'Flower Power' image is the work of Bernie Boston © 1967
The fire crackled and she began...
During the 8th lecture of the series we looked at the work of four legends of the form and some of my favourite creatives in the world of storytelling. My lecture showcases the various approaches to communication of these key creatives.
During the 6th lecture of the series we looked at the following sources of inspiration and storytelling devices:
Graphic Novels: Creatives
The main points covered about the works under discussion in this seminar.
A gap year like no other. When the other is seen only through the narrow view of a fish out of water in an 'exotic' land we know are heading for trouble. 'Playing at life' is a phrase that comes to mind when I consider how vulnerable the truth can be. There is Mexican sunshine in Jessica Abel's drawings. Remarkable transformation occurs when one gets 'lost.'
Looking at the pros and cons of addiction set against the backdrop of 9/11 when stress is at its maximum. It shows that no subject is off limits, and that human life goes through many dark corners in order to make the person whole. Dean Haspiel's illustrations evoke the British 'Kitchen Sink' dramas of the 1960's despite the action occurring in 2001. A lost weekend can become the norm when you cannot stand on terra firma.
I have an older brother and much of my childhood was seen through a lens that directly related the fact that he was the heir and I the spare. What happens when the heir is not the child your parents wished for? What are the consequences when fear and ignorance reduce illness into embarrassed denial? David B. locates us in a pastoral France that has shadows in all senses of that word. The coils of this family drama are there in every detailed page as we see the author's emotional state and inescapable shame.
You are young, horny and have puberty and exams to contend with. plus your parents are very annoying at this age. This book by Charles Burns is as intense as it is thrilling. It proves that we become adults not as independent beings but as characters shaped by how our peers and parents think and act. Or at least what we think they are thinking. In black and white the images create a sense of suffocating finality.
Craig Thompson's gentle but disturbing summer of chaste love explores the notion of what it is to be a good Christian. Like Black Hole mentioned above the teenagers featured are young, horny and have puberty and exams to contend with. However unlike the more liberal actors in that book, abstinence is the commandment to follow. Thompson sets the story in a snowy landscape when the two 'lovers' uncover the fact that feelings come from the most perplexing of places.
Are You My Mother?
Alison Bechdel creates the follow up to Fun Home (the story of her father's life and death) with Are You My Mother? It is a book that is designed to help the author position herself in closer alignment with her mother. It does achieve this but not without a lot of internal struggle and difficult home truths that are suddenly faced. As Oscar Wilde once penned "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his."
The Harlem Hellfighters
Volunteering to take part in the War to end all wars but unwanted by their own Government. Our heroes join French Regiments and take on the ultimate challenge of humans in conflict. Caanan White's drawings are powerful, unflinching, and direct. Max Brooks writes with smooth authority has he shows us what it means to be a 'Black' man in a Klu Klux Klan dominated world. It was framed as a battle of good versus evil when it is really only ever evil pretending to do good. Each soldier is on his own journey but he is doing so with his comrades and as the most successful fighters in later stages of World War 1 the Harlem Hellfighters really should be more widely appreciated.
In Rutu Modan's novel the Intifada is no joke. If you are trying to live your life in the politically tense and contentious modern Tel Aviv, Israel, you are acutely aware that Palestinians and others want the land back. Can finding those you love to serve to reshape one's personality? At what point do you discover that you weren't searching in the first place? A Rosebud moment if you will. Keep your head down and keep moving.
Hands down Marjane Satrapi has created a classic text that approaches the Rites of Passages that must be confronted by everyone when a whole nation changes almost 180 degrees in a matter of months. We are lucky sometimes to grow up in interesting times and I believe this fuels this vibrant story. This might be the only time when a comic and its animated translation both work brilliantly without either missing a beat. A masterpiece of visual storytelling and very funny.
Check out this interview with a person who talks the talk because they walk the walk. I found it inspiring and it also adheres to my belief that you can excavate your personal life for the services of visual communication.
Also see more of artist Tom Muzzell's work here.
Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.
The Diary of Anne Frank
What comes to one’s mind when one is reminded of things remembered past?
In the second part of the graphic novel Stagdale, the setting is the bitter cold autumn of 1938. The air is still apart from the noise of a burning city just beyond the doors of our protagonist Max’s home. Max and his family face an impossible situation, all is not well. It is Kristallnacht a time of grave danger in Germany for many peoples.
Max is uprooted from Berlin due to the rise of the Nazi party and its followers in Germany. We are witness to his gruelling journey across national borders during a period of extreme nationalism that will bring the world to its knees. Max is on his way to Stagdale, England though he doesn’t know it yet.
I think that the A5 landscape format works even better in Part 2 of the series as it reminds me of old photographs spread out in front of me as you try to knit together the stories of family and friends. Again Castle’s’ illustrations are a treat for the eyes and it’s the beautifully crafted details that evoke a time long gone by but they are still modern and prescient. The drawing style and character design of this complex world combines modulated lines with delicate textures juxtaposed with faded colours and sombre earthy tones.
Two scenes in particular leave me with anxiety in my chest and then a lump in my throat. When the Soldiers come to take Max and his parents away at the start of the story. You wonder if things will be over before we start and when Max says goodbye to his parents at the train station before embarking on the Kinder Transport. Max’s train journey fills one with a sense of the danger as our youngster leaves the bosom of the family for the truly unknown. Border guards are genuinely scary and unpleasant. Max has to learn how to survive fast as he realises that his wits are all that stand between him and calamity.
If you lived through 1930’s Europe, the politics, the hatred and the loss of innocence then Max’s story may resonate with you more than those born in the 21st Century. However what Castle is able to do with her art is to frame a period in history that is chilling even today. The matter-of-fact banality of the brutality on show conveys how people are caught up in waves of oppression that pay scant regard to one’s worth and place in the human family. What will happen to Max as a stranger in a strange land. Will Stagdale be his salvation or his undoing? I really want to know, and so will you!
If you wish to engage with the business side of selling and publishing your work, you should investigate the conventions and fairs where the world finds out what's new and exciting in graphic narratives. Oh and there might be some Cosplay going on too! There are far too many for me to feature them all here, but these are ones I'd go to.
MOCCA Arts Festival
Happens in April 2022
London Book Fair
Happens in April 2022
MCM Comic Con (London)
Happens in May and October 2022
Happens in June/ July 2022
Comic Con International
Happens in July 2022
Happens in September 2022
Small Press Expo
Happens in September 2022
The Lakes International Comics Art Festival
Happens in October 2022
Happens in November 2022
MCM Comic Con (Birmingham)
Happens in November 2022
The lecture slides are shown below that covered the main points of the works under discussion;