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Posts Tagged ‘2000AD’

Swogger - Visions of the Future - final 6

A Vision of the Future? Page from my section of Supergen’s bioenergy comic.

This week sees the launch of another project I’ve been working on since Christmas – an informational comic about bioenergy, sponsored by Supergen Bioenergy, an industry research consortium.

The project is the brainchild of James McKay – engineer and 2000 AD comics artist (not often those two descriptors feature in the same biography). He’s probably best known in the comics world for his work on the 2000 AD series Flesh, but he’s also the creator of the bande-desinée La Cité des Secrets (Mosquito, 2007). James is also the man behind the Dreams of a Low Carbon Future (I & II) project – a two-part illustrated and comic book exploring the technologies and social changes necessary to create a sustainable, low-carbon way of life in the twenty-first century. I drew several large illustrations for the second volume, and through that was invited by James to contribute to the bioenergy comic.

The Bio-Energy comic is a similar project – but focused primarily on providing good, solid background information about bioenergy – What is it? How is it used? What does it cost? etc. – and combining that with some future scenarios to show how different ways of adopting and using bioenergy technology might shape the next 60-80 years.

Five comics people were involved: myself, James, comics illustrators Corban Wilkin and Emma Chinnery, and comics writer Ben Dickson; I found myself in the company of some very talented people! The project has been extremely interesting – not least for the complexity of the subject matter, and the long, workshop-based back-and-forth that was required to turn that into something more accessible and engaging; but also the process of working with four other creative minds all of whom have very different backgrounds in comics to myself, and consequently approach both the drawing and the writing of them very differently. It has been a hugely rewarding experience, and if anyone out there making a start in the world of comics has an opportunity to work on a collaborative project – don’t let it slip away! You’ll learn far more than you ever imagined. Making comics can be a very solitary enterprise, and seeing how other people do it is invaluable.

The Bio-energy comic is being launched this week in Manchester at a special Supergen event, and will be generally available soon.

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MultiFoods Mickey! Ready to Nutri-Nuke your breakfast burger!

MultiFoods Mickey! Ready to Nutri-Nuke your breakfast burger!

The theme for the Comics Forum 2015 conference in Leeds this year is Politics. When I was sixteen or so, my introduction to politics in comics was 2000AD’s relatively short-lived spin-off CRISIS.It was not perfect, and there was a sense even right from the beginning that it didn’t really know which was it was headed. But there’s no denying that CRISIS looked and felt radically different from anything else on the newsstands. To a somewhat naive 2000AD reader, stories like Third World War felt like a glimpse of the inevitable oncoming revolution. It wasn’t, of course. CRISIS lost its way and I gave up reading it not soon before it finished, but it had an impact nonetheless. Third World War has been dismissed as rather crude political storytelling, and it’s true that there’s an awful lot of soap-box polemic in it. But it caught my attention just long enough to make me want to know more – and perhaps that’s the real point, here.

I suspect I’m not the only one who can look back to CRISIS and say, with some justification, that it contributed significantly to my late-teenage political awareness. Even years later, Mickey and Multi-Foods still haunt my political imagination. Comics can use the synergy between image and text to create a gateway medium: something that highlights an unfamiliar issue and points the way towards greater investigation. Perhaps one of the key things about comics as informational media is not what you do or don’t learn through them: perhaps it’s more about where you go next.

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Violence in Comics! Judges squaring off at ThoughtBubble 2014 - via: Integra Fairbook's Facebook page

Violence in Comics! Judges squaring off at Thought Bubble 2014 – via: Integra Fairbrook’s Facebook page

I was up in Leeds ten days ago for the Comics Forum conference and the Thought Bubble comics convention. If you’re interested in comics and you’ve never been, mark your calendars for next November: both the conference and the convention are real highlights in the comics year.

Comics Forum is a comics conference that’s been running since 2009. I first started going because they hosted a graphic medicine session in 2011, but have gone back every year since then because they’ve consistently attracted interesting speakers and put together a really diverse programme, whatever the overall theme. This year the theme was “Violence in Comics” – not, you might think, immediately relevant to comics and archaeology; but you’d be wrong. Because there is always such a diversity of speakers attracted to the conference, there was plenty that had both indirect and direct implications for aspects of comics I’m interested in. Some particular highlights:

  • Malin Bergstrom discussing Will Eisner’s work on informational comics for the US Army
  • Enrique del Ray Cabero on memory, politics and tensions between collective, national and personal experiences of historical violence in graphic novels about the Spanish civil war
  • Mihaela Precup and the depiction of survivors, survival and endurance during the Lebanese Civil War in Zeina Abirached’s A Game for Swallows
  • Jane Chapman‘s keynote presentation on trench comics produced by soldiers during World War I
  • Ian Horton on the social context of representations of violence with reference to British war comics of the 1970s
  • Orla Lehane on the quotidian context of extreme and political violence in Troubled Souls (which I remembered from its original publication in Crisis, many years ago)
  • Laura A. Pearson on animals and violence in Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas‘ graphic novel Red, which I referenced in my own paper last year – and in talking with her afterwards, how that violence is mirrored by the political, post-colonial re-claiming of space (gallery, museum, etc.) in the three lives of Red as book, mural and torn-apart-book (and actually, this links in with Olga Kopylova’s really interesting analysis of the effect of media mix in appreciating the “whole story” of manga)
  • And finally, a particularly archaeological treat: the panel discussion with Kieron Gillen, Lynn Fotherington and Stephen Hodkinson on the obstacles and pitfalls involved in aiming for a historically accurate depiction of Sparta and Spartans in the comic Three.

At the close of the conference I was invited to take part in the plenary discussion afterwards, which was a good opportunity to try and pick up on various themes running through the conference. Violence as information was something which caught my attention – violence not just as a personal experience, or an event, but violence as a means to communicate something lost, hidden or repressed. Much late-night pub-based discussions ensued on both evenings, catching up with old friends, collaborators and colleagues – and getting to know a whole host of new people as well. I strongly suspect most of the people I know in comics I met through Comics Forum.

And then, to wind down: Thought Bubble on Saturday. Surely the UK’s largest small-press and independent comics convention? At least 3/4 of all the tables were independent or small-press comics creators and/or publishers. Too much good stuff and interesting people to make any kind of full list, but I particularly enjoyed chatting with Lydia Wysocki about travel comics, Oliver East about walking comics, Louise Crosby about comics and poetry, Sarah Burgess about communication in silent comics, and Owen and Jasmine at the Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel who turned out to be archaeologists as well as comic-creators: hurrah!

If I had to pick a favourite comic purchase of the weekend, it would be Lando’s excellent anthology, Gardens of Glass – part Moebius, part Katsuhiro Otomo, part Martin Vaughn-James. The anthology is a collection of short works originally published separately through Decadence Comics, a collective run by Lando and Stathis Tsemberlidis.

As always, great conference – thanks to Ian, Hattie and all who help organise it. And a great convention, too. Thought Bubble just keeps getting better as it keeps getting bigger. And you know what? I’m looking forward to next year already.

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