Best of the Year 2012 – Daniel Clifford
Continuing our traditional annual daily series of different writers, editors, artists and others picking their favourites from the last twelve months (you can catch up with the guest posts so far here) and I’m delighted to say over a week of daily posts in and as usual we’re seeing a diverse set of works flagged up by different folks, which is, of course, one of the reasons we love running this series each year, we always get pointed to work we hadn’t come across before, and hopefully that’s the same for you (and also as usual we’re seeing some patterns – Nao of Brown and Saga have been getting a lot of love already). This second working week’s worth of guest posts stars with Daniel Clifford:
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?
Daniel: Daredevil – This run on Daredevil really chimes with me. For a start, the art has been amazing in every issue. But the key thing is that these are great fun superhero stories. I’ve seen a lot of criticism aimed at Daredevil in the last few months, as some of the darkness of previous runs has started to seep in – but Waid made it clear that that would be happening from the start. And why would you want a book without an emotional core? For me, this is the perfect superhero book. And issue #17 was the perfect issue – Waid and Allred telling the standalone story with the type of elements that are only believable when drawn by Allred (see below).
Mudman – Another superhero book done exactly as I like my superheroes – simple on a surface level, but full of believable characters and a weird goings-on when you scratch that surface. I love Grist’s artwork, I love his dialogue, I love his editorials… I love this book. And it’s less-than-monthly schedule means that collecting Mudman doesn’t break the bank.
Saga – I’ve never really given BKV a chance before Saga. I read the first trade of Ex Machina and was put off by how self-concious the subplot about art and censorship was, and The Y the Last Man art doesn’t appealing enough for me to sit down with Lily’s hard cover collections. So this was my first real BKV experience and I was taking the punt thanks to the Fiona Staples artwork. I’m glad I did. Even if this wasn’t a good comic, it would still be worth having a look at due to the interesting decisions made about the setting, alien species, character and dialogue – some of which contrast so much that they just shouldn’t work at all. But they do. And this is a great comic.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Daniel: Stephen King On Writing – This year has been quite a transitional one for me. I decided to open up to all possibilities and to listen to other people’s advice a bit more. I had seen this book recommended a million times over and finally decided to take the plunge. I found King’s voice to be charming and personal, as if he was sat in front of me on the Metro, in bed and in hospital waiting rooms (there were a lot of waiting rooms this year). Some of the advice didn’t work for me, but reading this has definitely improved my writing and my personal life. That’s more than I bargained for.
Untold Tales of Marvel Comics – I’m only a little way into this book, but I’m already loving it. I have no time for prose fiction, really – but I’ll read virtually any non-fiction on the arts and creative businesses. A lot of what I’ve read so far covers things I’ve read before, but I know virtually nothing about Marvel after the 1960s, so I’m looking forward to a great treat here.
The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter – I don’t read a lot of prose. I’m a very slow reader and I spend the majority of my time being an active participant rather than being passive. So this Pinter play was one of the only other things I’ve read this year. And when I say ‘read’, I mean that I read certain characters, Lily read others and we acted the damn thing out in our living room. When we got to the end of the play, we were a little confused. Then we watched extracts from the film and realised that we’d played the thing all wrong. Still, it was an interesting experience that I’m looking forward to repeating when we get the chance.
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?
Daniel: Homeland – I can only really get my head around watching one drama series at a time, and Homeland is the current must-watch programme in the Clifford/Daniels household. An American marine is captured by fundamentalists while on duty, and sent back to the US as an undercover agent of terror. Series One was full of broken characters and slow-building tension, while the new episodes have seen the characters develop into unhinged bad asses with 24-style ‘bang! bang! bang!’ plots. Exciting TV that’s a little dumbed-down since the first series, but still better than everything else on my TV.
Wolfblood – I studied alongside a couple of actors who ended up in this CBBC werewolf drama, which was the only reason I switched it on the first place. I thought “children’s TV, North East location and werewolves – I’m ready to be very disappointed and embarrassed’… but I couldn’t have been more impressed. Great characters and dialogue, fantastic teen-parable plots, and brilliant acting. This programme already gets a big audience, and it deserves even bigger. I’m jealous that I’m not writing episodes… or, at least, a tie-in comic.
Happy Endings – Another one I was expecting not to like. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but if you say “American comedy on E4” to me, I’ll probably walk out of the house, never mind the room. But after giving Happy Endings a chance I went from cynical to pleasantly surprised to addicted. The set-up is the same as every other Friends-alike US comedy, but this one is actually funny. With great actors and stranger-than-you-expect plots.
FPI: How did 2012 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Daniel: This year has really been all about Art Heroes for me. Art Heroes is the comic book publishing and workshop facilitation business I run with Lee Robinson. And we had a great year – we managed to turn our ideas into a profitable business within 6 months, we’ve ran workshops for a load of schools, libraries and arts organisations, and our comic has went down brilliantly. The business model for Art Heroes is something I’ve been thinking about for a few years now, and I’m very proud that we managed to make it happen, covered all our costs and made a profit while we were at it. As I write this, we’ve released 3 issues of our 4-issue all-ages superhero comic, Halcyon & Tenderfoot – but we should have the last issue out by the end of the year. The comic has got some great reviews and the readers (some never having read comics before) have given us fantastic feedback.
I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t manage to finish Sugar Glider this year, but that’s down to me. I spent so much time away from Susie Sullivan and friends, that I got scared I wouldn’t be able to write them convincingly anymore. And I knew there was a lot more story to put into the final issue than originally intended (thanks to the, perhaps ill-advised, Sugar Glider Stories anthologies we put out last year) so that was another thing that stalled my writing. Bored of waiting for me, Gary Bainbridge decided to finish off his other long-delayed-due-to-the-writer series, Nightbus. I eventually finished the 38 page script for Sugar Glider issue 3 and I’m very pleased to say that Gary’s art for the first 25 pages is absolutely amazing. It’s alright to be late if you turn up looking amazing.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2013?
Daniel: I’m currently putting together a pitch for a full-colour Halcyon & Tenderfoot collection with Lee and a fantastic colourist called Nadine Ashworth. H&T has a bigger potential audience than we can reach ourselves and the vast majority of the heavy lifting is done, so we’re hoping this is successful. There’s a lot of people out there who have seen superhero movies but are too afraid of the long-running superhero comics, so Halcyon & Tenderfoot is aimed at them.
Sugar Glider issue 3 will be released in early 2013. It’s 38 pages long and ties up everything from the previous issues (including as much as we could from the Stories anthologies). This is probably the last Sugar Glider comic we’ll release. It’s been a brilliant experience and we’ve certainly learned a lot about making comics and working together, but now we’re going to focus on a more adult comic that suits our combined interests a little better. You might even see bits and pieces of that comic before the end of 2013. We’ll probably put an SG trade together too – including the first Susie strip, which has only even been seen by about 25 people.
I’ll also be working on a whole range of pitches, mini-comics and web-comics with a number of absolutely amazing artists. My life has changed a lot this year so I’m not as stressed about rush-releasing comic books, I’m more interested in crafting brilliant work and putting it out into the world when it’s ready. And I’m not really bothered about self-publishing for profit. It doesn’t work well enough and it diminishes your potential audience. Most of the things I self-publish next year will be free.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Daniel: I think the Halcyon & Tenderfoot art team, Lee Robinson and Nadine Ashworth will have a huge year. We’re doing stuff together that I think will be great, but they’re also doing their own things that should be really successful – Nadine is doing a load of colouring and Lee is planning a children’s book. Both have the talent to make a success of themselves if they keep on pushing and they get the right opportunities.