could honestly occur. In xo, after the narrator’s first target is accidentally dispatched, the narrator quickly tidies up the murder scene, slips the body into the trunk and drives off in the victim’s car, like he’s been doing this kind of thing all his life. I don’t buy it. I almost wish xo had shot a little lower in its plot aspirations, because if this had just been the accounts of a garden variety scumbag’s drug deals gone wrong, I might have genuinely enjoyed it.
~ Inkstuds

When asked, many people say their career choice was not so much a decision, as some kind of series of incidents and events that resulted in that career. So it is for the main character in XO, as well. In XO #5, we learn about the haphazard start to our anti-hero's avocation. Sometimes you accidentally kill someone you were kinda sorta but not really thinking about killing anyway. It's better to get paid in these cases, I suppose.
The XO story is told in a factual, deadpan way, with short, blunt sentences, and fairly simple character design. The humor is seen mostly in the action. Some plumber's butt here, a little jazz hands there, and suddenly manslaughter is more ridiculous than horrific. The drawings themselves remind me a bit of Mad Magazine, a bit of the old black and white Loony Tunes, and a tiny bit of the caricatures my friend used to draw in high school.
Although this succeeds as a mini-comic, I could see it translating well into a series of simple animated films. Brian and Melissa, are you reading this? You could be working the multi-media angle here! You could be the next Spike & Mike!
Fans of black humor and stories about criminals as regular Joes will probably get a kick out of this one. Being a tale of murder and the low life, it is violent. If you read it and it makes you sad that blood squirted out of someone, don't come crying to me; you were warned.
~ Holly von Winckel, Sequential Tart

Oh man. Selling drugs and being paid $5,000.00 to whack someone. When you do the whacking, you hit the guy in the head with a car hood!
~ Paul Dale Roberts, Jazma Online!

This series is apparently about a young hitman, but this issue seems to function as the first part of a sort of origin story, in which he discovers his capacity for murder while simply trying to maintain his drug-dealing career. It's fairly effective, although the character is sort of a cipher, seeming to move through his life without emotion (although his internal monologue tries to argue otherwise). Maybe it's the art, which is occasionally effective in its cartoony figure work and features some nice toned shading rather than crude, simple linework, but can also be a bit stiff.
It's a decent little slice of a story, but not as compelling as it could be; I don't feel like I need to find out what happens next (or before). And the caption-based narration gets a bit grating, but maybe that's just reading a repetition of Mitchell's tics all in a row.
~ Matthew Brady, Warren Peace

This comic sits somewhere between Lost Kisses and Worms. It has the violent fantasy of Worms with the introspective and familiar narration of Lost Kisses. Accompanied by the character-driven art of Melissa Spence Gardner, XO #5 reads like an extended edition of a sick Bazooka Joe bubble gum comic, only the punchline is murder.
Occasionally, when the images become symbolic, I get confused. I think this minicomic works best when it’s literal – seeing the simplistic-yet-visceral representation of this story’s events really drives home the violence. It may sound odd to say it, but this issue is at its finest when the aloof narration is paired with literal interpretations of casual brutality.
~ Nick Marino, Audio Shocker

This comic comes the closest to actual cartooning, although it still uses the “one panel per page” format. This series is about a hired killer, again, narrating his adventures in the first person. Once again, the writing is pretty perfunctory, and has no real voice to it. But at least the story has a little more to it. Overall, reading these comics was a chore, and not something I’d ever want to do again. If writing them makes the author happy, more power to him, but I don’t see this as a career for him unless he manages to improve by leaps and bounds.
~ Matt Adler, Ain't It Cool News

Writer Mitchell tosses off a rather casual yet blunt tale of the main character and his first experience at being paid to kill someone. Gardner's art is simple single-panel-per-page, yet deceptively detailed. I felt like the story was an average everyday normal occurrence - it just flowed so well. PG-13, I suppose, for the cartoony gore.
~ Wade Busby, Dimestore

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.
XO #5
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.
Worms #4
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 worthwhile.
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.
Worms #4
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.
XO #5
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

