Just going to be really cheeky and squeeze in a final ‘Best of Year’ guest post. My own fault for the delay- illness and uni work has meant I’ve not had time to tend to blog duties. Today’s guest is creator of Spera, most probably one of the most beautiful web-comics out there, writer and editor Josh Tierney. Slightly different format for Josh’s best of post, as he confessed to reading more web-comics than print based material this year, so his choices have the advantage of being freely accessible to all, should you wish to check them out.
Jailbird (http://an.oddlookingbird.com/) by Ashley Davis
This is my favourite new comic of the year. Ashley Davis’ Jailbird is an ongoing webcomic about the titular bird’s escape back to the outside world. Immediately we are drawn into the story, using my favoured form of narrative: in medias res. The first image is that of Jailbird popping her head out of the snow-blanketed ground, her heavy breathing and relieved-yet-anxious expression giving us a story unto itself. Just what did Jailbird do that landed her in the cold prison she broke free from? Why did she decide to escape into the even colder outside world? With these questions asked by the artwork alone — and not a single line of dialogue is spoken in its first 29 pages — we are sucked right in. Of course, it helps that Davis’ art is the purest possible eye candy, with rich blacks & whites and atmospheric halftones carried right into the site design, as well as clean and adorable characters everywhere you look.
The sincerity, intelligence and natural flow of Davis’ storytelling is made all the more impressive by the use of formal experimentation in every page. Throughout Jailbird’s first dozen pages alone, we are treated to: characters breaking out of panels, blackened silhouettes, elemental shapes for backgrounds, walking animations without the use of animation, dotted map lines to denote flight/movement, panels that lead into other panels, pages that pull objects from the background into the foreground, and so on.
Formal experimentation is very tricky to pull off well in comics, especially this consistently — the key is to first have a story and characters that one would actually care for, and only from there consider playing around with the format when you tackle the pages. When done correctly, it can make the comic feel even more tailored to the characters’ plight. Jailbird accomplishes this without a single false note. Even with the impressive style, there is a very real emotional core to the story, with some small scenes being either truly heartwarming or outright devastating.
The Nameless Stories (http://amei.wratbox.com/nameless/0.html) by Amei Zhao
Amei Zhao’s new webcomic The Nameless Stories began this year with its first chapter — “The Sky Is A Hollow Sea” — arriving as a jolt of expressive, elemental comics poetry. Philosophy is treated as an expression of the spirit rather than the mind, and emotion is treated as repressed/unearthed memory, with this juxtaposition of the human mind and soul revealed as a cycling, cosmic love story.
What makes The Nameless Stories accessible despite its heavy themes is the lightness of Zhao’s artwork, rendered so delicately as to be diaphanous. This is art with a lot of weight on its shoulders, and Zhao is willing to let it shake and shudder beneath the load.
balderdash!, by Victoria Grace Elliott, is a promising new fantasy-adventure comic with a very modest beginning. A lot more baking is involved here than in most comics I’ve read in this (or any other) year — right down to actual recipes being taught by the main character at the end of each chapter. It is hard not to feel hungry while reading it.
The central character is Georgie, a young witch about to go on a journey to a far-away bakery, where she will become its assistant. So, yes, fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service will likely want to get in on the ground floor with this one. Elliott has hinted at elements of a surprisingly epic, imaginative narrative, however, which should help ensure balderdash!’s own unique place as a baker-witch fantasy.
How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Spera: Volume I came out from Archaia this year, which made this year very important and satisfying for me both personally and professionally. To put it another way, I feel that this is the year my comics career officially began.
The second volume of Spera is currently being serialised digitally on comiXology. The main story issues are already up, and two shorts compilations are releasing by the end of the year.
I’ve also been working on an ongoing Spera webcomic that will begin serialisation in December. At the moment Hwei, Jen Lee, Rachel E Morris, Irina Levin, Timothy Weaver and Nick Sumida are involved. I plan on having a lot of fun with the story for this.
The short film 3 Old Gods — directed by Olivier Pichard and Cecile Brun, scored by Giannis Milonogiannis and written by me — was completed, and I’m really pleased with how it turned out. 3 Old Gods is set in Japan, and my script was first translated into French before being translated into Japanese. Seeing and hearing actors speak my lines in another language is a very special and unique experience. I believe this short film will show up online eventually (you can view it below!). Julia Scott’s webcomic TeleGen (http://www.telepath-generation.com/) started this year, which I helped script along with Bobby Myers.
What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
The Spera: Volume II hardcover will be out from Archaia in February. It was originally going to come out this year, but Archaia wanted to give it a better marketing push.
Hopefully some of the projects I’ve been involved with this year will see some form of release in 2013. I’ve been working on several different comics with Afu Chan, Paul Maybury, Olivier Pichard, Kyla Vanderklugt, Giannis Milonogiannis, Sloane Leong, Jen Lee and Irina Levin.
Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Meg Gandy of Godsend (http://godsend.shatterlands.com/comix/). She is one of the absolute best artists I’ve come across this year, and I feel like we’ll all be seeing a lot more of her soon enough.