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A Medium Sized Review for THREE VERY SMALL COMICS
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Article by Scott Tingley, August 09, 2007

Okay. I'll admit it. I can sometimes be a little thick. When I first saw the series Three Very Small Comics on the Cabanon Press website, I thought that the books looked like they were the size of a sheet of 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper folded into quarters. That's pretty small, but I realize now, not VERY small. No, each of the three comics measures in at about 3”x 4” – certainly the smallest comics I have ever owned (beating even the Chick Tracts I was given as a child).

Tom Gauld has created the greatest thing I have seen in a while. I absolutely love this set and there is so much potential in it that my mind is racing. I have a couple of teacher books on "creative ways to publish student's writing" and they are good, but there are a lot of kids that don't see it as a real thing.  Stories hung up on hangers….so what? Stories rolled up like a scroll….who cares? But real books published in new ways might change that feeling. I hope so anyway, because I plan on using Mr. Gauld's books as publishing examples with my grade three class this year.

As the series title suggests, there are three comics in each small package. One type is a standard looking comic with a nice cardstock cover. This tells odd tales using creative, but standard comic storytelling techniques. Then there is the “accordion” comic, not really telling a story, but a part of a story – like what happened to the robots that escaped from the factory – in a foldout format. Then there is the “poster” comic, which tells a sort-of-story in…poster form.

I now want to make comics and I want to publish them like this. These are the most professional looking mini-comics I have ever seen, and well worth the £4 (what's that in Canadian this week?) just for the format alone, and I haven't even mentioned the art. It is a mix of cartoon, and stick figure sort of stuff that reminds me a lot of Joel Priddy's work. It is the sort of style that makes you think “I can do that” until you try ad you realize you can't. Great storytelling does not require photorealistic drawing ability.

Look, my wife wanted to read them and she doesn't read any of my comics. Not even the best of the best, but she read these before I did.

Teachers, we are asked to spend a lot of money on a lot of things that aren't worth buying. If you are looking for new ways to get your kids interested in writing, buy yourself a set of these and get your kids working on their own versions. Some of the stories deal with war and fighting so all three comics may not be suitable for primary students, but grades 5 and up shouldn't have a problem with any of it. Even if you can't let your students read them, you can certainly show them as examples. I am.

Tom was nice enough to do answer a few questions on short notice (it's always short notice around here):

Comics in the Classroom - Scott: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got involved in making
comics?

Tom Gauld: I was doing an MA (postgraduate degree) in illustration at the Royal College of Art and had been looking at comics and coming up with ideas for years but not actually doing any and I thought if I'm going to do it I'd better just get on with it. I had planned to get lots of people involved,
but for various reasons it ended up just being myself and Simone Lia. We called the comic 'First' we made 180 copies,  all printed on the college laser printer and hand bound with a letterpress cover. We sold them all and got a college prize for it and used that money to publish 'Second' and set up Cabanon Press and our website. Since then I've been making comics whenever I can, but mainly making my living as an illustrator.

CitC: Not all of your work is printed like this, but how did you come up with the format for THREE VERY SMALL COMICS?

TG: The size comes from the first volume of Three Very Small Comics which I made in 2001. It's online HERE.The three comics were each one sheet of A4 paper printed on one side and folded (in a clever way I'd been told about by a fellow student) to makes an 8 page book which needs no binding.  Each of the stories was written in one day, I just wanted them to be funny little things which I could draw and produce quickly, rather than taking a long time over. People seemed to like them so I planned a second volume, but I found the 8 page format too restictive, so wanted to see how I could keep the 'three small comics in an envelope' part, but add something else. A good friend who is a graphic designer helped me design the books and source the paper and find a printer.

CitC: What is next for you?  Will there be a volume IV?

TG: I'm working on something else (bigger and longer) I don't plan to do a volume four, I think it's more likely I'll rework all of these, along with some other work and some new work,  into a small book. I'd like to try some new formats too.

CitC: Thank you very much for your time.

TG: No problem.

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