Best of the Year 2012: Kenny Penman

Published On January 1, 2013 | By Kenny | Best of the Year 2012, Comics

Okay, back to the Best of 2012 posts and we’re rounding up those final few now, all connected to the blog in one way or another. This time it’s comic reader, comic retailer, FPI director, and blog-papa (the man without whom etc etc…) Kenny Penman.

Kenny Penman is also the publisher of Blank Slate Books, one of a group of new young Brit publishers making a noise in the world of comics and winner of Best Book 2012 at the British Comic Awards for the acclaimed Nelson….

TOP 3 COMICS 2012:

1. Building Stories – Chris Ware

However you approached the notion that the ‘narrative’ could be assimilated in a number of non didactic ways – eventually this still felt like a story about one main character.

As one expects now from Ware it looked simply amazing – some of the pages with the flowers as lovely as anything in comics. I also thought the writing was assured as any Ware comic to date. I found the whole thing a well of optimism in the intresting-ness of near normal lives.

Brilliant. Let us hope Ware never tires of striving for perfection – this came close.

2. Love & Rockets New Stories and God and Science: Return Of The Ti-Girls – Hernandez Brothers

This years L&R was devoid of Maggie and felt like a time out from the tying together of loose ends that Jaime’s work in the last 2 issues had turned into the best comics of their respective years. It was still excellent though and gave some character to Vivian who has always seemed a little undefined in the L&R universe.

Gilbert unexpectedly returned to Palomar and those of us who had missed the work he did on those incredible stories cheered. In truth it felt a little like sleight of hand, the story environment and most of the characters felt familiar but Gilbert used it rather pointedly, using Pio’s words to more or less stick two fingers up to those who slight his more recent non Palomar work. The ending also leaned much more to work like The Troublemakers maintaining the B-moive series tone to a larger than expected extent.

God and Science added a load of new pages to Jaime’s superhero girl team from L&R NS 1 and 2 – as lovely to look at as any comic you will see. Another year is almost always another great year for the brothers – any small quibbles aside, these guys still make the most consistently good comics year after year.

3. The Great Unwashed – Pleece Brothers

This book took forever to finally appear – and you might still find it hard to find given it seems near impossible to get copies out of the publisher.

Still, it’s a beautifully made book – it has heft and feels lovely in the hand as well as being very nicely designed. If you aren’t familiar with the material it’s nearly 25 years old but read it now and it could have been made yesterday. In the history of UK self-publishing – Velocity (the comic where most of this first appeared) may well have been the most accomplished thing ever to have come out of a bedroom or garden shed. Most strips run 6 – 8 pages with longer work like Montague Terrace (soon to see new adventures coming from Cape) giving the work a little more room to breathe.

Warren’s art is fantastic – if you have ever loved Toth or the ink wash art of Creepy and Eerie where people like Ditko did outstanding work the work here is the equal of much of that. A simply sensational book – put the work in to track down a copy.

…. AND THE REST:

Aside from those top 3 here are a bundle of things I liked this year. Not necessarily the best, but some stuff you might have missed which I liked a lot.

It’s great to see a lot of effort going into making comics important for kids again in a way that looks to making something parents will want to read with their children. With both Reprodukt in Germany and NoBrow in the UK starting stand alone imprints momentum can only increase. Currently leading the pack has to be Toon Books and I loved their book ‘The Shark King‘ – wonderful, pared-down art bu Kikuo Johnson and lovely colouring. Also worth searching out was Sam Hiti’s ‘Waga’s Big Scare’ released by Carol Rhoda books.

  

UK comics continue to put out some great books and leaving aside Blank Slate’s own – my faves this year were ‘The Nao of Brown‘, ‘Dockwood‘ and the scabarous genius of Krent Able’s ‘Big Book of Mischief‘. Out of the US scene Koyama Press began to emerge as a major voice and my unmissable books of theirs were ‘By this shall you know him’ by Jesse Jacobs which managed to be charming, experimental and beautifully drawn at the same time, and Tin Can Forest’s ‘Wax Cross’ which again felt like an east European folk tale made magically real on the page.

  

Ron Rege Jr. returned after what seemed like a long break and his ‘The Cartoon Utopia‘ was as mind-blowing as you might expect – a book to lose yourself in for hours. Now we are with more formally experimental comics, Fremok did a great collection of Marco Turunen’s work ‘Ovnis A Lahti’ in France and Reprodukt had a new book by Anke Feuchtenberger ‘Die Spaziergangerin’ – which brought together work from her early design heavy period and some astonishingly detailed current drawing. There was a new ‘Victor & Vishnu’ book from the brilliant Jeroen Funke and I loved it as much as the first without being able to read the Dutch (the first book is wordless) – Jeroen and the Lamelos crew are making great comics – it can’t be long until someone picks them up for English publication as part of the whole Flemish comics goldrush.

In the US small press – almost everything Box Brown put out through Retrofit is worth a look and I loved Angie Wang’s ‘Girl Apocalypse’, Sam Alden’s ‘Farmer’s Dilemma’ and Michel Fiffe’s 2nd issue of ‘Zegas’ – all three are making great comics and I fully expect their names to be heard more in the coming year.

  

If there is one comic I want translated more than any it is the brilliant series ‘Soil’ by Atsushi Kaneko – you might know Kaneko from the translated volumes of his hyperkinetic ‘Bambi and her pink gun’. The 11th volume just came out and this huge science fiction story seems fantastic. Kaneko makes some incredible art like a combination of Charles Burns (BTW his new book this year was great too) and Matsumoto – go on, someone put me out of my misery.

Finally, for pure fetish object of the year nothing beat the beauty of the reprint of Manuele Fior’s ‘Cinq Mille Kilometres Par Seconde’ done in a tiny edition by French press Esprit BD Editions. The book is coming out in an English version next year and is well worth adding to your buying list now. This edition presented the art around 2.5 times the original book and is simply beautiful. Looking forward to a great comics 2013.

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