Wow, here we are again at the end of another year.
Frankly, it’s been a quite magnificent year for UK comics. There seems to have been more great works of increasing diversity than ever before. The British comic scene is growing and growing, beginning to get some recognition outside these shores, with both Europe and the US beginning to take note.
Personally, it’s been a great year on the FPI blog as well, and there’s been much fun spreading the word of UK comics far and wide.
An absolute highlight was being part of the inaugural British Comics Awards, held at this years Thought Bubble festival. Everyone worked hard for this but special mention must go to organiser and prime-mover Adam Cadwell, who also shepherded a new publishing company into existence (Great Beast with Marc Ellerby), published issue 2 of his Blood Blokes comic and published the beautiful hardback collection of his comic The Everyday. Busy year for Cadwell.
I’d like to once more offer congratulations to all of the nominees and the winners; John Allison (Best Comic), Raymond Briggs (Hall of Fame), Josceline Fenton (Emerging Talent), Luke Pearson (Young People’s Award), Woodrow Phoenix & Rob Davis (for helming Nelson to Best Book). The British Comic Awards will return in 2013 at Thought Bubble.
So, here are what I reckon are my top ten for 2012, in alphabetical order…
This really had to be in here didn’t it? I spent most of this year detailing my weekly walk to the shops to get a dose of Thrill-Power (in the 2012 2000AD Pledge – posts here). For a while I thought I’d deal with individual strips, with Wagner et al’s Judge Dredd Day Of Chaos obviously a high point, but Edginton and Culbard’s Brass Sun coming very close.
(To digress slightly here… Brass Sun was going to be in the ten, until the final cut. In the end it dropped off the edge as it really needs to have the concluding book to make it a complete work.)
Back to the point… The end of the year brought the excellent Cold Deck storyline to a close with the simply audacious brilliance of Trifecta, where Judge Dredd, Lowlife and The Simping Detective joined together to deliver one wonderful conclusion to a great story, technically original, a real thriller. But the work had already been done thanks to writers Al Ewing, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier and artists Henry Flint, D’Israeli, Simon Coleby and Carl Critchlow.
So, for the whole year of enjoyment, for the cumulative effect, but especially for Day Of Chaos, for The Cold Deck, for Trifecta, 2000AD makes it on here.
Made me cry. And by now many of you know just what a hopelessly sentimental fool I am. But more than that Abelard surprised me with the intensity it packed into the imagery. It may look superficially cute, but this tale of the immigrant experience is something that tugs at the heartstrings without falling into cutesy sweet, and mixes that sentiment with absolute brutality at almost every point along Abelard’s journey of wonders.
“I’m just soppy, and something like this really does get me every time. But I got to the end of the book, turned that final page and had a good, long cry. A harder heart than mine may find it too sentimental and determined to break hearts with a mix of sweet imagery and brutal themes, but I’m too busy wiping away the tears to hear those complaints thanks very much.“
This is a wonderful little comic book, rough, raw, vibrant, absolutely charming. It’s the tale of Arthur and Posy: “A big glittery gay fairytale fandango about a boy who’s too pretty to be a boy and a girl who doesn’t want to be a girl”.
That’s how Risbridger and Johnson describe it on the back covers, and it absolutely nails the mood and the themes in here. But what it doesn’t do is give you a sense of the sheer joy and warmth in Arthur and Posy. Just a few pages in and I’m already deeply involved with the comic, wanting to discover just what will come next…
“I love how Risbridger’s writing them, love Johnson’s artwork. I love the sense of playfulness that goes through it all, a lovely mix of picture book and comics, big typography and raw lines. But it simply works. We sit, outside time and place, and exist in a simple world, where we get completely wrapped up in what happens to these two. It’s quite wonderful.“
Like I said in the review, this one is easy; “Posy Simmonds meets Sex & The City. With all the best of Simmonds and little of the worst of S&TC“.
It’s sublimely funny, quite beautifully drawn, fashion iconography, meticulous design, a gorgeous line, a definite page-turner, and funny, so funny. Did I mention funny?
“…it becomes something more than merely S&TC repeated for the comic page. Suddenly it becomes something deliberately exaggerated for comic and comedic effect, Motin taking her life and exposing it to ridicule, not in the ways those Yummy Mummys tend to, but in a genuine artistic view on her life, and all her faults, all her triumphs.“
Funny and gorgeous. I mentioned that already yes?
As a Lovecraft novice, this finally did the job, all thanks to Culbard’s perfect adaptation.
“With all the Lovecraft I’ve read so far, including Culbard’s At The Mountains Of Madness adaptation, I’ve bemoaned the fact that I never really got the chills and the creeps I was somewhat hoping for. Page 39 of The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. That’s when I got the chill I was after, a huge great chill, right down my spine. I nearly shouted out in excitement once it had passed. At last, at last, at last.“
The thing is, this was my 10th choice here on the list, simply because I was putting off the most difficult decision on this list – choose this or go with another Culbard illustrated book, the far funnier than this one Deadbeats. Hideously tough choice, but this one snuck it just for the chills.
This was on the best of 2011 list for issue 1, and as good as that first issue was, as wonderful, as heart-rending, issue 2 takes everything White delivered there and ups the ante. I haven’t gotten around to issue 3 yet, but I’m confident that nothing in there would displace this from its position here.
