Continuing into our third week of daily guest Best of the Year posts (see here for the preceding guest posts) and today we welcome another of our favourite creators, gentleman cartoonist and Brit-abroad Nick Abadzis:
Nick: I already did a ‘Best Comics of the Year’ list for The Daily Cross Hatch at Boing Boing – what I found there was that five favourites were not enough, so I won’t be repeating myself here. If you want to see that list, here’s a link. Also, I hadn’t read any of the titles chosen for this Forbidden Planet list at the time of writing that one, so these are even fresher in the memory.
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?
Nick: To my mind it’s been an exceptional year for comics, from the UK and everywhere else. The comics medium, language and maybe even the industry has never been in a better state. In no particular order then…
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (Jonathan Cape) – after the excellent Fun Home, I wondered if Alison Bechdel would return to the same territory of that intense family biography. She does in this companion piece – it’s ostensibly about her mother but it’s perhaps more autobiographical than anything else she’s ever done. I don’t tend to like a lot of autobio comics – unless they happen to be by someone of Bechdel’s skill, sensitivity and honesty. A lot of Are You My Mother? seems emotionally raw; yet it’s all filtered through Bechdel’s customary laser-like intellectual process, a focus that by turns astounds, informs, mesmerizes and delights. She lays her own inner life bare and makes it at the same time all perfectly comprehensible, the emotion of the book rendered and described with perfect clarity. It’s a nuanced, finely-wrought balancing act and a high point of comics for any year.
The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon (SelfMadeHero) – intricate, multi-layered tale of ships passing in the night, of inhaling deeply or forgetting to and missing a few breaths, of letting go and yet not, of nothing ever being accidental and yet everything being so. It’s contradictory, charming, occasionally unsettling, beautifully crafted and coloured. There may well be a lot of branches on the ever-growing tree but right now, welcome back to your first, best destiny, Glyn.
The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilised Books) – more of what might be loosely called autobio, but Bell’s unique way of perceiving the world makes for an incredibly entertaining read. She’s hilarious, an adept at conjuring stories from tangential thinking, memory and oblique corners of the imagination at play in the real world. The collection of strips in here are just incredibly funny, well-observed, tragic, brilliant, haunting and generally nutty. I love it.
Webcomics: Zack Soto’s StudyGroup site continually amazes with me with the quality of work on there. Apart from Zack’s own excellent and distinctive Secret Voice, there’s work by the likes of Renee French, David King, Patrick Keck, Farel Dalrymple and many others and it’s all outstanding, freeform, experimental stuff that takes the medium in new directions. My favourite on there right now is Julia Gfrörer’s Black Is The Color, which is sublimely weird. Or weirdly sublime – probably both.
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?
Nick: Skyfall – I’ve heard that loads of cartoonists and comics people hated it but most of the other big genre releases bored me almost into the ground. This had all the usual accoutrements of a Bond film but with a Mendes twist and gained massive points for me by a). having cinematography by Roger Deakins, my favourite living cinematographer and music by the peerless Thomas Newman who provided the best soundtrack since John Barry left 007 with The Living Daylights. I loved the scenes set beneath London, making the underworld (and the Underground) mythic instead of relying on the standard picture postcard backdrops as exotica that these movies are usually loaded with. And Bardem’s the best and scariest Bond villain in a long while. His extended intro was surely one of the longest-held, unedited sequences since the opening shot of A Touch of Evil. I really enjoyed the progression of the showdown in Scotland and the way it used the deepening of dusk to night as an emotionally charged storytelling tool. It gave the climax a mood that was both compellingly fast-paced and funereal. Classy.
Adventure Time created by Pendleton Ward – is this on TV in the UK? If not, buy it on DVD. My daughter introduced me to it on Cartoon Network and it’s addictive. It’s everything you could possibly want from a cartoon show and some stuff you didn’t know you wanted. Think Brendan McCarthy meets Lewis Trondheim with a good old dose of The Clangers and a fair bit of the best of Buffy. Hmmm, that’s a totally spurious description but it’s as good as any – Adventure Time is like a good dream that becomes vaguer the more you try to focus on it. Ostensibly it’s the adventures of a boy called Finn and his best friend Jake the Dog and a huge cast of wonderfully bizarre supporting characters. If you don’t know it, seek it out. Also, Kaboom is publishing truly great spin-off comics based on the show now.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Nick: After labouring for so long on the digital restoration of the artwork, I was really happy to finally get the collected Hugo Tate out there this year and to find it so well received. Big thanks to Blank Slate Books for putting it out there and everyone who took the trouble to let me know they enjoyed it – gratefully appreciated (you can read a special guest Commentary by Nick discussing the complete Hugo Tate here on the blog – Joe).
Other than that, most of the work I did this year was for publication next year, either in print or via digital. The last (almost) three years for me since moving to New York have been the uncorking of a bottleneck anyway, and things began to move again bigtime for me this year. I expect next year to be even busier.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Nick: You can look forward to Cora’s Breakfast, which begins serialisation in The Phoenix from January. Anyone who remembers my series of all-ages’ graphic novels in the nineties, the Pleebus Planet books will enjoy this strip, as it takes the groundwork I laid down there to new levels.
Later in the year, you can also look forward to my collaboration with French writer David Camus, The Cigar Who Fell In Love With a Pipe, from Self-Made Hero. This features Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth as characters and there’s a blog charting its progress here.
There are other projects in the pipeline, too early to announce yet.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Nick: Will Morris’ beautiful Silver Darlings really stayed with me after I’d read it and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next. I already mentioned Julia Gfrörer as regards StudyGroup above, but I’ll say her name again as I think she deserves wider recognition as do all on that site. Also, my old Deadline buddy Rachael Ball is back after a long absence and I can’t wait to see what lyrical, whimsical weirdness she creates this year – she’s just had a new story published in Strumpet No.2 and she’s premiering The Inflatable Woman online here.