Obscure Comic of the Month is a monthly feature which takes a detailed look at little known entry from my personal comic book collection. Some will be from major publishers, others self published projects, Original Graphic Novels, issues and Manga. What they'll all have in common though, is that I've rarely, if ever, seen anybody talk about them.
The Mire by Becky Cloonan - 2012
Dedicated to those of you with crushes on your characters.
Becky Cloonan has made quite a name for herself on the comics scene, but I confess that I'm very under read when it comes to her work. My reason for picking up The Mire was not, as you may suspect, an effort to rectify this. In actuality I didn't even know she was the writer until after I had purchased it. I picked up The Mire during a trip to Newcastle in May. I'd planned on grabbing a couple of small press comics but The Mire was the only one that really caught my eye.
The comic is, as you would expect, one issue long. It tells the story of a young squire called Aiden sent on a mission by his mentor Owain. Right from the get go the story is deeply rooted in fairy tale tradition, but Cloonan uses this to her benefit. When you've only got twenty two pages to tell a story, you can really save a lot of time by relying on archetypal characters like Aiden and Owain.
One of the things I like about The Mire is it's whole hearted embrace of the classic fable structure. Cloonan makes use of a great deal of clever narrative tricks to tie the whole tale together. When Owain gives Aiden a message to deliver near the beginning he says “This letter means the difference between life and death.” Of course, it's not until the end of the story we realise who's life, and who's death, Owain is referring to.
Likewise, the line “We all have ghosts who haunt us.” could be described as the central theme of the story, with several characters haunted figuratively, and literally by elements of their past. The story reminds me a lot of the short, standalone Hellboy stories, which likewise were heavily inspired by classic folklore. Even Cloonan's art, which can be bright and cutesy at times, is channelling full Mignola here, with heavy use of inking and an emphasis on the grotesque.
The Mire is short, sharp and to the point. It's hardly telling a new tale, but it's a quality comic that doesn't waste your time trying to be frivolous or quirky.
The final page finishes with the message “Self Publish or Perish.” It's worth remembering that Cloonan didn't write this for a big publisher. She wrote it because she wanted to. Self publishing is the cornerstone of the comic book community, and it's comics like this that are a great reminder of that. Especially inspirational for someone like me who's been considering self publishing for a long time.
On that final note it's worth mentioning that I got The Mire for five pound, which is a little pricey for something the size of a single issue. While that shouldn't be held against the comic, (It was great, and everything above still stands) it should serve as a reminder of what goes in to self publishing in the first place. Small press creators don't have the luxury of being able to charge a couple of pound for their work, so it's really important to support them when you can, even if you're tempted to say it isn't worth the cost.
Because at the end of the day, if we as fans don't support them, then they won't be around for long. That would be a real shame, and The Mire is evidence of that.
Jack Harvey 2015. The Mire (c) 2012 Rebecca Cloonan. Images used under Fair Use.