Small Press Bites: A Girl & Her Cat, A Catgirl, and More

Library Excavations 1, Half Letter Press, 2017
Something FamiliarSomething Familiar, Pam Wishbow, 2016
Pam Wishbow

Pam Wishbow’s work is delightfully creepy, always adorned with eyes and runes and enough esoteric symbols to catch my eye from across a room. Something Familiar, true to form, is a dark and creepy comic drawn in stark black and white, its shadows often dominating each scene in a way that makes everything feel just this side of safe and comfy. Wishbow’s thick lines and dramatic use of texture are part of her unmistakable style, and serve this story, about a girl, her cat, and the dark, dark things we’ll do for love, particularly well. It’s the kind of thing you want to re-read immediately on finishing to catch all the bits you missed, and it’s a rewarding experience when you do–the subtlety of her dialog and the sinister mood lurking in every shadow reveal an entire other story even better the second and third time around.

– Melissa Brinks

Three Chrysanthemum MoonsThree Chrysanthemum Moons, Wendy Xu, 2017
Wendy Xu

Three Chrysanthemum Moons follows Aliu, a young catgirl and magistrix tasked with bringing the royal mage employed in another kingdom home under the guise of tutoring the young prince in magic. Only, in the comic’s own words, “Oh no…he’s beautiful.”

Xu’s writing and art are incredibly charming. Her drawings are beautifully detailed, with thin lines that give it a wonderful sense of intricacy. The attention to fabric texture and design is incredible, making you feel as you you could run your fingers over each drawing and actually touch the embroidery.

But where Xu’s art really shines is in her character design. Aliu’s facial expressions are constantly delightful, feeling human and warm through the attention Xu pays to the position of her eyes and the subtle movements of her mouth. There’s a sense of genuine personality there, and the contrast with Niko the mage’s more angular facial structure and almost ethereal expressions make me long for more interactions between them.

Chapter Zero is all that we have so far, but I can’t wait to see what the rest of the story has to offer.

– Melissa Brinks

Library Excavations #1: Correctional Advertising 1979-1989Library Excavations 1, Half Letter Press, 2017
Marc Fischer and Public Collectors
Half Letter Press

I picked up this zine at a teeny (but mighty!) zine festival in Chicago called Zine Mercado back in October, and finally read it a few weeks ago. I have not been able to stop thinking about it since! Marc Fischer’s project Library Excavations highlights physical materials found in public libraries, and this particular zine features advertisements found in the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. Fischer combed through back issues of Corrections Today, a magazine sent to members of the American Correctional Association. The advertisements Fisher pulled are in some ways unsurprising but are largely surreal; the models are mostly white, neatly dressed, often wear knit beanies or odd face coverings, and look strangely comfortable. A particularly unsettling advertisement for a “talk-thru” communication system features a white female prisoner engaged in pleasant conversation behind a clear, plastic barrier. Another incredibly bizarre ad for prison furniture declares that each item is available in “14 humanizing colors.” The collection that Fischer has curated is a fascinating and mesmerizing insight into the profitable industry surrounding incarceration.

– Alenka Figa

Ways In Which I Make Myself Sick/Ways In Which I Am HealingWays in Which I am Healing, Ens Current, 2016
Ens Current

Bad relationships often make you feel complicit in your own suffering — you’re hurt by your expectations of care, by how you can diminish yourself to accommodate others. And once the break-up happens, reaching out when you know you shouldn’t. Ens Current explores these and more in the first tiny zine, and in its follow-up gives good advice on how to start putting yourself back together: give yourself love, care, and patience. The art is simple, but evocative — Sick begins with a (presumed) self-portrait, the most detailed image it has. The main figure slowly unravels, becoming more and more abstract as she falls apart in the relationship. This process works in reverse in Healing, which ends with our protagonist fully formed again — not happy, maybe, but certainly more whole.  These are tiny booklets, but I think they would be cathartic talismans to anyone trying to move forward after a haunting breakup.

– Kat Overland

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa is a queer librarian and intense cat mom. She spends her days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts at @alenkafiga.