More matchbook-size madness from Silber Media as the ultra-tiny comics continue with humor and mayhem.
Writer Brian John Mitchell crafts three different stories with three different distinct voices in each of his three matchbook style comics – an impressive accomplishment for an indie writer. XO is written from the point of view of a cold-hearted assassin trying to change his life… with a distinct lack of success, while Lost Kisses chronicles the everyday adventures of a guy drifting through life and coming to realize things profound, mundane, and sometimes stupid. Worms, on the other hand, is an adventure in a surreal dreamscape… or is it all a dream?
In this installment of XO our nameless hitman finds his nice neighbor lady outside the apartment complex having an argument with her abusive boyfriend. Of course, our protagonist tries to do the nice thing…
In Lost Kisses the nameless lead takes a look at his current girlfriend and tries to decide if her good qualities outweigh her bad or vice-versa. Of course, what he considers good and bad qualities varies considerably.
Finally, with Worms the unnamed female protagonist wakes up from her nightmare… or does she? The surrealism continues – is this all just one extended dream? Is she insane and this is part of her delusion? Or could there be more than meets the eye going on here?
Mitchell switches voice from comic to comic with ease and each one feels true to character and to genre. With XO, while the story may be pretty simple and easily straightforward, that is because it is really more of a form to hang this peculiar brand of black humor on. That kind of black humor that comes from awkward, sudden, and brutal violence and a person so far outside of society they cannot see the strangeness of it all. It is a little in the vein of the movie Grosse Point Blank. Lost Kisses, on the other hand, is weirder and funnier. Based (a tiny bit) on Mitchell’s own life, the first person narrator seems stereotypically young and a little off-kilter. Trying to make sense of life and of love, the voice bounces from the ridiculous to the sublime and the reader can sometimes see a bit of themselves here – both the times when we are unaccountably brilliant and the times when we are shamefully shallow and superficial. Worms is an interesting experiment but, as an ongoing, it has been a little hampered by the long delay between issues. I have to confess that I didn’t clearly remember the story from the previous issue and, being the size of a book of matches means there isn’t room for a recap page. Still, Mitchell does manage to capture the twisted surrealism and landscape architecture of dreams and bend them into a story.
Mitchell puts on his artist’s cap for Lost Kisses and handles the simple, stick-figure art. There are no backgrounds to speak of but his simple, deliberately kindergarten style adds to the humor, whimsy, and oddness of the piece. Melissa Spence Gardner handles the artist duties on XO, however, and she proves that she is growing more and more comfortable with the space constraints and actually using them to her advantage. The matchbook size makes extreme close-ups even more intense and she sprinkles these throughout the story. Backgrounds, however, are still mostly non-existent as she instead focuses on the characters. Kimberlee Traub takes on the art for Worms. As with the others, the small scale of the medium keeps her artwork limited… perhaps a bit too limited. She has a nice, spare style and she obviously understands the unrealism of the story but her single panels look a bit disjointed when viewed as a whole.
These three mini-comics are each an interesting experiment in storytelling in more ways than one. At $1.00 each they are an affordable way to test out a unique series of independent comics and with a size smaller than the palm of your hand they can be read anywhere at any time.
~ Tonya Crawford, Broken Frontier

Lost Kisses, Brian talks about women in general.  It appears the information is brought on from the experiences found in his life.  The woman in focus in this story has a history of mental abuse and other type of abuses.  She is a pathological liar.  She has been in terrible relationships. The boy in this story is somewhat shallow and remarks on the aberrations he finds on her body.  She appears to be a gold digger, her intimacy seems faked.  You get two sides of this picture.  In a second story, it seems like a dream come true and the other story is horror around every corner.  Some of these stories remind me of my Starbucks coffee dates.  There are personality conflicts, they don't look like their picture, they live beyond their means, they are shallow and egotistical.  To find the perfect woman is as hard as capturing a Bigfoot.  In Worms, you have a woman that has a gun battle with a policeman, she finds herself tied up on a gurney and taken to a hospital where they are intravenously giving their patients a solution that has tiny worms in it...yep, we have a big mystery and it will continue....   In XO, a guy is a good Samaritan and saves a girl from a brutal attack by some ruffian guy.  The good Samaritan breaks the ruffian's finger, punches him in the face and accidently kills him.  He now has to clean up this accidental murder.  He should have minded his own business.  Silbermedia has extreme entertainment in small packages.  I am headed for Aruba and Argentina, I can carry these comics in my shirt pocket and read them on my layovers, it can't get any better than that!
~ Paul Dale Roberts, JazmaOnline

