Best of the Year 2016 – Andy Luke
Day six of our annual guest Best of the Year series (you can see the previous posts in this year’s series here) and it’s a welcome return from author and excellent chap all round. Northern Ireland’s Andy Luke – let’s see what’s been tickling his fancy through 2016:
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: O.M.W.O.T. – Terror Assaulter by Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics), is fine recommends, though not a comic for the faint-hearted. Marra subverts all accepted comic book practice by showing AND telling, by having characters flaunt physical law in_the_face. He turns the whole foundation of conflict-as-story upside down, and laughs at it, and the War on Terror is the perfect target to do so. Highly enjoyable, too funny for parents.
Brickman Begins by Lew Stringer (Active Images) would be next. Young and reading Transformers UK, I had a poster of Lew on my wall; we didn’t get Smash Hits and I’m not sure Lew knew he was being photographed. ‘Begins’ has eye-openingly wonderful material from the early 1980s where his humour style springs alive without kid’s comics safety. The art evolves and the body of the book delivers a feel of a complete archive (very cheap it is too), and there’s a multi-part piece by some of the most talented creators of the day.
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, specifically Volume 7 by by James Roberts, Alex Milne and Atilio Rojo (IDW) I’ve been mainlining IDW’s Transformers stuff for a few years now. MTMTE is the tale of The Lost Light, a starship of the post-war weary,off in search of some cosmic myths, and it’s for the feat that wrapped in this toy bot tale are pertinent discussions on gender, conflict, religion, society and intimacy. I. am. not. messing. with. you.
In this volume, cult author Roberts delivers the graceful (not grand-standing) culmination of one of the most carefully advance-planned time travel stories in comics. Illustrators Milne and Rojo give us beautiful SF city-scapes and invest expressionism on a large cast of multi-form robots. It’s also got reams of funny dialogue which I do so love for the Giffen/DeMatteis JLI style.
Honourable late mention: Ennis and McCrea’s Section Eight, issue #4 (DC Comics), for Garth’s use of Vertigo line characters in a sterling musical, in the head of a drunk.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Andy: Ooh. Tough call. Lawrence Durrell’s Justine is the first part of the Alexandria quartet, the story of an Egyptian city in the 1930s and 40s, with each book examining the tale from a different perspective. Justine is a doomed love story about continuity and relations but what sets it apart is Durrell’s articulately visual descriptions which are musical and close. The novel is poetic prose at it’s finest. Things we can do with words.
Fifty Shades of Red, White and Blue is a short comedy by Leesa Harker and I couldn’t read it without letting slip some wee juice. Harker’s success is the tale of a Belfast millie (female chav), falling in love with a BDSM fetishist who works at the dole office, but here, the plot’s not important: it’s the first person narration wrapped in dialect and smut and Jeremy Kyle culture that I find embarrassing, unbelievable, messed up and then sends me honestly shaking in my chair with laughter.
As per the intention, The Leveson Inquiry: A View From the Courtroom (Guardian Shorts), isn’t a detailed analysis but reprints of a well written snapshot series; a broad overview, yet a few lines here and there prompt bloody outrage. Every British person should seek access to this book as a reminder of how important it is we do away with the old press. John Cleese recently tweeted he was looking forward to Leveson 2. Oh yes.
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: Jessica Jones (Netflix) may be the finest entry yet to Marvel TV & Cinema. What it gives is a strong series of stories around abuse survival, with relationships of privacy, power, control and healing. Great casting and invested action too.
The Internet’s Own Boy: The tale of Aaron Swartz (Creative Commons) is an account of a very young genius, major architect of Reddit, Creative Commons and Open Library. Swartz died tragically in 2013 with accomplishments which will be remembered centuries from now. This is an amazing film.
I also watched, We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (Netflix) The film traces Anonymous’ 4Chan origins to its grand slam battle with Scientology, to Wikileaks links and interventions against oppression in Tunisia and Egypt. The film does a great job framing history’s largest mass movement in search of a better world. Nor does it gloss over the dickery, bigotry or brutality of its subjects, yet as with Internet’s Own Boy, this film offers real hope for the future.
Honourable late mention: Ralph Kidson’s series, Tales from the Serengeti, at BBC3. Made. Of. Wins.
FPI: How did 2016 go for you as a creator? Are you happy with the way you got your work out this year?
Andy: In January, I really began to knuckle down on Axel America and wrote and re-wrote until my fingers hurt bad. My first novel, its abundantly latticed with more story than I’ve ever produced and hysterically funny I think.
As to how it went out I’ve been very lucky to have press and local booksellers rally around and I’m massively grateful. That said, too much of the selling has been excruciating and unpleasant. Where it’s worked has been those in communities buying physical copies. I think (when it came out pre-election) people were just damned sick of Clinton Vs Trump, and Trump generally. The quick pitch of Axel America is of a redneck indymedia crusader in online warfare against the conspiracy, who soon finds all his darkest absurdist fears coming true. Here’s a link to an excerpt of me reading Chapter 10.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2017?
Andy: The lot of a new freelancer chasing publishers is I really don’t know. The Midwinter Comics Retreat people are jamming in January and I’ll be co-writing with Jay Eales. Of course, the cartoonists are the real storytellers. Grab a free e-copy of their latest effort, The Beastly Box of Bumcrack, including the able muscles of Terry Wiley, Lee Kennedy, Jenni Scott and Jeremy Day.
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Andy: David Baillie and Megan Hetrick’s Vertigo series Red Thorn? The new Lee Kennedy collections out now from Factor Fiction? Peter Duncan’s good-nose news-blog on UK humour comics? Sam Finnegan, Helen Gomez and Framewerk growing Northern Ireland’s zine scene? I thought I didn’t really know what to steer FPI readers towards so I asked a few of my friends who do.
(a panel from Red Thorn by David Baillie and Meghan Hetrick, published Vertigo)
John Robbins, author of Loman Niblock: My favourite Irish comic this year was probably Olly Cunningham’s Black Lines #1 (which you can read here). That first issue is mad but naturalistic, and so immediate. Internationally, I’m still liking Nick Drnaso. His short comics are collected in Beverly…a bit Chris Ware, a bit Gus Van Saint, a bit Todd Solondz, it’s deffo worth checking out.
(panels from How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy, published Nobrow)
Paddy Lynch, of Stray Lines: I assume you’re aware of Ignaz-nominated, Nobrow-published, current Irish alt-comics wonder-kid Luke Healy? Or Stephen Maurice Graham, who’s Vice-published webcomic Michael is my top pick from last year.
Also some more young up and comers include Niall Breen, Katherine Foyle and Olly Blake, Doug Noble, of Strip for Me: I like GG a lot – I think there’s something special there. Thanks guys! You can find out more about my own novel, Axel America and the U.S. Election Race at my site here (yes, also available on Kindle too!). Happpppppppppppy Chrissssssssssmassssssss. Ding dong, dInG donG ding.