Continuing week two of our traditional guest Best of the Year series (you can read all the other 2015 BoY posts to date here, and the previous years of Best ofs can be found via the Features menu above) and today it’s my fellow To End All War contributor, one of the veterans of the Northern Ireland comics and creative scene, Andy Luke, let’s see what he’s been enjoying in 2015:
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?
Andy: Ralph Kidson on Facebook: because he’s a master of piss your pants funny dialogue, and carefully casual means of sneaking the punchline up. He’s been posting the equivalent of a page a day for a while. His latest obsessions are rude pervert ducks and hipster cats, (we’ve also seen Crowley & the illuminati, and cookery robots), Ralphie excels in surprising the reader with unexpected fusions and daring. Someone really needs to put money into a fat softcover of Ralphie archives.
A Hand of Fingers by John Robbins: A slim collection comics and prose shorts, each different in tone: cute; horrific; each fresh in their perspectives providing a jolt which makes this feel like a subversive reading experience. Like everything else Robbins has done, there’s a sense of the experiment. The format is lush, at odds with the distinctly zine content. I think this will probably be overlooked. I meet a lot of comics readers who talk about zines with a condescension which is creatively disabling, I hope books like this can change their minds.
Number Cruncher by Si Spurrier and PJ Holden: From 2013, tho I read it this year and it blew the crap right out of my expectations. Si Spurrier casts a tale about a mathemetician pursuing immortality for love, a tale that feels like a future shock, feeling perfectly natural at eighty odd pages. The real surprise though is PJ Holden, whose been doing good, great work for years but performs (here) as a great, the great, being let loose with page layouts worthy of Will Eisner or Dave Sim, as mad or as fun in design as Philip Bond or Jamie Hewlett, there’s no page where PJ is (unlike usually) story-telling conservatively, Numbercruncher is all out stream of consciousness, energetic and innovative and magic.
He throws everything at it, every style he’s worked from the years banging on doors, and this should be an advert to major publishers to let PJ Holden loose on some high profile opportunities. Colourist Jordie Bellaire turns in a fine job too, lavishing co-creator work when needs be, and holding back at the right times too. Oh, look, there’s currently 31% off here at FPI.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Andy: Capital by John Lanchester (2012). Set in a street in London around the 2008 crash, Lanchester takes his time with the lives of his families: a high-flying banker, struggling shopkeepers, a dying pensioner, and puts a humane Dickensian scope over sharp-changing attitudes to race and money. At times it’s simeoultaneously boring and brilliant, it’s often warm, funny and occassionally terrifying. The Beeb are just finishing up a three part adaptation. It’s faster paced, and seems to focus on the more sensationalist aspect of the books, but nonetheless, recommend catching it on iPlayer.
Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2010). I would guess most FPI peeps have read this; they hyperbole is true. King talks through his life, interspersing this with advice and good practice. Endearing, relatable and a strong key to unlocking a better life as a creative, A Memoir comes over casually and resonates powerfully.
Adventures with the Wife and Blake by Neil and Sue Perryman (2015). Another familiar to FPI peeps? Blakes 7 fan Neil sits down to watch two episodes a week with wife Sue, who’s never seen this 1980s BBC series about resistance fighters, totalitarian governments, control freaks, fancy dress, ham acting, and…er…paedophile suspects. The reactions are always side-splittingly hilarious and imaginative. I really enjoyed re-watching Blakes 7 and reading their episode commentary after each episode, or during the slow ones, in between. You can order the ebooks off here or if you fancy something paper-based, try their other episode-by-episode slog, Adventures With The Wife In Space: Living With Doctor Who.
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?
Andy:For newbs, the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia are a disgusting bunch of conniving perverts, fraudsters and idiots, out to attach themselves like parasites to you, predestined to prey on each other, dragging the bar for quality lower and lower until the standards of the Earth swirl down the toilet sewer. This sounds abominable, or as watchable as X-Factor, but somehow it’s the funniest, loveable, most original comedy on television right? The show still feels like its pilot, (which was filmed on a $200 budget), feels close, in that it’s run by a close knit group of friends who passionately want to make people laugh, so there’s a humble, no-b.s. aspect to it, and watching over ten series (the eleventh starting soon), has done wonders for my health.
Doctor Who has been delivering cutting-edge television, nearly consistently, recognising the potential of promise. I’ll be re-watching the Zygon two parter for writing great SF, and Hell Bent was a mind-screwing puzzle-pleaser. I’ve also been enjoying the less visceral Walking Dead. After some wonderful experiments in horror structure, it’s gone right into fast-paced risk-beats that have left for rarely a dull moment.
FPI: How did 2015 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Andy: No…I suppose…no. This response makes me smile, so, there must be an upside. I signed off unemployment in August and went full-time as a self-employed author. That was wonderfully liberating, not as terrifying as I imagined, though I’ve yet to earn a bean. Now I write everyday, in a dedicated workspace (Farset Labs, a Belfast hub for creative tinkering), I have resources, like Duotrope, to help identify paying markets…that I’ve no paid jobs means I’ve not done enough to captivate publishers so I try and again. I’m always too hard on myself though.
This year, a short ‘Flesh Mob’ was published in Studio NI’s Tense Situations, and I’m quite proud of it, really smug actually. It’s a zombie story loaded with innovative spins, funny and empathic and thrilling. ‘To End All Wars: A Graphic Anthology of World War One’ has just come out in soft-cover, and having worked my arse off to research the story and get it in there with a tremendous artist…well, damn, yes, I’m happy. (and we got two Eisner nominations this year for it to boot! – Joe)
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2016?
Andy: No contracts signed, so I can’t really say. I’ve a few pages in the next Midwinter Comics Retreat collection, including a strip Lee Kennedy has drawn from my script, so that warms the cockles. I’ve not created much in public for a few years, so think of it as a sort of chrysalis from which I’ll emerge with something quite unexpected.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Andy: I’ve not been on the watch for new talent. I know there’s a collection of Lee’s work from Factor Fiction Press which will be great, but it’s still in the pre-production phases and may be a few years. There are excellent comics from the past people should still read, like Paper Tiger Comics’ War: The Human Cost (which I have copies of should anyone want), and maybe someone will put out that Ralph Kidson collection I dream of.