In this edition of Breaking Ground, we are taking a look at three mini-comics produced by Silber Media: xo, Worms, and Lost Kisses.
We pick up the xo story with issue #4, "Neighbors" where our empathetic sociopath is drawn into interfering with his neighbor's argument. While our retired hired gun's interference is well intentioned, he only knows one way to solve problems. He stuffs the drunken, abusive, passed out boyfriend into a car, drives down the road, and...you have to pick up this mini-comic! The art packs a TKO punch and the storyline is darkly funny (along the lines of Chuck Pahaniuk's novels). The artwork is by Melissa Spence Gardner and the story and words are by Brian John Mitchell.
The Worms mini-comic is only two issues in, and the first issue tells the story of how a young girl witnesses the murder of her father. Taking a look at issue #2, "Capture" has our girl waking up, still clinging to the gun she stole from the murderers. She tries to elude her captors in hospital halls that never end, rooms that are reminiscent of WWII infirmaries, and witnesses malevolent medical treatments. The art conveys the confusion, fear, and entrapment mirrored by our heroin's plight. For those of you who love H.P. Lovecraft and Franz Kafka, you'll appreciate the references. The artwork is by Kimberlee Traub and the story and words are by Brian John Mitchell.
Lost Kisses #6, "She's at least as Good as She is Evil," is a collection of standalone laughs rather than a continuation of the story. This comic is a veritable yin and yang with its "Reasons to Run and Hide" on the front and the "Reasons to Stay by Her Side" on the back (or would that be front?). As for "Reasons to Run and Hide," if you are bitter from a recent break up, you will identify your ex-psycho on this side and have a hearty (and relieved) laugh. Take solace, it was the right decision. And for "Reasons to Stay by Her Side," this side will give the self-aware co-dependent a good chuckle. As for me, I certainly see a former boyfriend-turned-stalker depicted on this side. The draw-dropping stick-figure art, as well as the story, is by Brian John Mitchell.
For comics that are only as big as a Goliath's thumb, I'm giving these two thumbs up!
~ Katie Riley, Comic Related

In many ways, minicomics are the purest form of comicbook expression. Written and drawn in an artistic form of guerilla theatre, they are photocopied and stapled by people who genuinely love the artform and see it as a way to present their thoughts and ideas and not just as a way to make their name. Whenever I hit a major con, I always put aside a piece of my budget to find and buy new minis. But occasionally, I also receive some in the mail for review, and that was the case with these three minis from Brian John Mitchell. And Mitchell has taken the minicomic to an even more literal place; rather than the usual 8.5 by 5.5 inch mini, these are two inches by two inches, about the size of a matchbook.
XO #4 is the best of the three, a surprising and darkly funny piece of work. A man arrives home from the grocery store to find his female neighbor arguing with her lout of a boyfriend and intervenes against his better nature. What happens from there goes south in a hurry, and the ultimate resolution has a wonderfully black heart in the center of its chest. Melissa Spence Gardner does a terrific job of using the tiny amount of space on the page to its fullest effect, employing her inks diligently to maximize the panels’ ability to move the story forward. One recommendation- I didn’t read the PR about the story ahead of time, and I was glad because it contained a spoiler that would have taken some of the edge off the story. Should you choose to buy one of these, avoid any descriptive text.
Right behind XO in my preference would be WORMS #2. This story, which focuses on a young woman waking to find herself in a nightmarish hospital, fills its pages with tension and dread, and again finds a way to use the small format to positive effect. Artist Kimberlee Traub goes with a more minimalist look, allowing the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks as the girl tries to free herself from what appears to be a horrible fate on the horizon. Mitchell’s script is mining a rich vein of traditional sci-fi horror tropes here, but it doesn’t feel warmed over.
Lastly is LOST KISSES #6, Mitchell’s meditation on whether or not the woman in your life is right for you. It’s a flipbook, presenting the good things on one side and the bad on the other, and while I understood what Mitchell was trying to do (be funny and work out some issues he’s gone through in his past) it just never took hold for me. I felt that way in large part because nothing here felt surprising or revelatory; instead, it felt like old hat- like a supplement to “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Put up against his work in the other two minis, this is definitely the weak sauce in the Mitchell oeuvre.
~ Marc Mason, Comics Waiting Room

