Continuing our annual festive tradition of daily guest Best of the Year posts (you can see all the previous ones for this year here), today we welcome artist, architect and comics creator Alison Sampson to the blog to share her picks from the last twelve months:
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?
Alison: There are lot of comics I could have chosen for this, and many have been mentioned before as Best of Year by others. The Nao of Brown stood out, as did did large parts of BPRD, and lots of comics made by friends, most notably Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix et al’s Nelson. Both Nao and Nelson made me cry, when I read them. It is not specifically just this emotional engagement that makes a good comic for me, but also there needs to be something else that draws the reader almost physically into the story, into the space of the comic. In architecture we would call this dwelling.
Hence, first up, I’ve chosen a self-penned comic by another Architect (not an architect in the Marvel sense, but someone who has actually trained for and worked in the architecture profession).
Coil, the 5 page back up story in Prophet #26, by Emma Rios is here as my number one. I have to confess I am killing two birds with one stone here as this is also a shout out for Prophet (the series written and drawn by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, coloured and lettered by some very talented people and published by Image Comics) as a whole. I enjoy stories that take me to another place and which are entertaining and this series has been that. I don’t confess to understand it, but I like trying to piece together the Prophet Universe from the fragments we have and that is good entertainment for me. I’m a big fan of Brandon Graham’s work, especially his experiments with storytelling, and I could have put Multiple Warheads here. However, it doesn’t contain Emma Rios’ work. So…
With regards to Coil, this is a synthesis of Emma’s outstanding design skills alongside her own (relatively rare) writing. She is playing with the way we see and experience reality and questioning assumptions about how we read a page. So the page can be read in one way and it can be read in another, and then we can come back. But the story is clear. The eye is shifted around by the design, in a ‘no hands’ kind of way. This is very much how we experience real, non-book space, and what we design it for.
Just as architecture is telling a story on a number of different levels, so it is the case with this story. Use of scale, with small elements against massive ones, a structured sequence of experiences, editing, events in the background, careful use of details, light and dark places, all these things serve the story, and I could go on. And on. There is a degree of ambiguity, which is important in good architecture, and which attracts us to comics. If everything were super-clear, would we be drawn in, in quite the same way? I’m impressed that Emma used this opportunity to develop her own work and to question what comics could do. I’d like to see more of her self-written work, as well as the upcoming Pretty Deadly.
I’m just blown away by the art. Tonci has made other work this year and I could have easily chosen Lobster Johnson instead for this position. However, with Where Is Jake Ellis, this is a world that we can relate to. WIJE is currently on the second of its five parts, with the rest coming out next year, so it is Tonci’s most recent work. A collaboration between artist and writer is never as clear cut as it might appear, so Nathan Edmondson deserves credit here for hatching a plot that draws the reader in just as the visuals do, and for directing the twisty story down new routes. He gets the best out of his collaborator, just as Tonci’s luminous art evidently is an inspiration. Unlike with Coil, where I feel I could dissect the work, this is a lot less easy with WIJE. The experience of reading is not unlike watching a film, in that the choices of shots, lighting, cutting, angles, colour, pacing and so on are completely on point. There is no excess fat in the art and a complete sense of place. You are in the fish market, the long grass, hovering over the moving car, at the end of a gun barrel. Nothing distracts. Despite being graphically stripped down, this world feels very real, and hence we are drawn in. Tonci is one of the most exciting artists in comics, and he’s only really just starting. Where might he go?
Stumptown: The Case Of The Baby In The Velvet Case #4- Matthew Southworth and Greg Rucka, from Oni Press. I’m thinking about the space in comics, so I picked this out for the sense of place in the story- it’s all about Portland, Oregon. However, the main reason that it is here is the attention that has been given to engaging readers in the physical experience of what is going on. This kind of work hopefully paves the way for more creators to push the boundaries of what comics can be, and what the experience of reading them is.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Alison: This last year has seen me not reading as much prose as I would have liked. The Nao of Brown, by Glyn Dillon is a book that I regard as more literary than lots of the prose that I’ve seen. The images from Gil Ichyama’s story continue to perplex. The contrast between these and the solid sense of London as a place leaves plenty of space for conjecture, and hence plenty of reasons for a re-read. There is much good to be said about this book, much of it said already and by other people, and hopefully prizes beckon.
The Silence of Our Friends – Nate Powell. For various reasons I’ve been researching American life in the the last year and listening to the election as it progressed. It is very easy for us to make assumptions about people in the US. There’s a lot to learn and this book, without being heavy, teaches a little history and culture. What really comes across, though, is the minutiae of lives and how much we really have in common, no matter where we are from. I’m learning to make comics and these are the kind of comics I would like to make.
Granta Magazine – various. The best place to find about new writers and new writing, of whatever sort: poetry, prose, reportage as well as some photography. In a busy year, it has still been a must read and gets delivered to the door.
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?
Alison: The Accused anthology, by Jimmy McGovern, BBC1. Stories about the law and how it affects ordinary people, but told in such a way as to be so emotionally gripping, so that even the most mundane details became important. Proceedings were seen from the point of view of one of the characters in the drama and not everything ended well, but there was a certain truth here.
Game of Thrones, HBO – terrifying, entertaining, and surprisingly political, with women taking powerful roles and making bad decisions, just like the men.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games- BBC1 and Channel 4. Having the Olympics on television, following the torch relay and being able to go down to the park has been an amazing national shared experience. From the amazing turnout of volunteers to the opening ceremony, to the haul of medals for Yorkshire, to the groundbreaking portrayal of people with disabilities, this was a real eye-opener. The effect on London has been and will be massive too.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Alison: It has been mixed, diverse. At the beginning of the year I finished three architecture projects, all public buildings, all in London, and I’m happy with those. Also this year. I decided that, after doing many years of what comics people call work for hire, I wanted to make something for myself, and that turned out to be a comic and that seems to be going OK. I’m used to working with large numbers of people in very diverse environments and I’m currently sitting at my desk trying to draw people’s ears properly and looking up horse tack in mid-nineteenth century New Mexico. It’s a big step. And now it is more than one comic, as well.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Alison: I have a short story in comic form coming out from Image Comics, as part of volume 3 of their Outlaw Territory anthology, written by Jon Callan and coloured by Mike Garland. Otherwise in comics, I’m currently working with an established writer on a limited project. We’ll see what the year brings. Almost certainly more comics. In addition to this, Oxford Brookes University’s new building will be completed. It’s a pretty amazing building and we all hope it will win awards, enthuse students and be generally useful. This is a very big thing for me- the culmination of several years work. I do think architecture and comics have a lot in common and hope to continue with both.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Alison: Lots of new blood. The contributors to Outlaw Territory 3. Morgan Jeske; Study Group; Russian artists coming into view: Artem Trakhanov, Alina Urasov, the people involved with Respect comics, others; Sloane Leong, Johnny Christmas, and Tonci Zonjic. Again.