Yep, it’s that moment.
You know… the one when you kick back on the loo, magazine, tabloid, smartphone, print-out or tablet in hand, a fresh roll of toilet paper nearby, to read those annual Best Of~ lists compiled by people who pretend they know what they’re doing — like me!
Don’t know why, but I tend to get into my head William Shatner‘s (not Sinatra’s) version of ‘It was a Very Good Year’ — and 2015 was precisely that.
I’m going nowhere near a discussion of the horrors of the world. Sadly, there’re far too many of these.
No, I’m speaking on a self-indulgently personal, as well as constructive/creative, level.
This time of year we’re supposed to kick back and reflect, mostly on the positives, hopefully in the comfort of home and hearth.
So I’m going to do just that, and fret about the global hoo-har in my own head.
Let’s rear-vision twelve months.
A year ago, on December 31st, 2014, I hadn’t yet decided my next comic book to replace Bullet Gal, let alone a fifth novel.
I had a few ideas circulating, like the “grand” novel concept for The Mercury Drinkers — since (hopefully temporarily) shelved.
In the late hours of Dec. 31st, I got bored and started working on the first 2 pages of a comic run that would turn into 15-issue series Trista & Holt — based on the medieval legend of Tristan/Tristram and Isolde/Iseult, but set in a crime-riddled, disco-infused 1970s.
363 days later I’m doing the final edit-run on a 65,000-word novelization of the same story, now titled Black Sails, Disco Inferno, which I’ll start to pitch to publishers in January.
Even better, the comic and the novel are things I’m really happy with, and a year back I had no idea of the ways in which they’d shape up.
And in 2016 Trista & Holt has been licensed to Project-Nerd Publishing for a U.S. release, for which I’m now working on the colours (the original run was black-and-white).
So, 2015 might be easily seen as the year (for me) of medieval romance twisted, turned, and baked into noir.
But Bullet Gal also reappeared in March — this time as a glossy-covered, 300+ page, 12-issue collected paperback edition via Under Belly Comics in Canada — with added bonus pin-ups by people like Walter Geovani, Maan House, Dan Watts, Claudia Everest, Joe Badon, Asela de Silva, Giovanni Ballati and others, and that mad cover painting by Niagara Detroit.
Colour me chuffed.
Zeb put it this way: “I decided, on a lark, to read the entire volume in one night. Man, was I happy that did that. Andrez Bergen’s collage art style takes a bit to get used to, but once you do it really complements his genre-melting writing style, which looks at film noir, silver age comics, and video games and actually weaves it all together. It’s also hilarious. I don’t want to spoil this book for anybody by saying too much, except that you should really give it a chance.”
Arigato, Z. What a sweet-as way to finish up the year.
On a different level completely, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, my 472-page, partially illustrated noir/pulp/sci-fi homage to the silver & golden ages of comics, and the novel that introduced the Bullet Gal character, is finally available via Amazon Kindle in Australia.
Apparently there was a technical glitch for, get this, 2 years… appropriate, I guess, since the novel’s set within a near-future Melbourne online gaming fiasco.
Anyway, to celebrate this (digital) coup, my publishers are offering it for 0.99¢ (A$1.39, incl. GST) until the end of January.
This month, I got to publish my 5th novel.
Titled Small Change (it’s smaller than my usual books, the title has less words, and as you can see from the cover painting by Alec Goss, it’s also paying homage to Tom Waits‘ pivotal 1970s album), the story features Roy Scherer and Suzie Miller, those bickering detectives of the supernatural from the comic-book pages of Tales to Admonish (see below).
It’s now out there and available via Book Depository (with free international shipping!), Amazon USA, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan 日本. Hopefully it moves some units — I’d like to be able to get the next book out there as well!
Don’t feel guilty or in on some evil conspiracy or anything, but apparently publishers do look at the sales figures of previous books (shock/horror) in order to decide whether or not to invest in a new one. So, if Small Change does OK, there’s more hope for Black Sails, Disco Inferno.
Anyway, it’s doing nicely feedback-wise from critics/writers I respect, like James Reasoner, Steven W. Alloway @ Fanboy, Dan Leicht @ All-Comic, John Rickards @ The Nameless Horror, Cultured Vultures, and at Underrated Reads.
Ben Kooyman @ Australian Comics Journal put it this way:
“The banter between the two leads combines classic screwball and gumshoe speak – Suzie’s perky, enthused stream-of-consciousness brushes up nicely against Roy’s spiky, strained indulgence – with the odd Australian turn of phrase. The book is dedicated to the pairing of Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James – television’s McMillan & Wife – but there are also shades of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Hepburn and Cary Grant, William Powell’s Nick and Myrna Loy’s Nora from The Thin Man films, and other revered screwball/private eye partnerships.”
As a bonus, because of the publication of the novel, I got to waffle on a bit about Raymond Chandler, comics, The Twilight Zone, Buffy, and other influences in articles/interviews for Bleeding Cool, Chicago News, and Elizabeth A. White.