This trio of tiny, self-published minis are so fat Mitchell forces each one into its own little plastic bag to hold it shut. In truth, I had to cut one of them open to get it out. At only about 2 x 2 inches I can't even imagine how challenging it is to collate, align, and staple them. But of course the size gives them instant charm.
The format really only allows one panel per page and for two of these books—the ones with stories—it works especially well. Unlike a traditional comic page made up of multiple panels, here, whenever the story turns in an unexpected direction it's a bigger surprise because you can't glance ahead.
Lost Kisses #6 (48 pages) is uncredited, but I think it was written and drawn by Mitchell. Initially, the charm of the book's size, its title, and its first person narrative style made me think it was an autobiographical comic about the love of the author's life. But on closer reading, I learned it's only inspired by real life and individual entries may be entirely fiction. Each page is a gag cartoon that riffs on the thought expressed in the caption below. That's another unique aspect of the layout—start at the bottom and read up. Maybe this issue is a double-issue. Whatever the reason, it's set up like an Ace Double. Read the first half, flip it over and read the second half. The front cover is the same on both sides. Every gag is about relationships and they range from amusing to very funny.
Worms #2 (52 pages) was written by Mitchell and drawn by Kimberlee Traub. It's a fast-paced horrific thriller with humanoids, worms, and espionage. Thankfully, Mitchell includes a one-page recap of the action from issue #1. The story takes full advantage of the format and unfurls at a frantic pace with a creepy cliffhanger ending. More Worms please!
XO #4 (44 pages) was written by Mitchell and drawn by Melissa Spence Gardner. The most common use of XO I've seen is shorthand for hugs and kisses, but a lesser known use means "Oh No". And that one certainly seem to fit the story in this issue called Neighbors. Let's just say it was not a wonderful day in the neighborhood when this brutally funny story took place.
You get the feeling Mitchell and crew have a lot of fun putting these super mini comics together and they're a lot of fun to read too. For $1 each, you can't go wrong. Check out the Silber Media website for lots of free downloads. Scroll to the bottom of the home page for links to Mitchell's comic series.
~ Richard Krauss, Poopsheet Foundation

Two different mini-comics tell two very different stories all in a format no bigger than a book of matches.
Indie writer Brian John Mitchell continues two of his "tiny" projects with new issues of his mini-comics XO, about a serial killer trying to reform, and the slice of life story Lost Kisses, about a young man trying to understand life, emotion and everything that goes with it. Both comics are only about the size of a book of matches and black and white.
In this issue of XO readers take a trip back to the past and witness the first time this assassin for hire killed. It may not be for the reasons you think…
In Lost Kisses the narrator ponders his bad luck at relationships, questions his lack of feeling and then must struggle with a sudden diagnosis that, while it explains certain things, now raises more questions.
Mitchell has a genuine talent for managing to write stories that read densely in just a short amount of space. This issue of XO, however, feels a bit more like a vignette rather than a complete story. The spare, clinical prose, while it does give insight into the mindset of a man who can kill with an equal, clinical detachment, also keeps the reader too much at arm’s length. The tale ends up feeling more like a vignette or a scene rather than a complete story.
Lost Kisses, on the other hand, not only feels complete, it leaves the reader a bit dizzy and pondering. The narrator embarks on an almost adolescent cataloging of faults and failings and yet breezes over them with a self-deprecating humor that borders on self-flagellation. The reader goes through an emotional turn as they may find the author’s attitude at times juvenilely annoying and at other times feel a kind of sadness and sympathy for his plight. The interesting point being that the narrator himself experiences no real emotions throughout and does not experience the same events in the same way the reader takes them.
XO is illustrated by Melissa Spence Gardner in a simple, slightly manga-influenced style that nevertheless manages to convey quite a bit in just a little space. With a canvas only the size of a matchbook she wisely focuses on close-shots and keeps the details and surroundings to a minimum – but not so little that readers cannot follow the action. Lost Kisses, however, is illustrated by Mitchell himself and features his usual stick-figure style. Being stick-figure based, he focuses on representational and metaphorical action rather than attempting for any kind of realism.
While both of these titles manage to provide quite a bit of story and impact for a buck a piece, this month’s edition of Lost Kisses is the more well-rounded read. If you are in the market for something a lot different, something imminently portable, and something that you can read in class or a meeting without getting caught then these mini-comics are worth a look.
~ Tonya Crawford, Broken Frontier

