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Sequential Art: Part 2. The Birth of the Graphic Novel.

American artist, Lynd Ward is considered as one of the major artist to have influenced the development of the graphic novel. Ward was a prolific artist, providing illustrations for hundreds of children’s books, many of which were collaborations with his author wife, May McNeer. Although Ward used a wide variety of mediums to create his at work, it is his stunning woodcut illustrations for which he is perhaps most famous for. Works Include: Gods’ Man (1929), Prelude to a Million Years (1933) and Vertigo (1937).

It is often cited that Ward’s work would go on to be a major influence on other graphic artists, in particular, Art Spiegelman, whose retelling of the horrors of the Holocaust  were portrayed by mice as Jews and Cats as Nazis. Spiegelman’s work first appeared in an underground comic strip in 1972. A year later he would produce the woodcut graphic piece, Prisoner on the Hell Planet, portraying the after-effects of his mother’s suicide. At the time, depicting subject matter like the Holocaust and suicide in graphic form was extremely radical, but only viewed by a small collection of people who ‘got’ the whole underground comic scene. For the majority of people comics conjured up a world of super heroes from the two powerhouses, DC and Marvel; a pastime for adolescents only.

Later in the decade this view would change with graphic artist and writer, Will Eisner producing his thought provoking collection of short graphic stories, A Contract with God, and Other Tenement Stories. Eisner was also responsible for coining the phrase ‘graphic novel’. The term would come to represent a shift in people perceptions of comics as nothing more than a collection of comic strips, but as with the underground comic movement graphic novels too would be used to explore a whole range of issues. Spiegelman was one such artist who along with his wife, Françoise Mouly, had started up the avant-garde RAW where the Holocaust story depicted by mice and cats had been expanded under the title Maus. With the success of Eisner’s work,  released the two volume collection of Maus as a graphic novel with much of the story being told by the pictures alone. Since then there has been a massive boom in graphic novels as a medium to tell a whole range of different and sometimes difficult stories. From the critically acclaimed Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, Eric Drooker’s brilliant wordless ‘Blood Song to, Our Cancer Year, written by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner, illustrated by Frank Stack. The graphic novel has enabled these authors and illustrators and many more to reach a wide range of people to tell stories in a more accessible way.

Of course, the writers and illustrators of the super hero genre also made use of the graphic novel, more of which will be discussed in Sequential art, part 3

Graphic Novels: Part one

At the beginning of 2012 QueenSpark Books ran a competition (Alt Brighton) asking writers to send in a short story based around Brighton’s history; from the hundreds of entries, thirteen stories were picked to be developed into a graphic novel later in 2013.

My own story, Dead Famous was one those chosen, but during the first meeting I opted to develop a new story centred around some of the key moments in Brighton’s LGBT history, more of that later. As part of my research I have looked into the history of sequential art.

Part one: in the beginning….

Throughout history sequential art has been used to express ourselves, tell tales and to leave historical events for others to witness, pounder and conclude on their meanings. From the Stone Age cave drawings, Egyptian hieroglyphics, elaborate tapestries of the Middle Ages and the stain glass windows in churches and chapels across the world, have all been used to educate, frighten and cement historical or biblical events.  An early example can be seen in Lucas Cranach the Elder‘s painting “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden”.

Within the painting we see God warning Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the back ground we see Eve wrapped around the Tree of Knowledge along with the snake, her hand unreached with the fruit from the tree in her hand. (The bible never mentions what type of fruit it is, but as paintings were a central part to Christian worship, this subject was much discussed. Eventually it was decided that the fruit was an apple as the Latin for apple, ‘malum’ translates as ‘evil’.) Directly next to that Eve is standing next to Adam, offering him the fruit to taste them to the right of the right of the painting Both Adam and Eve are chased out of the Garden of Eden by one of Gods angels for defying his word.

Triptych paintings, a type of hard back graphic novel, were also extremely popular among the wealthy who used these style of paintings to entertain their guests.  The three panelled triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, (1450 -1516) shown below is an expansion on Lucas Cranach the Elder’s painting. Within this piece heaven on earth is shown on the left panel, the middle panel is open to interpretation, but for many it represents Paradise Lost, with the right panel of hell on earth showing the consequences of disobeying God. The detail within this work introduces to the piece all the drama, horror and gore of many modern-day graphic novels.

Fast forward and we come to the 17th and 18th century, here we find artists creating a more satirical art to explore the social and political happenings of the times. It was also at this period that speech bubbles appeared, giving the works the an added vocabulary dimension.

