Continuing with our fourth guest Best of the Year for 2016 (see here for previous 2016 BoY posts) and we welcome back that fine chap Andy Oliver, a solid supporter of comics, especially the Indy and Small Press titles over on Broken Frontier (which should be on your bookmarks list if it isn’t already, essential reading for comics fans). Let’s see what 2016 gems Andy’s picking out:
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?
Jade Sarson’s For the Love of God, Marie! from Myriad Editions was an absolute revelation and I say that as not just one of the judges of the 2014 Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition (which Jade won, resulting in the book’s publication) but also as someone who has been covering her work since the 2012 Parallel Lives anthology.
For the Love of God, Marie! centres on the non-conformist free spirit Marie and follows her from her 1960s Catholic sixth form college days through to the 1990s, exploring her very individual approach to life, love and making people happy. Jade’s free-flowing visuals are stunning here, as is her gorgeous use of colour to accentuate mood and theme, and her ability to make her audience feel totally invested in her characters remains undiminished.
Myriad’s support of some of the most exciting new names in UK indie comics has been phenomenal over the last few years and their 2017 schedule should be watched with a very eager eye.
Patrick Kyle’s Don’t Come in Here from Koyama Press is a captivating tale of one man trapped within the confines of his own apartment – a shifting environment that seems to defy the laws of space, time and even the boundaries of the comics page.
It’s a dream-like and claustrophobic story that exploits and subverts the possibilities of panel-to-panel storytelling to their fullest to create a dizzying, sometimes oppressive and brilliantly bizarre reading experience. Koyama Press are such a vital presence on the alt and indie comics scene and Don’t Come in Here is one of 2016’s hidden gems. It deserves far greater exposure.
And, finally, Wallis Eates produced an essential showcase collection of her powerful autobio work this year titled Fear of Mum-Death and the Shadow Men. It’s a series of slice-of-life vignettes that cover subjects like anxiety about parental loss, our relationship with memory and its veracity, and the frailties of human nature. Its storytelling combines comics, prose and real artefacts from the author’s childhood.
Wallis was one of the finalists of the Myriad Graphic Novel Competition in the year that Jade Sarson won and is another of those creators I firmly believe is due a much wider readership. She’s one of the most important practitioners of autobio work in the UK at the moment and is able to foster the most unique and intimate relationship with her audience.
All three of these creators’ work shows an innate understanding of the pure language of comics and I’d urge anyone unfamiliar with them to check their back catalogues out at the earliest opportunity. You won’t regret it.
FPI: Can you pick three books which you especially enjoyed over the last twelve months and tell us why you singled them out?
Every year when I take part in FPI’s ‘Best of’ series I convince myself I’ll do better in the following year when it comes to books without pictures. I never do. If anything I get worse. In fact, if it wasn’t comics in 2016 then it simply didn’t get read. The closest would be nostalgia magazines like Back Issue! and Alter Ego.
This is what happens when you’re dealing with hundreds of comics coverage requests every single month. I have a Kindle somewhere that hasn’t been turned on since last Christmas…
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?
For similar reasons it’s basically been anything I can watch, unwind with and not have to think about too much. Generally horror films with a supernatural element rather than a gore factor. Ouija: Origin of Evil and Krampus were both good creepy escapist fun that didn’t take too much effort to concentrate on.
Hardly contemporary but one of my greatest pop cultural joys this year has been very slowly working my way through my Dad’s Army box set. I only manage to watch an episode or two a week with the ever looming reviewing backlog but it’s so beautifully acted, structured and paced that it’s always a quality half hour or so. Just sublime television.
FPI: How did 2016 go for you?
In a word… splendidly.
It was the year that we published two very different but complementary books at Broken Frontier. Firstly the Broken Frontier Anthology, our Kickstarted hardcover featuring creator-owned short stories from creators like Maguerite Bennett, Steve Orlando, Karrie Fransman, EdieOP, Cullen Bunn, Nathan Fox, Noah Van Sciver, Box Brown, Alison Sampson, David Hine, Mark Stafford, Toby Cypress, Jamie Coe and so many more.
