Irish artists to the fore in vintage year for comic-book world

Irish artists had a vintage year in the comic-book world, while there was also an eclectic mix of impressive offerings from overseas producers, writes Don O’Mahony.

Irish artists to the fore in vintage year for comic-book world

GRAPHIC NOVEL OF THE YEAR

Americana by Luke Healy (Nobrow)

Dublin illustrator Luke Healy’s 2016 graphic novel How to Survive in the North was a handsomely illustrated and ambitious debut.

His follow-up, Americana, details his 147-day journey across the 2660-mile-long Pacific Coast Trail. Not your typical gung-ho adventurer type, Healy’s reasons for committing to the trail stem from a long-held obsession with America. The journey becomes an emotional one, and in Healy’s intimate panels and confessional writing we share his catharsis and ultimate triumph. It certainly sees him carve out his own trail in the Irish comics landscape.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Clyde Fans by Seth (Drawn & Quarterly)

After spending 20-years serialising the story of the Matchcard brothers and the family electric-fan business in his Palookaville comic, Canadian cartoonist Seth delivered the

complete story in ‘Clyde Fans’.

Handsomely packaged, the story jumps back and forth between the 1950s and 1970s, charting a declining business and disintegrating relationships. A chamber piece of epic construction, it’s a melancholy story of regret and failure with Seth’s haunted woodland scenes and elegantly rendered hulking cityscapes lingering long in the mind.

MEMOIR

How I Tried to Be a Good Person, by Ulli Lust (Fantagraphics Books)

This is a fearlessly frank account of an unconventional relationship. Set in 1990’s Vienna, Lust, a struggling young illustrator, is in a relationship with Georg, a much older man from the left-leaning theatre world. Her unsatisfied libido leads her to Kimata, a Nigerian immigrant. With Georg’s approval she embarks upon this intense relationship. However, all is not plain sailing in this love triangle.

The very definition of a warts and all memoir, this is a complex and meaty read.

EUROPEAN MASTERS

This year saw the publication of the English language edition of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Borgias (Dark Horse).

As fluent in the medium of comics as he is in cinema, the visionary Chilean trained his sights on the 15th century Spanish-Italian family’s association with the papacy. A byword for corruption, the Italian master Milo Manara was the perfect artist to bring the depravity to lurid life.

Another work appearing in English translation this year was Philippe Druillet’s The Night. A slim album it may be but Druillet’s art is defies easy categorisation.

Terms like baroque and operatic don’t come close to describing this monumentally detailed brain-frying work.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

Following on from his debut ‘The Bad Doctor’, medical doctor Ian Williams’ humanely told The Lady Doctor (Myriad) detailed the personal travails of a young GP.

The state of the nation and affairs of the heart collide in James Sturm’s Off Season (Drawn & Quarterly) when blue collar worker and Bernie Sanders supporter Mark and his artistically inclined and Hillary Clinton supporting wife Lisa’s marriage hits the rocks. The device of portraying characters as dogs brings extra poignancy and wry humour to a delicately nuanced tale.

Translated by Edward Gauvin, Alessandro Tota and Pierre Van Hove’s ‘Memoirs of a Book Thief’ (SelfMadeHero) is a crackling, anarchic and wonderfully acerbic take on literary and artistic pretentions in a vividly realised 1950’s Paris.

For those daunted by the idea of cartooning, acclaimed comics creator Lynda Barry’s Making Comics (Drawn & Quarterly) presents fun strategies for unleashing creativity.

MEANWHILE BACK HOME…

After last year’s Mixtapes anthology, the Limit Break comic collective returned with two titles. With artists Rebecca Reynolds, Colm Griffin and Steve Mardo, writer Paul Carroll presented three fresh and vibrant sci-fi stories under the title Plexus. With artist Gareth Luby, Carroll brought out issue 1 of Meouch, which stars feline assassin Frankie.

On the subject of assassins, Cork writer Gary Moloney and artist Raquel Kusiak presented the adventures of Jane Danner in Lens, which is serialised in the Bun & Tea anthology.

Ballycotton’s Will Sliney ended a force-filled year with the mega-selling issue 1 of Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren. Written by Charles Soule, the mini series presents the backstory of the titular dark knight. The Marvel Comics’ artist also had the distinction of seeing his work on the walls of the Crawford Gallery as part of their ‘Seen, and Heard’ exhibition.

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