Every December the FPI blog invites the great and the good from the wider community of comics to contribute what they consider to be their best of the year (see here for the guest BoY 2013 posts so far for).
Today we welcome the wonderful John Cei Douglas onboard for the most engaging and entertaining Best Of The Year so far. Even get to hear something about Arsenal along the way. Douglas, if you don’t already know (and dammit, you should) is the artist behind two great comics this year, Holding Patterns and Show Me The Map To Your Heart, now both collected into the Great Beast edition Show Me The Map To Your Heart And Other Stories. I’ve loved Douglas’ work since first discovering it with 2008s Buffalo Roots, and the only criticism I can really level at his delightful, melancholic, heartfelt, delicate and true works is that there really aren’t enough of them.
Anyway, here we go, a great, great Best Of The Year…..
I’m an idiot.
So with that in mind I hope you can excuse me if this list appears a little erratic. I struggled a bit to think of many comics I’d read this year, being that awkward sort of comic artist who finds themselves never really reading comics because I like to think of them as my own personal little playground and get anxious thinking about what I’m meant to be doing if I look at one for more than a minute. So in an effort to not just talk about Daniel Clowes or Breaking Bad ad infinitum and open it up to something a little more representative I’ve added a few other things to hopefully create a better impression of the very best, most inspiring and joyful things I found over the course of the last year.
But you know, sorry for the lack of comics.
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?
Birchfield Close, Jon McNaught – no words, just the way I like it. I got this as a birthday present, and I always seem to keep it close. I love the sense of design and use of colour, the rhythm and pace of life that builds up and really makes you feel the days passing throughout the book. It embodies those youthful summer days as well as anything I can think of, with gentle humour and quiet reflection, the hint of nostalgia in the sunset hues and wisps of cloud, summer evenings that keep passing. Give them back. Also it’s got a really nice hardcover and I can put it in my pocket.
Special mention goes to the issue of Spider-Man I bought to read on a plane where Doctor Octopus became Spider-Man and it was really dumb. He was really mean to Mary Jane and she didn’t even notice he was a different person, but I guess it was supposed to be funny? Hoho. I’m fairly sure if history will teach us anything it’s that brain swapping should only be used as a vehicle for filler episodes of TV shows or in movies starring Judge Reinhold.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Most of the books I read this year were research for my illustration MA, and luckily that included a lot of Tove Jansson. Good job I wrote my research paper on her. I am unable to pick anything that isn’t simply ‘all of them’ but my highlights included Moominsummer Madness, Moominland Midwinter, Who Will Comfort Toffle? and Fair Play. She has everything; comics, illustrated novels, beautifully illustrated children’s books and novels for adults. There are wonderful stories, art and insight in every single one, and I fear if I say anything more I will just end up rewriting my college paper. basically what I’m saying is go out ad buy her life’s work for christmas – or whenever really – and it will make your life better and you’ll probably become a better person in the process.
Zelda, Hyrule Historia – this book was like catnip to me, Zelda is one of those things where you can just put me down for life. I’m there.
Various Eric Ravillious art books – I like how he draws trees (and fields). I like drawing trees (and fields).
Mon Village, Hansi – I came across this visiting Riquewihr, and the house of l’Oncle Hansi with my family. The design and illustration is fantastic, as Hansi describes the villages of his growing up in a decorative art nouveau style. I’m sure a lot of comic artists will have learnt a lot about composition and layouts from this! This is a perfect example of how to put a book together, it’s just a brilliant and enthralling object to have in your hands, full of decoration and details, little wonders evoking bygone days, and large spreads showing daily life around the village. It’s in French so unfortunately I can’t actually read it but I could stare at it for hours. This probably shows where my primary attention lies… to me it feels like an illustrated version of Fellini’s Amarchord (for kids).
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?
Mad Men – I only started watching Mad Men this year, I started with the new season while catching up on the old ones and it was remarkable to notice all the correlations and callbacks to the first season in the new one. Opinion seems to be divided over the new season but it worked well for me, and I think it will stand up well over the test of time. Now I’ve watched the whole lot and I can now safely say it’s as good as everyone already said it is.
