What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2014?
It’s been a badly interrupted year. In fact, when I think about it, I drew zero comics pages for the entire year; that hasn’t happened since before I started making comics in 1989. The only things that came close to it was my ‘page’ for the Wally Wood 22 panels exhibition and a 3 panel Peter Pumpkinhead strip. And this from a bloke who supposedly makes his living as a comics creator. On the other hand, I did draw the bulk of my Masters exhibition work in the first half of the year. For those of you who don’t know, my thesis was on comics form, an area that has not undergone much academic scrutiny (unlike the content). My comic was created for a public encounter in space, not the intimacy of print, so it’s not likely there'll be a print version of it. And in any case, there were real objects in it, so how can I print them? The work was hardly seen thanks to it being an examination exhibition that was only up for 3 days and in an obscure part of Monash Caulfield campus. On the other hand, it got a H1, no amendments, which is the top mark, so I’m happy. I hope to do a PhD down the track. The other things I have been doing is tidying up the long delayed Alice In Nomansland, and a lot of writing and layouts for The Fight. In short, I’ve been working full time in comics all year (when not on other business), but with not much to show for it - or seen - yet.
What are some of the comics you've enjoyed in 2014?
I don’t think I read very much in the way of comics all year, so demanding was everything else. I really liked Rutu Modan’s The Property, but I can’t recall if I read it this year or last. I enjoyed Eddie Campbell’s The Lovely Horrible Stuff, which may have dissipated over its length, but he always manages to find a wry and unfamiliar take on the familiar. Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis 2, was a great read even if it’s not a particularly good comic (take the pictures away and the words convey nearly everything anyway). Of the locals, Jase Harper’s Awkwood, was enjoyable.
I’ve been really savouring the canapés of the Mini-comics of The Month Club - lots of savoury talent out there including makers I didn’t know. Similar kudos to Nat Karmichael’s OiOiOi! (name notwithstanding), but it promises to showcase new talent as much as old. I hope it lasts. I’m sure there’s more, but right now my brain is fried from other shit, so apologies to those I should have mentioned. One thing comics that should get a mention is the growth in non-pop culture comics shows around the country, like Comic Con-versation, Sugar Con, Homecooked, ZICs, Comic Gong and various zine fairs. These are the future of comics shows in this country and there will no doubt be more in the future, including the one I’m directing, ACAF (postponed until late next year or early 2016).
What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2014?
I think I got to the cinema once - to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was pretty entertaining. I’ve watched plenty of films and box-sets on my Tv. I’ve been loving the nordic noir of The Killing, The Bridge, the gritty (though it peters out) True Detective, Masters of Sex, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, the always entertaining Game of Thrones (I wait for the box-sets), catching up with Breaking Bad after all these years. For films, there are too many to mention, but my staple viewing consists of old classics as put out by the best Dvd/BRD labels in the world: Criterion collection and Masters of Cinema (UK). If you ever want to know which are the best for any given year, head to Dvd Beaver, where they put out an annual top 100, and I pretty much get everything on it. I don’t know what this years list is yet, but it’s sure to have the Werner Herzog box set, the Alain Robbe-Grillet set, the Walerian Borocyzk set, the Jacques Demy set among them.
As for reading, well, I seem to do less of this every year, but I read the Economist weekly, since it is one of the best sources of global news one can get in a news environment addicted to fads, scandal, hype, spin, parochialism and of course, fewer and fewer cartoons and comics. Screw ‘em. I haven’t seen as many art exhibitions this year as I’d of liked. I tend to do more of that when traveling, and that I did little of outside of comics or family related motives. But I would draw attention to the fabulous Annette Messenger at the MCA, Sydney. She shows how stunningly temporal based installation can work making it mesmerising at times. I swear one of her works was as alive as any organic creature. I didn’t get to the theatre anywhere near as much as I wanted, either, but Frankenstein at the Malthouse was a provocative feminist reworking of the legendary story, and being a lover of musicals, I thought the amateur production of 42nd Street by the Clocktower Musical Theatre group would have done a professional outfit proud.
And I’m rapidly expanding my music collection as always - more than 13K tracks in my iTunes library. Loving CHVRCHES, Lady Antebellum, Kasey Chambers, Missy Higgins, Royal Blood, War on Drugs, Scarlette Baccini’s band Dear Plastic, The Audreys, She & Him, Arch Enemy, Devilskin, The Jezabels, Lady Gaga (and Tony Bennett) and the finger dexterity of Vladimir Horowitz. That doesn’t even scratch the surface.
What are you looking forward to in 2015?
I would love there to be far less distraction in 2015. That won’t be the case, but maybe less than 2014? I sincerely hope I can get a solid year of comics drawing in - hoping to draw/tone the first 100-150 pages of The Fight. If possible, get Alice In Nomansland published and publish the sublimely unseen work of Butcher and Wood’s Art Is A Lie. I may travel to see some UK shows like Thought Bubble, Lakes Festival, Comica and ICAF, but it depends. All I want to do is make comics again. And get out and see more art and life and the local comics scene more this year. One thing that is a must do is go to the NGA in Canberra and see the James Turrell retrospective. I cannot stress how amazing it is to immerse yourself in the environments of this master of light.