Our first week of our traditional guest series of daily Best of the Year posts continues today with creator and Applied Comics Etc “comics boss” Lydia Wysocki – let’s see what Lydia has been enjoying through 2015 (you can see all the 2015 Best of the Year posts so far here, and previous years of BoY picks can be found via the Features menu above):
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?
Lydia: Corporation Pop by Rob Jackson. Rob Jackson makes good comics. This is a good long comic. The plot is complex and compelling. The artwork is clear and a good match for the narrative, about telling the difference between characters. And it’s funny and silly, and serious without taking itself too seriously. Recommended.
Tabloid: a tale from Fuse written by Ian Mayor, art by Mack Chater, colours by Abby Ryder, letters by Ryan Ferrier. I like book-length comics – little books or big books, but rarely things that aren’t books. This is miles out of my comfort zone. I read it because pal Ian Mayor wrote it, and then the staff at Travelling Man Newcastle were kind to me to set up a standing order (which I now know is called a ‘pull list’). I was impressed by the precision of writing one-page segments that both move a story on and end on a hook, using conventions of a genre without getting stuck in lazy tropes. I found reading one page at a time incredibly difficult and hated having to wait for the next instalment (dear reader, after two issues I just waited until they were all published): surely a sign of a solid story, as much as a sign of my own specific tastes.
Unflattening by Nick Sousanis. I expected to be impressed by this but not to like it. I was impressed by it and I liked it. It’s a book about comics (and ways of seeing, ways of living) that needs to be a comic; it’s also not a lecture in comic book form, which pleased me greatly. It’s well structured and knows when to break its own rules and conventions.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Lydia: Wily Vlautin, The Free. Wily Vlautin writes sad, slow, beautiful books. The American editions are beautiful editions but the UK editions aren’t so pretty – this was my souvenir from America last year, it was waiting for me at the airport newsagents after trying and failing to find it in non-airport bookshops. It’s about the only fiction book I’ve been able to make time for this year. It’s about interwoven narratives, illness, and sadness. I think this is the third novel he’s written (WV is better known as part of the band Richmond Fontaine), and every one a heartbreaker.
Theodore Adorno, The Culture Industry. An old book but new to me this year, read as part of my literature review for my PhD research. It’s brutal about the purpose and function of art and cultural works in the modern world. It’s making me even more picky about what’s good/bad authentic/inauthentic art, which is difficult but ultimately wonderful as a maker and a reader.
Let’s Be Absurd: off-beat stories from Carillon Magazine’s ‘Absurd Story’ competition, 2014
I read this because one of my mum’s short stories is published in it. It was indeed absurd. I’m very proud of her.
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?
Lydia: Lilyhammer (Netflix). An ex-mobster from New York goes into witness protection in Lillehammer, Norway; a compelling narrative and daft hijinks ensue. Steven Van Zandt stars, Trond Fausa and Fridtjov Saheim are my other favourites. Most of the dialogue swaps between languages: possibly because of the funding and actors available, but a classy and wholly welcome creative choice too. Broader themes of immigration and ‘fitting in’ recur, which interest me, but overall I like it because it’s daft and good.
Ant Man. I enjoy superhero films, often more so than superhero comics. Ant Man knows it’s a silly story and doesn’t let that get in the way of being a good story. Cinematographically, the human-size to ant-size transformations are very nice indeed. A film that’s far better than it should be.
Some nonsense on Netflix. It doesn’t necessarily matter what nonsense, just something babbling on in the background whilst I’m working.
FPI: How did 2015 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Lydia: As a solo creator, happy with two new short books about travel (Andalusia and Diner devotional) and one double book about pear jokes (UNpearABLE), and Trails is still going strong (info: hellolyd.wordpress.com).
Happy with what I’ve produced; frustrated at not having time to do more. This year I started a part-time PhD in Education focusing on comics, so am trying to get a balance between my creative work and my academic work.
As a Comics Boss (editor-publisher-project manager of Applied Comics Etc) the big comics this year have been True War Stories (with Terry Wiley and the Thomas Baker Brown archive), Gertrude Bell: archaeologist, writer, explorer (with John Miers and the Gertrude Bell archive), and Spineless: The Newcastle Science Comic (with 13 artist-writers and researcher-curators, in partnership with the Great North Museum: Hancock); all free to read.
Some smaller projects and workshops too. I’m pleased with the balance of which projects involve comics as finished outputs and which projects are more workshoppy, about helping people make their own comics and communicate their own ideas. I’m pleased with the mix of print and digital, and continuing to work on how best to combine both in specific projects – for now, I think hybrids are the way to go. I’m busting with pride to have worked with both established and up-and-coming creators who have a strong understanding of how comics work, and working together to figure out what comics can do for research communication and education.
Something John Freeman wrote stood out for me: the UK comics world does feel a bit cluttered, particularly around the marketing of comics. I’m happy with the comics I’ve been involved in creating but getting these out to readers is hard. For me there’s a limit to how much you can shout about a project before it becomes the good ol’ sound of a stick rattling a swill can – scheduled tweets are a particular annoyance, but this is a concern bigger than any one project or publisher. I’ve also been disappointed in a few beautiful-but-hollow comics this year, or things that could make a solid short comic but have been dragged out for a higher page count.
Through Applied Comics Etc we’ve focused on local audiences and free comics, but there’s still a concern at how these comics find their way through the UK and international comics scene. So very happy about the work, and trying hard to get it out there in appropriate ways.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2016?
Lydia: Planning some more Applied Comics Etc projects, focusing on making awesome comics that communicate specific information. Early talk of another Applied Comics Network meetup after two events this year, as a network for anyone working with comics/graphic narrative and information. For me, I have the rumblings of a plan for a long-running doodley project, but that’ll be second to academic work.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Lydia: Emily Rose Lambert. She was one of our Spineless contributors, and her work’s in this year’s Thought Bubble Anthology and in Radio On Broadcast 2. She’s a skilled illustrator and designer, and is developing a strong understanding of the comics medium.