So You Like British Comics. Where Next?

So You Like British Comics. Where next?

Storified by Alex Hern · Fri, Dec 14 2012 10:32:09

Even though I have been editing British Comics Week, I couldn't cover everything. I wanted to write about Kate Brown's marvellous Fish and Chocolate; I wanted to write about Great Beast comics – Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell – and their audacious self-publishing experiment. A real look at British comics wouldn't be complete without looking at the kings and queens of webcomics, like John Allison, Josceline Fenton, and Claude Trollope-Curson. Nor would it be missing a discussion of British manga, of alt-comix, or of anthologies like Solipsistic Pop and Paper Science. And – somewhat deliberately – this week has glossed over the contributions of Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, John Wagner, Pat Mills, and all of the other greats, in favour of covering writers and artists who you may not have heard of.

So hopefully, we'll have another.
When I was planning the week, I was aware I had a slight bias towards comics writers, so I put out a call to ask who the best artists and writer/artists in the Britain were.

The response overwhelmed me, and serves as a good list of all the people who we simply couldn't mention in the week. If you're thinking "that was good, where next?", try these:

@alexhern Luke Pearson, Kristyna Baczynski, John Allison, Joe Decie, Philippa Rice, Dan Berry, Lizz Lunney, Daryl Cunningham, Jamie Smart..Joe List
@alexhern …I could go on. There are a lot of great artist/writers in the UK right now.Joe List
@alexhern Alan Davis, Dave McKean, Brian Bolland, David Lloyd are all superbJingle the Hedgehog
@alexhern Standard issue Moore / Gaiman response. I also like Warren Ellis.Steve
(That's Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Neither of them are really artists, but Steve was confused)
@alexhern @blankslatebooks only publishes writer/artists: check their outputalison sampson
@alexhern and the same goes for most of @selfmadehero 's stuff and @nobrowpress but you knew this? i'd say @robgog @naobrown @philipparicealison sampson
(@Robgog is Rob Davis, and @naobrown is Glyn Dillon)
@alexhern That dude who illustrated "From Hell". Is he British tho?Matthijs Krul
(Matthijs means Eddie Campbell)
@alexhern basically anyone who ever appeared in an issue of Solipsistic Pop counts.James Hunt
(That's a lot of people. The full list of contributors is here.)
@alexhern Comics: off the top of my noddle - Jon McNaught, Eddie Campbell, Mick/Mike McMahon, Sean Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Brendan McCarthyTom Murphy
@alexhern decadence comics then. one without a lot of exposure. and will kirkby's writing is as witty as his art. hes a good self publisher.alison sampson
@alexhern My two cents: Luke Pearson and Kate Brown. Also, after Nao of Brown, I'd say Glyn Dillon.Michael Leader
@alexhern Note: those were mainly for the writer/artist side of the question. Also, young'uns.Michael Leader
@alexhern Glyn Dillon, Rob Davis, Posy Simmonds, Raymond Briggs, Gary Northfield, Jamie Smart, Simone Lia, Tom Gauld, Warren Pleece.Dave Shelton
@alexhern Off the top of my head: Bryan Talbot, Sean Phillips, Kevin O'Neil Gllyn Dillon, loads more I'm forgetting right nowSaul Taylor
@alexhern just personal preference but has to be Alan Davis. Still amazing after all these years. Oh and yeah @McKelvie is def up there tooIan Nicholson
(@McKelvie is Jamie McKelvie)
@alexhern Loads, but I have to single out Gary Northfield as he's dead, dead good. And I'm going to stop jerking him off in public now.Tralfamadorian Red.
@alexhern Eddie CampbellSebastian Sutcliffe
@alexhern not sure if he's been mentioned but David Lloyd needs to be in there somewhere.James Vincent
Although Tom Humberstone could well be included in this round-up, the next two tweets are replies to him and me:
@alexhern @TomHumberstone Steve Dillon and John Wagner.Matt Owen
@alexhern @TomHumberstone can o'worms! I like @olivereast @robjacksoncomix @DECADENCECOMICS and @joedecie amongst othersSimon Moreton
@alexhern Frazer Irving, Frank Quitely, Simon Bisley & I.N.J. CulbardIan Dunt
@alexhern I had the pleasure of interviewing him about Aces Weekly for Wired - was just a lovely gun. Also; Dave McKean needs in.James Vincent
@alexhern Jock, Bisley, Gibbons, O'Neill, Bolland. (Sliiiiiight @2000AD bias to my responses.)Kensington
(Simon Bisley, Dave Gibbons, Kevin O'Neill, Brian Bolland. Jock only has one name, like Madonna)
@alexhern Mart Brooker for art; writer/artist: Brendan McCarthy? Also impressed with Bryan Talbot on that scale.Craig Grannell
@alexhern Gotta mention Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson, Ed 'Ilya' Hillier, Glyn Dillon and a trio of Daves - Lloyd, McKean and Gibbons.Karl A Russell
Today, I decided that I'd gone too far the other way, and asked for a list of writers who deserved their own spotlight:
@alexhern Al Ewing, John Wagner, Si Spurrier, Kieron Gillen, Rob Williams.molcher
@alexhern John Wagner is absurdly underrated.Craig Grannell
@alexhern Rob Williams, Grant Morrison (obvs), Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen. Gillen top of the list for me this year. All the lists.Ian Dunt
@alexhern For me, it's @kierongillen by a huge margin. I'm a bit scared of what he might achieve at Marvel.John
@alexhern Morrison, Gillen (shh don’t let him overhear), Carey, Milligan, Moore (when he bothers).Seb Patrick
(Grant Morrison, Kieron Gillen, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan and Alan Moore)
@alexhern Alan Moore. Hands down. No contest. Obvious answer I know, but still.Trunkman Productions
@alexhern @jonlockcomics & @TheMatthewCraigjack davies
(Self-evidently, Jon Lock and Matthew Craig)
@alexhern Andy Diggle. Great action writer.Stuart Mckechnie
@alexhern @mistergristEd Sellek
(Paul Grist)
@alexhern Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Mike Carey, Antony Johnston and Neil GaimanBerwyn Lloyd
@alexhern John Allison, Anthony Johnston, Andy Diggle, Josceline Fenton, Kate Brown, Warren Ellis.Adam Cadwell

