So That Was 2017
I don’t really like giving my top 5 or top 10 for a year. Firstly, I don’t want to leave any good stuff off the list and secondly I don’t want to be seen as influencing the ICN Awards. What I am going to do is to cover some things that I liked in 2017 and what I want to see more of in 2018. You may be able to derive some of my favourites from the piece.
DECLAN SHALVEY USES HIS POWERS FOR GOOD
I really enjoyed Savage Town. I thought it was a very authentic book and I thought it really showed Declan Shalvey’s skills as a writer. My favourite thing about it, however, was that it shined a light on Phil Barrett’s art. Phil is one of those artists whose work we have seen and have been left wanting to see more. This book allowed us to see a lot more as we really got to see him show off his skills and it had the added shine of Jordie Bellaire’s colours. It says something about Declan that one of the aims of doing the book was to do exactly this. I hope 2018 see us spotlight more of our independent creators.
THE COLOUR(IST)S CHILDREN
There must be something in the Irish water that produces great colourists. Triona Farrell and Chris O’Halloran both had great years in 2016 but 2017 saw them reaching, much deserved, new heights. We saw Triona shine on a number of books including Rose, Doctor Who (insert jealous comment here) and Half Past Danger 2 . Chris started the year with Generation Gone and ended up getting to colour on a number of Marvel books. They weren’t alone. Dee Cunniffe and Len O’Grady continue to excel and had very productive years. In 2018, expect to see great things from Dearbhla Kelly (PARADISO), who produced one of my favourite covers this year with Specimen, and Rebecca Nalty (HEAVY VINYL).
I featured this cover as I just ADORE Triona’s colours on the blossoms.
DOING THEIR OWN THING
One of the things I like about the Irish scene is the variety of books being produced. I admire creators finding a topic, issue or style of their own and working with that. Here’s 5 books that did their own thing in 2017:
100 Times (Deluxe Edition)
Katie Fleming’s book featuring a gay werewolf got an updated edition with extra stories and pin-ups. People who follow the site will know that this is one of my favourites as it is one of the few books that deals with gay relationships albeit in a different way. I encourage people to pick this and 100 More Times up. This edition features a new cover by E.Kerr. #ArtCred
Olly Cunningham continues to do his own thing as he produces an adult book that, despite featuring over the top stuff, is full of very human characters. The book reminds me of the likes of Naked Lunch and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. Dark and gritty. Available in two volumes Dodgy Pills and Yetis Out.
This is certainly a book where you won’t know what to make of at first (something Stephen Ward covered in his review of issue one). I’ll admit to kind of writing this book off. Literally judging the book by the cover. However, after reading three issues, I think the creative team came up with an interesting premise and did something with it. Another book with adult themes. The cover here is by Mark Reihill.
Tales Of A Fractured Mind
Any book that deals with mental health automatically gets my attention. All the stories in this book deal with the issue by looking at different aspects and kinds of illness. The Persistence of Depression deals with the every day struggle of coping with depression. Clock of the World uses a clock to describe the ups and downs of bi-polar disorder. Just Like Everyone uses the image of the scales and mirrors to look at body dysmorphia. War On Reality covers PTSD as the story looks at a soldier coming back from war. Our Song uses the memory of a song to tell the difficult story of dealing with someone who has dementia. Mountaineering looks at the uphill struggle of Gender Dysphobia. Caityn tells the story of a girl dealing with bullying and its affect on mental health.
I chose this one largely to highlight the unique style of Clare Foley whose watercolour look makes her work stand out from most books on the shelves. That is not to undermine Aaron Fever as he certainly writes to Foley’s strengths as this is quite a departure from his prior work on Artos and Ship Wrecked.
MORE ANTHOLOGIES PLEASE
Anthologies are a chance to see creators who don’t have the time or money or inclination to do their own book or series. Or maybe they are working on a book that is going to take time to produce. Anyway, this is chance for them to stay in the hearts and minds of readers. This year I even managed to get into one with a story of mine (with Brian Burke) being seen in Specimen. We also got another volume of Stray Lines. We got art from the likes of Paddy Lynch, Debbie Jenkinson and Sarah Bowie who I would like to see get the Savage Town treatment (see my first item again).
The cover here is by Dearbhla Kelly. One of my favourites from 2017. Dearbhla did a great job designing the book and, as I said earlier, I see great things for her in 2017.
IRISH, IRISH EVERYWHERE?
I have mentioned colourists but artists have also made names for themselves in the US in 2017. I will endeavour to cover a few here. I joked that we could have a separate ICN award for artist on a Spider-man books. Will Sliney continued his Marvel run with Scarlet Spider and Nate Stockman and Nick Roche both worked on Amazing Spider-man: Renew Your Vows (with one of Nick’s issues outselling the core Amazing Spider-man book). Philip Murphy and Declan Shalvey were omnipresent on covers (I have featured my favourite cover by Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire). Both had a lot of interior work too as Philip had a lot of IDW work and Declan could be seen in a number of books including a third volume of INJECTION. Stephen Mooney gave us the much anticipated return of Half Past Danger with a new colouring partner Triona Farrell. Stephen Byrne and Eoin Marron both had breakout years as Stephen saw his internet buzz translate into work for DC Comics (check out his appearance on Liam Geraghty’s Meet Your Maker podcast for more on that) and Eoin showed his skills on Centipede.
If I had one thing that I had want in to see in 2018, it would be the appearance of an Irish writer in a bigger role in the US. That is not to say we don’t have writers doing big things outside Ireland. As mentioned Stephen Mooney returned with Half Past Danger 2 and Declan Shalvey brought us Savage Town and had some work for Marvel (which I am not overlooking). Jordie Bellaire brought us her first ongoing writing gig in Redlands. Michael Carroll saw the publication of a collection for his epic Every Empire Falls as he continues to make his name as one of the best Judge Dredd writers. He was joined in 2000AD by Rory McConville who also worked on Dredd and brought back Devlin Waugh in a new series. What we have not seen as yet is a writer making their stamp on a big property with an extended run and, as you can see from my summary, it would be great if we saw more female creators making an impact as a writer or artist.