THE BLOG AT THE CROSSROADS
Posted: June 26, 2014
If you’re keen to break into comics, this free discussion and Q&A session is the perfect event, with guest panelists & artists including Andrew Salmond from Gosh!, Christophe Bruchansky, Tom Pearce & Emanuel Adelekun and others. It’s running at Westminster Reference Library, 35 St Martin’s St, WC2H 7HP, just off Leicester Square, on Wednesday July 2nd from 6.30-8.00pm. Free but please book!
Posted: June 25, 2014
Most of the uncountable images of London have something fantastical about them – whether it be the earliest crazy birdseye panoramas of the 17th Century, Gustave Dores’s gothic documentary engravings or the aspirational chimeras of the current crop of property developers. But tomorrow night at Westminster Reference Library off Leicester Square, Salon for the City No 17 presents London Graphic and brings together two imaginary friends: writer and comic historian Paul Gravett and pre-eminent graphic artist Dave McKean, to illuminate the realities of the truly imagined city.
First up, writer Paul Gravett co-curator of the current extraordinary exhibition Comics Unmasked at The British Library will take us time-travelling through the history of comics, graphic novels and manga to explore and explain the myriad portrayals of the capital. These range from the Roman Londinium of Asterix and the fear-filled Victorian streets of Jack the Ripper to the futuristic visions of flooded Drowntown (above) and chaotic Brit-Cit of Judge Dredd. Paul’s illustrated talk will embrace both the fantastical and the documentary, and both British and international creators. London emerges through these writers and artists not only as a vibrant backdrop but as a compelling character in its own right.
Then we are very pleased to welcome Dave McKean to the Salon. Described by his collaborator Neil Gaiman as ‘the most artistically talented person I had ever encountered’, Dave is an illustrator, photographer, comic book artist, graphic designer, filmmaker and musician. His work incorporates drawing, collage, painting, found objects, photography, digital art and sculpture. His collaborations with Gaiman on works such as Coraline and Sandman plus countless CD and book covers have inspired many other artists and writers. Dave will discuss London in his work including his collaboration with writer Iain Sinclair on “Slow Chocolate Autopsy”. And to conclude, we may have the pleasure of a short audiovisual musical performance..
Posted: June 23, 2014
For the fourth year, Marine Studios in marvellous Margate have organised their Adventures in Comics international competition, this time on theme of ‘Orbs’. I was asked to pick my favourite, so here’s what I wrote:
Orbs come in a brain-spinning diversity of spherical forms in these inventive two-page comics from hither and yon for this fourth absORBing, absORBant but not exORBitant compilation of Adventures in Comics. You might expect a fair share of crystal balls, and some ghostly manifestations, extraterrestrial life forms, magical sprites, alien motherships, royal and religious treasures and our own Sun and Planet Earth. But how about the eye of Sauron, goldfish bowls, a mysterious egg, even rockstar Roy Orbison and his eyeball?
The funniest of all may be a humongous ball of wool and the weirdest viewpoint or ‘camera angle’ must surely be from the inside of a bowling ball looking out through the holes as the fingers poke in! As every year, it’s agonising to pick just one overall winner with so much talent, technique and imagination on display and styles and stories stretching from the ridiculous to the sublime.
But the story that made me smile and laugh out loud and stayed with me the most was Steve Alexander’s brilliantly nutty family secret behind a forgotten British sporting hero, the world’s heaviest wrestler, Bill ‘The Orb’ Orbison (see below). Champion!
Steve wins a copy of the spiffing catalogue I have co-authored for the British Library’s exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy In The UK. All the 2014 entries are readable online at the AIC website along with their creators’ biographies.
Posted: June 21, 2014
In some families, the generation gap can yawn more like a unbridgeable generation canyon. The struggle of children to re-connect with their parents, especially in later life, has become a recurring theme in autobiographical graphic novels from Art Spiegelman’s foundational Maus to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Several of these, notably Joyce Farmer’s Special Exits and Brian Fies’ Mom’s Cancer, provide one more-or-less cathartic outlet for offspring to make some order, if not sense, out of the passing of their parents. Read the rest of my Review of Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? here…
Posted: June 17, 2014
One of the highlights of the Comics Unmasked exhibition at The British Library is the remarkable one-metre-square giant comic, a one-off original-art wonder entitled She Lives!. It’s a bit frustrating that this book-as-art-object in all its inky splendour and crinkling paper has to be housed securely inside a display case. But its creator Woodrow Phoenix is presenting the whole story to visitors during the run of the exhibition. His next ‘performance’ is tonight at 6pm, followed by 6pm on Tuesday 22nd July, then 3pm on Tuesday August 12th. There’s a high-speed flip-through here to give you a flavour of the story and art - enjoy!
