Here, we go again, pulling away from yet another desert island in the good ship FPI, waving goodbye to another comics person wh didn’t realise we meant it literally about the whole Desert Island thing.
I would introduce our latest victim, but being a good journalist, he’s done his own copy…..
Desert Island Comics Episode 37: Teddy Jamieson
In my day job writing for The Herald and Sunday Herald I interview actors, writers, musicians and architects. But now and again I get to write about comics too. I’m very pleased about that. But having spent the last 40 years or so reading them choosing just eight is pretty impossible.
I’ve ended up with a list that doesn’t contain Bill Watterson, Alan Moore, Krazy Kat, Bryan Talbot, Seth, Posy Simmonds, Paul Pope or Chris Reynolds, which is clearly ridiculous.
Master of Kung Fu 114, by Doug Moench and Gene Day
I always blame the Pet Shop Boys for my love of comics. It’s even kind of true. It was a copy of Spiderman Comics Weekly Number Five, edited by PSB-in-waiting Neil Tennant, back in 1973 that was my equivalent of a comicbook first kiss. After that I was a Marvel true believer for years, although by my teens I was more drawn to Marvel’s more marginal characters than the superhero set. I loved Barry Smith’s Conan issues, Dr Strange written by Steve Engelhart and later Roger Stern (I still have a vivid memory of a panel drawn by Tom Sutton in which a drip of water from a tap in a police station is in fact a spying eyeball) , and Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula. But my favourite was Master of Kung Fu. That title looks ridiculous and yet I thought it was the coolest thing. I even started listening to Fleetwood Mac because writer Doug Moench kept quoting their lyrics. I think I was more interested in the spy plots than the actual chop socky stuff, but Moench’s scripts were sophisticated enough for my pretentious teenage self and then there was the art … Paul Gulacy and Mike Zeck both did great work but my favourite was Gene Day. Day had en eye for page design obviously influenced by Jim Steranko and that’s what I responded to. He died outrageously young, at 32 I think, and there was some controversy about Marvel’s treatment of him (though Jim Shooter has point-by-point denied all the claims). I guess that’s why he isn’t better known. But he should be. It’s probably the best part of 30 years since I’ve read MOKF 114 -but I’d have plenty of time on a desert island to reacquaint myself with a comic I remember once loving very much.
Building Stories by Chris Ware
Linked in a way. Half the fun of Chris Ware’s comic strips is how, like Day, he navigates the reader around the page. Ware, though, has no interest in being cinematic. I like that. He’s utterly, unapologetically comic-booky in his layouts. They require a bit of work. Mostly, though, I think what makes him special is the emotional weight he brings to bear in his stories, nowhere more than here. Building Stories has only been out a month or two but I think this may be one of those touchstones for graphic novels in years to come in the way Maus or Persepolis are now.
Serge Clerc in the NME
At the point where I began to be more interested in pop music than comics one of the reasons I didn’t drift away from the latter would have been the cartoonists who turned up in the music press back in the 1980s. That’s where I first encountered Mark Beyer and Savage Pencil. But it was Serge Clerc’s retro vision – all Herge clean lines and jazz and rockabilly visuals – that were my favourites. Probably because of his Jessica Rabbit-style women, I suspect. (Pic from Steve Cook)
Pickle by Dylan Horrocks
It’s a symptom of the still marginal status of comic strips that the small press scene of the 1980s that orbited Ed Pinsent and Phil Elliott’s Fast Fiction magazine and Paul Gravett’s Escape Magazine isn’t more widely celebrated. There was a tremendous explosion of talent which introduced a new, very British tone into comic strips: a whimsical, downbeat mood; as much poetry as narrative. The visual equivalent of Smiths B sides you could argue at a push. So many fantastic cartoonists emerged back then. I could easily have picked something by the aforementioned Elliot and Pinsent, Eddie Campbell, Glen Dakin, Myra Hancock, Ilya, or Carol Swain, but I’ve opted for Kiwi Dylan Horrocks who was living in London at the end of the eighties and early nineties and showed that the indie romanticism didn’t solely belong to these islands. One of my prized possessions is my “Pickle Jar”, a handmade box full of photocopied Horrocks cartoon strips and my very own Personalties of Hicksville pen-and-ink sketch of Hock Diaphragm, lead singer of “Fuck Piss Shit Fuck”, Hicksville’s leading punk band. The whole package is the visual equivalent of the Go-Betweens singles collection. (Pickle cover from Ed Pinsent’s marvellous galleries)
Peter Arno in the New Yorker
Arno is the archetypal New Yorker cartoonist, tremendously talented, amusing and urbane. His pencil lines are extravagantly chunky and bold, while his vision of a world of bumptious businessmen and well-stacked secretaries would be very Benny Hill if the humour wasn’t so sharp. He is really very funny – in both his drawing and his punchlines. “Sometimes we sell them, lady,” a baseball coach says to an elderly, bright-eyed dowager eagerly gazing at the players, “but only to other teams.”
Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez
The greatest comic in the history of comics. That’s not up for debate. Choosing it also allows me to get both Beto and Jaime Hernandez in my list. Two towering talents in one place. My favourite Beto story is probably Poison River; incredibly dark and the sex scenes are outrageous. Jaime is less spiky but just as emotionally literate. One more thing. I’m in love with Maggie Chascarillo. I feel I should share that. (That nice L&R collage from Synethetic Fugue Incident)
Nelson, edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix
Creatively it’s a really exciting time for comic strips at the moment. This graphic novel features 54 cartoonists all working on the same story. Reading it reminds me a bit of stealing a look at my sister’s copies of Jackie and Tammy.
All Over Coffee by Paul Madonna
There are a couple of constants in these choices, I’m just realising. Women and architecture. The same things I like in movies and books. Madonna’s San Francisco Chronicle strips almost bring us around to where we started. If half the fun of Marvel comics was the New York city splash pages Madonna’s beautifully crafted urban landscapes offer a kind of grown-up version of the same pleasure. He’s also a very sly storyteller. There are no people in his drawings, but they’re full of life.
Luxury: an endless supply of tea and cake and Pedro Almodovar and PrestonSturges DVDs pretty please.
You know, folks really aren’t getting the whole idea of ONE luxury are they? Tea, cake, 2 dvds? But no dvd player – are you sure you’ve thought this one out Teddy? Oh what the hell, let’s invent the combination solar powered teasmade/ cake maker/ dvd player, just because Teddy has shown me All Over Coffee – which I’ve just lost myself in for two hours. Beautiful.