Today’s guest Best of the Year post comes from one of our own regular contributors, the man who brings us our weekly visit to the strange and frequently disturbing world of Somersault, as well as creating some fab small press comics and regularly posting some fascinating thoughts on the comics medium on his Love the Line blog – yes, it’s the one and only Richard Cowdry:
Hello Forbidden Planet Readers! This is Richard Cowdry of Somersault “fame” giving his picks of the year!
This year I probably read less comics and books than in any other year since I learnt to read. I also saw maybe one new film. Somehow though I had plenty of time for mindless internet time-killing. Anyway, I did read a handful of small press titles, and I’m happy to say there are a few pearls out there. I’ll try and explain (briefly) why I liked what I liked.
This comic, starring Donald Hamilton, is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read in ages. It’s inspired by the Carry On films and the worst British sitcoms, and it turns the innuendo dial way up past 11. Paul Ashley Brown is an artist I know mainly for his Browner Knowle series, which is a melancholy mixture of comics, poetry and illustration. Browner Knowle is a good series, but PA Brown brings a whole new energy to the art on Mind Your Manners, possibly due to a love for the subject matter and forgotten British sitcoms.
Meanwhile, Peter Lally’s story is funny, dirty, edgy, funny, menacing, then funny again. In fact, only Peter Lally could have written something as outrageous as this. Brown and Lally’s styles work perfectly together, and the result is something really different to anything else on the comics scene. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, and I did laugh out loud… which felt very good. If I had to make one criticism, it would be that the cover doesn’t quite do the comic justice. This flyer is nicer:
2) Trains Are Mint 6 (online comic), by Oliver East.
I was way behind most people in getting into Oliver East’s work. It was only at the end of last year that I read his first Blank Slate collection. I liked the book… it was unlike any comic I’d read, perhaps more like outsider art than comics, which wasn’t a problem. However, I wasn’t reaching immediately for the next books in the series (I knew I’d read them eventually).
When Trains… issue 6 was was released online last February, I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I welcomed it as a chance to see what the artist was up to. Turns out it was great piece of work that shows how far the artist has developed in just a couple of years. I found the comic very inspiring; the combination of East’s unique style, and the almost unbearably sad subject matter had a profound effect on me. One thing I love about East’s work is that it’s so much his own thing. He’s totally out there on his own! He kind of fell into comics by mistake, doesn’t seem influenced any of the usual suspects, and boy, is he prolific! He knocks that stuff out. Yes this is inspiring stuff that somehow feels like Real Art. It also made me slightly ashamed of my own work, which reallies so much on comic book cliches.
3) Hootiebits the magic owl, by Ralph Kidson
The author of this comic has been toiling away in the UK small press since at least the 90’s. It always feels good to get a new Ralphie comic in the mail, but this new one is my favourite of his. Reading it again on the train home yesterday, I was reminded just how dark and surreal it is, as I constantly tried not to laugh (it was the Quiet Coach). It’s a wild, fucked up ‘n’ freewheeling ride, and anyone who likes Ralph’s stuff will want this, and for anyone who doesn’t know his comics, this is a great place to start. Also worth seeking out is Kidson’s new mini : Oily Pelican.
This came out last year but I only read it a few months ago. It’s a great, moving story of modern desperation. Written with real empathy and depth of feeling by Von Schindelberg, and illustrated by S.Tillotson in his constantly improving style. I particularly noticed his original character designs (especially the faces), and great depictions of bland British settings. This is a world I can relate to! The comic also includes a perfect visual depiction of someone waking with a hangover.
Whether read as a stand alone issue, or the last chapter in Ethel’s story, this is the good stuff. Personally I’d love to read more of Ethel’s adventures. Ideally these two would do a graphic novel together… and if it doesn’t get published then there’s no point in anything anymore. It’s all just bullshit!
And while we’re with Richard, a wee reminder for the launch of The Comix Reader, at the Crown, 51 New Oxford Street, London, from 6.30 pm on Wednesday 2nd February: