Best of the Year 2011: Edward Ross
Today’s guest Best of the Year comes from someone who manages to merge two of my very favourite things – comics and cinema. Edward Ross, among other works, has created a fascinting series called Filmish which uses the comics medium to explore film theory and I’ve very much enjoyed them (reviews of issue one, issue two and issue three). Edward has also been busy with the new Edinburgh League of Comics, which has already held a couple of well-attended comics workshops in the city. I’m delighted he’s agreed to take part again this year – let’s see what’s been tickling his fancy over 2011:
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?
Edward: I think it’s been quite an exciting year to be reading comics, but mainly from a small press perspective. The U.K. scene is on amazing form, spurred forwards by publishers like SelfMadeHero, Blank Slate and Nobrow, and independent anthologies like Solipsistic Pop and Paper Science. Individual creators are going from strength to strength, and new ones are popping up all the time. There’s too much good stuff to choose from, so I won’t name names. All I can do is recommend that you start browsing the small press stands at comics shops, attend comic conventions, or buy an anthology like Solipsistic Pop, where these creators are showcased.
As for more mainstream releases, Chester Brown’s ‘Paying For It’ was one of the comics that has most impressed me over the last year. It’s release and the controversy surrounding the book had completely passed me by, so when I spotted it in Plan B Books in Glasgow, it was a real surprise.
(panels from Paying For It by and (c) Chester Brown, published Drawn & Quarterly)
It’s a challenging read, but fascinating at the same time, giving an insight into the world of sex work and the men who pay for it. It’s by no means a flawless piece, but I think that makes it all the more compulsive. Chester Brown veers between making fairly sturdy arguments in favour of decriminalising prostitution, to sounding completely disconnected with reality, at one point trying to argue that there’s no such thing as drug addiction. I think more than any comic I’ve ever read, it really inspired a lot of serious debate, especially as I passed the book around friends and colleagues.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Edward: ‘Pontypool Changes Everything’ really tapped into the dormant English Literature student in me. I bought the book after seeing the film ‘Pontypool’ over Christmas last year. The film is a gory, darkly humourous zombie movie, with a linguistic twist. The novel, which the movie was based on, explores those central ideas in a really clever way, presenting a series of protagonists for whom language and meaning are irrevocably broken, just as the world around them descends into murderous chaos.
Since the Game Of Thrones TV series, I’ve been gradually working my way through George RR Martin’s novels. I never wanted to be that person who reads the book after seeing the film/tvshow/opera, but I am, okay? I needed to find out what happened next! The TV show was great, and reading the first of the novels afterwards was like reading a detailed history book about something you only in studying realise you barely understood. All that backstabbing and intrigue! And the inevitability of that moment… it seems fated from the start.
FPI: Can you pick three TV shows and/or movies which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Edward: I went to watch the re-release of Jurassic Park, and it was probably my most enjoyed film of the year! It was my favourite film as a kid, and it really was amazing to see it in the cinema again. It was nice to see a re-release of a film that’s not been tampered with – no extended scenes or new SFX, just the original movie in all its glory.
Speaking of dinosaurs, I loved Terrence Malick’s confounding and fascinating ‘The Tree of Life’. I heard people at the cinema asking for tickets to ‘the new Brad Pitt movie’, and all I could think was ‘surely you mean the new Terrence Malick movie?!’. It certainly wasn’t a typical Brad Pitt film, and I can see why a lot of people didn’t get on well with it. For me it was a stunning piece, and with some of the best hand acting I have ever seen. Honestly!
I think movie of the year though was Alma Har’el’s ‘Bombay Beach’ which I saw at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. It’s an exquisitely beautiful documentary, set amongst a decaying American community in the Colorado desert, and with a soundtrack by the band ‘Beirut’. What made it amazing was that amongst the very honest documentary portraiture were sequences of rehearsed dance set the the music of ‘Beirut’. These sections were fascinating to watch, stretching the definition of documentary in a wonderful new direction. If you get to see it, somehow, I really recommend it!
FPI: How did 2011 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Edward: This year has been a strange one. I set out really aiming to get a lot done and it’s all taken a lot longer than I’d hoped to get projects completed. I got another issue of ‘Filmish’ out – that’s my series of comic book essays on film theory – and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. It’s been really well received, and I’m certain I’m on to something good with the idea.
(a page from issue 3 of Filmish, dealing with cinema and technology, by and (c) Edward Ross)
If last year’s efforts were about getting noticed and getting my work out there, this year has definitely been about pushing myself to work on my weaknesses and create more narrative and experimental work. I guess this culminated in my piece for Solipsistic Pop 4. The volume’s theme of ‘Maps’ inspired me to tell the true story of my Anglo-Indian Grandfather’s immigration from India to the UK in the 1950s. The piece weaves the stories of my father and my grandfather together, exploring their very different but equally conflicted senses of identity that resulted from being mixed race. I’m really proud of the piece, which I co-wrote with my father, and it’s part of such an amazing collection too.
Otherwise, a lot of the year has been tied up in researching, writing and illustrating a 20 page comic about Malaria for a European research group based out of Glasgow. It’s been an incredible but demanding process. Science is a topic so often misrepresented, dumbed down, or just plain ignored, so it’s been important for us to get our facts straight while presenting the topic in an entertaining way. The comic will be printed early next year, and will hopefully be available to the public for free.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2012?
Edward: I’m currently working on a comics project with an amazing artist called Fumio Obata which we hope to publish early next year. I’ve got more Filmish ideas in the works, and a few other tricks up my sleeve as well. Really though, who knows what’s next? Before I start anything new, I need to finish up with what I’ve been doing this year, and maybe take a little time to really consider my next move.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Edward: Yes! As I said above, I’m working with this artist Fumio Obata. He’s currently working on his first English language graphic novel and has already been published in France and Canada. He mixes Japanese and European styles, and tells these sharp, darkly humourous stories. He also kept a daily comics diary about the Japanese earthquake disaster, which stuck his homeland earlier this year, that is informative and moving and deserves to be seen.
(Emotional Rollecoaster the daily Japanese earthquake diary by and (c) Fumio Obata)