Best of the Year 2013 – Colin Mathieson
Each December we have a tradition on the FP blog where as well as the blog crew picking out their favourites we run a daily series all month long from friends in the comics and SF&F worlds, writers, artists, editors, reviewers picking out their Best of the Year selections so we get a much more diverse range of good recommendations for you (see here for the guest BoY 2013 posts so far).
Today it’s the turn of one of the great stalwarts of the UK Indy comics scene, Colin Mathieson, gifted creator in his own right as well as being part of the long-running Accent UK which has effectively been a great stable for UK small press comics for years. Let’s see what Colin’s been enjoying in 2013:
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?
A thoroughly gripping and moving account of three First World War soldiers meeting during a short respite in the fighting at the strategic sluice gates in Belgium. Enjoying each other’s company, the three, a Belgian, a French and a British soldier vow to meet in the same spot 10 years on when surely the war will be over and they will have returned to their civilian lives. The book, based on true stories skilfully weaved together through fiction was an unexpected discovery at this year’s London Super Comic Con, where Ivan had driven from his native Belgium! – a trip he repeated even further to Kendal for The Lakes show. With dedication like that you just know that he has poured his passion into every panel and word of this excellent English language debut!
Next up is Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel
Telling the tragic tale of the Mermaid of New York’s Hudson river, Sailor Twain is an infectious delight of a book. Set underwater and on the doomed steamboat Lorelei, the book unravels the mystery of the ship’s fallen Captain, driven Owner and the alluring Mermaid herself in a story of love, obsession and dark romance. Funny, saucy and dangerous in equal measures, it’s great fun, confidently executed by Siegel in an accessible pencil and charcoal style. I was vaguely aware of this book but, seeing as I do most of my buying at comic shows these days, was thrilled to get it in New York itself from the author who did me a great pin up. Thankfully the book did not disappoint and is something that I’ll treasure for a long time.
Third choice is tougher, but I’ll go for The Great War by Joe Sacco
A very different read this being a sort of a ‘panoramic tapestry’ of a book from arguably the best comics journalist around. The drawings portray the scenes from the first day of the Somme in July 1916 from Haig’s (splendid?) isolation to preparations, bombardments, trenches, the fateful attacks and of course the devastating aftermath. It’s totally silent and forms one long canvas as opposed to being split into panels and pages so makes for a very different reading experience, drawing you in as you make your own narrative from the numerous detailed and desperate figures. At first I wasn’t so sure, preferring the immediacy of Sacco’s earlier works but how could he replicate his personal Palestine and Bosnian experiences in a conflict so long ago but still very much part of people’s perception so the more I’ve thought about it, the format actually works in skilfully representing this tragic event without being preachy or judgemental. The slipcase and booklet add to the feel of an important publication and I know that it’s something that I will return to again as we approach the forthcoming WW1 anniversaries in 2014.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Colin: In this, the bi-centenary year of Scotland’s great explorer, David Livingstone, an updated and expanded edition of Tim Jeal’s 1973 classic ‘Livingstone’ was my highlight and a welcome supplement to the exhibitions and articles celebrating Livingstone’s birth. I’ve long been fascinated by the legend of this formidable man and Jeal’s book is an excellent insight and doesn’t shy away from the often tragic consequences of Livingstone’s single mindedness’.
Most of my other reading was various history and reference books for fun and research but I did also enjoy catching up finally with John Buchan’s ‘The Thirty-Nine’ Steps which was a thrilling read!
I’m also enjoying David Mitchell’s complex novel Cloud Atlas but not yet been able to finish it – not enough pictures for me!
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?
Colin: I’ve a notorious short attention span for TV shows but I did religiously follow Channel 4’s Victorian series The Mill! Set in the real life (and local to me!) Quarry Bank Mill, its focus on the workers and the harsh conditions they experienced while they struggled for a voice to improve their lot surprisingly gripped me (in a way that Downtown did not). While a dramatization of factual events and people, the show does not pull its punches in portraying the darker side of the Mill owner’s, this for me was particularly illuminating as locally it has been accepted that the Grieg family were one of the ‘better’ ones which begs the question, if they were among the best what were the other Mill and Factory owners like?