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The Big Sick is well meaning, rather than groundbreaking

There’s a chemistry shortfall between the actors, and some limits to Kumail Nanjiani’s range.

When real romances are adapted for the screen by those involved, the process usually occurs after the flame has gone out. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton were just good friends by the time they made Annie Hall; Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg had broken up long before they played lovers in 2 Days in Paris. The Big Sick, however, is based on the relationship between its lead actor, Kumail Nanjiani, and his wife, Emily V Gordon (played by Zoe Kazan), who wrote the script together. Their story, a loose retelling of real events, shifts the emphasis away from whether or not their love survived (we know it did) and on to how it endured in the face of unusual odds – with Emily lying comatose in hospital when they had scarcely got to know one another.

The director, Michael Showalter, is not a man scared of spelling out the obvious (during an argument between Kumail and Emily, a road sign behind them reads “Speed bump ahead”) but even he draws the line at putting The Smiths’s “Girlfriend in a Coma” on the soundtrack.

Kumail is a Pakistani comic on the lower rungs of the Chicago stand-up circuit. His family is trying to marry him off to a nice Muslim woman but Kumail is more interested in Emily, a graduate student in psychotherapy who heckles him at a gig one night. His family, given to openly disdaining any relatives with white partners, isn’t aware of her existence, but it hasn’t watched, as we have, the cutesy montage of their courtship.

The couple finish most of their dates with a joke about never seeing one another again. When Emily becomes ill and is placed in a medically induced coma, this running gag becomes unexpectedly resonant, along with Kumail’s choice of date movie: The Abominable Dr Phibes, in which Vincent Price takes revenge on the doctors who let his wife die in surgery. In a piece of timing that adds an extra tartness, Kumail and Emily have broken up shortly before she falls ill. Strictly speaking, they aren’t even in a relationship when Kumail first encounters Emily’s mother, Beth (Holly Hunter), and father, Terry (Ray Romano), at the hospital. Meet the Parents coincides unexpectedly with While You Were Sleeping. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner lurks in the background.

The estrangement might have been definitive were it not for the coma, though the film can’t quite bring itself to acknowledge the helpful part played in the couple’s relationship by a life-threatening medical emergency. In common with anything in which Judd Apatow has a hand (he gets a producing credit here), The Big Sick is in the business of reassurance. Emily mentions that she works with men convicted of domestic violence but the world of the film is one where harm is only ever inflicted inadvertently.

Discomfort surfaces in the two brief scenes that come closest to holding to account Nanjiani’s likeable, mildly neurotic persona. The tremendous Vella Lovell stands out as one of Kumail’s prospective brides, who upbraids him for his cowardice. And Emily rages at him over a perceived betrayal in a scene that would be more persuasive still if the pair seemed like actual lovers rather than just room-mates. There’s a chemistry shortfall between the actors as well as some limits to Nanjiani’s range, which extends from “genial” to “a bit cross”.

He also suffers from the problem, common to stand-ups who become actors, of not always knowing how to integrate material into characterisation. Seinfeld handled it well by showing Jerry getting caught out trying to sneak “bits” into casual conversation, but in The Big Sick the gags often sit on top of the action. The movie’s best joke is Kumail’s response when Terry, who has clearly never met a Muslim before, asks his opinion on 9/11. No man would ever say what he says to the parents of a woman he was hoping to win back, let alone whose life was hanging in the balance, and if we forgive him, it’s only because it’s an ingenious line. It is also one of the thousand or so reasons why The Big Sick is well meaning rather than groundbreaking, and why a Judd Apatow production will never be confused with a Preston Sturges one. 

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

This article first appeared in the 27 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Summer double issue