Posted: June 15, 2014
Buried today beneath a park in Hong Kong sleeps Kowloon Walled City, once home to the poor, the criminal, the innocent and the secretive, no bigger than a few city blocks and flourishing outside all conventions and laws. For the Emmy Award-winning American writer of books, films and documentaries, Anne Opotowsky, the vanished Walled City struck deep emotional chords. “It created incredible echoes in all I knew about human history. I see The Walled City in Imperialism, Orientalism, in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Africa, the American South and American West. The city, with its story, its people, their need to find a place, which though utterly anarchic, was home, became a powerful muse.” Read the rest of my Article here…
Posted: June 15, 2014
Are comics art? Are comics folk art? Either way, the hugely popular Victorian comic character Ally Sloper features in Tate Britain’s fascinating British Folk Art exhibition (on till August 31st) in a humorous snowball assault which is at the centre of the Bellamy Quilt (1890-1) by Herbert Bellamy and Charlotte Alice Springall, borrowed from Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Only one erratum: in the accompanying catalogue Sloper is credited as first appearing in 1884. That is the year his weekly, Ally Sloper’s Half-Holiday, was launched, but he’d actually debuted in 1867 in the magazine Judy. Ally Sloper also features, by the way, in Comics Unmasked at The British Library till August 19th, both in printed form and in a rare surviving ventriloquist’s dummy (below, kindly lent by Sloper researcher Roger Sabin). It’s good that the old rascal is being remembered in these two very British exhibits.
Posted: June 9, 2014
It’s not every month that we get a major new book by the amazing Jules Feiffer and his Kill My Mother is only one of a plethora of much-anticipated summer reading I am picking and previewing for you here. There are plenty of others I am looking forward to, including Nina Bunjevac’s powerful, exquisitely rendered Fatherland, and Emmanuel Guibert’s How The World Was (cover above), just about my favourite French graphic novel of 2012, translated at last.
The great news is that French genius Emmanuel Guibert, also creator of Alan’s War and The Photographer and other titles from FirstSecond, is coming over again to London. Thanks to the Institut Français he will take part in an exclusive Comica Conversation at The British Library, as well as demonstrating his astonishing virtuosity live in the Drawing Parade. It’s part of the Comica Festival weekend of August 15th, 16th and 17th, over the closing Friday to Sunday of the massive British comics exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, which I have co-curated with John Harris Dunning. Details as ever on our sister site, Comica Festival! Read about all the rest of my recommendations here…
Posted: May 29, 2014
Based between Beijing, Hong Kong and London, Coco Wang thrives as an extraordinary fusion of Chinese and British cultures and as a bridge between the two. Having received a thoroughly British education, starting at Queen Ethelburga’s College in North Yorkshire, Wang translated her experiences into a ‘TuWen’ or autobiographical diary-style comic, Coco Goes to Study in England, published in both China and Hong Kong. For the 2008 exhibition Manhua! China Comics Now in London, part of Britain’s China Now festival ahead of the Bejing Olympics and the first of its kind in the country, Wang was an ambassador for her upcoming generation of experimental, underground Chinese comics creators, several in collectives like Special Comics and Cult Youth. She also edited, translated, published and contributed to an impressive anthology of these cutting-edge innovators’ stories entitled Freedom. Some of her most deeply moving and widely seen work was a series of documentary webcomics telling the under-reported human stories of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake (more of these are still online at this website). Wang’s talents have crossed over into a variety of fields, from assisting theatre director and writer Robert Wilson on his musical production The Black Rider at the Barbican to developing acclaimed projects in animation and children’s books. Read my new Article and Coco Wang’s brand-new two-page Comic here…
Posted: May 21, 2014
This Friday May 23rd, Myriad Editions will announce the winner of this year’s First Graphic Novel Competition and I’ll be hosting the exciting Award Evening with the finalists and judges in the Conference Centre at the British Library as part of the events programme for the Comics Unmasked exhibition. You can book tickets here for £5/£4/£3 - hope to see you there!
The Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition is a biennial competition open to all previously unpublished cartoonists, writers and artists. Following the 2012 success of Gareth Brookes’ The Black Project, the winner of the latest competition is announced at this special event in the presence of the judges, who include novelist Meg Rosoff, critic Andy Oliver and cartoonist Woodrow Phoenix. The prize is publication by Myriad and a week-long artist’s retreat. Check out the six finalists’ entries here!