The artist, William Hogarth (1697 – 1794) created a collection of eight paintings to tell the story of the rise and fall of Tom Rakewell, a man who came into a vast fortune, dismisses his pregnant girlfriend, Sarah Young, for a life of lavish living and then proceeds to squander the lot on women, booze. Ending up in prison, Sarah Young bails him out, only to be pushed aside by Rackewell as he goes off to marry an older wealthy woman, spends all of her money and ends up destitute in Bethlehem Hospital, with Sarah Young by his side. The paintings where later turned into engravings and copied into mass prints and sold as a pictorial narrative of Rakewell folly and demise.

The true comic strip and its development has often be credited to Swiss cartoonist Rudolphe Topffer (1799-1846) with his creation The Adventures of Mr. Obadiah Oldbuck in 1837 and was translated and published in England and America, four/five years later.

Around this same period there was a major impact on publishing industry with the boom of the industrial Revolution were huge advances with the printing presses ability to produce cheaper and faster copies. This led to the written word and pictures became available to a wider audience and not just the wealthy. From here cheap publications for the working classes, like The Penny Dreadful that were primarily for a younger audience, but appealed to both children and adults alike with their tales of terror and true crime horror. However the emergence of comic strips, (particularly in the UK) was slow to be really embraced.

In the UK, the comic strip, Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday (1884) has been credited as being the first UK comic strip to have a recurring character. In America during the 1920’s, the American artist, Lynd Ward came to the forth with his stunning collection of wood carved illustrated graphic novels, including  Gods’ Man (1929), Prelude to a Million Years (1933) and Vertigo (1937); allowing the pictures themselves to tell the story. Ward is recognised as being one of the founders of the American graphic novel, many other artist and writers would be inspired to  pick up their pen and ink pots and bring to the world a wide range of comic strips in newspapers and magazines, comics and graphic novels where the only boundary has always been the writers and artist’s creative imagination.

World Book Night 2012

World Book Night.

23rd April 2012: St Georges Day, Shakespeare’s birth date and the day he died; it is also World Book Night tonight. Although only in its second year, the project has spread to Ireland, Germany and the USA. Tonight, I, along with 20,000 other volunteers will be giving out books chooses from a list of 25 titles to people who don’t normally read and encourage them to pick up a new habit. The titles chosen this year are:

 

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austin

The Player of Games by Ian M Banks

Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham

Notes from a Small Island By Bill Bryson

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Take by Martine Cole

Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell

Someone Like you by Roald Dahl

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Room by Emma Donoghue

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Misery by Stephen King

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Small Island by Andrea Levy

Let the Right One in, by John Ajvide Lindqvist

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

The Vanishing Act of Esmé Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

The Damned Utd by David Peace

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

Touching The Void by Joe Simpson

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

The Book Thief byMarkus Zusak

As well as the thousands of books that will be given out tonight, the organisers will also be giving out an additional 620,000 books over the coming year to those who find it difficult to get access to books, including: prisons, care homes, hospitals, sheltered housing and homeless shelters with the prime aim to get people to re-engage with the passion of reading and the power books can bring through opening up our imagination, stimulating conversation and bringing pleasure to as wide a range of people as possible.

Although I am only half way through my chosen title, Let the Right One In, I cannot wait to give the collection of books away and encourage others to not only read this brilliant take on the Vampire genre, but to encourage those who wish to give the book a read to check out the others titles and read those as well and once they have finished the book to log the details at World Book Night and then pass the book to be read again and again.

In a world were downloading snippets of information on smart phone apps, I am so pleased to be giving out books for free and encourage people to enjoy the journey of delving into a more thought-provoking journey.

Update: Given out half the books so far. A difficult book to recommend in some sense due to the high level of violence, but the core of the story is on a wide variety of friendships while also looking at the dysfunction within.

 

 

 

Welcome to the Dark World of Dualism (Vol 1)

The Dualism photography book (Vol 1) has not been created for those who like to leave out heavy tombs on their coffee tables, expressing their love for all things interior design or the latest high fashion. This book is for those who think left of field, for those who like to open forbidden doors and then pray that the world they are viewing doesn’t exist.

The space created by the artist behind The Dualism Book conjures up a place that is frightening, fascinating, disturbing and beautiful. To some it will have echoing influencers from both Robert Mapplethorpe and Terry Richardson, photographers who also push the boundaries of art.

