That’s right! It’s a two-fer! This week I take a look at an entire box of mini-comics created by artists in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lutefisk Sushi (Volume E) is a “limited-edition hand-silkscreened bento box of mini-comics created by over 35 Minnesota cartoonists. It is the fifth set in an ongoing series started in 2004.”
We here at STR are huge fans of mini-comics. They are about as real as it gets when it comes to empowering people to make their own comics. All that is needed is a sharpie, a stapler and the key to the copy machine! Some of them will be good. Some will be bad. But all of them will be from the heart.
A good mini-comic is concise, telling a complete scene or story in a limited space. It has a unique perspective, one that cannot be found in traditional mainstream comics. And it is disposable. The purpose of a mini-comic is not to be held, stored, and collected. Mini-comics should be shared, loaned, or given away . The best mini-comics do all three seemingly effortlessly.
Lutefisk Sushi is filled with mini-comics which do all of those things. When I read through the box I sorted the comics into three stacks: Good, Ok, and Not-so-Much. The Good stack was by far the largest stack, almost twice as large as the Ok stack. There were only four comics in the Not-So-Much stack. Considering there were over 25 comics in the box that is a pretty impressive ratio!
There are far too many excellent mini-comics in this set for me to go through them individually, so I will just highlight six.
The standout of the entire set is Office Ewok by James Powell. It deals with the harsh realities of what happens when an Ewok comes into conflict with an office dress code. The end is laugh out loud funny and works whether or not you are a Star Wars fan. This one has already been passed around the STR office a few times.
At the other end of the spectrum is Sleep by Allison O’Brien. This haunting scene tells the tale of a little girl who sees her reflection in the mirror and is surprised how it is slightly different than what she expects. The scene works on its own, but also has all the potential to be extended into a full-length story.
It Is What It Is by Todd Balthazor was a surprise. Balthazor is a guard at the Contemporary Arts Museum. He draws a semi-autobiographical comic about his interactions with visitors to the museum who either over-appreciate the art or do not get the art at all. Not only are the scenarios entertaining, but they are informative. Each strip has real pieces of art depicted in the backgrounds, which Balthazor helpfully footnotes for context. Fun and educational all at once!
Organ Rejection is a humorous one-shot that sees an implanted heart reject its new owner. Artist David Sandberg instills more personality into one organ tan most cartoonists give an entire body. This is another one which has been passed around the STR office a few times!
Lost by Dan Murphy is equal parts Robert Frost and the X-Files. A wanderer in the woods faces a difficult decision. However, a chance encounter with Bigfoot helps the traveller decide which path to take. the question is, which path was it and did it make all the difference?
The last one I want to highlight is Bird Done Gone Dead by Daniel Olson. Bird Done Gone Dead is told through one night’s Twitter exchange between a small group of high school seniors. There is the usual drama of who is broken up with who, careless and thoughtless comments, and the ensuing rage which comes with snap-judgements and a lack of communication. The Twitter exchanges are punctuated by drawings of either the characters or a symbolic scene involving birds in nest. The end of the comics is enigmatic and, depending on how it is read, disturbing. Well worth the read!
Overall the entire Lutefisk Sushi project is an interesting experiment which rewards the reader with a wide variety of comics, many of which would likely escape notice if they were just presented on their own on a table at a con. Other comics collectives should take note of what Cartoonist Conspiracy has done here. They have created a fantastic product which gives all of its members a showcase, comes in a pleasing package, and makes the reader not only take notice of individual comic creators, but also creates a single product which invites repeat purchases. I, for one will be back for more helpings of Lutefisk Sushi!
You can order your own bento box of Lutefisk Sushi right here.