As is custom in our culture, I’d like to take a look back on the year as it draws to a close. It’s a little bit sad that we tend to reduce our productivity in the month of December just to acknowledge that the calendar is coming to an end, but those are the rules, I will abide.
365 days, not all of them nice.
I began this year with a soul-damaging breakup which in turn, came on the heels of a series of traumatic interactions. I’ll spare you the details but suffice to say, it was not a period in which one envied me. Since last year, my nervous system has been playing tricks on me and I began having odd sensations and occasional panic attacks. As a result, I try my best not to get too excited about anything to avoid becoming overstimulated which feels kind of like dying.
My friends Dan, Ceora and Iggy out in Bushwick kept me sane by inviting me over for movies like three times a week (or more!). My friends John Wyffels and Meghan Orfitelli hung out with me at comics time EVERY WEEK.
Off to a bad start, but things started to get better. I made some amazing new friends, sadly parted ways with a few old friends, but generally came out with the cards in my favor.
One of my new friends, L. Nichols, literally installed Wordpress/Comicpress for me. Then she did it again for my secondary site. That brings this discussion to a point that I think we can all relate to…
So I launched this website this year. It still needs a little bit of work but all in all, I like it. I started the website with the original 120 Little Garden art pieces. Upon reaching the end of my archives, I worked out a little webcomic for the characters which I ended right before the autumn’s Small Press Expo (wasn’t working out) and later restarted in the format you see today. I hope that these starts and stops haven’t been too off-putting. I’m thinking on my feet and working as hard as I can!
I also made a few other comics this year, some of which you can see on the sister site, LetsGoAyo. That site is on a bit of a vacation at the time because I am devoting my energy toward Little Garden as well as a digital comics anthology. The anthology in question is being done by my friends the House of Twelve on the Comixology iphone platform. Those of you who have iphones should consider downloading Comixology and then downloading a few of the free sample comics to see how you like it. I hope you’ll consider buying our anthology when it becomes available in the new year!
Those, incidentally, are the same reasons that Little Garden is dropping from twice-weekly to once-per-week. I also have a day job and the workload has become overwhelming. I hope that you’ll understand that my aim is to bring you more comics, not fewer. If I allow myself to burn out, there will likely be either no comics, or comics of poorer quality.
OKAY, OKAY: THESE ARE THE FIVE COMICS THAT WERE GOOD IN 2009:
“Oh, Daphny” by Harvey James and Daphknee - Best comic of the year. I remember coming home late that day and seeing this linked by several people. I read it and it melted my face. Sad, traumatic and strangely funny as well. This was the best comic. It appears on the VICE magazine website and seems to only exist on the internet. It is really too bad that all of the webcomics award people seem to have overlooked this venue.
“Monsters” by Ken Dahl with help from Gabby Schulz because “Ken Dahl” isn’t real - This is the best book comic of the year. I never read the original minicomics so everything was all new to my eyes. Schulz’ cartooning is absolutely top-notch and his sense of humor and humanity invigorate every panel. For a guy who claims to hate people, he is certainly pays close attention to them. Schulz seems to love drawing to a degree that is rare in comics. Every little object is depicted in such detail and with such study that you’d think that the comic was about that thing as well. Every puff of smoke, textured hat, tiled floor, sneaker, beer bottle is drawn as though it were Schulz’ favorite thing ever. That, and the story is magnificent as well.
“King City” by Brandon Graham - My heart skipped a beat and my eyes lit up that day in the New York Comicon Tokyopop panel when it was announced that the company would be putting out American books and that BRANDON GRAHAM would be doing one. Years later, the first book came out, the second book was cancelled, bridges between the publisher and the indie comics scene seemed irrevocably burned. THEN, as if by magic, Graham announced that the entire King City story would be released as a joint venture by Tokyopop and Image Comics. This should be old news to the readers here, but the story still thrills me: King City, The Comic that Would Not Die! Even though the issues released to date reprint the original Volume 1, the project easily makes my “top whatever” list for the year. The bonus comic pages in issues 2 and 3 should tip the scales further if you’re not convinced. All of my friends know that I can (and will) talk all day long about Graham’s work, the inventiveness of his cartooning and the effervescent spirit of his comics. But I won’t. Just…buy the issues, people!
“The Mourning Star” by Kazimir Strzepek - It takes three years for Kaz to put out a new volume of this comic because it is one of the most alarmingly well-thought out, shockingly well crafted comic books that your money can buy. The Mourning Star stories tell of a post-apocalyptic world that is filled with the magic and cultures that we have come to expect from the greats of fantasy fiction. Kaz is one of the more inventive cartoonists of this day and age; there’s an interesting scene of a meeting in this book where he alters the flow of the story to better depict the scattered and segmented side discussions. There are plenty of moments like that in his work and dammit if it’s not one of the most entertaining reads out there today.
“Ivy” by Sarah Oleksyk - The fourth issue of this, the best damn minicomic out these days, came out in 2009, therefore, it’s on the list. Each chapter in the saga of Ivy Stenova is filled with more youthful indiscretions and teenage bad decisions than the last. This chapter actually ends on a positive note but I think it’s clear that this ship is still heading for that iceberg.
And that’s five already!
I was also greatly entertained by “Nedroid” by Anthony Clark, “Angel” by L. Nichols, “Elephantmen: Damaged Goods” and “Beast” by Marian Churchland (the former written by Richard Starkings), “Johnny Wander” by Ananth Panagariya and Yuko Ota, “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe” by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “L.A. Diary” by Gabrielle Bell, “A Mess of Everything” by my pal Miss Lasko-Gross, “Octopus Pie” by Meredith Gran, “Ace Dog Trainer” by Jamie Baldwin, “Jaephisch and the Dark Rainbow” by Jason Fischer, “Remake” by Lamar Abrams, “Sanctuary” by Nate Neal and “20th Century Boys” along with “Pluto” by Naoki Urasawa. UGH, too many comics! All “Top___” lists should be banned.
Other things that I did:
I felt like I had a fairly productive year, truth be told. I spent a lot of time in coffeehouses drawing comics. Most of all, Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint and Verb Coffee in Williamsburg. I generally wake up extra early to draw at Grumpy before my day job starts and then if I have energy in the evening, I head to Verb to draw even more. The price of those coffees can add up but in the end, I created a little ritual and a physical/mental space that allows me to be creative. In other words, it works.
I had work in:
Always Comix: The Evil Issue - edited by Erin Griffin and Sally Bloodbath
House of Twelve: Touching Children’s Stories - edited by Cheese Hasselberger
Lumberjacks: A Field Guide - edited by Colleen AF Venable and Marianne Ways
I went to the New England Webcomics Weekend this past spring, attended an gallery opening for Always Comix, exhibited at MoCCA this summer, visited NY Zinefest a few weeks later, exhibited at SPX this fall along with King Con and ended the cycle by attending the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in Williamsburg. I don’t know about you but that’s a lot of events for this tired soldier.
Everywhere I went, there’s one thing I had to say: Read Little Garden Comics.
All In All:
2010, BRING IT.
<3 Darryl Ayo Brathwaite