Everyday as endearing

Post-Modern Mini-Comics
by Colin Upton

Wolfville, NS: Conundrum Press, 2023
$10  /  9781772620849

Reviewed by Jeffrey Stychin


Who is Colin Upton? An outcast, a punk, a nomad, a pioneer, a realist, a savant, a regular human faced with the problems of everyday life filled with nuances and trivialities? The choice is up to you, as Upton lives in a world by his own accord. His collection of mini comics brings you into his reality of everyday occurrences that seem banal and filled with drudgery yet somehow, you’re entranced, even enticed to be endeared and wrapped up in the pages.

Upton has been known as the “King of Canadian mini comics”. After leaving art school as a dropout in 1985, he self-published over three hundred comics and digests of his own. Some titles of his own indie comics include: Big Thing, Buddha on the Road and Incubus. He’s appeared in multiple anthologies, co-hosted radio shows, created award winning illustrations and cartoons, and even conceptual art for a miniatures line. When he’s not writing and drawing, he enjoys wargames, collecting things, painting, and enjoying a good book with a cup of tea. He currently lives in Vancouver on mental disability with his cat Gojira.

This collection begins with a short history of Upton looking for jobs through his welfare worker and learning about the digitization of comic publications at Vancouver Community College. Realizing this, Upton decides learning to paint and create in a more natural way, aligns with him better and he decides to pursue that instead.

Colin Upton. Photo Ivana Filipovich

Now, most of these comics aren’t initially intriguing, but the art and way Upton writes dialogue captures your attention.

Almost everything I had learnt in design was obsolete. The future of design was digital. I didn’t have a computer at home – no one I knew did – they were primitive and expensive. Not that I had any interest in “tech”. Eventually I did get a computer and while I used it to print out type I still paste up my mini-comics on paper. I never learned to draw on a computer. I tried to teach myself photoshop but I got frustrated and bored, picked up brushes and acrylic paint and taught myself to paint.

It is clear how human and relatable Upton is here, and throughout each comic, you really get a sense of his character, what he is about, how he feels about these life situations and that dependability and authentic nature are so endearing.

In comic nine, he opens with:

What the fuck? Oh god damnit! I just spent $100 getting these boots resoled, what, 3 months ago and the left heels come off already? I can’t go back now, I’ll miss my doctors appointment. I’ll just have to keep going. I try not to press down on the broken boot. . . I wonder if the doc will notice me limping? He didn’t.

A series of Colin Upton’s Mini-Comics covers

I love this comic, it’s such a quirky situation that Upton finds himself in. It consumes his whole day as he navigates downtown Vancouver, in search of a cobbler to repair his boots, while wearing-in his Doc Martens that still need to be broken in, ultimately getting blisters and sore feet as a result. We have all been there, whether it is a scenario very similar or any other small inconvenience of everyday life and Upton touches on that emotional rollercoaster so well.

Number 10 is my favorite comic in the collection due to its art style and illustrations. The entire comic takes on a darker tone and quality where everything is morbidly about death, and each sketch is outlined as skeletons.

I’ve got lots to do today. You’ll be dead someday soon. . . But first I watch Dr.Phil, don’t judge me! He’s such a douche. The average Canadian will spend their last 10 years in illness. . .When Dr.Phil pimps his book its time to go. See’ya later, puss. Meow? Someday soon the cat will be dead. . .

Although it’s dour and bleak, the comic does a few things extremely well. It brings you into the present moment while you read each panel, it discusses something we all usually shy away from, and it ends with the world coming back to being a beautiful place. It’s here when Upton realizes the small things are what’s important. Not to forget the wonderful artwork, which is carried through every comic in this collection.

It’s true that we’re all going to die, but. . . Not today, today it’s a beautiful spring day, the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming. Today, today we are alive and life is pretty goddamn sweet.

There is much more contained in this collection and I highly suggest you pick up a copy and indulge in the wonderful, quirky world that Upton occupies. His brilliant use of artwork and dialogue paints these small stories into your mind in such a relatable, digestible, simple, yet eloquent way. From traversing the border crossing to the USA, catching the TransLink bus twice with the same transfer, getting things done easier on account of becoming an older man, browsing tea shops and bookstores to feel safe and calmer, and waiting in the rain because, sometimes in Vancouver that’s all you are left with.

Upton deserves to hold a special place on your comic book shelf. His simple, direct approach delivers such a refreshing window into a life lived by someone following his own rules. You can’t help but relate to his own struggle over triumphs of everyday situations, staying true to himself, and doing what matters most to him: creating art in an authentic way that can touch your heart and soul if you care to engage the content, meaningfully.


Jeffrey Stychin

Jeffrey Stychin  studied verse and poetry through music and art. He began writing as a means of catharsis and as a way to communicate with himself and others. A Vancouver barber by day, a poet by night, he currently resides with his thoughts and dreams in a quiet place full of trees. Editor’s note: Jeffrey Stychin has also reviewed books by Darren Groth, Earle Peach, Sonja Ahlers, Cole PaulsJeremy Stewart, and Brodie Ramin for The British Columbia Review.


The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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