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?
Howard: Hannah Berry: Britten and Brülightly – okay, so I’m a little late to it and I have to admit I hadn’t heard of it until now, but this book was such a beautiful surprise. Brooding, beautiful noir, suffused with dark magic realism. I look forward to catching up on more of Hannah’s work, I daresay everyone else has been way cooler than me and knew her books long before I did (Hannah penned a guest Commentary about her new book, nice spooky tale Adamtine, earlier this year, you can read it here on the blog – Joe).
Philippa Rice: Soppy – once again, Philippa proves herself to be wonderfully versatile, turning out tender moments in a playful and loving relationship in this short comic that certainly lives up to its title.
Jeff Lemire: The Underwater Welder – set in a similar tone to the beautiful Essex County, this story of a man turning a page in the story of his life, finding himself reading back to the hardest chapter of his childhood. Beautifully understated, with sparse storytelling in a bleak landscape.
Pink Mince: Punk Mince – I’ve loved Pink Mince from the start, it’s a heady mix of vintage athletic photography and clever typography, but with this issue, it really feels like the zine’s found its voice. Powerful and personal stuff is woven in with the observation and slightly melancholy admiration of ebbing queer punk culture. Surprisingly poignant for something that includes some free Letraset for you to make your own.
Okay, so that’s four, I won’t rave about the Nao of Brown as well.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Howard: HG Wells: In the Time of the Comet – okay, so this was written in 1906, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so upset about having missed Hannah Berry’s book until now. A wonderful dystopian critique of a Britain on the brink of war transforms in the light of a comet whose green mist somehow enlightens the entire population of the Earth, awakening mankind to beauty, sympathy and love. That might make it sound a little cloying, but it manifests into a celebration of anti-capitalism and open marriage, so it’s not quite the relic you might assume.
Philip Car-Gomm and Richard Heygate: The Book of English Magic – fascinating read, with a blend of folklore history and exercises to try at home. I have always been fascinated by this kind of thing, and this serves as a wonderful taster book. There’s a cracking biography of John Dee tucked inside, along with some of his rituals for you to try at home.
Benjamin A Rifkin, Michael J Ackerman and Judith Folkenberg: Human Anatomy – depicting the Body from the Renaissance to Today. I’ll admit it, I picked up this book because I loved the pictures and I planned on giving it away as a gift, but when I started reading the first essay, I was hooked. Opening with the line, “The body was never a free gift; it gives temporary shelter to our aspirations on a finite lease”, it’s so incredibly eloquent in how it approaches what could (obviously) turn to the macabre.
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?
Howard: Um, nope. The only film I saw in the cinema this year was Skyfall and I was too thrown by the abrupt sex scene seeming too much like exploitation or rape to wonder how the top spy got there when she’s constantly belittled and undermined, letting a gardener make decisions about her survival for her, rather than saying “if we’re being followed, perhaps turn off the torch?”
For other things on screen, I think I’ve had the same guilt with Skyrim as most people have had, wasting hours in the tundra, sneaking around, punching goats and shouting guards off bridges. I’m sure there’s meant to be a story tucked away somewhere, but I think I screamed it off a bridge quite early on.
Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition probably isn’t the best game of the last decade by a long stretch, but it’s been great to return to it and remember how sarcastic all of the dialogue is throughout. I started showing it to a friend, he got frustrated when we kept walking into a door, so we decided to just smash everything in the face with an axe. It’s worked well so far as a tactic, but I’m sure your lifelong best friend doesn’t expect you to kill her when she says hello.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Howard: Most definitely. Having completed The Lengths is such a huge milestone for me as a creator and is the culmination of about six years of working on the title.
I wish I had been able to dedicate more time to promoting it and doing all of the business side of it, but for some slightly peculiar reason, all of the discs in my back decided to shift out of place or cut themselves in half, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied with not being able to walk very well any more.
What I have also really enjoyed (as well as The Lengths, not my back problems!) has been that I’ve got the time to make single images at the moment, and I’ve missed that while I’ve had my head down to get The Lengths finished. I’ve managed to get some of my mythological pictures into a gallery here on the Isle of Wight and I’ve started doing some unapologetically cute pictures to put on t-shirt sites, so I’m very happy.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Howard:I’m not about to dive straight into another sprawling project, although I’ve definitely got some ideas for books I’d like to do – I just want to allow them the same time to grow that The Lengths had. That said, I’d like to do some short stories again, possibly about Badger and to continue with The Peckham Invalids.
Other than that, some unapologetic cuteness mixed in with brutal mythology, I reckon.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Howard: Well, seeing as I only seem to find out about anything around six years after it became cool, I’m not going to claim anyone as an emerging talent, because the chances are they’ve been doing what they do for ages.
I’m still spinning a little from how great some of the stuff I found at the Queer Zine Fest turned out to be, and I really hope that in 2013 we get to a point where there’s not some strange urge to split audiences, but that we really work to foster the talent that’s in marginalised groups – if Graeae theatre company’s artistic director managed to pull off Spasticus Autisticus at the Paralympic opening ceremony, and given the rough time a lot of disabled people are having at the moment, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find disabled people at the blood-soaked cutting edge of the creative avant garde in all kinds of arenas, and I really look forwards to being surprised and challenged by new voices.