Best Of The Year 2013 – Andy Oliver
December means it’s Best Of The Year time at the FPI Blog. But it’s best of the year with a difference. We’ll tell you ours later in the month, but before then we present a month long celebration of all the things enjoyed by a host of guests; writers, artists, comic makers.. we’ve got them all! (follow this link to see all the posts from this year’s BoY so far).
Today it’s the turn of Andy Oliver, writer on comics over at the Broken Frontier website. His speciality is with self published comics and his regular feature Small Pressganged should be essential reading for those of you looking to explore the world of comics some more.
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?
The Black Project by Gareth Brookes from Myriad Editions was this year’s standout graphic novel for me. Brookes’ dry wit and beautifully understated prose, combined with that often grotesque and morbid imagery, made this the “must read” comic event of the year. A coming-of-age story that is fanciful and bizarre on the one hand and yet acutely, painfully familiar on the other.
Isabel Greenberg’s eagerly anticipated The Encyclopedia of Early Earth from Jonathan Cape proved that we had not been waiting in vain for her quirky alternate history. Greenberg’s skill at appropriating recognisable elements of myth and legend and then putting her own idiosyncratic spin on them is quite exquisite. Magical, poignant and utterly enchanting, the Encyclopedia was a delight from start to finish.
We are so blessed in the UK at the moment with the plethora of homegrown anthology titles – The Comix Reader, Tiny Pencil, ink + PAPER, Team Girl Comic, Bimba to name just a few, and new Solipsistic Pop coming next year – that it would be remiss of me not to include one of these titles in my best of year choices. If I had to pick just one of these team efforts, though, it would have to be Mike Medaglia’s Wu Wei.
This spiritual comics anthology was a revelation in 2013 featuring both a healthy mix of established UK indie talent like Lizz Lunney, Howard Hardiman and Richy K. Chandler and up and coming creators such as Owen D. Pomery and A.J. Poyiadgi. It seemed to particularly inspire the contributors on board and I’m very pleased to know there’s another edition planned for 2014.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Sadly, reading purely for pleasure without making accompanying review notes is not a leisure endeavour I get a lot of opportunity for any longer! I thought Michael Schumacher and Dennis Kitchen’s Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary from Bloomsbury was a fascinating warts and all study of the notorious cartoonist. Paul Gravett’s Comics Art proved why he’s undeniably one of the top commentators on the medium out there and our own comics-based national treasure. I’m currently wading through Morrissey’s autobiography with its mix of mischievous asides, downright spite, and lyrical, haunting use of language all proving entertaining.
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?
Let’s give a big shout out here for Daniel Baldwin’s Comics are My Rock and Roll documentary looking at alternative pressers Jimi Gherkin and Peter Lally that launched in December. An inspiring and witty 30 minutes or so and a magnificent evocation of the D.I.Y. comics culture.
On a more commercial note the last twenty minutes or so of the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor reminded me that sometimes there’s no harm whatsoever in fondly embracing my inner fanboy. And, yes, I’m cheating by nearly fifty years (but then no one has got to watch them in all that time) so my third choice would be those returned Doctor Who stories The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World. Patrick Troughton is mesmerising in both!
FPI: How did 2013 go for you?
2013 saw Broken Frontier relaunch with a new look site and a more defined mission statement. The response to our continued commitment to celebrating the diversity of comics as a form has been incredibly rewarding and we’re very grateful for all the support the site gets in pushing indie-style work. This was also the year that my Small Pressganged column at BF reached not just its second anniversary but also passed 200 reviews of small press, self-published, micropublished (choose your favoured term) comics in that period. I’m quietly proud to have played my modest part in bringing some of those creators to a greater audience.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
We’ll be continuing to provide coverage in line with our very simple philosophy – one that has been the foundation of Broken Frontier since editor-in-chief Frederik Hautain established the site in 2002 – that the worlds of indie, self-published, small press and alt comics should never, ever be overshadowed by the bigger publishers. And, of course, I’ll be doing my bit through my ‘Small Pressganged’ column to promote grassroots publishing and new creative voices.
I will also be joining the esteemed company of Woodrow Phoenix, Corinne Pearlman, Meg Rosoff and Nicola Streeten on this year’s judging panel for the 2014 Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition which complements my role at BF rather splendidly.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
This has been an extraordinarily rich year for new talent. I could list paragraph after paragraph full of people who should be watched out for in the coming twelve months. As we get to the end of each year, though, there’s usually one self-publisher in particular whose work excites me on another level altogether.
In 2012 it was Rebecca Bagley and in 2013 it was Edie Owczarek-Palfreyman, better known in the comics world as EdieOP. Edie’s work has been seen in places like ink + PAPER and Off Life, alongside her self-published books Callisto Close, Seven Blows to the Head and Jonah. “The sunny side of sinister” is the tagline she uses for her comics which are gleefully childlike in terms of presentation but with a macabre, disturbing twist to them. Check out her site because I suspect we will be seeing big things from her in the years to come.
EdieOP: Happy Camping – from Ink+Paper#4