Today’s Best of the Year guest post comes from Bristol-based artist Simon Gurr, who has created art for comics and for fine art, including the well-regarded Darwin graphic biography last year for the special Darwinian anniversary celebrations. Let’s see what Simon has been enjoying in 2010:
Good evening / bon soir / kalispera. Here are the votes from the Bristol jury…
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?
Simon: For me the best of the year has all come at once, in the last month or two.
Solipsistic Pop 3 was a revelation, a smart, diverse anthology which made all the recent talk of a ‘UK comics renaissance’ seem entirely plausible. I thought having a theme worked well, the print quality was high, and the sheer range of styles on display was breathtaking.
Kani, Warwick Johnson Cadwell’s deep-sea samurai comic, was a total pleasure to read. The basic concept was enough to hook me in but the execution was fantastic; beautiful line, dynamic layouts and some subtle fight choreography made it a perfect short story.
At The Mountains Of Madness is the first of INJ Culbard’s many SelfMadeHero adaptations that I’ve read, and I adored it. All the fuss about this book is justified, it is full of ingenious solutions to the problems of adapting Lovecraft. The deceptive simplicity of the artwork lets you project your own fears into the story, a more overwrought style would have lost the sense of creeping horror. The cinematic storytelling across double page spreads, the design, the gorgeous colours, all add up to a wonderful experience for the reader.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Simon: Ritual In The Dark by Colin Wilson. This book is fifty years old now, it fell into my hands by chance – a friend thought I’d like it. Going by the cover art and blurb I thought I’d hate it. He was right. It’s an early Wilson novel and quite mad, full of murder, existentialism, pre-sixties attitudes to sex but the vivid evocation of the clubs and student digs of 1950s London is what I liked most about it.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy. As usual I come to these things late. There’s not much I can add to the praise that has been heaped on this book over the last few years. I almost read it in one sitting and when I wasn’t reading it I was playing the scenes back in my mind.
Dark Spires This is a new anthology of speculative fiction set in the West of England, which I picked up at BristolCon. Using Hardy’s Wessex as the backdrop gives the anthology a nice coherence. For me the highlight is ‘Spunkies’, Eugene Byrne‘s engrossing tale of the haunted Somerset Levels.
FPI: How did 2010 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Simon: I would have liked to get more comics out but most of the work I’ve been offered this year has tended to be non-sequential. With the birth of son no. 2 there’s been no time to work on my own comic stories either.
At the start of the year I wrote and drew some more factual comics; a history of transport and biographies of early aviators like The Wright bros and Samuel Cody. More recently I’ve been drawing a short biographical comic about JRR Tolkien. All interesting stuff to work on and I still enjoy non-fiction comics enormously, both as reader and creator. This year The Bristol Story went to a 2nd printing, which was encouraging, and positive feedback continued to come in for 2009’s Darwin: A Graphic Biography (one copy has been travelling the world thanks to bookcrossing.com, it’s already travelled further than Darwin himself did on the Beagle!)
As a comic creator I’ve really enjoyed using Twitter. In previous years I didn’t know why I was using it and I ended up following people like Stephen Fry and eventually giving up the whole thing as pointless. Now I follow other illustrators and comic creators and it’s given me some of the camaraderie and fertile creative atmosphere I used to enjoy when I shared a studio. It’s brilliant to be able to see what other people are working on and to post your own work-in-progress on TwitPic to get some helpful input from others.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2011?
Simon:Things are looking up for next year. For one thing I’ve built a studio, which will help to keep domestic distractions to a minimum in future. In 2010 I really missed working with Eugene (Byrne, writer of The Bristol Story and Darwin) but we have a few ideas which should come out in 2011.
I’ve been inspired by the artists I’ve met on Twitter to put out a comic of my own. It’s early days, but it will pull together several unfinished stories which have been taking up disk space in my brain for far too long. I’m looking forward to spending some time on completely personal work.
I’d also like to get a Dredd strip out of my system before the new film comes out. Maybe I could get Zarjaz or NuEarth to run it.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Simon: When I picked Rob Davis last year I had no idea he was going to announce an adaptation of Don Quixote for SelfMadeHero. This ambitious project has got me drooling already and I’m convinced it will completely blow people away next year.
Mick McMahon‘s hardly a new name to look out for but he has finished Tank Girl: Carioca and I’m sure that will be a high point of 2011.
You can check out the rest of the 2010 Best of the Year posts here.