Notable Duels: A Comic Triptych to Guffaw at

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Notable Duels: A Comic Triptych to Guffaw at
by Caitlin Cass

notableduelsI find a lot of fold-and-staple style minis when I visit my mailbox each week.  That method is tried and true, but uninspiring.  So it’s particularly fun for me to receive something like Notable Duels: A Comic Triptych to Guffaw at which is so unlike the rest, and so charming besides, that it guarantees a smile.

Caitlin Cass‘ latest comic is another grand experiment in the art of comics and bookmaking.  Her books have been printed using basic fold-and-staple, hardcover, screen-print, animation, and so on.  In this project she made a series of three screen-printed gag comics with an extra-wide belly band serving as the cover.  The collection was released in an edition of 30.  Each of the gags illustrate what might have been said during three famous duels and include the clashes of Burr vs. Hamilton, Jackson vs. Dickinson, and Proust vs. Lorrain.

Cass is a cartoonist whose development is fun to watch.  Her enthusiasm for the medium is infectious.  She’s the kind of artist who will make you angry at yourself for not doing more, because she’s so busy trying it all and making it look like cartooning is really the only way to have a good time.  Notable Duels is no different.  Reading it compels me to want to study history or screen-print light colors on dark paper — or anything else that would expand my world just a bit.  Her work is quaint and approachable and makes the reader feel like maybe we all have what it takes to make unique comics like these.  If I learned she had a ton of fans who all want to be her, I would not be surprised.

In self-publishing, it’s great to see someone develop their art in this way.  By trying different methods of publishing, I think Cass really hit the nose on what self-publishing ought to be about — making unique objects while learning from the experience.  By focusing on accomplishing a new artistic feat with each project, instead of wiling away hours studying the intricate particulars of comic art which frustrate and stymie so many young cartoonists, she’s able to complete more comics in rapid time, with each book just as interesting as the last.  Comics are fun for Cass, and her enthusiasm for each project definitely shows through her work.  She’s constantly moving forward so she can tackle the next challenge, and that’s a good thing.

When you consider the network of distribution for self-published cartoonists — distros, the web, expos — it’s impossible to underestimate the importance of staying busy.  Self-published cartoonists are often their only spokesman.  It’s therefore helpful to constantly, or at least regularly, update your readers and remind them why you’re worth supporting.  Self-publishers NEED their fans to go out of their way to support them, it’s the only way this business really works, so whatever you can do as an artist to tell people you’re working is probably a smart thing to do.  As a fan, it’s so rewarding to go to a show and see that your favorite artist has made something new.  It’s a real treat.

Cass’ audience is constantly receiving treats because she’s so excited to create.  She even has a monthly subscription service for her readers’ convenience: LINK!

I’m pretty impressed by her work.  Not just because she’s making so much of it so quickly, but I like how she’s making silly content out of real events.  Her last book Erwin Schrodinger: Nobel Prize Laureate, Ladies Man was excellent.  Nothing beats a true story from a good storyteller, which is one way to describe her work.  It’s also funny historical interpretation, which, if it isn’t already a style that’s “hot right now,” ought to be.

Cass’ publishing style is a good example of what a young cartoonist should try when beginning to self-publish — that is, they should try everything.  Your art is more likely to improve over time and with practice.  Design and printing strategies develop more out of necessity for most cartoonists, and I don’t think enough people push themselves in this area of indie comics.  Letting the comics inform the design, or selecting a publishing style and writing a comic to fit that style, is a useful exercise for improving handmade comics and will invariably benefit you as a storyteller.

Notable Duels: A Comic Triptych to Guffaw at and other book by Caitlin Cass may be available by contacting the author directly.

Sarah Morean