“For every moment [White] makes us thrill to the exploits of his heroine kicking butt and taking down the bad guys, there are moments of quiet sadness, that our experiences tell us are all too terribly real. In Cindy & Biscuit Issue 1 it was the realisation that whatever she did, no matter what monstrous threat to the human race she vanquished, she still had to go home to a critical look and disparaging remark from a mom too busy to care. And here it’s the realisation that she can do so much good and yet still, when she gets back on the school bus, she’s the outcast at the back, teased and picked on by her peers.
So sad, so beautifully sad,and so beautifully real.“
Oh, I meant to talk about this before now, I really really did. Meant to talk about it every moment from receiving all six copies I ordered. One for the Bruton household, five for the primary school library.
Raina Telgemeier’s debut book Smile proves consistently popular with each new school year that reads it, and although Drama takes the subject out of the autobiographical and into pure fiction, and does so with slightly older themes it’s still a book that has been pounced on and absolutely adored.
And as at school, so in the Bruton household. If my darling daughter ever gets her arse into gear I’m pretty sure she’ll tell you how great it is, but until then, you’ll just have to put up with me telling you how absolutely uplifting it is, how wonderfully it reads, how entertaining it is. Perfect stuff.
Look, you’re going to have to trust me on this one as I haven’t reviewed this yet in this collected form. But I did review Ellerbisms in comic form here and here. This new collection takes all that was powerful and effecting, all that was funny, all that was truthful, and brave, and impressive and makes it simply better, more complete.
“And much to my delight over the months since the stuff in volume 1 came out Marc started putting more and more detail in his work, started linking pages, making more of a story from strip to strip. It just got better and better. But something happened to Ellerbisms along the way whilst I was reading it, something absolutely remarkable and absolutely fascinating. Marc fell in love”
And all that is still in here, but with distance it’s been given context, been made stronger, more coherent. It is now a complete story, albeit one with an arbitrary end, as do most diary comics. Ellerby has made something very special in Ellerbisms, but in collecting it here, he has turned something special to something sublime.
(And before we move on, a brief mention for Ellerby’s other thing, his whinging ginger ninja Chloe Noonan had a Colour Special and a digital omnibus this year, and they made it onto this year’s long list.)
My absolute love for Nick Abadzis’ quite incredible Hugo Tate has been something I’ve talked of a number of times over the years. But this year, thanks to this quite wonderful complete collection of all the Hugo Tate strips from Deadline, I got to tell you all…
“….whilst Deadline hit its highs early and then coasted down into obscurity and cancellation, whilst some strips burned fast and bright, some vanished outright, and the girl with the tank went global, Nick Abadzis’ little stick man with attitude developed and developed and developed, outgrew his humble single page origins, got form (but never a real face) and went on to take on the world (or at least a big part of the USA).
And now, thanks to this Blank Slate Books collection, this thing of beauty and wonder is at last available to all. Finally everyone has the chance to see a class cartoonist grow and develop his creation right in front of your eyes, going from raw and rough to polished and precise, brilliant and brutal faster than some of those indie bands of Deadline went from cover star to job centre.”
The final line of my review is simple; “But Hugo Tate is that rarity. I beseech you, seek it out. A masterpiece“. I can’t argue with that at all. Masterpiece.
Here we go, another one I’ve read but haven’t managed to review yet. But I have reviewed much of Simon Moreton’s work, including issue 5 of Smoo published earlier in 2012. I used the phrase “beautiful reduction” in the title of that review, and it really does summarise Moreton’s work in my mind so very, very well. Issue 5 was beautiful reduction, issue 6 is beautiful reduction near perfected.
What Moreton does here isn’t traditional, certainly isn’t narrative driven. In fact, it’s not a lot of things. But what it actually is is quiet simplicity, gentle beauty and complete clarity in the vagaries of the imagery that Moreton has been delivering consistently over the last few issues, and although it’s quiet, although it’s gentle, it’s also incredibly powerful to me.
And that’s it. I’m done. Seriously. Finished. There’s the 10. Which means now I spend my time explaining and apologising for what you’ve just read….
As far as what was bubbling under, what made the long list… well, you could look at any of the monthly best of posts I do here for those, but I must mention a few; the as yet unreviewed The Everyday by Adam Cadwell, the similarly not reviewed Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson are in there somewhere just shy of the ten. Likewise Martin Stiff’s The Absence is probably down here in the next ten rather than the top 10 because it was in the top 10 last year and in 2010.
Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary and Bryan Talbot is another sitting in the next 10, and Bryan Talbot’s recently released Grandville Bete Noir would very probably be there or there abouts, except it still sits on the pile of Christmas books yet to be read.
Perhaps the most glaring omissions here are three comics that feature already in several best of lists here on the FPI Blog: Saga, Martin Eden’s Spandex, and Glyn Dillon’s Nao Of Brown. Simply no time – I have Grandville, Spandex and Nao in the review pile right now. Saga will have to wait until we get a break in all the great UK comics coming out, which thankfully, right now, looks like never.
There really is so much great comic work out there right now, and yet there is but 24 hours a day available. And actually, thanks to the new tablets the doctor has me on, I’m beginning to use a couple more of those 24 hours for sleep now.
But regardless of what I’ve missed, of what I have wrong, of what you reckon is your top 10 for the year, I can categorically state that the 10 I’ve picked right there above this are 10 of the best I’ve read in 2012, and a fine, fine collection they are as well. Here’s to 2013, may it bring wonders anew.