Cinema highlight was Cloud Atlas, an immense, complex, rewarding movie with quality acting, make-up, soundtrack, it had many surprises, was great fun and easier to follow than the book!
FPI: How did 2013 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Colin: Well Dave West and I (as of course indie-publisher Accent UK) had a pretty good year, arguably one of our best ever, attending more shows in a calendar year than ever before, (11), all over the UK and with return trips to Denmark and the US. This followed our release of 6 new books in 2012, so we really made an effort getting those books out there and were rewarded with (mostly) strong sales but with so many shows there were a couple of events that ‘underperformed’ for us, which I guess is natural as the comics scene gets crowded, making us more selective of the shows we choose.
(Colin at the Accent UK stand during the Dundee Comic Day in March, pic from Joe’s Flickr)
Shows are great barometers and often lead to fun and surprising outcomes such as this year’s Copenhagen event leading Dave and I, alongside Greg Bennett (of Big Planet Comics & SPX fame!) and our favourite Danish artist Martin Flink to do an impromptu talk and Q&A session to a roomful of eager and talented students at the Comic Art School of Malmo in Sweden before enjoying a lovely sunny picnic lunch! (thanks Fredrik and Hanna).
We were pretty pleased too with the warm reception and critical reviews our new books received, particularly Dave and Gary Crutchley’s ‘WesterNoir’ series which is gathering a good following and our ‘Who on Earth is Thaddeus Mist?’concept anthology edited and compiled by the emerging Owen Michael Johnson, ably supported by lead artist Conor Boyle and a wonderfully talented posse of creators!
Getting our work out wouldn’t be possible without continued input from Andy Bloor, artist and graphic designer who works his magic on making our books look good and also the enthusiasm and efforts of Stuart Gould and his printing team at UKComics, special thanks too for the continued support from Diamond and retailers who stock our books.
A personal disappointment though was myself as creator, yet again failing to publish a new piece of work despite having several projects in progress! Both Dave and I started out as creators before evolving into ‘publishers’ but unlike Dave, I’ve not quite mastered the art of time management to stay creative – mind you with the quality that we have I’m not so sure that I’d be published by Accent UK if I were to finish anything!
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
Colin: The Accent UK tour bus will be hitting the road again in a big way in 2014 with some exciting new shows planned both home and away!
New releases will include Book 4 of Dave and Gary’s WesterNoir series which brings the first story arc of Josiah Black’s monster hunting adventures to a close – or does it? Then we’ll have The Lizard from the afore mentioned Martin Flink, who’s Man of Glass book we published to rave reviews a couple of years back. Like Man of Glass, the Lizard has an emotional undercurrent as diverse occupants of an apartment block face up to life changing decisions. Martin’s working on colouring the book at the moment.
In what will likely be the last of our standard themed anthologies, Victoriana is taking shape after a few delays and may squeeze out towards the end of the year alongside a new ‘Blessed/Curse’ one-shot re-uniting the ‘Whatever Happened to the World’s Fastest Man?’ Eagle award winning team of Dave West and Marleen Lowe.
And maybe just maybe there will be something new from yours truly!
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Colin: I’ve already mentioned the fine work that artist Conor Boyle did on our ‘Thaddeus Mist’ book and as well as work through his and his writer wife, Lizzie Boyle’s Disconnected Press, he has a couple of really exciting looking projects close to release, firstly Pirates of the Lost World, scripted by Richmond Clements and published by Markosia and next year a very special graphic novel celebrating a certain famous Scottish battle, (I’m not sure if the project’s been officially announced yet but you historians out there can work it out I’m sure!), so hopefully Conor will get his well deserved moment in the spotlight.