Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

March 5, 2018

CR Review: MUGS


Creator: Jim Blanchard
Publishing Information: Self-Published Mini-Comic, 28 pages, $5.
Ordering Information:

I'm not even sure this limited edition mini is commercially available: you should check the artist's web site for sure. The mini that I have was purchased at Short Run from Blanchard, who was set up like any old comics pro with a lot of different material at different prices. I get this surge of undeserved jealousy when I see artists who know how to work a show, because I connect the artistic riches on hand to a kind of economic simplicity: make, and the people reward you. I'm too old and jaded not to know of the thousand roadblocks that keep this from ever being real, but the fantasy won't go away.

MUGS finds Blanchard working in one of his most rewarding idioms, the head and shoulders portrait. The twist here is that he employs the thinner, more delicate line that we're accustomed to see in his panel-to-panel comics. The effect is reduction, boiling down the bravado of the artist's detail work to a few essential thoughts per face. Blanchard's subjects seem vibrant in service to a variety of minor emotions: disgust, resignation, bravado, disaffectedness. He draws the best sneers, teasing them out from people that don't have to look further than five feet in front of their noses to find evidence that condemns the entire world. Similarly, the words pulled out to the side fail to connect in any easy way to what by proximity we guess are their speakers, or their subjects. MUGS ends up feeling like a series of scheduled meetings with people that chose the meeting time just to spite you.

MUGS becomes over the course of its pages a wholly satisfying exercise in partially applied art, incomplete yet vital. I don't know that I'd recommend it to people outside of Blanchard's circle of admirers, but everyone in that circle should have one and more people should join us this side of the line. I wish more cartoonists would do off-brand projects like this: the heel from one's hand applied on one note of the piano with the grim integrity of a small-town Sunday pastor.
posted 3:00 pm PST | Permalink

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