Format can do a lot to influence the attractiveness of a book, but even unique and unexpected styles of bookmaking can blend in at big conventions like MoCCA or APE. However, at a small Midwestern show like the Madison Zine Fest, unconventional books have a chance to really stand out.
It was there that I noticed three ultra-mini minis (1.75×2.25?) sleeved in small plastic bags and sitting unattended on a banister. I thought about taking them. They would fit in my pocket. No one would know. The sensation passed, however, and good karma struck back. The books were given as a gift to my table mate who gave them to me. Now I share them with you.
Baby corn, puppies, doll-sized furniture - typically these and other small things define cute. One might expect that XO, a series of mini minis would be cute as well. Even the series’ title XO implies kisses and hugs and touchy-feely stuff. However, these books are anything but cute, because each contains a story of murder.
It’s completely disarming and even kind of funny, if such a topic can ever be funny. The stories are told from the first-person perspective of a guy who without emotion keeps killing people either by accident or without remorse. The guy is a total sociopath, and the things he does are so unbelievably dry and strange, it makes the book’s plastic slip-case seem like a metaphorical body bag or some caution to keep out the younger set.
Each page is filled with a single illustrative panel hovering above a few sentences of plot, in a kind of Far Side style perversion. The odd combination of art, layout and typography makes the stories seem even weirder. Thick, awkward lines outline human shapes and thin straight lines accent the shadows. Each drawing is trapped tightly in a box and clipped at all sides to make room for the words. The font used is some standard sans serif, one you might use on a website or a term paper or, you know, an unassuming murderous comic book series.
Each book left me stunned and laughing awkwardly just to release the unexplainable tension. I’d call them modestly awesome. You can pick up copies of XO dirt cheap for $1 apiece or all three for $2 from Silber Media.
~ Sarah Morean, The Daily Cross Hatch

Here’s another tiny mini by Brian, as it looks like he enjoys sticking with that matchbox format. This it’s a fictional (I hope) tale about a young man’s first murder, as he sees another man with his girlfriend and snaps. Smashing a head in is generally a sure way to kill somebody, and the man spends the rest of the tiny issue methodically dealing with the body and the consequences, slight as they are. It’s a thoroughly creepy book and Melissa does a great job with very little space to convey a complex range of emotions on these characters. This is probably $1 like the other issue and you could still get all of these comics for a pittance, not to mention the ridiculously tiny envelope they could all fit in…
~ Optical Sloth

In XO, we have violence and some good artwork by Melissa Spence Gardner. The story is about a so-called hit man, who kills his co-worker's girlfriend and then winds up killing his co-worker. The artwork is pretty good and the story is horrifically scary!
~ Paul Dale Roberts, jazmaonline

XO #3, First Time with talk about Lost Kisses #5 Am I Freaking Cerebus?
Two miniaturized comics that you can place in your top shirt pocket. How does Melissa draw so well in XO #3, with hardly any room to draw? XO#3 is a very dramatic story on how a young man catches his girlfriend in bed with another man and how a heated crime of passion turned to accidental murder!
With Lost Kisses, Brian uses stick figures to tell a sad, but comical story.
For more information, email them at: silberspy@silbermedia.com Check out their website at: www.silbermedia.com/lostkisses or www.silbermedia.com/xo
My comments on these comics: "Miniaturized comics with a gigantic entertainment wallop!"
~ Paul Dale Roberts, www.jazmaonline.com

I've always been a big fan of mini-comics. Spending time in the early 90s in Boston meant that every record shop, comic shop, penthouse and outhouse in a 5 mile radius carried tons of them, usually for a price so low you wouldn't blink to pay it, and get tons of reading value out of them. More to the point, with these comics you really could "see the brushstrokes" and get some real kicks out of seeing the work in progress, and know that someone out there had your own brand of odd humor. However, I never imagined that I'd see mini-comics as small as this output from Silber media.
Looking to be about the size of a large business card, and fitting exactly one panel to a page, these 22-page beauties fit just about anywhere, and are a blast to read. All three were written by Brian John Mitchell, with Mitchell, doing the art on Lost Kisses, Gardner the work on XO and Traub on Worms. That's the cover to Worms #1 on the top left.
The books cover different genres, even in only 22-26 panels. Worms is a horror/thriller, about a girl whose home is invaded by people she really doesn't expect, XO is about a guy who can't stop killing people, and an opportunity gets served up to him, and Lost Kisses is a sad kind of love story. Lost kisses alone is worth the price of the package, as it's this alternately bitter, sometimes biting, sometimes regretful look at a guy who has a lost love die at an early age. They've both moved on, and years have passed, but he hasn't figured out who to blame/hate for her death. He goes through lots of stages in a pretty short time.
~ Bart Gerardi, Paperback Reader

