Like Walden, Eleanor Davis writes and draws so beautifully it’s hard to know which to praise first. Having wowed with last year’s surreal, hilarious and gorgeous Why Art? she returns with an altogether more down-to-earth story in The Hard Tomorrow (Drawn & Quarterly). Set in a near-future so close to our own you can practically taste it, The Hard Tomorrow centres on Hannah, a care nurse trying to conceive a child with her stoner boyfriend Johnny, in between time spent attending meetings for a protest group whose cause is illuminated, with brilliant subtlety, over the course of the book’s narrative.
The Hard Tomorrow is an exquisitely drawn meditation on love, childbearing, and Facebook police states. Mostly, it’s about finding hope in an increasingly hopeless world, whether through political resistance, moments of kindness, or creating a new life or two to place within it. You will remember its last four splash pages for a long time to come.
“A drawing may come from you, but it exists apart from you in both matter and meaning to others”. This koan from Lynda Barry’s Making Comics (Drawn & Quarterly) is one of hundreds I could have chosen to illustrate the searingly simple profundity that litter its 200 stunning pages.
Easily one of the most handsome objects on this year’s list, Making Comics is a guidebook for creativity that’s styled as a working notebook; thin-leaf pages lined within the bindings of a school journal instantly recognisable from your childhood. What lies inside is just as remarkable, however; a collection of stories, commands, exercises and inducements to create, that transcend being a mere textbook and become something more inspiring, and quietly revelatory.
Barry is an accomplished cartoonist and storyteller, whose mostly biographical works like One! Hundred! Demons! and What It Is are required reading for anyone wishing to explore the boundaries of humanistic storytelling, but as with her last educational tome, Syllabus, she continues to be one of the mediums finest teachers and champions.
Making Comics is a perfect jumping off point for someone who wants to explore their artistic side, or someone who’s simply never thought to. Making Comics isn’t merely a prospectus on how to encourage your inner artist, it’s a manifesto for using comics to become a better person, and an atlas for a more kind and creative world.