6th - 22nd October 2017

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The Manchester Literature Festival Blog

Review: Graphic Novels at the Burgess Foundation

Graphic novels are suddenly a thing. They’ve been around a very long while, but for the first time, the literary world is taking them seriously. Two graphic novels made it into the Costa Prize this year, and one won. Paul Gravett, our host for this event at International Anthony Burgess Foundation, says people who love words are starting to appreciate the value of words and pictures.

Gravett has loved comics since he was a kid reading in a deck chair in the garden. On the opening night of Manchester Literature Festival, he led a discussion with two new comic and graphic artists on their work. Isabel Greenberg and Gareth Brookes are both trained artists who’ve moved into creating unique and beautiful books that combine words and pictures to tell fascinating stories.

This event provided us with an insight into just how creative writers and artists can get when they combine words and pictures. Isabel explained her process working with pen and ink and washes, employing a folk art effect to present a new creation myth in her Encyclopaedia of Early Earth. She’s even had a font made of her own handwriting, making it easier to redo sections during the editing process. She combines hand drawing with technology allowing her to swap out different washes to create a unique effect.

Gareth, on the other hand, is a true experimentalist. His latest, The Black Project, uses a combination of embroidery and lino cut to produce pictures. Few of his pages resemble a classic comic, but his tendency to explore new and unusual ways of producing art reflect the Black Project’s story of a shy boy who creates girlfriends out of objects he finds lying around.

Neither Isabel nor Gareth create what you’d think of as classic comics, but they do demonstrate just how important art can be in telling a story. One audience member asked Gareth if he minded being in the ‘graphic novels’ section: wouldn’t he rather be in the arts area of a bookstore? Gareth was very clear that his right place is in graphic novels, that he’s a comic artist. Artists and writers are demonstrating that this isn’t a genre to be dismissed lightly.

This was a great way to introduce readers to graphic novels. The audience got a sense of how they are produced, and just how imaginative authors can be in their production. There was clearly a mix of artists looking to kick off a career in graphic novels and those new to the genre in attendance. The small group setting created a great atmosphere, even when the mics failed halfway through. Hopefully this has convinced more people to pick up a graphic novel and start exploring the genre.

About the writer: Joely Black is a writer living in Manchester. She is obsessed with Dungeons and Dragons and swords. Her short story, Painter X, will be published in the anthology Metastasis on October 15th. She alsowrites Five Empires, a fantasy series available through www.joelyblack.com