Best of the Year 2013 – Sean Michael Wilson
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’s picks come from Our Man In Manga Japan, Sean Michael Wilson, a Scottish creator who has been living in Japan while working in the manga industry for some years, where he enjoys the Japanese lifestyle but does constantly worry about giant monsters trashing cities. Sean has just had his excellent adaptation of one of the great classic tales, The 47 Ronin, published by Shambala, and having had an advance peek at it I’d recommend if you want a more authentic retelling of this great story read this and forget that ridiculous looking film version that chucks in all sorts of un-needed elements into an already gripping story of honour and revenge. Let’s see what Sean’s been enjoying this last twelve months or so:
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:
Sean: Life in Japan, Victor Edison. A collection of his real life experiences as a gajin (foreigner) in Japan. As one of the same type myself it’s interesting to see things of familiarity and other points that contrast with your own experience.
Santa Claus and the Nazi’s, Benjamin Dickson and Gavin Mitchell. By far the best strip on the Aces Weekly site, I think. Well written and well illustrated, and who can ask for more?
Life begins at incorporation, Matt Bors. In the same kind of vein as our own Parecomic and Fight the Power books, a great look at ‘social issues’ in the comic book form. And why not.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Sean: ‘The Unfolding of Language’ Guy Deutscher. I learned a lot from this about language may have developed, and the tension between the needs for fixed order on the one hand and flexibility on the other that may have created the weird points of grammar and spelling we have.
Believing Bullshit, Stephen Law. This is a research book for me connected to a book I’m working on myself. It’s keen point is to help us ‘think past’ various daft, cliched thinking habits and unexamined beliefs and become yer actual sharped eyed critical thinker.
The Conquest of Bread, Peter Kropotkin. Considering this was written in the 1890s the surprising thing about it is how modern and casual the language is, its very easy to read. A wonderful look at various negative aspects of capitalism and how anarchism would be better. Damn right!
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?
Sean: This year has been my ‘American year’. I know almost nothing about US TV, and have watched very little of it since I was a kid watching Starsky and Hutch or the Dukes of Hazard! But this year somehow I’ve been brought round and watched Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones… and been very impressed with them all. Other than that I continue to have a negative view of the TV and movie industry – they get way too much attention, money and power. Comics are better for you, folks!
FPI: How did 2013 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Sean: Another good year and hoping for more. A balanced year in terms of my two main strands – I’ve had two manga books out ‘Demon’s Sermon on the Marital arts’, with wonderful artwork from Michiru Morikawa (who used to live in Birmingham), and our manga version of the classic story ‘The 47 Ronin‘ (which in contrast to the upcoming movie of same name tries to be authentic and subtle in its approach).
Also two ‘western’ style graphic novels – ‘Parecomic’, which is both a history of US radicalism and a look at a modern form of anarchism called participatory economics. It’s also the first ever comic book which respected radical and linguist Noam Chomsky has been involved with. Then out at the end of the year was ‘Fight the Power: a visual history of protest among the English speaking peoples‘. Title says it all, featuring the great Hunt Emerson as one of the artists, and co-written with Benjamin Dickson.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
Sean: A nice variety again: Top Shelf should, at last, get the Cigarette Girl book out, by 1950s gekiga style innovator, Masahiko Matsumoto, which I edited. My first autobiographical book should come out, set in my Edinburgh childhood, ‘Once upon a time in Morningside’. And our version of the life of legendary swordman, Musashi Miyamoto, called simply ‘Musashi: a graphic novel’.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Sean: Another Scot that I met in Japan recently (maybe the only other one here doing comics, or are there anymore out there?), Graeme McNee. Also an Edinburgh lad who does ‘minimal style’ comics and if he can overcome the shyness and lack of focus that hinder so many of us comics folks, can start to make his mark in our lovely wee artform (see here for a recent review of some of his work by our own Richard – Joe).