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Shawn Hoke on mini-comics – Page 2

Shawn Hoke recommends some books…

READERSVOICE.COM: What sort of topics have you seen covered in mini-comics?

SHAWN HOKE: Hmmm, almost anything you can think of.

The battle between two Civil War ships, Dostoevsky’s arrest and imprisonment, Thelonious Monk, folk tales, religion, politics, love, greed, hatred, abuse, work, play, music, the creative process, and humor.

RV: Is the standard up to professional standard in some cases, and can you think of any that would clearly be of professional standard?

SH: I’m not sure what professional standard means, but I think the professional standard in comics is kind of boring right now.

I think what mini-comics have on traditionally published comics is they have more freedom in format, subject, and structure.

I see a lot of mini-comics that are crudely drawn with spelling errors and such, but you know this person is still learning and finding their voice.

They have an excuse, and I love to try and give them feedback to help them find their style or voice.

But the key here is these mini-comic people know that they are trying to work out how they approach the art and story.

They might be charging 50 cents or a buck for their comic or even sending it our for free.

I notice horrible art, bad coloring, and silly grammar mistakes in comics on the stands as well – and they are charging $3 or more for these books that may be stuffed with advertisements.

Honestly, I’m not sure these comics are up to professional standards.

RV: Which major comics artists today started out by doing mini-comics?

SH: Eddie Campbell, Dan Clowes, Chris Ware, Peter Bagge, Chester Brown, and many others got their start by doing mini-comics.

Now you notice people that have honed their craft, but they continue to put out mini-comics.

Maybe they’ll move on to a publisher like Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Top Shelf, Alternative Comics, or AdHouse Books.

These publishers have a respect for format and substance that’s similar to what the creators might have been doing themselves.

Someone like Kevin Huizenga now has books published by both Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly.

Other mini-comic creators have found illustration gigs rather than work as a hired hand for corporate comics.

RV: Can you recommend four or five books you’ve read over the years, especially any titles people might not have heard of, and say what you liked about them (fiction, non-fiction, anything)?

SH: Blindness by Jose Saramago – This story of going blind – of a world going blind at the same time – is riveting. He really makes you believe that it’s happening or has happened before.

Living to Tell the Tale by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – This is the first volume of his autobiography and it’s as rich and lush as any of his novels.

Hunger by Knut Hamson – I’ve read this book so many times that I almost have it memorized. There’s something about the desperation felt by the main character that really gets to me.

He’s making poor choices, but I’m not so sure that I wouldn’t have done the same thing at that point in my life.

Peat, Smoke, and Spirit by Andrew Jeffords – I just finished this one a couple of weeks ago.

It’s about each of the active distilleries on a Scottish island called Islay.

The island makes an intensely smoky and peaty flavored scotch whisky, and this book chronicles the history of each distillery as well as the larger history of the island itself.

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Louis Alberto Urrea – I read this one on vacation and it reminded me a lot of the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

It has that same heavy dose of magical realism that Marquez, Saramago, and writers like Rushdie often use in their novels.

This one takes place right before the turn of the nineteenth century in Mexico.

The story is grand in scope and beauty as the main character grows from an orphaned child into a woman of great power and mystery.

RV: Do you go to many comics festivals, and if so which ones have you been to?

SH: I try to attend SPX (The Small Press Expo) in Bethesda, MD and the MoCCA (Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art) festival in Manhattan.

RV: Are mini-comics represented well at comics festivals, and if so how are they represented?

SH: At the two festivals I just mentioned, mini-comics are very well represented.

You could walk out of either festival with hundreds of cool mini-comics in your bag and still miss out on other good ones.

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