The Artist behind The Dualism, has taken the title of the book to create his vision, of unravelling sheets of love and hate, stripped of empathy, but never quite indifferent – wandering through Caravaggio’s shadows and the crisp suburbs of hell.” 

Indeed, many of the darker works (both literally and figuratively) have echos of Caravaggio where the viewer is dragged into the nightmare and just like Caravaggio’s work they find themselves deeply disturbed, but unable to look away. This is particularly true for the artist’s work where muted colours and scratched surfaces give a feel that the viewer has stumbled across a forgotten place of purgatory.

Just as Mapplethorpe and Richards toyed with various taboo subjects, the artist behind Dualism also devlves into the dark where love and anger, fun and fear, the grotesque and beautiful are blended into each other, creating the strange hybrid of Vol 1.

With each turn of the page the viewer is taken into a different landscape, where gender is questioned,  nightmares explored and even when the reader comes across the classically beautiful portraits, they only help to emphasise the darkness that seeps from the artist’s imagination within his other work. 

With Volume one drumming up much interest worldwide, the artist is constantly on the lookout for subjects to become part of the next collection. Plans are also afoot for a gallery space to show a variety of work by the Artist from Dualism, along with other creative artists who share the same vision. For more information on the philosophy behind the work and how to get your own copy of the book please visit, thedualism.com.

80’s Pop rewind

With the summer riots of last year still fresh in our mind, every increasing joblessness, and the Conservative Government delivering a budget that once again sees them feathering the nest of their rich cronies, it’s as if we have collectively jumped in a time machine and found ourselves back in 1980’s Thatcher’s domain. 

Of course that era wasn’t all doom and gloom, there was the fashion that could not be ignored, our TV screens were awash with classic trash programs like Dallas and Dynasty but best of all was the music that made this particular time in history so memorable. 1981 saw the launch of MTV, were the visual impact was as important as the sound itself, and without a whiff of irony the first ever video to be played was Video Killed the Radio Star, by the Buggles

Looking back perhaps the monster the 80’s created is to blame for so much of the manufactured, over hyped pap churned out by the modern-day that is not to say that the 1980’s had its own fair share of forgettable tunes. Of course only time will tell when in twenty years time we will still be bopping around to Alicia Keys, New York State of Mind? (Yes definitely), Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, (probably) or how about anything by Justin Bieber? (Hopefully not).

The true test to any pop stars career will be partly down to image, but the thing that gives them longevity will always be well crafted music with lyrics that say more than, “Baby, baby, baby”, and yes Justin, that means you.

This month Brighton Dome saw the brilliant band The Stranglers take to the stage and remind us all just what make a great band. Memories came flooding back as they played hit after hit including their seminal single Golden Brown. Of course it helped that this particular song was wrapped up in mystery over what the lyrics were actually about, was it heroin use, a sunset or just a piece of toast.

June 3rd  2012, sees the Brighton Dome opening its doors to another 80’s music legend when Gary Numan will be performing all of his classic hits including his famous electro-pop style hits Are ‘Friends’ Electric? and Cars.

Later in the year, two very different styles of 80’s pop will be coming to Brighton. On the 12th November 2012, Joan Armatrading will be reminding us all, not only how beautiful her voice is, but also what perfect pop songs sound like. Armatrading back catalogue is filled with songs that would get even the most jaded pop junkie tapping their feet with her songs, Drop the Pilot (was that song really directed at straight women to give same-sex loving a try?) I Love It When You Call Me Names (never has S&M sex sounded so much fun), to the more heart wrenching ballads,  Love and Affection and Down To Zero.

A final treat for 80’s pop fans see Phil Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley came together as the Human League at the Brighton Concert Hall, 23rd Novemeber 2o12. No matter how many years have passed, this trio still manage to look as give moody looks that would make Victoria Beckham come across as the laughing Cow. Once again, this band’s music stands testament to just how  good the 80’s were and that there lyrical talents told great stories: Don’t You Want Me?, Mirror Man, and the political song, The Lebanon which stands as being just as relevant today.

The 80’s maybe remembered for many a disastrous hair cut, or dodgy shoulder pad, but as this list goes to show the music in the 80’s is something to be truly proud of.

