“The Janus Project”

“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
― Marshall McLuhan

Sequential presents The Janus Project. During the next few weeks of this shiny new year cartoonists and critics and retailers will sound off on their favourite comics and comics-related moments of 2013 while also looking forward to things to come in 2014. (Thanks to Mark Connery for the great Janus comics graphic! Mark has a new book that will debut at TCAF this May: Rudy will be published by the Minneapolis-based 2d Cloud.)
Next up at the Janus Project is cartoonist Diana Tamblyn. Diana’s new graphic novel Gerald Bull and the Supergun was published to great acclaim in 2013.
Here’s Diana looking back and looking ahead:
Favourite Comics of 2013
by Diana Tamblyn
The Property by Rutu Modan
I am a big, big Rutu Modan fan. There are so many reasons to love her work – it’s sophisticated, subtle, smart, beautiful and reveals a world I’m not familiar with (life in modern-day Israel). The Property was her new release from Drawn and Quarterly and did not disappoint.
In The Property we find an Israeli woman – Mica, and her Grandmother Regina traveling from Tel Aviv to Warsaw in order to reclaim property their family owned, but had to abandon in WWII. It also has themes of family love, lost love and new love. Modan’s artwork, which uses a “ligne-claire”/Herge-type style is beautiful. She has a lovely sense of colour and uses it deftly to depict mood.
Her drawing has a real rotoscope feel to it and I did some research to try to find out her process.Apparently she hires actors to act out scenes, then photographs and draws them. The result is not stiff and heavy-handed like many who heavily rely on photo reference though – it’s lovely, nuanced, light and fluid.
Kid Mafia
I’m a big fan of Michael DeForge and he can basically do no wrong. Of all of his work, Kid Mafia is the one that I love the most (along with his Spotting Deer one-shot issue). Released as square-sized mini-comics, Kid Mafia tells the story of Franco, a high-school dropout and skater kid who is just like any other teen – dating and girl problems, concert going, drinking in parks. However, he’s also a crime boss who is trying to get his best friend to go to college and quit his gang. It’s really original, hilarious and wonderfully drawn like all of DeForge’s stuff.
Kid Mafia #4 was released in 2013. You can read all the issues online for free at Michael’s site here.
Secret Headquarters has also just put out a collection of issues #1-3 and it’s available to purchase online.
Annie Sullivan and anything else by Joe Lambert
I came to Joe Lambert through Twitter a number of years ago, and bought I Will Bite You published by Secret Acres when it came out in 2011. Though his book Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller came out in 2012, I read it in 2013 so I’m counting it OK? The book tells the relationship between Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller and has won lots of awards. It is completely deserving of all the accolades it’s gotten.
Lambert succeeds in constructing a visual style of the world that the blind Helen Keller sees in a manner I’ve never seen before – it’s kind of blurry, somewhat stark environment with some bursts of colour. This is contrasted with the style of the rest of the book which is a wonderfully loose and gestural. Joe does a lot of minis which are excellent. At the recent SPX I picked up one of everything I hadn’t bought already at the last TCAF. He also does wonderful prints and sketches of original art. Everything he does is great and he’s also a super-nice guy. I encourage picking up one of everything by him. He has an online store here, but I’m hoping he will be at TCAF again this year.
Favourite Comics-Related Moments of 2013
I have to say that releasing my first book From Earth to Babylon: Gerald Bull and the Supergun at SPX (Small Press Expo) in the Fall was my personal highlight of the year. It was the culmination of many years of work for me. SPX is very similar to TCAF in that you have hundreds of cartoonists from all over who have come together for a weekend to celebrate and showcase their craft. There’s nobody who makes their living from super-hero comics and you don’t have people dressed up as storm troopers (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Being a cartoonist is a lonely activity. You spend countless hours for days, months and years at a time working away at a drawing board on something that realistically not a lot of people will see. So when you get in a room with like-minded people it is a true joy. We all do it out of love and passion and because we can’t not do it. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be surrounded with people who “get it” and who often are working harder than you, better than you and faster than you. Deep friendships are made and maintained at shows like this and it really helps to keep you energy going and your spirits for the medium high. There’s a lot of good stuff and excellent people doing terrific work right now.
Most Anticipated for 2014
There are 2 releases I’m especially looking forward to in 2014: This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki and Safari Honeymoon by Jesse Jacobs. All Canadians which is not something I consciously looked for, it just so happens that there are lot of Canucks doing great work these days.
This One Summer – Written by Mariko Tamaki, Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, published by First Second Books, out in Spring 2014.
This is the same team that brought us Skim which is still one of my favourite graphic novels of the past few years. I still remember reading Skim when it was a floppy comic put out by Emily Pohl-Weary’s Kiss Machine label. I’d never heard of either Tamaki before and I didn’t know what to expect. Then I read it and it knocked me right out. It was at least a year later that the full graphic novel came out by Groundwood Press, and it was interesting to see how the comic morphed and changed to a full-length book. I’ve been following both Mariko and Jillian ever since.
From the First Second site, here’s a description of the new book:
“The book is about two girls who are right on the cusp of teenagehood, trying to figure out how to become teenagers from a lot of not-very-good examples.”
Honestly I don’t care what it’s about. It could be the Tamaki version of the phone book and I would still be excited about it!
safari gude
Safari Honeymoon, by Jesse Jacobs, Published by Koyama Press, Due May 2014.
Jesse Jacobs has had a couple of books published and has won a few comic awards, but I still feel like he is woefully underrated. Hopefully that will change with this new release. Here’s a description of the new book from the Koyama Press site:
“Join a pair of young newlyweds as they descend deep into a mysterious forest, encountering unknown creatures and unimaginable landscapes. Amongst the unusual flora and fauna, they discover within themselves something more strange and terrible than any sight their safari has to offer. Safari Honeymoon is a tale of jungle love and jungle madness.”
This sounds like a perfect match for Jacob’s wild cartooning style. His drawings are imaginative and otherworldly, but his stories are still entrenched in a narrative. I can’t put my finger on exactly why I love his work but I do – maybe the visceral quality, his line work and use of colour. Can’t wait for this book from this talented Canadian cartoonist!

Janus Comic Strip by Mark Connery