Favorite Comics of 2015

Katie Skelly’s My Pretty Vampire

Katie is my co-host on Trash Twins, and one of the few people kind of on the same wavelength as me in terms of what to do with comics, so it’s not really a surprise that she made one of my favorite books.  Her Vampire book is everything I love.  Big format, colorful comics that aren’t afraid to explore eroticism as something that refers both to sex and death.  Katie draws in this really iconic style, which is why that t-shirt of bon-bon is so popular. When we first started talking about her comics, one of the first things I ever said about her comics was that I wanted them as big as possible with all the colors.  These books along with Agent 9 and 10 and 8 are all that.  Also the progression in Skelly’s style just from Margarine to this–and before that from Nurse Nurse to Margarine is terrifying.  And really inspiring as well.  Even if we weren’t friends, she’s someone making me want to work harder on my own comics.  I wrote a lot this year about how comics handles trash genres–particularly in my pieces on Prison School, Terror Assaulter, and Bitch Planet–the subtext of all of those criticisms is that Skelly handles genre how I best believe it works.  She uses the rules to create iconic imagery that expresses her own poetic truth.  There’s no step back in her game, where it’s like “oh look at this thing that is like this dumb thing I like”–the thing is the thing in her comics, pretense doesn’t even come into it.  Katie doesn’t make comics that are about her trying to make some other thing, they’re about her using these tools to say the images that she thinks in and has conviction about.  Which you can see a lot of these things when I wrote about Operation Margarine which was from before we were really friends.

Tiger Lung by Simon Roy and Jason Wordie

What I love reading any Simon Roy comic is how thoroughly his worlds come together.  You can backwards engineer just about everything on the page and it’s fun to think about the things that are being said in that backwards space of those worlds.  It’s not just like “oh wow these are some weird creatures” it’s more “oh huh, that creature exists because of an elaborate history through the ages” and there’s speculation within that thought process that is really fascinating.  Tiger Lung specifically I liked because I find trying to imagine the lives and culture of our ancestors in the Upper Paleolithic really fascinating.  Our inclination is to view ourselves as more advanced and that history is this long forward arrow through time–but when you consider the imagination it takes to conceive of tools or fire, and how all of this information would be stored and passed down through culture–the complexity makes a mockery of our modern mind.  It is beyond conception really.  But Tiger Lung does a great job of trying.  I loved the sort of cave shadow rendering of the art that allowed supernatural shapeshifting to make sense for our modern eyes and within the world it exists in there.  It’s this fascinating sliver of a comic, that isn’t exactly the type of comic world that has been very thoroughly explored.  I wrote about it extensively here.

●●●● Vol. I by Morgan Jeske

Besides being beautiful, what I loved with this comic starts at the beginning with this girl riding a whale into space, which is such like…a chariot of the gods type of moment, and got back to the stuff I liked in Tiger Lung in terms of mixing up our ideas of what primitive actually is or means.  But past that, there’s a way that this comic is about the way that an environment is both the pollutant of the body, and the self is the pollutant of the environment.  The relationship between the interior and exterior is wonderfully conceptualized.  The walls postulize with sickness and corruption, the body changes shape under the pressure of gravity.  Space is psychomotionally conveyed on every page, and it creates this space of exploration that is both outward into the unknown, and inward into the mirroring void.  It’s a comic that stretches itself in two directions at once.  It’s a comic given over to the image, which is something I always enjoy.  I dig the colors too.  You rarely get a comic with such a strong POV that is executed in this kind of style.  At least in America.  This comic would win an ignatz if Morgan had less talent.  I kind of wonder where stuff like this and Emma Rios ID comic fit in American comics, because they’re not kind of firmly in the boy adventure thing where people like good looking art more, and they’re not ugly so they aren’t appreciated by alt-comix people.

I.D. by Emma Rios

I’ve probably said before that for myself, and what I’m interested in doing with my comics, I problem solve a lot off Emma Rios comics.  A lot of what she does in terms of balancing her pages, and handling a huge weight of images per page, she’s pretty much the best at.  With I.D. Emma held a masterclass on how to handle dialog heavy stories and still make them just as dynamic as a full on action comic.  She threads these pages with constant foreground and backgrounding tensions that shift back and forth over the course of conversations before culminating in a kind of climax.  It’s similar to what you see Rainer Fassbinder do with depth in his films, but it’s really interesting to see it balanced in a comic, and show how you can balance dramatic and visual tension playing to the strengths of comics as information pages.  Emma and Kelly Sue Deconnick also dropped a new Pretty Deadly issue this year, and even though it was also good, mostly along the ways in which they create these rich weird amalgm genre spaces, and how Emma is able to keep it all coherent in the costume design–and I think Jordie Bellaire’s color on this new issue points to a much much much greater understanding of how Emma’s artwork works-so there’s greater concert there–but man…it’s so basic compared to what Emma did on her own.  Reading I.D. where Emma is both writing for her own page, and drawing from her own writing, it becomes very clear that the complexity she has as a storyteller is much greater than any of the stories she’s drawn so far in collaboration.  It makes sense because these I.D. pages are so balanced and constructed, it would be hard for a writer to really think in all of those planes at once, without being an asshole with the script(Alan Moore).  The story itself goes hard sci-fi on what our bodies mean both to us and others, and in a year where transgender stories were largely either dumb as hell, or offensively dumb as hell–it was nice to read one that wasn’t fixated on that point, and just let the story be, and in the process said some interesting things organically through the story.  But yeah.  Mainly, if you want to see how to handle dialog in comics without being boring, this is the comic to study.

Sea Witch by Tessa Black

It’s amazing how horrifying beautiful is.  I dug this comic because again it was one of those comics that was actually drawn well, but more than that there are body things that happen in it that I still cringe looking at, but the experience of not looking away as this body is pulled apart and reshaped is truly sublime.  It’s sort of an inverse Little Mermaid story or like…an Origin tale for Ursula.  Her comic has that quality that has me following Shintaro Kago on twitter everyday, for every iteration of crazy spaghetti guts.  There’s just ways of drawing viscera for the body that always really affects me.  In this case it’s mirrored against the sea and a lot of organs are metamorphosed by their sea ocean counterparts.  Both Sea Witch and I.D. are from the Island anthology, which I have also contributed to.  But as a reader, I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of that magazine.  Not every story has been great for me, but it’s been a nice source of the kind of comics that I kinda look for.

Anyways.  Those were the comics from 2015 that I liked the most.  I mostly re-read comics or read older Pat Mills written 2000AD comics(because they had crazy artists), Kyoko Okazaki comics, Prison School, Dark Knight Strikes Again and Holy Terror, The Collector by Toppi, Idyll by Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Blade of the Immortal, Crepax comics, Children of the Sea, Daisuke Igarashi comics, Julia Gfrörer comics.

The book I read that I liked the least in 2015 was Wytches from Image comics.  That comic was stupid and a waste of time.  But maybe you’ll like if you like like…The Conjuring type of shit.  The coloring was good on it.  Everything else…the writing was very precious, the line art was visibly disinterested in most of the pages, as the story seemed a complete mismatch from the artist’s strengths.  The reason the book is even at all coherent as a singular unit, and worth looking at is the coloring techniques that largely dictate and keep everything kinda together.  But yeah.  Compared to everything else I read this year, pretty shit.

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