Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Two Thousand and Nice!

Okay, everyone seems to be looking back on the glorious victories and crippling failures of this year as it quickly vanishes into the chasms of time, so I'm going to join in a bit.

I'm quite happy that I've managed to put out a lot of new stuff this year, including a new on-going series amongst other bits and bobs. I've had my first gallery and even scored some paid freelance illustration gigs as well as making a small sum with online sales. The Comics Evenings at Travelling Man are thriving and the comic workshops myself and Daniel are putting on have been met with a lot of success as well.

I reckon now that I'm finally making enough money to justify spending one or two days a week drawing and creating stuff that 2010 should be even better though. I've just built this DIY macro photography studio which I'm hoping will get a lot of use when snapping new products for Etsy. I'm also going to make a concerted effort to keep Big Bang rolling along at a steady pace, because I've never had the patience to do that before.

But that's all boring. In terms of real comic book accomplishments I'd like to turn your attention to some triumphs in the published and self-published world that have excited me beyond comparable belief this year:

Favourite On-Going Series
This is a tie between Uptight by Jordan Crane and Cursed Pirate Girl by Jeremy Bastian.

The former is a beautifully mundane and bizarrely captivating look at the melodramatic, grizzly underbelly of spouse-dom in domestica. Riddled with panic and suspicion, played out masterfully and drawn meticulously, this is a series that has not failed to make me squeal like a little girl when I've seen new issues advertised in Previews. The humanism of it all stays with you like the residual hum of whisky on the tongue, and this series, coupled with the handful of other delights that the creator has to offer, has made me convert to his cause indefinitely. If his name is on it, I'll pick it up, and you should too.

The latter came completely out of nowhere for me. If I'm being completely honest, I picked up the first issue of this purely because of its design. It's a chunky booklet, wrapped in a textured brown card cover, with imprints and dashes of colour placed around it, reminiscent of that package you sometimes get in the mail that looks so aesthetically pleasing that you almost don't want to tear into it. But, of course, you do and sometimes, like in this case, it's totally worth it. Jeremy Bastian uses ink made from the tears of angels, and applies it to the paper using unicorn horns and the bones of great dead artists. His line-work, sense of composition and not least of all the confidence and flair with which he approaches our well-formed ideas of comic book conventions, is as refreshing as it is breathtaking. What's more, the story is like all of those "cool" pirate movies and books and comics that were popular not so long ago, but if they actually were really, really cool.

Favourite Graphic Novel
2008 saw the release of Joshua W. Cotter's Skyscrapers of the Midwest, which made this category a cake walk last year. This year is a little trickier. There have been a decent number of books that got me excited, but at the end of the day I'd have to give the cup to John Pham for Sublife vol.1. Some of the material in this volume was originally serialised in Mome, which I'm a devout reader of, so whether or not that had some major influence on my anticipation for its release or my investment in the characters prior to its release I'm not sure. Either way, reading the whole thing together in one gorgeously produced book was a whole other kettle of fish.

Much like the title suggests, this is a walk through suburban life on one particular street in some unnamed location of America. The subtleties of the surroundings and the overbearing sense of fear and insecurity they bring makes the world almost equally important to what's happening in it, and nails a perspective for you to take on the characters, even as the story is just starting out. There are a lot of loose story lines that sometimes briefly intersect, but I suspect the longer the story gets, the more significant each neighbour will become to one another and the more loose ends will tie together. Not that they need to, mind, but I've got a feeling they might. Even in this slim volume enough happens to satisfy your buck, and if John Pham decided to never release a second book there's enough in there for it to stand alone, in my opinion.

But that's irrelevant, because he is releasing a second volume, I've seen pictures of it, so there.

Triumphs of the Small Press Community
There have been loads of these, and I'd like to name-drop every single member of the Paper Jam Comics Collective for their group and solo efforts this year. We've made a ton of progress on becoming the ultimate comics juggernaut and everybody is stepping up, or has stepped up, their game. However, I think the cup for Most-Progress-Made would have to go to one Andy Waugh for the multitude of mediums and audience he has monopolized this year.

Andy put out this really succinct, really witty, really sweet and unbearably funny comic ages ago called Melanchomic, and instead of living off continual sales from this masterpiece, as he could have done, he decided to make himself known to we poor saps at the Comics Evenings and proceeded to "show us how it's done". You can read all about his accomplishments in the comic world and outside of it on his blog, but what I'd really like to draw your attention to is his latest title Coupledom.

Okay, it's another auto-bio comic, it's small press and it's A5. Some people can't get behind that formula to begin with and some people plainly find auto-bio self-indulgent. If you're one of these people, you might not get a lot out of Coupledom, but you will get something. That's because Andy uses this tried-and-tested method simply as a mouth-piece for what he wants to say. And true, sometimes he just wants to say "boobies" but we all like to say "boobies" once in a while, it's what makes us human. Indeed, it's what makes Andy's work human.

Now, some think that everything a person does should be at least 180 degrees in some other direction to the things they've done previously, and while Coupledom might not be miles away from Melanchomic, they're not exactly twins. More like friends of the family who you only see at Christmas. There is a wealth of originality in there. Not least of all is Andy's penmanship, which over the course of the years seems to have careened from Chris Ware-esque rigidness to Eddie Campbell-esqe sketchy-but-not-messy flowiness and back again with ease. It's the ease that really gets to me. I've never really asked Andy how long it takes him to produce something or how many times he throws a rage and rips everything up, but even if he is a bubbling cauldron of self-defeat like I am, he hides it really well. His lines move like ballerinas on ice.

Anyway, he's not the only one who has done well for himself. Here's a list of comics you should check out next time you're in Travelling Man:

Grainger Street and Nightbus 1 and 2 by Gary Bainbridge
Tales of Hollow Earth
by Paul Thompson
All free zines by Mike Duckett, not least of all Bothy Zine
Wor Diary > go here.
Robots... and that
Space Monkey... and that
Toasty Cats 1-4
by Magda Boreysza
Tales of Extraordinariness featuring The Investigatist
by Oscillating Brow
Anything by Terry Wiley, wow.
Anything by Ben Clark, bow wow.
Anything by those Banal Pig lads, wiggedy wow.

Things to look out for in the new year:

A showcase anthology that Andy Waugh is editing (working title: Show and Tell)
An anthology that Daniel Clifford is editing (working title: Adventure Arena)
A zombie apocalypse story that Martin Newman has everybody involved in and psyched about (working title: Project Z)
Big Bang Issue Two ...if you like.

T H E - E N D