Tiny Pages Made of Ashes is Comics Bulletin's small press review column
Inés Estrada’s contribution to the “Mini Kuš!” line of Kuš! books, Borrowed Tails, is a small collection of short comics made with brilliant watercolor art. Each story is based on something that probably happened to her or a friend, but it quickly takes a turn for the strange or grotesque.
Estrada’s stories work really well as slice-of-life musings without any danger of veering into navel-gazing tendencies. Outrageous, magical things are happening in her comics, and her characters react to these things with just the right balance of detachment and wonderment. Estrada has a deep, natural affection for her characters (usually the tendency when they’re based on actual friends of hers), and it carries over in the presentation of the comic. Everyone reminds you of you and your friends, and each story feels very pleasant, even when characters are experiencing fantastic things like turning into a giant or having sex with a ghost. Borrowed Tails carries a warm feeling in all its stories, like hanging out while your friend tells you about a ridiculous dream they had, but in this case you’re actually interested (Sorry, friends with boring dream stories).
The water colors that Estrada uses are what ties the entire collection of stories together. The coloring is loose and bold, and she manages to use a palette of bright, gaudy colors that ordinarily would only carry dizzying effects, but Estrada makes them work together, giving her comics a sort of unhinged sincerity. Those dizzying effects are still there, but instead of assaulting, they serve to create a kind of off-balance reality. The world in the comics is most likely our own, but the colors and her cartooning create a welcoming distortion. Call it an acid trip or a funhouse mirror or whatever you like, but what is important is that she uses this distortion as a way to describe her worldview in these comics. It’s bright and strange, but it’s open and inviting. It’s this fearless personality that makes Estrada’s comics so infectious. Her colors and her linework are a reflection of her characters. They are all unafraid about standing out and being themselves.
– Geoffrey Lapid
You can pick up a copy of Borrowed Tails from Inés Estrada’s website.
Check out more from Kuš! Comics here.
Island Brat 2 and 3
I'm a sucker for a good autobiographical comic story that tells me a little bit about a world that I don’t know much about. It doesn't matter if the story is a beautiful hardcover graphic novel or a self-published minicomic, or if the story is world-encompassing or happens in my own state. The most important thing for me is to have the experience of seeing the world through a specific creator's eyes, to see what life was like for them in their own unique world and allow their lives and experiences to enrich my life in some way.
Colleen Frakes grew up on McNeil Island, a small dot of land in the middle of Puget Sound where the State of Washington used to keep some of its worst prisoners. Colleen's dad had an unspecified job working in the prison system, so when she was young, in 1994, the family moved off of their norma everyday mainland life and onto a tiny island with its miniscule population of locals and its extremely isolated surroundings.
Her experiences on the island are interesting because they're so different from the lives that the rest of us lived at the same time. While I was going to Laurie Anderson concerts and drinking overpriced pretentious mixed drinks in downtown Seattle, Colleen and her family were struggling with the most mundane type problems – as her cartoon avatar says at one point, "Ugh. Sometimes it's like trying to describe life in another country." There were no restaurants on the island – not even a store of any kind, so the family would have to take a ferry to buy groceries, then keep the groceries in a cooler until they got back home. For the Frakes family that was normal; for the rest of us it would have been maddening.
There's a charming story in the 3rd Island Brat in which the girls try to order a pizza. They conspire to have the pizza delivered to the dock at the time that the ferry arrives, but the pizza guy never comes. They wait and wait, but still no pizza. Finally, frustrated and famished, they wander back onto the ferry, never having gotten their pizza. So much for being like a normal kid and occasionally having a pizza delivered.
Frakes draws the book in an economical style that emphasizes mood and emotion in her characters rather than their actual features. She implies rather than shows, shows emotion through an Eisneresque exaggeration of physical attributes while keeping her linework succinct and fresh. There's a real feeling of spontaneity to these stories shown in her art, as if we're sitting around a barbecue trading stories. I love trading stories with people.
– Jason Sacks
For more on Colleen Frakes and her comics, go to her Tumblr.