Best of 2013 – comics

Today my ‘Best of 2013‘ post on the Forbidden Planet International blog went up. In it I pick three pieces of entertainment in various media that I enjoyed throughout last year.

After I was asked to do this exercise I went a bit into overdrive and started thinking about loads of categories and works I’d liked over the year. I then assembled a much longer list, and when I re-read the original email I realised I’d have to cut it down extensively.

So, over the coming days I’m going to post my unedited list in the various categories: comics, film, TV, music, and games. Today it’s comics:

Lighter Than My Shadow
Written and drawn by Katie Green
No other graphic novel in 2013 has stayed with me as much as Green’s Lighter Than My Shadow, a memoir that track’s Green’s battle with body dysmorphia, an eating disorder, and the resulting obsessive thoughts and behaviours. This is a prime example of how powerful this medium can be at communicating the inner life of a person to create a narrative with a powerful emotional impact. The story documents Green’s slow descent into a problematic relationship with food and eating, and her subsequent recovery despite several setbacks. It’s the perfect read for anyone struggling with any of these issues, or other compulsions, for every frame rings with authenticity. I cannot think of another work as deserving of every award going as this engrossing book.

The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice
Written by Mike Carey and art by Peter Gross, Kurt Huggins, and Zelda Devon
Carey’s series The Unwritten has been consistently clever and intriguing, as it documents the metafictional connection between a character called Tommy Taylor created by writer Wilson Taylor, and Wilson’s son, who bears the same name. In this book Carey offers sections of the fictional Tommy Taylor’s story, which has been glimpsed in parts in The Unwritten, cut alongside the story of Wilson Taylor as he waits for, and deals with, the birth of his actual son. The story of Tommy Taylor, student of magic, is clearly meant as a homage to the Harry Potter series, and in this book Carey proves his storytelling chops by relating a tale of pupils at a magical school that is compelling in its own right. In essence he out-Rowlings Rowling. Hands-down it’s a fun read, yet underneath the surface it is saying canny things about the nature of narratives while never becoming self-indulgent. Carey is clearly one of Britain’s smartest comic book writers.

Aleister Crowley: Wandering the Waste
Written by Martin Hayes and art by RH Stewart
Lots of people have written about Aleister Crowley, and for good reason: he lived his life true to his own grand vision, unrepentant in how he defied social mores. Hayes tackles Crowley’s life story in reverse: he presents us with the great beast’s last days, and narrates snippets of his life to an observer. Thus, we meet the aged, frail, and grumpy Crowley, before we discover the arrogant magician/trickster, who often played with other people’s lives with disastrous results. Stewart’s black and white drawings vary in style and technique to reflect the change in tone and story, and the ending to the book, and Crowley’s life, is a lovely last exhalation.

Written by Brian K. Vaughan and art by Fiona Staples
It’s pretty hard not to include Saga, a series that does indeed live up to the hype, because it combines a lot of things I love: a fantastical science fiction vision of inter-species and inter-planetary conflict, with oddball races with weird characteristics, along with a strong romantic storyline that keeps it all in perspective. Inspiring work by this remarkable duo who are firing on all cylinders to produce an enjoyable comic book series.

Zen Pencils
I discovered this web comic by Gavin Aung Than this year, although he’s been doing it from Australia since early 2012. He creates cartoons to illustrate inspirational quotes by famous people (or The Universal Declaration of Human Rights), often in innovative ways, but always to serve the impact of the quote. They’re a joy to read, and often leave me with something to ponder.

Now, I know there were way more brilliant works published this year. I chose pieces that had stayed with me for various reasons, and I ruthlessly kept it down to a small number.

If you want a bigger list I can recommend checking out Laura Sneddon’s 2013 Comic Book Grrrl Awards, which is a very extensive list of worthy titles published in 2013. Or read the rest of the Best of 2013 posts on the FPI’s blog.

Oh, I should add that when asked who to watch out for in 2013 I gave this answer:

Anna Fitzpatrick‘s début graphic novel, Koré, which was published late in 2013 after a highly successful Kickstarter, should earn her a spot on everyone’s ‘to watch’ list. I’m also eagerly anticipating Mary Talbot’s graphic novel Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, done with Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot.