Best of the Year 2012 – Douglas Noble

Published On December 22, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Best of the Year 2012, Comics

For our latest in our traditional annual series of daily guest Best of the Year posts in December (see here for the previous entries for this year), we welcome a creator who has featured in more than a few (justifiably so) glowing reviews here on the blog over the year, Douglas Noble:

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?

Douglas: Close Your Eyes When You Let Go by James Hindle.  One of the nicest things in comics this year has been the monthly drop of Oily Comics through the letterbox. Not only has Charles Forsman’s The End of The Fucking World been a great read, but all of the others that accompany it. My particular favourite is this, James Hindle’s needle precise meditation on creeping suburban paranoia, which builds a quiet power though its three short issues. Hindle’s art deals in pure black and whites, although the story does anything but.

You can still get it from the Oily Comics shop, and a subscription is well worth it, whatever’s coming down the pipeline.

Burnt Out by Julia Scheele – at the start of the year Julia Scheele put this perfect little comic up on her Tumblr. It’s deceptively simple, but for me is the best thing to come out of the UK scene in the last year (or Anglo-German scene, if you want to get really picky). The deft use of simple lines, the control of almost messy colour forms, and the unclichéd figurework, all add together to produce a single page that has more power that any number of 200 page books. It’s a page of comics that really couldn’t be done as effectively in any other medium and is one of the purest articulations of comics language that I can think of.

It’s in print in her comic I Don’t Like My Hair Neat. Get that.

Blacklung by Chris Wright (Fantagraphics) – a numbing, exultant treatise on the pointlessness of violence, Wright’s world of pirates and blood is one that is fascinating but rarely fun. After a misunderstanding finds a teacher kidnapped and set aboard a pirate ship, the captain sets him to work writing his memoirs, as the pirate aims to carry out as many evil things as he can in order to meet his wife in Hell when he dies. The plot is an excuse to run through a series of escalating acts of utter horror, with an end result not unlike that of Pasolini’s Salo, where the awful banality of the butchery unpins moments of weird tranquillity and insight. Unforgettable, and Wright’s beautiful, scratchy art is a treat, like EC Segar working with Yuichi Yokoyama designs.

FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?

Douglas: Will Oldham on Bonnie Prince Billy by Alan Licht – Will Oldham doesn’t often give interviews that delve into his process, but this series of conversations does precisely that. I’m always fascinated by the artistic process, and the impulses that drive people to create, and there’s a lot here to chew on. While Oldham’s music always feel very organic, the thought that goes into each song, and into the ways that the songs relate to each other is interesting to see. Also, the man is very personable, and very funny, and the whole book feels like a wonderful afternoon of conversation with a old friend.

Notes on the Cinematographer by Robert Bresson – it’s Oldham’s mention of this book, the inspiration for his song I Am Cinematographer, that prompted me to pick it up. I’m glad I did, as Bresson’s curt remarks on the kind of cinema he wants to make is absolutely inspiring, especially in his determination to break away from the theatrical traditions that he felt that were holding cinema back. There’s a lot that comics can take from his words:

An image must be transformed by contact with other images as is a colour by contact with other colours. A blue is not the same blue beside a green, a yellow, a red. No art without transformation.”

It’s a wonderful, wonderful little book.

Holywood Babylon 2 by Kenneth Anger – this isn’t so inspiring, but sometimes you want a little scandal, written with the most poisonous pen you can find. Anger’s tawdry, horrible stories of Hollywood drunks, suicides and murders are compulsive reading. Not recommended, not at all, but lots of fun none-the-less.

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?

Douglas: Swimmer, by Lynn Ramsey – Lynn Ramsey’s short film for the London 2012 Festival to celebrate the Olympics is the best thing she’s ever done. For me, at least, all of her major films so far have had fundamental flaws that have spoiled them – not so this film. A lone swimmer makes his way down the rivers of Britain, accompanied by a cacophony of voices and music, shot in impossibly crisp black and white. It’s a poem, a mood piece, but it’s a beautiful one – and one that sticks in your mind like the century of memories that it invokes.

The Future, by Miranda July – this, July’s second film, actually came out in 2011, but I didn’t get a chance to see it until it turned up on DVD. It’s an odd film, based in part around a sick cat called Pawpaw and the effect that it has on the couple who take it in. The quirks are laid on thick, and yes, the cat talks – but the exploration of the struggle to create and how we relate to time is brilliant, and the two leads are charming in their cluelessness. It’s a tiny gem of a film, and worth seeking out.

Shoah, by Claude Lanzmann – if you don’t know what Shoah is you should find out. If you haven’t seen it, you should see it. One of the greatest, most devastating films ever made. Yes, it’s an endurance test, but it’s gripping, it’s fascinating, and it’s human – amazingly, unforgivably human.

FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?

Douglas: It’s never good enough. I’m never happy – that’s what keeps me going. I’ve started some things that I think are good, and I’ve finished some things that I’m pleased with. I’m pleased with the book that Sean and I did together, and the Robotnik book, and the work so far on The Lies of the Saints, but I think that I could have done more.

FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?

More Lies of the Saints on the website. Further issues of Devil Has A Diamond Heart. A book of The Silent Choir. A couple of collaborations that will hopefully come off. Another book I can’t talk about, and more things that I either can’t think of now or haven’t thought of yet. To go back to Robert Bresson, he summed up exactly what I intend to do: “Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.”

FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?

Douglas: I think Simon Moreton’s retrofit book is going to be one to watch, as will Oli East’s next for Blank Slate. Simon Hanselmann is always fun, as is Michiel Budel. I think we should be looking at everyone, looking out to experience everything. It’s a big world and it’s a pleasure to be a part of it.

And also, that new Scott Walker record is great.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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