There is one eerily real scenario played out in this comic. The story starts off calm as we are introduced to a man who is watching after his grandmother when an intruder breaks in. From there the tables turn rather quickly and a much darker plot is revealed.
The artwork is decent, though there are some basic elements that could be better.
The writing again is decent but struggles a little. But overall, for the premise alone, this one gets a stronger nod. If developed in full this could turn out to be a very interesting story.
~ Brant W. Fowler, Silver Bullet Comics

XO has strong human interactions and incredible drama.  Lost Kisses #4 is a lot of philosophical insight of the world around us.  Worms #1 contains a lot of mystery.  It entices you to keep flipping the pages to see what is actually going on with the story.  These cute little books are enjoyable to carry around in your back pocket and when boredom sits in, pull one out and ENJOY!
~ Paul Dale Roberts, Jazma Online

A young man struggles with the vagaries of life in Lost Kisses, a sociopathic assassin tries to change his life in XO, and a young woman experiences a dream world in Worms.
Independent writer Brian John Mitchell crafts three very off-beat mini-comics – each one only about the size of a book of matches. The results are surprisingly deep and fascinating stories told in a minimum amount of prose and space.
In Lost Kisses a 20-something, directionless young man learns that a former girlfriend died of cancer two years ago. The story follows his reactions as he deals with guilt, the randomness of life, his own self-centeredness, and the future. XO moves in a totally opposite direction as a sociopathic hitman tries to retire from his life of death and develop a heart and conscience. In this outing he does so by agreeing to stay with his elderly grandmother while his parents go on vacation. An unexpected event, however, could set his plans for redemption back. Finally, in the last mini-comic, Worms, a young woman finds herself wrapped up in a nightmare involving strange things, shadowy conspiracies, and a fight for her life.
Mitchell proves to be an able and capable writer, perfectly capturing voices and spirits with just a few words. His protagonist in Lost Kisses is someone readers have either known or been ourselves – a young person trying to make sense of an insane world that seems to ask much of us and ask nothing of us by turns. The ruminations are silly, funny, sad and serious – just like life itself. With Worms, Mitchell’s writing style changes drastically and here he perfectly captures the voice and logic of the dream world. Things happen, things that make no logical sense but, as with any dream or nightmare, the sleeping mind simply accepts it. The reader travels along with the unnamed protagonist, wrapped up in a story that, while the details are different, feels like a place many sleepers have been in their own dreams. The third of these mini-comics is also in many ways the weakest of the three. While XO strives for black humor and dark satire it still feels a bit hollow. The unnamed protagonist remains distant throughout the story and so takes some of the bite out of both the irony and satire.
The art is as diverse as the titles themselves. Lost Kisses is penciled and inked by Mitchell himself and consists of a series of stick figures. Despite the limitation one might think this would impose, Mitchell manages to make the simple figures quite expressive and subversively fun. XO features the work of Melissa Spence Gardner and is, perhaps, more what most readers are used to. Her work has a cartoonish quality with a bit of an amateurish gloss still to it but it works for the feel of these home-grown comics. Besides that, Gardner manages to create effective figures that move well within the story. The final artist is Kimberlee Traub for Worms. Kimberlee’s style is very abstract – some pages put one in mind of a Picasso print. While, to a certain extent, this is perfect for the nightmare world of the comic, the panels do, occasionally, get a little too abstract, making it difficult to understand what is supposed to be going on in the panel.
For a flavor of something a little different, any of these three comics would be worth the purchase price. Be forewarned, the little books can easily slip out of your hands but on the other hand they are immensely portable and can go anywhere with you.
~ Tonya Crawford, Broken Fontier

