“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.)
Our penultimate Janus Project guest columnist is Toronto cartoonist and erstwhile Sequential contributor Dalton Sharp.

The Janus Project
by Dalton Sharp

Comics I read, gifted or thought about in 2013:

The Property

Family is everything, and Rutu Modan continues to explore family secrets with her excellent second book.

Sunday Night Movies
There is a reason the Oscars and Grammys happen in the depths and drudge of winter. One of my winter respite books this year, Leanne Shapton’s Sunday Night Movies is more successful than her Native Trees of Canada. I love trees, but just give me the facts rather than a dreamy art girl meditation. Picture shows, on the other hand, are inherently dreamy and go well with Shapton’s water coloury depictions of titles, credits and screen idols.

The Journal of the Main Street Secret Lodge
After self-publishing some really interesting comics in the early 90’s, Steven Gilbert, I presume tired of having a basement full of unsold product, disappeared. A new novella then, was the surprise for me of 2013.
It can be shaky finding your sea legs after so long on land. The Journal of the Main Street Secret Lodge is not as accomplished as Gilbert’s best comic, Colville, a tale of petty theft gone horribly wrong. Still, The Journal is a wonderfully trippy treat. It’s 1899, the Canada-US border a mere technicality for a restless population always hustling towards the next great opportunity. The tense atmosphere, the buildings, the towns, back rooms, billiards – the town is real and heartfelt.
I say ‘trippy’ because I can’t figure if references to Tennessee Williams and depictions of post-war glass door fronts are meant to take the piss, or technical errors … and I don’t really care. Because so much of the fun for me as a Torontonian is the juxtaposition of the hard scrabble Newmarket of the past with the ignored bedroom community of today. It’d be interesting to hear what non-locals make of it.
The Other Ghost World
Speaking of juxtaposition, if I can just go back to Modan for a moment, there is a beautiful affecting scene where an old woman returns to her Warsaw neighbourhood. Sepia panels show it as it is in her memory.
Kids, as you get old, and the built environment changes, one begins to see the old world superimposed on the new. I call this psychological effect “ghost worlding”, my term for it even before the Clowes book (I’m not LaBeoufing him), and this is a lovely example of it.

Team Comics
I gave a 12-year-old nephew the third Scott Pilgrim book for Christmas, Death Note to a 15-year-old nephew, and The Wrong Place as a birthday present to a female friend in her late 30’s. Yes, I do like to spread the gospel about Brecht Evens, but also the current Chinese cartoonists working in a similar painterly style.
My wish for 2014 would be to see some of this stuff translated into English. Chinese comics don’t have the imposing histories that American, European and Japanese do, and they look incredibly free and fun and innovative. No clue what they’re saying though. But like a great pop song in another language I’m still able to dig it.

I first saw her comics in the Don’t Touch Me anthologies years ago, and I’ve been champing to see a full graphic novel from Nina Bunjevac ever since. This is the year it happens! She’s been leaking gorgeous panels from Fatherland on Facebook.
Bunjevac is up there with Drew Friedman and Bernie Wrightson in technical proficiency. Her black and white art glows, crackles, flows or anything else she needs it to do. The woman doesn’t ink – she conjures. Matched with a truly shocking family history this book will be mandatory reading.

Janus Comic Strip by Mark Connery