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15 March 2008

T. Avery's RAPPACCINI'S DAUGHTER

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter by T. Avery.
23 pages. 8 1/2" x 5 1/2". Black and white cover and interior.
$1 available here.

Before I get into the merits of T. Avery's comics adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, Rappaccini's Daughter, I want to take a paragraph or so to talk about the mini comic as object/product/thing etc. This comic is produced in what I think of as the standard minicomic style. Black and white copies on 8 /12 by 11" standard copy paper folded in half add two staples and bingo bango you got comics. Most of your better copy stores have machines where you can just use the booklet option to knock these kind of minis out pretty quickly. You would think that at this point all Kinkos machines would just have a minicomic/zine button on them but alas, Kinkos seems to have gone rapidly down the toilet since the second FeEx took over. But, that is a different discussion. Now, take a look at the cover image above and you will notice at the bottom a little ghost line the photocopier added to Avery's comic free of charge. Thanks copy machine! These little lines are hard to avoid unless you get a well maintained modern copier. Hah! Like that's going to happen. All of my first minis have those lines all over them. It's frustrating. What I (and I think many other people) have learned to do is to set the image size for the copies either toward the top or the bottom of the page and then use a paper cutter to wack off the part of the page that has the ghost line. It it s a little bit more work but it gets rid of those distracting lines.

Now, in regards to this specific minicomic by T. Avery, ignore everything I just said. I don't at all fault this minicomic for having those lines. Why not? Well take another look at the bottom of the cover and you will see that Avery sells this comic for $1.00. This is a well drawn 23 page comic for one buck. If I were at a con, I would buy as many of this type of comic as I could find for a dollar a piece as long as I still had dollars in my pocket. If Avery had taken the time to cut off the edges and get rid of extra white space and ghost lines and maybe added two or three colors to the cover would it look better? Yeah. However, at that point, he would probably have to charge $3 to $5 and at that point, I and/or the average customer starts getting more picky about which comic they will buy. As an owner and lover of minicomics, I appreciate nice multicolored precisely cut minis but as a poor customer, I'm all about page count per penny count.
While I'm on the topic of the books looks, let me say this cover does have a nice design to it. The four squares of flowers and the font give it a literary kind of vibe well suited for the contents of the book.
As for the comic itself, Avery has taken on a petty impressive challenge here. He has adapted Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story Rappaccini's Daughter into a 23 page comic. I've never read the story so I can't speak to how true to the source he stayed but the book feels authentic. The settings, the costumes and the language certainly feel of their time. Speaking of the language, there is a lot of it. This is a dialog heavy comic. Avery uses a computer font for the lettering. I prefer hand lettering but I don't blame Avery for his choice here considering it probably would have taken longer to letter this comic by hand than it did to draw it. The dialog is a little hard to read at the size it is printed. I see this a lot in minicomics where the artist draws in a standard 7 to 9 panel layout that would look fine in a standard pamphlet comic but it gets a little scrunched when reduced to minicomic size. If the pages were broken up to page 4 to 6 panels per page you could enlarge the image and make it easier to read. Again, I'm not going to fault Avery here because, less panels per page in this case would double the page count, possibly double the price and possibly loose cheap customers like me. It is a delicate balance trying to create comics in the way that is most comfortable for the artist and at the same time take into consideration the format in which it will be printed.
Avery's art holds up better than the lettering in this comic. I really like the way Avery draws and his character design. It leans toward the traditional illustration school of cartooning but it also surreal. Kind of like Ron Lim meets Peter Chung. The linework on Avery's character's faces is very interesting to me. The thick rendering of the lips and eyes makes it feel like the characters are wearing masks. This is very appropriate for the drama and deception in Hawthorne's story. Avery also puts a lot of detail into the costumes, settings and backgrounds. This creates a claustrophobic feel in each panel which is consistent with the story's theme's of the inescapability of one's desires.
In short, this is a well drawn adaptation of an interesting story by Nathaniel Hawthorne and it's only a dollar. You can't really ask for more so let me repeat myself again and make clear that my criticisms of the production are really only there because this is a minicomic blog and I wanted to take some space to talk about some common things I see in minicomics. Not at all to imply that this is a common minicomic. I liked it a lot.
Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
EDIT 03/22: T. Avery was polite enough to mention (without pointing fingers and laughing at me) that his lettering is indeed by hand. Dear readers, I am a rube. I walk the halls of minicomic knowledge head held low in shame. I hope we can still be pals.
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