Sunday, April 10, 2011

Size Matters--Or Does It?

While I was composing yesterday's post about the first Mini-Comics Day event, I began to think that maybe it was finally time to address an issue raised in one of the comments on the first of my series of posts about the comics of the 1990's way back in February of last year.  The question is "What exactly is a 'mini-comic'?", and the answer is more complicated than you might suppose.
 Felicity Walker led off a rather lengthy response to my essay with:
"Until now my understanding was that mini-comics referred to a specific format--4½×5½ inches, i.e. a letter-sized page folded into eight pages--and not to the smaller print run. I guess it could be both."
In fact, it can be, and is, both.
In general, it strikes me that how a person defines the term mini-comic, or, for that matter, small press, depends on their relationship to the small press comics community.
Having published a few small press comics over the years, the size based definition of a mini-comic is the one that I've usually held to. I've found that it is also the one preferred by many of the other cartoonists I know who  actually produce mini-comics or other types of small press comics.
No less an authority than Matt Feazell, creator of The Amazing Cynicalman and the master of mini-comics, stated during a panel at the Underground Publishing Conference in Bowling Green, Ohio in June of 2000, and I'm paraphrasing here because it was eleven years ago and I wasn't taking notes, that a mini-comic was 4 x 5.5 inches and a small press comic was anything not distributed by Diamond.
The mini-comic is, therefore, just one among a full range of formats of small press comics.  For example, a 5.5 x 8 inch book, the size of a standard sheet of typing paper folded in half, is generally referred to as a digest.  Comics printed on 8.5 x 14 inch, or legal size, paper are, quite naturally, known as legal size.  8.5 x 11 inch books, be they made either by folding a few 11 x 17 inch sheets in half or by stapling a bunch of 8.5 x 11 pieces of paper together at the left edge, are full sized.  Comics smaller that 4 x 5.5 inches are generally called micro comics.  Then, of course, there's the standard comic book size of approximately 6.5 x 10 inches. 
Max Ink among small press comics in many formats, including minis
To those outside the world of small press and mini-comics publishers,  that is the majority of the comics buying and reading population, however, "small press" has come to indicate the smaller publishers of standard sized comic books, including many lucky enough to be handled by Diamond Distribution. "Mini-comic," on the other hand, to the world at large refers to any homemade, photocopied, and hand stapled comic, regardless of size.  Since this blog is aimed at that larger public of comics fans, it is this sense of the term mini-comic that I used when discussing the small press comics of the 90's.  In insider terms, most of the small press comics I discussed weren't  actually mini-comics at all, but were published in the digest format. 
In conclusion, it would seem that perhaps the answer to the question "What is a 'mini-comic'?" isn't that complicated after all.  I guess what everything I've said above really boils down to is "It depends on who you are."


  1. To me Small Press comics were always those zines that were self-published via photo copier or home printer whether they were digest or mini format. Once a comic is regular sized and competing with Marvel and DC for shelf space in comic shops they can't - to me- be called Small Press even if they have a low print run.

  2. As you can see, I've settled exactly nothing