While we’re on the subject of people who were nice enough to send me comics, I really ought to mention Brian John Mitchell, who contacted me a while back about sending me a few of his mini-comics.
I’m not really what you’d consider a mini-comics guy–unless of course said mini-comics involve the One-Man Army Corps–but I’m always interested in seeing new stuff, so I asked for a few and he sent them over.
And the first thing I noticed, of course, was how tiny they are.
About 2 postage stamps, I'd say.
I imagine that’s the first thing everyone notices when they see them, since Mitchell’s putting the mini back in mini-comics with his work, and it’s a novel format that I found utterly charming when I sat down to read them. Each of the three he sent me (one issue each of XO, Worms, and Lost Kisses), is around 44 pages, with each page as a single panel, and while they’re not really my thing, they’re pretty enjoyable.
Pictured above is Lost Kisses, which, coincidenally enough, probably best fits my stereotypical definition of “mini-comic,” seeing as it’s an autobiographical tale done in the fine art of stick figures, where Mitchell deals with finding out an ex-girlfriend of his recently died of cancer. And it’s the best by far, mostly because of jokes like this:
"Stick with me & you won't get cancer!" "I think I'd prefer the cancer."
[If I had a nickel for every time this happened to me...]
In another novel concept, all of Mitchell’s comics can all be viewed as videos or purchased as physical copies on the website, so if you’re curious, check it out.
~ Chris Sims, Invincible Super Blog

With digital editions of his comics available for free on his website, writer (and sometimes artist) Brian John Mitchell is obviously more intent on telling his stories than making a profit. A few of them arrived in the mail a couple days ago, and they’re presented in an unexpected medium; black-and-white, laser-printed, two-inch square pamphlets with a two-staple binding. It makes an impression.
XO #2 is the continuing story (and I don’t really mean continuing; you don’t actually have to have read the first one) of an extremely troubled and seemingly gentle man who deals with a dangerous confrontation in an ultra-violent manner. I was both entertained and disturbed at this vicious story, the artistry of which kept making me feel like I was sneaking a peek into the notebook of a demented high school kid.
~ Squashua, Ain't It Cool News

The anonymous main character/narrator gives an account of an encounter with public domestic violence and the rather extreme way he steps in to solve the problem. Simple and clean art from Gardner and a direct reporter/journal writing style from Mitchell. It's a pretty good read, but pretty easy to misplace at 1 3/4" x about 2". Adult language.
~ Wade Busby, Dimestore Comics

When comic writer Brian John Mitchell describes his series of comics as minis the size of a matchbook, he’s not kidding. Individually wrapped in little plastic baggies and bound by two teeny staples in their spines, they’re two inches in height and width. And you don’t need a magnifying glass to read them, which makes them instantly awesome. If that doesn’t sell you, how ’bout the fact that each series is the brainchild of a musician, comic illustrator and tattoo artist? The first series, Lost Kisses, is written and drawn by Mitchell. Issue #6 is unique as it’s a split: the front half addresses the pros of staying in a toxic relationship, while the back half addresses the cons. Despite its simplicity in design and illustration (stick figures), the comic tackles the emotionally troubling issues that many couples face. XO is the second comic series and is a collaboration between Mitchell and comic artist Melissa Gardner. This one has the most elaborate artwork of the various series and I love it because it plays on the same kind of humour as TV’s Dexter. It’s about an ex-hitman who’s trying to reintegrate into normal society. But wherever he goes, he finds himself in a situation that ends in him murdering someone. Worms, the third series, is written by Mitchell and drawn by tattoo artist Kimberlee Traub. Based on the classic escape-the-corrupt-hospital theme, issue #2 is written in the vain of Poe, Kafka or Lovecraft, with references to the latter two if you’re dorky enough to catch them (sorry, no Cthulhu cameos). It’s all very surreal, really, and I sure as heck wouldn’t want to wind up there.
~ Amy Greenwood, Broken Pencil