Secondly we published the anthology I edited – the Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook – which is a promotional 100-page book showcasing the work of our first set of ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’ (Rozi Hathaway, Jess Milton, Danny Noble, Emma Raby, Alice Urbino and Adam Vian) alongside other short stories by a host of artists we’ve featured at BF who have gone on to be picked up by publishers.
(above, the Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook 2016, below: some of the creators with Andy at the launch of the Yearbook)
We had a double launch night in April hosted by our friends at Gosh! Comics with around 20 creators from the Anthology and the Yearbook signing. Definitely one of the highlights of my year!
It was a wonderful twelve months in terms of being able to extend Broken Frontier’s philosophy of actively championing new creators to new arenas as well. Not just in terms of the Yearbook (a large chunk of the print run of which went out free to comics publishers, organisers and commentators) but also in the other opportunities that were presented to us.
Working with David ‘Ziggy’ Greene and Amneet Johal as one of the co-organisers of Small Press Day in July was a particular pleasure. I did the full round of participating London locations on the day and seeing all the pictures coming in from events elsewhere around the UK and Ireland was amazing. Chairing the small press-themed ‘Championing Comics’ panel at ELCAF with Simon Moreton, Julia Scheele and Daniel Humphry was another highlight, as was being on Stephen L. Holland of Page 45’s panel for aspiring new creators at LICAF with Ricky Miller and Kat Chapman of Avery Hill.
The special Broken Frontier edition of Laydeez do Comics in January where I presented with Rozi Hathaway and Danny Noble was also very memorable. And the Gosh! Comics/Broken Frontier monthly Drink and Draw that I co-host with Nora Goldberg has grown and grown this year, giving attendees an opportunity to mix informally with comic creators from all areas of the medium.
But by far the most rewarding element of 2016 was seeing so many of the artists we’ve featured on the site over the years moving on to ever bigger and better things. That’s the true joy of being involved with something like Broken Frontier.
FPI: What can we look forward to from you in 2017?
Expect our usual commitment to quality comics coverage with an ongoing focus on the small press, indie and alt scenes. There will also be a second Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook in the Spring as part of a very special partnership; this time combining work from our new ‘Six to Watch’ creators with some of their predecessors (alongside some more established names once more).
FPI: Anyone you think is a name we should be watching out for next year?
Well in January I’ll have 2017’s ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’ to announce at Broken Frontier but those names will be under wraps until the New Year! In the meantime I would point firstly to Ellice Weaver – one of our 2016 ‘Six to Watch’ contingent – whose gorgeously coloured art has been building up a steady buzz this year. She’s one of those rare examples of a creator who you can genuinely say produces comics work with a unique visual identity without even the tiniest fear of that statement being dismissed as trite or hyperbolic.
I also think 2017 will be a huge year for two very familiar names at Broken Frontier. Next year sees the publication of actor and comedian Adrian Edmondson’s children’s book Tilly and the Time Machine, illustrated by that regular BF fixture Danny Noble. I’ve been writing for Broken Frontier for a decade now and, as I’ve said on many occasions, I have never in that time encountered an artist with such an instinctive understanding of the possibilities of the form as Danny. Her profile is going to skyrocket next year and if I were a canny comics publisher I’d get in there quick before a competitor snaps up her “wickedly witty” work first.
Finally, Rozi Hathaway’s rise on the small press scene has been an object lesson in doing everything right in building a profile in the comics world – not just self-publishing her own acclaimed comics like Njálla and Ø but also contributing to anthologies, editing her own anthology Sneaky Business, speaking at events and maintaining a high visible presence online and at shows. Warren Ellis himself praised Njálla in his e-mail newsletter this year after picking it up on Small Press Day at the Broken Frontier signing in Orbital Comics. Rozi’s next book will be published by up-and-coming micropublisher Good Comics in 2017. Deserved recognition for a most deserving talent!
(a panel from Rozi’s Ø comic)