Miracle in Milan – this is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and also quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I suggest you seek it out, the narrative structure and freedom at work here makes me feel sad for the majority of films that are made. It made me want to tell all sorts of stories I hadn’t even thought of yet because I didn’t quite know how. A wonderful, wonderful film. I should watch it again, actually.
Gravity – wheeeeeee! I’m in space!
Honourable mentions: that bit where Thor was all Thor, because Thor. THOR! I like Thor, even when he’s a bit boring. I need to draw more pictures of Thor Thoring about doing Thor stuff.
Special mentions for things that made 2013
Arsenal – Maybe it seems odd to mention a football team here, and people always give me confused looks when I say I like football as if somehow I shouldn’t, but there’s something about these guys. I started supporting Arsenal when they began a long stretch of never winning anything in 2005. There was something about them, like watching a bird with a broken wing trying to fly, that endeared me to them and made me want to nurture them. They shouldn’t have been trying to fly but they stubbornly kept trying anyway and often got so close only to fall down and fail again, they were all fancy and small with silly hair and trying to play with a sort of luxury they couldn’t really afford, it was almost beautiful but always broken. Every season you’d think maybe that won’t be the case, this is the time they’re going to do it. They never do, but of course this season looks like it could be different…
They are wonderful. For example: Per Mertesacker, their 6 foot 6 German defender, faced with the prospect of doing a years national service at the age of 18, decided to become a conscientious objector and instead volunteered to help mentally handicapped people. He considers this experience a key moment in his life, and one of the best things he ever did. He made a point of going back to the home where he worked after he broke in to the German national team to say his farewells. He runs a foundation that helps people with depression, and every year plays a charity game with his team “Mertesacker and friends XI”. He says footballers have a bad image.
Italian food (in Italy) – Focaccia del Boss is the finest food I have ever eaten in my life, I’ve never experienced anything remotely close to it before. If you think you have ever eaten focaccia you are wrong, especially if it was in England. People travel from miles around for this focaccia, and when you taste it you can see why. I would draw them pictures for free for the rest of my life. Tomatoes in Italy taste like how people describe tomatoes tasting. I didn’t know I could feel that way about a tomato. The south of Italy may be full of killer mosquitoes, but the pay off is great and wonderful (even if I did actually have a limp caused by mosquito bites by the time I got home).
Albums of 2013 or whenever: The Strokes, Deerhunter, Beach Fossils, Boards of Canada, Daft Punk, Killer Mike. Although along with everything else I’ve probably listened to them all so much I can now never listen to them again. This year I realised the Strokes are maybe one of my favourite bands, and which I also realised isn’t cool at all. But they’re really good at doing that thing that they do/Julian does, and have over one full album of good songs!
Game of the year: Metal Gear Solid Rising – this is exactly what computer games should be (ridiculous).
FPI: How did 2013 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Happy and confused. I finished my MA which I was really happy about, and finally got a new book out, which I’m also happy about. Confused because I’m not used to being in this position and don’t quite know what to do with all these books. My mind alternates from being all “ooh they are nice aren’t they?” to “AAAAAAA”, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
Now I’ve started… More of everything hopefully! 1 or 2 new books, although it remains to be seen which ones yet. I’ve applied for a couple of residencies abroad which should allow me to work on new projects, one which is about depression and which isn’t cheerful at all, not even a little bit. But that’s ok because the other ones will be about a wrestling badger or something equally silly. Also more collaborations with Alessandra Genualdo in a similar vein to ‘Tan Lines’.
We are working on a new story called ‘Il Polipo’ which is ostensibly about a tailor who works all year round, yet will encompass all the people and their stories stretching out all around a small seaside town, but I don’t want to say anymore because it’s far too good to spoil! It might be the project I get most excited thinking about, so watch out for that. Also, at the start of the year I’ll be having a proper launch party for my new book, of which I’ll have more details soon!