Ref NoLCO/1/8
DescriptionA minicomic is traditionally defined as a creator published comic book, often photocopied and stapled or with handmade binding. The term 'minicomic' derives from the fact that they are often smaller than commercially published comics, which are generally around 7"x10". This format provides an inexpensive way for comic book creators to make their own comics on a smaller budget with generally informal means of distribution. Recently the term 'minicomic' has broadened in a general sense which emphasises the handmade, informal aspect rather than the size and format. Therefore everything from a single photocopied page folded into quarters to an expensively silk-screened booklet could be identified as a minicomic.

A common trait amongst all minicomics is that their content is often more niche and esoteric than more widely distributed commercially published comics. As they have no editorial oversight minicomics give comic creators the chance to hone their skills, indulge their experimental side or test artistic boundaries. Often they provide a medium by which comic bo ok creators can avoid censorship or litigation laws. Indeed one of the earliest and most notorious minicomics are the anonymous and pornographic Tijuana Bibles produced in the 1920s [which Les Coleman collected in anthology form and are present in the American Illustration, Humour and Art part of the collection]. Whilst the 1960s and 1970s saw significant democratisation in the art of comic book making, it was with the popularisation of photocopiers in the early 1980s that anyone with the inclination and limited resources could produce a minicomic of their own. Here the rise of minicomic mirrored that of the zine, both sharing elements of the DIY anything goes aesthetic of the 'Punk' and later 'Grunge' period.

The minicomics in the Les Coleman collection date from the late 1970s to the late 2000s. The earlier comics in the collection include minicomics by Art Speigelman, Bruno Richard, Bill Griffith and Justin Green. This includes a small set of minicomics produced by Raw Books, the small press owned by Speigelman which would later publish the significantly influential alternative comic series, 'Raw' [LCO/1/4/45]. Also present are issues from Susan Catherine's 'Overheard' series. Akin to both minicomic and zine Catherine published humorous or interesting phrases she overheard in restaurants and bars with accompanying cartoons. These earlier minicomics predate the widespread proliferation of the photocopier and are printed on more expensive stock with colour covers.

Notably the majority of minicomics in the series derive from the late 1980s/early 1990s and are representative of the photocopied homemade objects of the alternative comic era. One of the best represented artists in the series is Jeff Johnson, whom Coleman personally corresponded with requesting copies of his self-published minicomics. Johnson's minicomics are archetypal of the medium in that they were produced on a low budget using inexpensive materials, are visually striking and unique, and contain specialised or adult content. Whilst most mini-comics are usually completely self-published, there are several comics in the series which were published by the Seattle-based small press 'Starhead Comix'. Printing on low-grade paper in a small format Starhead Comix published work of several significant alternative cartoonists, such as Peter Bagge, Pat Moriaty, JR Williams, Ellen Forney, and Jim Blanchard.

In the late 1990s/early 2000s minicomics started to be recognised as notable collectors' items due to their relatively cheap cost and rarity. Indeed the concept of minicomics evolved from ephemeral entertainment toward accessible collectible art pieces. At this time comic book artists became even more experimental producing minicomics with greater variety in terms of format, material and content. For example Gary Panter's 'Burning Monster', Mats' 'Thai Trap' and Mark Beyer's 'Lost Faces' represent how minicomics have now evolved into personalised pieces of artwork with expensive production costs, limited numbers and artists' signatures. It is worth noting that some of the minicomics in the series are signed by the artists and have personal dedications to Coleman, a dedicated aficionado of the medium who once organised and curated the 'A Mini-History of Off-the-Cuff, Handmade Mini-Comics' exhibition with Paul Gravett and Edwin Pouncey (aka Savage Pencil).

Other notable minicomics in the collection which sit outside the distinct categories include: various political minicomics and zines from the early to mid-2000s criticising the George Bush presidency, a selection of 'Chick Tracts' (Evangelical minicomics published by Christian Fundamentalist Jack T Chick) and several comics produced by the French cartoonist collective 'L'Association'.
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