Today’s entry to our annual festive tradition of daily guest Best of the Year posts (see here for previous entries in this year’s series) comes from the man who puts the ‘O!’ into Soap and while Santa’s making just a list (and checking it twice), he made an entire Book of Lists, it’s Paul Rainey:
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?
Paul: Spandex by Martin Eden (Titan) – I once wrote a review of Spandex where I compared it with early issues of The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Well, earlier this year, I read the first Omnibus collection of those comics and let me tell you something, Spandex is much better than that. While mainstream superheroes from “the big two” continually visit the same old themes in ever decreasing circles, Martin Eden’s all-gay superhero comic breaks out by accessing the spirit which originally made the best superhero comics so good in the first place and then ploughs boldly a path uniquely its own. It’s a great, superhero, soap-opera romp with smart ideas and moments of jaw dropping drama. 2012 saw the publication of the graphic novel collection of numbers 1 to 4 and the penultimate issue of the singles.
Rol Hirst’s Department of the Peculiar – If you’re a self-publisher who just writes, you will know how difficult it can be to find artists to draw your scripts. Rol Hirst never seems to have this problem, probably due to him always providing satisfyingly well written and structured stories. Here, British people with special powers aren’t superheroes. Instead, they’re embarrassed about their abilities, choosing to work for a government agency revealingly called the Department of the Peculiar. The comic is drawn by Rob Wells, one of my favourite comic artists at the moment, whose work here flourishes in the direction and space provided by the writer. DOTP is smart and fun on every level.
Verity Fair by Terry Wiley – You might think that I am being deliberately obscurest by picking out three Original British and “small press” Comics as my best of the year. If so, then you are an idiot. Pluck anyone out of the current UK “small press” scene at the moment and odds are they can be described as being underrated. This description is especially true of Terry Wiley. Terry has long been established as a completely underrated artist, but he can now be described as a totally underrated all-rounder in my point of view. I put it to you that if VerityFair were a TV programme, it would be what people talk about at work the next day, even in this era of multiple channels, DVD box-sets, the iPlayer and lack of water coolers. Terry should be a star and his work universally appreciated and, one day, I am sure it will happen.
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?
Paul: Getting On – It surprises me that people don’t talk about Getting On in the same way that they drone on about The Killing, The Wire and Breaking Bad. Is it because it’s British? Is it because one of the stars is Jo Brand who we all now take for granted because she’s been on our tellies for at least twenty-five years? Regardless, it’s a great programme! Each episode is tightly written, beautifully performed and delivers at least one good belly laugh. Sometimes, the pathos and the broader analogies have made me, an unfeeling, middle-aged man, cry real, hot and emotional man-tears. I want you to watch it only because I want more.
Accused – Initially, I was a little resistant to Accused, mainly because I liked Jimmy McGovern’s predecessor, The Street, so much, but this year’s short, four-part season won me over. I don’t know for certain but maybe it has something to do with seeing Sean Bean in drag for the episode Tracie’s Story. The real achievement of Accused is it forcing me to no longer disliking John Bishop in the way that I used to after he appeared in two episodes playing a teenage psychotic’s father. Hearing his character say “thank you” to a prison guard on hearing of his son’s suicide was heartbreaking.
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Some might say that this follow-up to the Seinfeld Reunion season wasn’t as good and they are probably right but this doesn’t stop it from still being bloody brilliant. Stand out episodes include the one where Ricky Gervais plays a stuck-up stage actor and the last one where Michael J Fox deliberately stomps about the apartment upstairs from Larry’s in big, heavy shoes. I could quite happily watch any episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm over and over again.
And since I skipped the book segment I’m going to pick out some albums I enjoyed instead!
Toy by Toy – I don’t feel I can talk about music in the same way that I talk about comics. I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t like and that’s that. I’ve been playing Toy by Toy a lot since it came out a couple of months back. The singles Lose My Way and Make It Mine are obviously great, but sometimes I play Dead And Gone several times in a row. The track is already over seven minutes long but I just don’t want it to end. The album has a really warm quality to it.
A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material by John Maus – The less I know about the acts that make the music I listen to these days the better, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t, for example, want to discover that the new band I like is less than half my age. As far as I am aware, this might be John Maus’ only album and the title, A Collection of Rarities and Previously Unreleased Material, is meant to be ironic or something. The album sounds like it’s been dropped into the twenty-first century from a 1980 which might not even have existed. Disappointingly, I was informed that Maus wasn’t even alive in the eighties but, surprisingly, learning this fact doesn’t stop this from being in my top three albums of the year.
U&I by Leila – It’s not unknown for me to just hear one track on the radio once and for me to buy an album on that basis. Of course, once the album has arrived, having spent money on it is a big motivator for me to force myself to like it. However, money isn’t a factor at all for U&I by Leila at all. I really like this electronic/dance album. It sounds undeniably modern, maybe even futuristic, and very clever with its cool rhythms, smart noises and weird vocals. My favourite tracks are Boudica and Welcome To Your Life, although, I like the album so much that this is likely to change.