Artist Becky Cloonan has been increasingly visible recently, illustrating such projects as Gerard Way’s The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys and several issues of Brian Wood’s Conan the Barbarian run. But she still feels the urge to self-publish: to create work as both writer and artist, published as she wishes, with no outside interference. So in 2011 she began creating a series of short stories she describes as “mini comics.” They were originally produced as high quality printed books, which were intended to “transcend the disposability of a floppy comic” (she discusses the whole process here, on her Tumblr).
There have been three B&W stories so far, each about 30 pages long (so they’re really not that “mini”). In printed form they’re elegant, collectible objects, like small artist’s books. But they are now also available digitally through Comixology for 99 cents each, so cost should be no object for anyone interested in her work.
The first story is Wolves, which was published in 2011. Like all of these short stories it is a fantasy/horror tale set in medieval times, involves magic, and has a Twilight Zone or EC Comics twist ending. Visually it probably resembles her story in Brian Wood’s Northlanders more closely than any of her other published work that I’ve seen. It’s the story of a hunter who has been sent by a king to kill a certain wolf. The hunt is interspersed with scenes of him visiting his royal lover. His successful hunt results in him being both rewarded and cursed to exile by the king. Was his lover a werewolf? It’s ambiguous, but in a way that encourages rereading.
The Mire followed in 2012. It’s about a squire who is sent on a mission to deliver a letter on the eve of a big battle. As he makes his way through a swamp he encounters apparitions. When he enters a seemingly abandoned castle the resident tells him the letter was meant for him. He reads it, and understands the truth about his past.
Demeter came out in 2013. It tells the story of a woman, her fisherman lover, and the sea. There are mysteries about their relationship, and eventually we see that she has made a magical bargain. In the final scene their daughter inadvertently invokes the same spell.
These are very good stories, which I’m looking forward to rereading. I suppose they’re not for everybody. But if you like Cloonan’s art, fantasy, or horror, I would highly recommend them. At 99 cents each for the digital versions, they’re a bargain.
Cloonan has also announced a hardcover collection of all three stories ( along with two limited-edition screenprints). By Chance or Providence compiles her trilogy of mini comics into one hardcover graphic novel.