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Dumb Jersey White Boy #1-2
posted September 8, 2005
28/24 pages, Self-Published Mini-Comics, $1 each
This is a pleasant surprise, but one that doesn't come easy. At first glance, Mark McMurray's mini-comics traffic in the sort of too-easy observational stories about a relatively decent guy's life. He provides anecdotes that would mostly bore on the telling, too smoothly presented to provide any interesting detail, the "aw shucks, but I'm a special guy" school of autobiographical comics that you can find at any small press show. But the works in Dumb Jersey White Boy
hold up to deeper examination and become worth a look, a sort of less moody version of some of Scott Gilbert's mini-comics. He doesn't have Gilbert's raw power as an artist, but McMurray's work is delicately shaded in a way that particularly flatters his outdoor scenes, and the occasional sketchbook elements showcase stronger-than-average aritistic skills generally.
McMurray also displays the beginnings of a really good eye for offbeat story detail. A bunch of kids playing in a cul-de-sac near a stream may evoke some rote memories among boys who did the same, but McMurray is smart enough to contrast that scene with the nearby, antiseptic pool area, the kind of boundary-making that confounds many kids who live where suburbia meets country. In "The Confession Story," an ordinary dollop of confusion about going to church comes to a head in an unsettling incident where a child tumbles out of a car. These are creative impulses that some cartoonists never learn to entertain, and make me want to read more of his work in the future. Maybe the best thing is that the books cost a dollar each, which is a perfect price for checking out a cartoonist with more promise than displayed excellence.
McMurray's web site is here