Yes, I know, I said yesterday’s was the final of the 2013 guest Best of the Year series (see here for the guest BoY 2013 posts so far). But having just returned to the Blogcave after retiring to the family estate for the festive period I found one last one had arrived right before Christmas, and it was too good not to include, so here it is, this time (really) the final guest Best of the Year before the blog crew start trumpeting their own faves (if we can winnow down our lists – so many wonderful works to choose from). Here’s Maura McHugh with her selection from 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?
Maura: Lighter Than My Shadow ,written and drawn by Katie Green
No other graphic novel in 2013 has stayed with me as much as Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow, a memoir that track’s Green’s battle with body dysmorphia, an eating disorder, and the resulting obsessive thoughts and behaviours. This is a prime example of how powerful this medium can be at communicating the inner life of a person to create a narrative with a powerful emotional impact.
The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice, written by Mike Carey and art by Peter Gross, Kurt Huggins, and Zelda Devon
Carey’s series The Unwritten has been consistently clever and intriguing, as it documents the metafictional connection between a character called Tommy Taylor created by writer Wilson Taylor, and Wilson’s son, who bears the same name. The story of Tommy Taylor, student of magic, is clearly meant as a homage to the Harry Potter series, and in this book Carey proves his storytelling chops by relating a tale of pupils at a magical school that is compelling in its own right. Hands-down it’s a fun read, yet underneath the surface it is saying canny things about the nature of narratives while never becoming self-indulgent. Carey is clearly one of Britain’s smartest comic book writers.
Aleister Crowley: Wandering the Waste, written by Martin Hayes and art by RH Stewart
Lots of people have written about Aleister Crowley, and for good reason: he lived his life true to his own grand vision, unrepentant in how he defied social mores. Hayes tackles Crowley’s life story in reverse: he presents us with the great beast’s last days, and narrates snippets of his life to an observer. Thus, we meet the aged, frail, and grumpy Crowley, before we discover the arrogant magician/trickster, who often played with other people’s lives with disastrous results. Stewart’s black and white drawings vary in style and technique to reflect the change in tone and story, and the ending to the book, and Crowley’s life, is a lovely last exhalation.
FPI: Can you pick three films which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Maura: Cheap Thrills, directed by E.L. Katz, and written by Trent Haaga & David Chirchirillo
This dark film with streaks of black comedy is an astonishing debut from E.L. Katz, which basically consists of four people in a room for the majority of the piece. It’s a riveting drama about how the wealthy can manipulate the disadvantaged for their jaded entertainment. There are outstanding performances from the entire cast, and combined with effective direction and strong writing makes this one of the best low-budget movies I saw this year.
Upstream Color, written and directed by Shane Carruth
This atmospheric and evocative science fiction gem is one of the stand-out achievements in cinema this year. Two people traumatised by a strange event are drawn together and eventually uncover the details of their abduction through their interconnection with each other and the environment. Carruth also stars in this film, as well as being one of the producers, and composing the music. This is a fragile, haunting story that favours lyrical exposition over direct explanation.
Frozen, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and written by Jennifer Lee
It can’t be all grim and dark, so I’m giving a shout-out to the utterly charming Frozen, a story about the relationship between two sisters, which is the finest musical of the year. If you don’t like singing and dancing animated characters, give this one a wide berth, but if you like upbeat, funny, and touching films then you will be enchanted by this tale.
FPI: Can you pick three TV shows which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Maura: Hannibal, developed by Bryan Fuller
I came to this sceptical as I didn’t think new life could be breathed into the franchise based on the Thomas Harris books, but Hannibal defied all my expectations and offered me some of the most memorable television in 2013. Apart from the intense central performances by Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham and Mads Mikkelsen as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and the rest of the talented cast, the series features a superb production design on all levels: lighting, sets, costumes, and music. It’s like watching a series of European arthouse movies on television – from America. It’s also some of the most unsettling and scary television I’ve watched in years.
The Returned (Les Revenants), created by Fabrice Gobert
This creepy French television series is adapted from a 2004 film of the same name, and looks in minute detail at the occupants of a mountain town and what happens when their deceased loved ones return to the land of the living. The central mystery as to why this is happening keeps you intrigued as the stories of the dead and the living unfold at a measured pace.
American Horror Story: Coven. co-created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
The third in the AHS series, and by far my favourite. This one focuses on a coven in present-day New Orleans which is guided by a Witch Supreme, who is fading as her successor comes into her powers. All the cast are on the ball, but it is a pleasure to watch marvellous performances from veterans Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett who play complex, powerful women who are (mostly) at odds with each other. Coven is pure Grand Guignol, with characters fighting tooth and nail for their survival: including a zombie attack that was partly fended off by a girl with a chainsaw… If you like horror, you should be watching this.
FPI: How did 2013 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Maura: 2013 has been a good year. The last issue of the first volume of Jennifer Wilde (Atomic Diner) came out, and I’m pleased with how the series turned out, thanks in large part to Stephen Downey’s wonderful artwork. I also saw the publication of my two collections, Twisted Fairy Tales and Twisted Myths, by Barron’s Educational Series in the USA, which have been well received.
I started a Laydeez do Comics event in Dublin with writer Lynda Rucker, and we’ve organised three meetings in 2013, all of which have been informative and fun thanks to the marvellous talent who appeared. Apart from that I’ve been working on other projects, and keeping busy.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2014?
Maura: I’ve another Jennifer Wilde short due out in 2014, and I’m working on the next volume that should start appearing next year from Atomic Diner all going well. I’ve a short story due to be published in Black Static in a couple of months. There’s at least one other project due out that I can’t discuss at this point, alas.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Maura: Anna Fitzpatrick‘s début graphic novel, Koré, which was published late in 2013 after a highly successful Kickstarter, should earn her a spot on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list. I’m also eagerly anticipating Mary Talbot’s graphic novel Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, done with Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot.