Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 in Review: Jen Breach

What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2013? 
Oddly and unexpectedly, 2013 turned out to be an on-the-cusp-of-years-worth-of-work-maybe-possibly-about-to-pay-off kind of year. 

I've been working on the script for Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race, a 220 page YA graphic novel collaboration with Doug Holgate, for four and a half years, but this year I won an Australian Society of Author's Emerging Writer's Mentorship to work on the book with an editor from Scholastic Graphix. (I also won an Australia Council Emerging Writer's Grant for the same book in 2010, so I guess I've been emerging for a while now...)  This is my first time working with an editor and it's had a massive impact on my (for want of a less wanky word) craft.  Each draft I am astounded at how crappy the one before was. My comics highlight for the year has been redrafting.  Sounds kind of sad when you say it like that.

Oh!  Okay, I've got another one, slightly less sad, I hope.  This only just happened this week, but it's still a highlight of the year: Doug and I are gluttons for something or other so a few months ago we started another major book together (called Maralinga and set in post-apocalyptic Melbourne).  Our approach is a little different for this one, though, and we are releasing ten page chapters every two or three months (schedules allowing). We released the first chapter in issue #1 of the Home Brew Vampire Bullets anthology and online and it got a huge, exciting, overwhelmingly warm response.  It was really unexpected and really, seriously cool. 
What are some of the comics/cartoonists you've enjoyed in 2013?
What with the amazing small press comics shows here in the States and the fact that my walk home from the subway each night takes me passed Desert Island (possibly the best comic book store ever?) it's been a big year for comics reading...

Not looking at my bookshelf and entirely off the top of my head, I liked: 
In minis and short stories, Pat Grant's "Tormina Video" and Joe Lambert's "Layaway", too.  The latest in Simon Moreton's comics-as-poetry series "Smoo #7" is the best work he's ever done and Lauren Barnett's "I'm a horse, bitch" is 16 perfect pages of a horse telling you how fucking awesome he is. John Pham's "Epoxy" was beautiful as well. 

Jesse Lonergan finished his "All Star" series which I thoroughly enjoyed picking up in bits and pieces over the year. Sam Sharpe's "Viewotron #2" was beautiful and touching and very special. Hellen Jo's Frontier #2 was just freaking gorgeous. 

Sam Alden's ouput this year was pretty remarkable - there were a lot of little books and they were pretty much all great.  Everything Michael DeForge put out this year was perfect, so just another ordinary year for him, then. Sophie Goldstein's work this year was exceptional - she makes comics that have a kind of Golden Age sci-fi feel to them and such smart storytelling.

I was really happy to see a few collections out this year of work that I had loved in previous incarnations: Ryan Andrew's "Everything is Forgotten", John Martz's "Machine Gum", Chuck Forsman's "End of the Fucking World", which was a joy to read in crappily photocopied eight page installments each month, and the Fantagraphics graphic novel version of it is really great. Brendan Leach's "Ironbound" is a great story about 1960s New Jersey toughs - his art knocks me out.  My favorite book of the year, though, might have been Dakota McFadzen's collection "Other Stories and the Horse You Rode In On" through Conundrum Press. 

There are a bunch of books from this year waiting in a nice, neat pile for the Christmas break - I suspect if I'd read them before I wrote this response they'd be in my list too: Ander's Nilsen's "Rage in Poseidon"; Rutu Modan's "The Property"; "The Encyclopedia of Early Earth" by Isabel Greenberg and Julie Delporte's "Journal" from Koyama Press. 

What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2013?  
Did you see Upstream Color?  Oh man, that movie...

Other than that, I found out about the noise that hedgehogs make when they eat (which is second in awesomeness only to the noise that turtles make when they have sex); and John Klassen's second tumblr is pretty much my favorite thing on the internet.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?
It's winter where I live right now and my hibernation strategy involves reading the entire Love and Rockets collection from Fantagraphics.  I've never read any of it, so I am pretty excited. (The other parts of the strategy involve blanket forts, stout and the entire series of Parks and Recreation).

Once the weather is fine again convention season starts up and that's always pretty much the best thing ever. I hope Doug and I will have another couple of chapters of Maralinga squared away by the time he hops a plane for TCAF in May. 

As a consumer I am pretty excited about Jase Harper's "Awkwood".  I've seen a few drafts of it and it's a corker. And Jesse Jacobs' has a new book coming out in the Spring from Koyama Press. Chuck Forsman's "Celebrated Summer" should be pretty great too.

Mostly, though, I am looking forward to making more comics. My comics work feels like that old chestnut of analogy of a duck on water - calmness above and furiously paddling legs underneath. I am a really, really slow duck paddling a really, really long way.  Next year it would be amazing if a couple of my projects - I have seven on the go right now - bubbled up to the surface. Just like little duck farts.

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