Best of the Year – Richard Cowdry’s picks
The latest guest post in our annual Best of the Year comes from a well known creator on the UK scene (I think I first became aware of his work with the interesting Bedsit Journal anthologies) and our current cartoonist in virtual residence here on the blog with the weekly Somersault strip (archived here), Richard Cowdry:
FPI: Can you pick three comics/webcomics/graphic novels which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Richard: The Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics. I’m still working through this, and it’s so much fun! I don’t how much of it is nostalgia, or the appeal of older styles of cartooning, but these early children’s comics have such energy and life. I’d even say there’s an “edge” to some of the humour, and there’s a wide range of mood and emotion on display, which actually makes the stories seem more grown up than some modern adult comics! This book was also my introduction to John Stanley’s wonderful “Melvin Monster”.
Thimble Theatre Starring Popeye; beautiful depression era comics by E.C.Segar. We’re always hearing how comics are finally reaching an adult audience, but back in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, comics HAD an adult audience. The likes of Popeye and Dick Tracy were hugely popular with newspaper readers. If they’d been collected into albums, like TinTin was in Europe, maybe America (and the UK) would have developed a similar comics culture! Oh well….
Prison Pit, in which Johnny Ryan takes ideas and styles that have been knocking around the art comics scene for the last few years, and injects them with gallons of fun, attitude and humour. My favourite new comic of the year!
Honorary mentions to Dash Shaw and Nate Neal’s work in Mome, and Citizen Rex by Gilbert and Mario Hernandez. I’ve only read the first issue of Citizen Rex so far, but picking it up and turning it’s pages reminded me just how beautiful an object the floppy, stapled comic book is. It’s just the right weight and size, both high and low art, disposable yet collectible, and I was able to read it in 15 minutes while sitting in the park. Yet this format has almost disappeared for alternative comics beyond the small press. Sob!!
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Richard: I’m hoping these don’t have to be new books (no, it can also be works that were new to you in the last year – Joe). The Essential Boswell. I’m still reading this, and am loving it. I’m up to 1780, but it feels so contemporary. Nothing beats an honest diary.
The Death Of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave. So bawdy and politically incorrect…. I didn’t stop laughing!
How To Be Free by Tom Hodgkinson Kind of inspiring. It’s about (from their press release) “Throwing off the shackles of anxiety, bureaucracy, debt, governments, housework, moaning, pain, poverty, ugliness, war, waste….”. And contains advice on growing your own food and living without money, which I’m sure will be useful for cartoonists.
FPI: How did 2009 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Richard: I did more work than in 2008, which I think is a good thing : simply learning to be more productive. Having the deadline of a weekly strip is good for me, otherwise procrastination gets out of a control.
I seem to be learning something… as work I did even earlier this year already looks crude to me. But I’m a slow learner.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2010?
Richard: More weekly strips, hopefully longer stories continuing over several weeks.
I’m also working on a longish story, kind of a short graphic novel, which I’m constantly being pulled away from by other projects, but I’m determined to finish it in 2010.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Richard: Noah Van Sciver, a US underground/alternative cartoonist whose work I first saw in Mome 14. I’m going to order some of his self-published comics.
Saban Kazim, who is a guy from the UK small press scene. I especially like his slice of life pieces. He has these autobiographical stories which he works into stand up comedy sketches, and then makes into comics. His strips are really funny. Check out his story in the Alternative Press “Publish You” book.
FPI: And one final, special question – since its not only the end of the year approaching but also the end of the decade, is there any comics work you’d especially pick out as one of the best you’ve read this decade?
Richard: Love and Rockets remains jaw-droppingly amazing, that would be my pick for the decade. Also, the Eightball “Icehaven” issue . Apocalypse Nerd by Pete Bagge. Hotwire Comix, edited by Glenn Head. Zap Comix issue 15 was outstanding. Mome is up and down, but the good issues like 11, 12, or 15 (the latest one) were REALLY good. My favourite UK comics were Ethel Sparrowhawk and Whores Of Mensa. Over all though I’d say less good comics were produced this decade than in the 90’s, or at least less of the kind I like (deeply, honest personal stuff, or funny, satirical stuff).
I find myself becoming interested in mainstream comics again, catching up with the likes of Judge Dredd. John Wagner is a national treasure. If the UK had a comics culture to rival France, Dredd would be bigger than Asterix and Tintin combined. Marvel comics have really upped their game too, with the likes of John Hickman and Matt Fraction.
Mostly it was a great decade for reprints : Popeye, Dick Tracy, Fletcher Hanks, all the John Stanley collections, Kirby, Ditko. I just wish I could afford more of them!