 

 

Church of the Poisoned Mind

Throughout the 1980’s schools were gagged from talking about homosexuality by the Conservative Government’s hated Clause 28. Fast forward to what many of us would like to think are enlightened times, with Clause 28 consigned to the history books and our knowledge of how HIV can be prevented through education and safer sex. David Cameron has apologised for the way the conservatives dealt with these issues in the past and now schools are legally obliged to condemn discrimination on the grounds of sexual-orientation, although there is still a long way to go with many schools not discussing enough but the issues of safer sex. However, last year Pope Benedict XVI has pulled off his blinkers to the AIDS crises and said that in exceptional circumstances, (male prostitutes ) condoms can be used. Hearing these things from such high power, one could almost believe things are getting better, but a report in the news recently has shown there are still those intent on peddling untruths and causing as much damage as they can with views on homosexuality. Last week it was reported that a US preacher has visited Catholic schools and peddling outdated hatred by distributing a booklet called: Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be. Within the pages the booklet suggest that feeling of homosexuality is a disorder against Gods wishes and that homosexual feelings in adolescence men may be a reaction to an unhealthy relationship with the young person’s father, an inability to relate to other young men, or even sexual abuse. The book goes on to say that “scientifically speaking, safe sex is a joke”. Returning to Cameron and his rousing words at the time of the last election promising that his government would be a fairer, inclusive Britain; it would be hoped that he would step up to the plate and condemn these preacher’s words and ban him from peddling such hatred in schools. After all, we have seen just how fiercely he has come down on other preachers who peddle hatred with the likes of Abu Qatada under house arrest with the backroom boys working day and night to have him extradited. But unsurprisingly Cameron’s government have proven they are as eager as ever to continue discriminating as they have always done with education secretary Michael Gove saying, “The education provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which prohibit discrimination against individuals based on their protected characteristics (including their sexual orientation) do not extend to the content of the curriculum. Any materials used in sex and relationship education lessons, therefore, will not be subject to the discrimination provisions of the act.” A further statement from the Department for Education added, “Any school engaging in the promotion of homophobic material would be acting unlawfully.” But the row highlights a grey area over the teaching of sex education. A review intended to offer new guidelines on what was right for schools to teach was kicked into the long grass when the last election was called.” This in other words translates that the government don’t see this as a vote winner and hope that the issue will get pushed aside, even though chief executive Ben Summerskill has said, “It would certainly be helpful if there was clarity as to what is appropriate for young people of all ages, the water could no longer be muddied by people pushing age-inappropriate sex material on the one hand and fundamentalist anti-gay religious materials on the other.” Church leaders are continuing to bemoan that their views are being marginalised. Perhaps for one moment the likes of the former archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey should take a look at how his religion is being used to frighten, misinform and ruin lives and then take stock at how the Christian faith can be used for the better and not hate.

13 women. New Art Exhibition at Jubilee Library

The brilliant thing about living in Brighton is it’s  ability to continuously surprise you. Rather appropriately I stumbled across the temporary exhibition at Jubilee Library called 13 Women on International Women’s Day.  Each piece of work reflects the individual woman’s world, using a variety of mediums. Brighton as a town has never lived by the rules, and by having the exhibition within the Jubilee Library, is just another example of this. Within this setting the work reaches out to a wider audience and because of its wide open windows, it is almost impossible for anyone to not investigate the gold sequined chair (my favourite of the collection) hanging in midair by a gold link chain.

Curator Sarah Gillings says, 13 Women was born from the idea that ART can free you. Art is a powerful medium. Plans are afoot to extend the 13 Women show into an international tour, traveling through other and collecting new women artist along the way.  

Paintings, photography, poetry and ceramics make up this unique collection with each artist exploring the many sides of being a woman. since the exhibition opened at the beginning of the month, each artist has been a personal appearance, allowing visitors to ask questions and delve  deeper into the individuals artistic process.

those exhibiting their creations include, Moscow born, artist and designer, Olgar Foster. Foster’s beautiful painting, created using Acrylic/mixed media on canvas depicts a woman and child, which in turn reflects on Olgar’s own experience of “growing up and growing older; on being a mother; on a journey of love, inspiration, and sacrifice which is motherhood.

On the 13th March Brighton Artist Sarah Abbott will  be on hand to discuss her extremely arresting painting, Believe and Achieve, from Boudicca to Jodie Marsh. For those who have seen Jodie Marsh’s recent transformation from reality TV fodder, to her latest incarnation as a female bodybuilder will find Abbotts take on female power particularly interesting. “Female body-building always demands an opinoin. some may like it, most will a hate it, but you’ll want a second look. (Sarah Abbott.)

The exhibition is only on a short run and finishes on the 15th March, but hopefully it will prove popular enough to have an extended run when it returns in 2013. in the meantime do make a point of seeing these excellent creations and be sure to seek out the attending artists while you are there.