Today’s guest poster for our annual daily Best of the Year posts (see here for the previous entries in this year’s series) is an excellent creator and also the Small Press buyer at the top London comics emporium Gosh, Julia Scheele:
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?
Julia: 2012 is the year I started picking up more single issues than I ever have before in my life, and though my interests lie more with the alternative side of comics, I’m finding myself reading more superheroes than ever as well. Here’s a quick mention of what I enjoyed most from my pull list, then I’ll get onto my actual three (sorry, I’m totally cheating): Prophet, Saga, Adventure Time, Marceline and The Scream Queens, Hawkeye, Multiple Warheads (it’s been an amazing year for Brandon Graham goodness), Scott Snyder’s Batman, and the new Fraction/Allred FF. In terms of Small Press, things that stood out were the new, eye-melting and over-sized Mould Map by Landfill Editions, Babak Ganjei‘s Twit, Tom Humberstone‘s beautiful Ellipsis and Philippa Rice‘s Soppy.
Now, my three favourites.
Everything Together by Sammy Harkham (PictureBox) – I got a bit more into PictureBox stuff this year; they bring out art comics of a kind that are difficult to compare to anything else around. One could say that sometimes their publications suffer a bit in terms of art-over-content, but that definitely does not hold true with Everything Together. It’s a collection of short stories and illustrations, of which the story “Somersaulting” has stood out the most for me. I’m always a sucker for unhappy-teens-in-desolate-suburbia stories, but its combination of simple, expressive cartooning, slow pacing and wit makes it a real winner. “Poor Sailor” comes a close second, a short story about a man who leaves his lover behind to sail the high seas which manages to be as funny as it is tragic, and I think that takes some very good writing, right there. Excellent stuff.
Lose #4 by Michael Deforge (Koyama Press) – I don’t even really know what to say about this. Mad and disturbing and absolutely beautiful, as everything Deforge puts out. There’s a story about the patrons of a fetish club turning into rubber and spikes themselves, inside-out, a totally batshit-crazy story about the customs of the Canadian royal family, and much, much more. It’s horrific, bizarre, and hilarious. Look out for anything Koyama Press puts out, to be honest, their dedication to publishing interesting young artists is unparalleled and they have been a fast-selling staple of the Gosh! Small Press table this year.
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (Jonathan Cape) - Fun Home, the autobiographical story of Bechdel’s unusual and dysfunctional family, is one of my all-time favourites and always the first comic I will foist unto family and friends. Are You My Mother? is the follow-up, this time focusing (obviously), on Bechdel’s difficult relationship to her mother. Even though Bechdel’s obsession with psychotherapy may get in the way of some people’s enjoyment of this comic, it is still worth the read. Bechdel is wordy, earnest and intelligent throughout, and hits the emotional notes at just the right times. Reading about her attempt to get to the core of this complicated relationship to figure out how it made her the person she is, while at the same time struggling with the guilt of being her unwilling family’s biographer contributed to this being the most moving comic I read this year.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Julia: I’ve been terribly lax with my prose reading this year, which I intend to fix in 2013, so this is just going to be very brief. I finally checked off some female authors which were on my “Julia-why-on-earth-haven’t-you-read-these-yet” list: Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, the wonderful Anais Nin, and books by Virginia Woolf that weren’t just Mrs Dalloway. “Sleepwalk With Me” by Mike Birbiglia of This American Life fame stood out – if you like his stand-up, I really recommend it. I’m looking forward to catching the film at some point.
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?
Julia: The last season of Adventure Time is definitely up there – they keep upping their game in terms of well-written and affecting character development, and some of these episodes touch on serious issues in such a progressive and delightful way that it’s hard to believe that this is still a kid’s TV show. Plus, there are some great female role models for young girls in there which is a thing that is still surprisingly hard to find.
Game of Thrones was great, and I’m counting down the seconds to series three. Currently, I’m enjoying The Hour – what a great cast, even more improved by the addition of Peter Capaldi. Oh, and mentioning Peter Capaldi, The Thick Of It was really going above and beyond its usual brilliance this year. Sorry, that’s four shows. Cheating again.
Peter Capaldi and Anna Chancellor in The Hour
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Julia: The first half of 2012 was in no way as productive as I wanted it to be, which made me amp it up for the latter half. All-in-all it was a good creative year, as I realised how much drawing and producing work really matters to me and how much happier it makes me as a person. It’s nice to be reminded why you do this sort of thing. I’m especially happy with the way my linework and colouring has improved, and of course with the completion of the short story Katie West has sent me ages ago – it’s 18 full-colour pages, available in my zine which I debuted at this year’s Thought Bubble I’ve also done two comics with poet extraordinaire Chrissy Williams, which was great fun and I’d like to do more of. Plus, I’ve also started hitting my stride with getting commissions and getting paid for work in general, which is a great feeling.
“I Don’t Like My Hair Neat” Zine by Julia Scheele
“Lay Down In The Tall Grass” by Julia Scheele
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Julia: Even though I just mentioned how happy I am with the progress I made artistically, I still feel like I can get loads better. I’m happy with my illustration work, but in terms of comics I want to practice/improve on my storytelling, panel layouts, and lettering. So, basically, the plan is, more stories.
I’m also going to bring out the long-delayed Heroines Zine, which I found some brilliant contributors for. I’m hoping to go to the next ELCAF if/when it happens, and the next Comiket too, so I’ll probably get it ready for one of those.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Julia: There’s so many great artists around at the moment! I think you should watch out for anything coming out through Breakdown Press, a new publishing company run by Tom Oldham and Simon Hacking of Berserker Magazine fame. Their first publication just came out this November – Windowpane by Joe Kessler, which has already gotten rave reviews by Comics-Journal-types. It’s beautifully printed, too, which matters. Another two names, which aren’t really up-and-coming but you may not have heard of anyway, are Lala Albert, whose illustrations are beautiful, and Julia Gfroerer who does dark, gothicky stories like this. Also, James Harvey is killing it and I can’t wait for Zygote to come out.
“In The Up Part Of The Wave” by Lala Albert