What is a minicomic?
The word “minicomic” does not mean “small comic”. The “mini” in minicomics is a reference to a relatively small print run, and also how much personal labor on the part of the artist and friends is involved. A professionally-printed comic with a print-run of 3000 that is 4” X 5” is not a minicomic. A photocopied comic with a hand-printed cover that’s been folded and stapled by the artist his or herself and that is 8.5” X 11” is a minicomic.
Why make minicomics?
The first and most important reason to make minicomics is that comics are essentially a form of printed multiple. That means, the comic is the printed thing of which there are many, NOT the original drawn page. A comic, in some ways, is not a comic until it is printed. Everything you do on your original art needs to be done with the printed final comic in mind. In this way, comics are similar to etchings or silkscreens. The original is the print, not the plate or screen you print it from. With that in mind, in order to start to understand how your comics look and read to an outside reader, you must get distance on the work, and you must see it in its inrended form, and that means you have to print it. And, you need to print it in book form so you can see how the pages look juxtaposed to each other, and feel what it’s like to turn your pages. Plus which, the first time you see your comics in a book form, you’ll be shocked, and amazed, and proud. It’s a great thing to do.
Secondly, with a minicomic, you have your work in a neat package that you can give to editors as a portfolio (they will always want to see your work in mutiple-page sections, not just pinups in your sketchbook), to artists you admire for possible feedback (sometimes they’ll write you back) or just to let them know you like their work, and to friends, family, and fellow cartoonists. You can also sell them to people you know or, sometimes, through your local comics or record store. Ask if they’ll do consignment. It’s essential, as a cartoonist, to get people to be aware of you and your work. That’s how you eventually get published by someone other than yourself.
What should you put into your minicomics?
That part is very much up to you. You can put a short story or several in there, drawings and pin-ups, or a serialized part of a longer story. You can even put prose stories, essays, or pictures of yourself in there. Whatever. However, it bears remembering that most people who get your comic may only ever get one issue. That’s just how it often works out. If you put a serialized part of your magnum opus in there, your readers may have no idea what’s going on, and thus not be interested in it. Just keep that in mind. Also, anthology editors who see a short story they like in the mini you give them might just offer to reprint it in their book. You never know, it could happen!