As we move into week three of our traditional guest series of Best of the Year posts (see here for the rest of this year’s series so far) we’re delighted to welcome back to the blog a writer and artist who has been on the reading radar of some of from way back to the 1980s when he impressed us in the then-new flowering of Brit comics talent that appeared in Deadline, and he’s gone on to remain a very productive creator, from his original work like the highly acclaimed Laika to penning new Doctor Who, it is of course Nick Abadzis:
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?
Nick: 1. The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple (First Second) – an OCD Lord of the Flies for comics, an SF stream-of-consciousness study of magic in an end-of-the-world scenario, all delivered with startling visuals that channel an awareness of state-of-the-art visual communication. That is, Daryl Falrymple is completely plugged in, mainlined into what’s out there and how it balances with what’s inside of his head, all of which is presented here for your enjoyment and resultant inspiration. This is marvellous and you should read it.
2. This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (First Second) – Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki’s meditation on childhood as it dawns on adolescence is a strange, slow, dreamy perception of things to come – the demons and realities of coming teenage years and the far distant country of adulthood that lies beyond that. It’s full of understated yearnings, misapprehensions and an impressionistic sweep that describes the endless quality of summers remembered. I don’t honestly think that many graphic novels manage to take advantage of the subtlety and emotional nuances that are possible using the language of comics, but this one absolutely does, to full effect. A beautiful, funny and quietly tragic book.
3. The Silver Surfer by Dan Slott and Michael Allred (Marvel Comics) – Not many comics manage to deliver a “hit” the way I experienced them as a kid – when you read a pamphlet and it’s like a buzz that makes you want to turn back to the beginning and read it all over again. Dan Slott loves comics; it’s so abundantly clear from the way he writes them. Allred’s praises are sung everywhere – I sometimes used to find a slightly static quality in the way he composed figures but here everything just flows, flows like a feelgood cosmic river. These gentlemen, and colourist Laura Allred, are clearly having an extremely good time in each other’s company and it’s lovely to join the party.
Bubbling under: Thomas Alsop by Chris Misckiewicz and Palle Schmidt (Boom! Studios) – the sleeper hit of the year, to my mind. If you miss Hellblazer when it was good, I give you a Dr. Strange for our times. ‘Nuff said.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Nick: Most of the books I’ve read have been factual – I didn’t seem to read much fiction this year, a situation I must correct in 2015. I really enjoyed each of these…
The Outer Limits at 50 by David J. Schow (Creature Features)
Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters by August Ragone (Chronicle Books)
A Wizard a True Star – Todd Rundgren In the Studio by Paul Myers (Jaw Bone)
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?
Nick: ’m going to try to be not predictable and pick Doctor Who, as it’s sort of obvious that I love that show and it’s a huge part of my life, and that goes for Game of Thrones, too, so here are three other ones that I’ve enjoyed a lot.
The Knick – greatly enjoyed The Knick, Steven Soderbergh’s venture into episodic TV. It’s a period piece set in a hospital in New York City in 1900 starring the great Clive Owen. Like all stories set in the past, it’s about today and is utterly relevant to now. See also – Cliff Martinez’ sublime score.
Braquo – we got the DVD set of three seasons of French TV cop drama Braquo and, as I write this, are still consuming episodes at a rate of knots. It makes Spiral look sedate. It’s gritty, tough and shows the sweaty underbelly of Paris in unrelenting detail via compelling characters.
Interstellar – I’m not really much of a Christopher Nolan fan, so this film really took me by surprise. There are a few moments of portentous stuff and clunky dialogue, but it really reaches and, to my mind, succeeds in being what is, these days, a rare and rarely-sighted beast – the proverbial “good” SF film. It’s like a good, hard SF novel brought to the screen and I admire it for that ambition alone, let alone the fact that I was actually thinking about it a couple of days later. Sure, it has a sugary (and unnecessary) Hollywood coda but I was so won over by the overall reach of the story, it gets my vote. More like this, please. Great score by Hans Zimmer, too.
Special mentions: Halt and Catch Fire – this TV show about creating a PC in the early eighties sounds like it might be the most boring thing imaginable but it is superb character drama from the same channel that brought Mad men into the world and, like that show, is very much worth your time.
Snowpiercer – I saw this last night and felt moved to add it to the list. Wonderful to be proved wrong that good SF films are so rare, because here’s another. That said, it feels more like a satire on society than a hard SF flick, but if you can buy the premise of a train that never stops on a frozen future Earth, you’re in for a real treat, with terrific production design, the flavour of an early Jeunet film and a terrific cast.
FPI: How did 2014 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Nick: 2014 has gone really well but I’m never happy with how much work I get out – I always feel there could be further, better and more efficient ways of using my time but until I perfect the cloning tech, that’s not going to happen. I already work too hard.
I was very happy that The Cigar That Fell in Love With a Pipe (written by David Camus, published SelfMadeHer0) was lauded for the art I did for it, but I seem to be more in demand as a writer these days, and that takes up more and more of my time. I’m happy about that; I love doing it, I love writing Doctor Who for Titan and all the other projects for other publishers that I’ve got coming up, but don’t expect to see any more comics solely authored by me for some time. I draw for corporate jobs (because I have to and because they pay well), for myself, but no longer for comics, at least not for the time being.
I miss it, as I love doing both. I keep being asked when I’m going to do the next Laika or whatever but that’s not going to happen until I can make it work financially. Sorry, folks – that’s the way it is. I wish it were different. If the comics and publishing industry, and the arbiters of culture at large supported their writer-artists more completely, maybe it would be, but right now, this is the status quo as I experience it.