As we enter week two of our annual tradition of daily guest Best of the Year posts we welcome one of our solid faves to the blog, a man who is adept at tilting at windmills with panache, Rob Davis:
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?
Rob: Accuse me of nepotism if you wish because I choose three Brit comics and all three are by mates. The reason I choose them is because they are the three best comics I read this year.
Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon – this is my Number One book of the year because of its ambition and vision. It’s not perfect in the way my second choice is, but that may be why it has lived on in my mind after I finished reading it. I’m not sure what I think about the ending as a reader or as a writer, I’m not sure all the things thrown up in the air came back down again. I was furious with the main character at one point. I tutted and shook my head at it and I laughed with it like a friend. I was left puzzled. Perhaps this is its real strength – it’s oh so very human this book. It has an honesty and a big heart to match its imaginative scope. It flirts with fantasy in the story of Pictor, the boy with the chestnut head, but its real achievement is in creating an intangible realism.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, HP Lovecraft adapted by INJ Culbard – it’s no secret that Ian knocks these books out at an unhealthy speed, there’s a reason he can do this – he is a master at telling a story. Here he masters not just story and direction but the art of making a book. The cover is about the book as object and concept and not about showing off as an illustrator (aspiring comics in the book market need to look and learn). This book is so good it reads itself, and closes itself afterwards. In fact it is so cleverly bookended it opens and closes like a Chinese puzzle box – all the escaping madmen, family secrets, grave robbers and labyrinths stalked by monsters are revealed and concealed between the covers. A magical read. This is Culbard’s best work.
Hilda and the Midnight Giant – Luke Pearson is no secret to comic buyers in the UK, but along with the other two on this list he represents a new vision for British comics that is open to all readers. His Hilda books are kids’ books, adults can enjoy them (especially parents reading with their kids as I found out!), but they belong firmly in the tradition of children’s stories. The magic here, shadowy night giants and partly invisible housing estates full of elves, is measured and slight, it feels incidental and natural. I think, in Hilda, we are possibly seeing the birth of something special that may outlive all of us.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Rob: I didn’t really read any contemporary fiction this year. I did start reading old Manga collections though, I’m still trying to learn how to make comics, I’m sure I always will be, Ode to Kirihito by Tezuka has been a favourite so far.
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?
Rob: I think the last time you asked me to do one of these things I said that I felt US cable TV had taken the mantle from film and I haven’t changed my mind since. The scale and depth of the best TV series on US TV have a novelistic quality and movies all too often look like short stories or highlight reels. So I’ve picked three TV shows, two epics and a sitcom.
Breaking Bad – it’s hard to describe how epic this show is because there is something mundane about the face of it. A lesson in finding the epic in the mundane and suburban, the violence and adventure in the self conscious and indifferent. When it’s all finished next year we may be able to take it apart and see how it works, but for now we just get to marvel at the latest wonder of our age.
Louie – I don’t know if this is a sit com, or a Louis CK stand-up routine with dream sequences. It’s the best comedy TV I’ve seen in years and actually feels unlike anything else on TV.
Game of Thrones I so wanted to hate this – a fantasy drama with Sean Bean?! Yeesh! Turns out it’s brilliant. Damn.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Rob: Not great. Started the year using my girlfriend’s bedroom as a studio, spent month’s renovating my old house after getting it back from my wife, spent a fortune and earnt very little.
Ended the year doing ridiculous hours in my studio and up to ten pages a week of Don Quixote to get it done.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Rob: Don Quixote Volume II will be out in the spring in May and The Complete Don Quixote (that’s Volumes one and two) will be out in the US around the same time.
I hope to begin work on an original Graphic Novel in January, but it’s too early to start talking about that.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Rob: Not a new name, but a new strip. My good friend Faz Choudhury has been sweating blood over the pages of his Victorian sewers adventure – The Pie Thief! Part Dickens, part Chaland, it has a classic bande dessinee feel to it, but with Faz’s dry sense of humour and love of slapstick. It will appear in the pages of the Phoenix next year and hopefully it will one day be collected in a hard cover format that I can slip onto my shelves alongside Tintin, Blake and Mortimer etc. Have a little look at it: