When I was in college, there was a store near where I lived that sold Brian Andreas' StoryPeople prints. I used to spend far too much time flipping through the bins, absorbing the bits of text and color like too many petit fours.
I get the same feeling of bite-sized fulfillment reading Juan Santapau's erratically updated comic The Secret Knots. But instead of dwelling on quirky memories or imagined conversations with alien princesses, Santapau chases down the fleeting thoughts that flit through the backs of our brains -- childish notions, invented superstitions, and half-remembered games -- and bolsters them with his wry illustrations. The results are curiously diverse: Lewis Carroll's nightmare, a fable explaining the universal hatred of mimes, a vision of spam taking over the physical world, and a woman who longs to be the next JK Rowling, but whose stories are stubbornly set in reality. Some of these comics are funny -- swift, incisive jokes; others are more poignant, tinged with shades of hopefulness or regret; still others capture the small made-up magics of daily life. The thread that connects most, though not quite all, these entries is the sense that they come from a particularly cobwebby corner of the human mind.
Two longer stories accompany the one-off comics. "The Truth Fairy," a tale of childhood friends who reconnect as adults, and "Unspeakable," a coming-of-age story inspired by an HP Lovecraft prompt, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of The Secret Knots. Santapau's artwork is lovely, but inexpressive, taking on the sheen of distant memories. It's well-suited to the persistant reflection of "Unspeakable" and the first page of "The Truth Fairy," but it also makes the later pages of the latter feel redundant. Similarly, Santapau is strongest as a writer when exploring the magical rather than the mundane. His comics about starting and ending relationships, of people sitting in bars, are fine, but they don't approach the level of originality and insight found in his meditations on imaginary friends and monsters in the closet.
Unfortunately, The Secret Knots updates irregularly and infrequently, meaning it's a comic best enjoyed in one's RSS reader. But if that's how you take your comics, it's certainly worth the subscribe.
[The Secret Knots]