Silber Media sent me three little matchbook sized minis from Brian John Mitchell and friends.  Each mini is about the size of a matchbook.   I like mini-minicomics a lot.  They are just cool to look at and hold and they fit in your shirt pocket.  They are great to pass around to friends.  Everyone should have more of them and cartoonists should make more of them.  They are not the easiest minis to make though.  When you work at that size it is really hard to cut the paper correctly.  If you are off by just the least little bit then you have ruined at least one copy.  Maybe more.  They are also hard to write and draw for.  You have to take into account the lettering size, page transitions and the composition.  Mitchell seems to have all the logistics figured out.   Each of these comics work at one panel per page which is perfect for the size and works really well with the pacing because each page turn is a story transition.
Lost Kisses is a collection of one page thoughts on the writer's relationship with women drawn with stick figures.  The first half of the book is from a positive point of view and then you flip the book and start over and you get it from the negative point of view.  It is both cute and disturbing.
worms is a dreamlike horror/thriller with art by Kimberlee Traub.  The art is minimal but iconic and expressive for such small panels.  The story moves a natural yet dreamlike pace assisted by the one panel per page format.
XO features more ambitious art by Melissa Spence Gardner.  The writing is a lot deeper as well.  The main character performs some very violent acts as if they were any other mundane tasks.  It's American Splendor meets American Psycho.
Each of these three minis came in it's own neat little plastic pouch and simply put they are just freaking cool looking.  Sliber Media is primarily a music label.  You can check out there impressive catalog here.
~ Shannon Smith, file under other

Brian John Mitchell gives “drawing thumbnails” a new meaning with his itsy-bitsy thumbnail-size comics. He’s publishing three series of 2?x2? comics: Lost Kisses, Worms, and xo.
~ Kirk Chritton, Comics Career

One of the things I find perennially fascinating about comics is the way constraints can spur artists on to new heights of creativity. Sometimes the constraints are aesthetic and sometimes they are purely physical; sometimes they're self-imposed and sometimes they're imposed from outside. Often there's no way to tell which is which as you read; only the artist knows whether the decision to, for example, use only black ink came from economics or aesthetics. Sometimes it's in the overlap between economics and aesthetics that the most fertile ground is to be found.
One extremely obvious physical constraint that gets overlooked precisely because it's so obvious is size. Most comics tend to be within a relatively small range of sizes; there's a lot more variation on the market now than there was 20 years ago, but for practical reasons, comics much bigger or much smaller than the standard US floppy format tend to be niche productions. So it is with Brian John Mitchell's minicomics, which are so small they should really be called microcomics. Smaller than a box of matches, they are; so small that you could lose one between the sofa cushions without even creasing the pages. Even smaller than the 8-page Greenbelt comics I blogged about three years ago, which were made on one side of a sheet of A4 card. The fact that he's managed to create coherent and interesting stories in such a tiny space is enough to raise eyebrows.
The stories themselves are relatively conventional. XO (art by Melissa Spence Gardner) is a straight-up power fantasy of the "protagonist gets to kill unpleasant people without consequences" type; it's competent but unremarkable. Lost Kisses (art by Mitchell) is a stick-figure comedy series about bad relationships which may or may not be autobiographical. I found it very funny and occasionally infuriating; the main character is self-absorbed and sometimes a little self-righteous with it -- a dangerous combination. I waver between thinking that the humour I find in the series is entirely unintentional (and feeling very uncomfortable) and thinking it's entirely intentional (and laughing like a hyena). The truth is probably somewhere in between; certainly Mitchell sometimes seems to be laughing at his protagonist, but some of the most off-putting statements seem to be the ones where he is most sincere, and that makes me wonder.
Probably the best of the three is Worms (art by Kimberlee Traub), a sci-fi thriller about a girl embroiled in a bizarre conspiracy involving people being injected with apparently extra-terrestrial worms. The storytelling is straightforward enough, but Traub's stark, expressionist art does an impressive job of conveying the main character's bleak situation and her nightmarish mental state.
It's obvious that Mitchell is only starting out with these comics; he may want to use them as a springboard for something on a (literally and figuratively) larger canvas. I'd be intrigued to see what a more experienced creator could do with a set of teeny-tiny pamphlets like these. But as an experiment, these microcomics are so pared-down that it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a bit of a dead end from an artistic point of view -- the ne plus ultra of minimalism. There's never more than one panel per page, which limits what can be done in the way of visual or narrative effects, and while, as I said, limits and constraints can encourage creativity, too extreme a set of limits can be stifling. These microcomics are interesting, but not likely to start a trend.
~ Purity Brown