Speaking of Small Change, and in particular lead characters Roy & Suzie, the other thing we published in 2015 was the Tales to Admonish Vol. 1 collection via IF? Commix, which brought together the first 3 issues by me and Matt Kyme, plus new material from a swag of fellow Aussie artists: Adam Rose, Gareth Colliton, Asela De Silva, Ken Best and Simon A. Wright.
Man, my fingers are tired. What else is worth rat-bagging about?
OH, YEAH — getting to work with a couple of veteran Australian artists this year, thanks to the machinations of Nat Karmichael at Comicoz.
Chris was a breeze to work with, and his take on my story (regarding dealing with depression) absolutely grabs it.
For me, there’s a little bit of Mina/Mitzi (Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth/Bullet Gal) in the character here.
The other insanely memorable — and ongoing! — collaboration has been with Frantz Kantor, who’s worked on Aussie ‘zines from the industry’s early days in the 1980s, such as the groundbreaking Inkspots.
We’re doing a continuing series together called Magpie.
Frantz’s art in fact graces the toilet/newspaper picture at the top of this blog page — that’s 3D Man from the first issue, out at the end of January via nationally published Australian comic zine Oi Oi Oi! (#7).
This week I had a silly fiddle and took some of Frantz’s art from the first 8 pages to create this strip — not to be published, but just for inane laughs (mostly mine):
The best thing about Frantz is we are, indeed, foils bouncing off one another. My script and mock-up for #1 obviously got the ball rolling, but Frantz’s art, ideas and character designs shaped the way in which I’ve since written episodes 2 and 3. Without him, the story would not have taken the course it has.
And we both love taking pokes at things like mass media, peer-group oppression, and paying homage.
Magpie is very much in the spirit of, well, The Spirit – taking on the concept that people like Will Eisner and Tarpé Mills did of telling complete stories and off-beat vignettes, with a sense of humor as much as a nod to noir, over eight-page installments. While an homage to the comics we love from the golden age to contemporary ones, it also carries with it a pastiche/deconstruction of multi-media pop-culture sensibilities, and the odd fracture of the fourth wall.
Along the way, within each tale, there are nods and winks at everything – from Roy Thomas to Ghost in the Shell to M.C. Escher wrestling Russ Manning’s Magnus, Robot Fighter, or Terminator in fisticuffs with Blithe Dolls.
Aside from being over-excited about Magpie for 2016, I’m looking forward to seeing how the latest short film from Tokyo’s Production I.G (the creators of Ghost in the Shell) goes on the international festival circuit.
It’s called Pigtails, directed by Yoshimi Itazu (character designer and chief animation director on Miss Hokusai), and I worked on the English subtitles — mostly naturalizing the translation and giving it a bit of zing.
Finally, music-wise, I still do stuff as Little Nobody, even though I decided to quit the DJing side of things under this name in August.
I figured 20 years as L.N. — originally a joke moniker! — was enough.
However, thanks to the very cool Nicolas Lutz, who runs My Own Jupiter in Europe, I’m about to release a double-vinyl LP of Little Nobody tracks made over the past 14 years here in Tokyo.
It’s called, appropriately enough, This is Tokio — and you can tune in to the tracks HERE.
I’ll let you know when it’s finished being pressed-up and is ready to drop — again in the new year. And here’s an interview I did with Tarita Weber @ Say What? magazine.
But hang on, you’re probably complaining (man, I would!), we haven’t yet seen one of these earlier promised Best Of~ lists.
Yeah, I’ve been too bloody busy yacking about projects I’ve been involved with that made me buzz in 2015, and there’re more, but I won’t waste any further time.
My Christmas prezzie to myself (at the recommendation of artist/mate David Aja) was The Eternaut, a late ’50s Argentine sci-fi comic written by Héctor Germán Oesterheld and illustrated by Francisco Solano López.
It’s turned out to be one of the year’s highlights.
The fact that Oesterheld was “disappeared” (here read tragically murdered) by the military regime in Argentina during the 1970s Dirty War is just part of the equation; another is that the very cool people at Fantagraphics have made the saga available (finally) in English, and in a incredible box-set edition.
Having read the 350+ page book in just a few days, this is a masterpiece that sucker-punches the reader sixty years later. I loved it.
Otherwise, comics-wise this year, Image has led the way with so many excellent titles.
The Autumnlands and Bitch Planet have been brilliant — as have Ed Brubaker‘s The Fade Out with Sean Phillips, his romp Velvet with Steve Epting, and Matt Fraction‘s ODY-C with Christian Ward and Casanova Acadia with Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá and Michael Chabon.
Really dug Descender and Chrononauts too.
So much magic is coming from Image Comics.
Well, while Avengers 2 was a tad disappointing (as overloaded as the comic book in the ’80s, perhaps), I was way happier than I expected with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Some things are right again in this world.
Best food (as always) is sashimi, followed by a Vegemite chaser; best drinks black coffee, beer and saké.
Family-wise, I won’t go deep into details here, but all’s good despite a couple of hiccups; you know how it can be.
Cocoa, my daughter, turned 10 in November and is a truly special individual. Everyone else (mates as well as family) rocks too.
Anyhow, I’ll get in early here to say happy new year, and all the best for the ’16.