Easy to Digest: Books That Are Small


If you’re anything like me, you’ve been spending the last three weeks scouring Marshall’s and TJ Maxx in pursuit of a fashionable handbag big enough to contain Ed Brubaker’s Captain America Omnibus. And that’s in addition to all the usual sundries. In a world of Absolutes and library editions, it can be difficult to get any reading done without a lectern. Lucky for girls-on-the-go like us, a number of original graphic novels and collected editions exist in potently portable digest formats. I’m tempted to use the term clutch because some can actually fit into one.     

For example…

Incredible Change-Bots

If you’ve ever been a robot who’s transformed into an automobile or microwave, Jeffrey Brown’s Incredible Change-Bots will feel instantly familiar. This tiny book, which stands roughly as tall as the fruit part of an adult pineapple (not the frilly green bit at the top) ranks among the smallest books in my collection that aren’t classified as flip books. That’s six and a half inches here in America, or something approximately nonsensical and bizarre to those using the arcane metric system in the heathen lands. 

In any case, the book centers on the continuing violence between warring space tribes known as the Awesomebots and the Fantasticons. Both groups have the ability to Incredible Change between robot and a secondary form like a truck, motorbike, tape recorder, or handgun. Is this a parody of the popular 80s franchise The Transformers? Well, yes and yes. But it’s also about love and the energy crisis, betrayal and lapses in communication. Fathers and sons. And laser beams crisscrossing with other laser beams. Though it was published in the summer of 2007, it also reflects this terribly exciting period of Incredible Change in 2009. Or maybe I’m reaching. 

Or maybe I’m not, and maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but next week, you’ll Incredible Change your mind. Maybe. 

Incredible Change-Bots was my first exposure to Jeffrey Brown, whose more autobiographical works have been showcased on the video show. Brown does everything by hand, and it feels like something he worked on during a 6th grade detention in the very best of ways. It’s as exciting and bombastic as stories cobbled together during recess. It’s funny and nostalgic and urgent, just like a kid’s breathless imagination session. You can sense an unspoken “and then!” between each panel. “This happens! And then this! And this! And then this!” It’s a great commentary on the unquestioned logic of the cartoons we grew up with. “Why are we doing this?” Well, because. It’s an incredibly funny book and if you’ve ever been something other than a grownup, I think you’re gonna love it. 

That said, if you’re anything like Mr. Leonards from across the street, who has been consistently 67 years old since I was born, and who crawled out of the womb with a rolled up newspaper and a garden hose, this might not be for you. But Mr. Leonards is a rare case.  And that is why I peed on his jack-o-lantern that one time. 



North World

Perfect book to take camping. Not that I endorse camping. Because… snakes. Am I right? 

Originally published online, Lars Brown’s North World: Volume One: The Epic of Conrad fits perfectly into Oni Press’ lineup of digest-sized comics about guys with relationship issues, but who are otherwise entirely awesome. Where Scott Pilgrim and Black Metal pay homage to 8-bit console gaming and heavy metal culture respectively, North World is a tribute to the bravado of role playing games. Imagine if LARPing wasn’t so nebulous, if the violence wasn’t limited to tapping someone with a cardboard tube or dictated by honor system ethics. Monsters are real and there are guilds dedicated to their extermination. While Conrad isn’t a paladin in chain mail, he does carry a chipped-to-hell broadsword and must contend with overpriced bards to make a name for himself. And that involves deadly combat with bears. Yes, bears. Order it now

If you know Oni’s other books, you’re already familiar with their digest format. It’s ideal for the commute, but doesn’t feel slim either. It’s also as playful as the publisher’s other titles, without being nearly as hyperbolic. And that’s refreshing in a way. Lars Brown has established a really interesting world with a matter-of-fact mythology. So it’s ideal for escapism on a friendly level. It’s not so far removed from our own world, but there’s this compelling monster vanquishing trade to keep things interesting. There’s been a push towards realism lately in the science fiction and fantasy genres which has developed into a wave of urban fantasy stories. Stories set in the real world, but with winks towards another. You can get your kicks without venturing into full-on epic mysticism. Not that there’s anything wrong with the traditional stuff, but there are other avenues to pursue and nuances to explore. And North World‘s proof of that. Even on top of the genre bending, it contains the soap opera elements a lot of us enjoy but refuse to acknowledge. Take some advice from Dolly Parton and put a little love in your heart.   

Looking forward to future volumes. And bear duels. 

 


Paul Montgomery eats books once he’s through with them.  Contact him at paul@ifanboy.com for the best recipes. You can also find him on Twitter.  

 

Comments

  1. Incredible Change-Bots looks really cool. After reading something like that I will probably be at the kitchen table trying to draw my own comics again.

  2. Thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been looking to get into more indie stuff like this.

  3. Incredible Change-Bots is a really funny book, especially if your an uber-Transformers nerd.

  4. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    And really, who isn’t?  

  5. Dance til Tomorrow is the best digest sized book I own. It’s definitely adult, but the story is awesome.

  6. Incredible Change-Bots RULES!!!

  7. incredible change bots looks AWESOME!!

  8. Incredible Change-Bots IS awesome! I wish Shooter-tron was in the Transformers movies.

    When it first came out Jeffrey Brown had a club you could join where you’d get sent a hand-drawn portrait of your favourite Change-Bot. The membership code was emailed to you by a Change-Bot. Mine came from Balls; it simply said "Thanks for joining. Here’s your code. Balls."

  9. Now I want sharp knives…

     

  10. I really admire the creativity of Northworld. It may take a few pages to get used to, but once it hooks you…

  11. Incredible Change Bots. It’s one of those crossover comics that even people that treat comics like they carry some sort of nerd-pox can enjoy.

  12. Oni Press really knows how to do it when it comes to "digest" size Graphic Novels.  "Scott Pilgram, The Queen and Country Definitive Editions, Maintaince, and Many more.  This is a company that is getting it right.

     

    Also the "Sin City" collections from Dark Horse sweet reads. 

  13. Both of these books have peaked my interest before. You’ve just given me two great books to look out for in NY this weekend.

    Speaking of girls-on-the-go; I was a sucker for The Plain Janes. I don’t know how I feel about that. 

  14. ‘ts okay… the plain janes is awesome.

  15. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Speaking of Oni and NYCC, they have one of the best booths at the con.  Whole table covered in books.  It’s all there to explore.  

    No worries, Quentin.  I liked Plain Janes too.   

  16. The Plain Janes is fantastic. A good story’s a good story, mate, I’m with ya 🙂

  17. It’s overrated…

  18. HAH! Funny, @chlop. 🙂

  19. I gave up on carrying books in my handbag.  I just keep them at home or they go in the backback.

  20. the heathen islands?? nice!