Do Graphic Novels really have a place within Literary Festivals? Morecambe and Vice certainly thought so.
As part of one of their Saturday panels there was a section called “Worth A Thousand Words”. It was a discussion with Bryan Talbot, who is a writer and artist of comics and has credits in short films, one of which he won an award for. He has just written Grandville Bet Noir.
John Dunning who has played journalists and has been a guest on Goodmorning Britain as well as guest lecturing at Warwick and Roehampton Universities. His current graphic novel is Tumult. He came to the UK from South Africa so that he could follow his passion of comics and graphic novels, which he could not pursue in South Africa.
Sean Phillips who has been an illustrator, cartoonist, artist, sketcher, designer and comic artist for well known companies. He has recently written Kill or Be Killed, amongst others. He is the Winner of the Eisner Award.
*Photo of John Dunning * Photo of Sean Phillips
So, back to the topic of the “Worth a Thousand Words” panel and if they have a place. It can be seen as a contentious issue, but Morecambe and Vice took a chance and aren’t the only ones in this growing market to and to, by having them as guests, they are saying: Absolutely they do have a place. The fact is that there is a lot of skill involved in a graphic novel, as there is in a comic or a more traditional novel, and it is a growing trend, seen in bookshops and libraries. The trend is so much so that there is now many an adaptation of classic novels from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to name but a few. The moderator, Stephen Gallagher wasn’t a huge fan of graphic novels entering the world of adaptations, seeing it as a bit of a “retrograde step”, but there was a general consensus about how these adaptations can be good for un-confident readers to break through those barriers, because they can read as well as allow the pictures to explain to them what is actually going on, in other words they can assist in their understanding of the stories. There was also a general consensus that they can be good for the un-confident reader to become more comfortable around the written word without being faced with just a whole lot of words. Some un-confident readers can of course find pages upon pages of words intimidating. My own hope would be that after reading the graphic novels, there would be an interest in then taking a look and a read of the classics and other books in original style, novel form as confidence then builds. Both have a good role to play in getting people reading is the general opinion that came out of this.
The 3 graphic novelists were inspired in their youth by comics and crime literature, which led them to wanting to be in this line of work and to work in that style, over a novel. Writers and artists do work together, but can sometimes live quite a distance a way and, in the case of these 3 graphic novelists, sometimes meet by accident. Their advice is that if the writer/artist partnership works, then stick with it because you get to know each other’s work. The mentioned writers work, one more than the others is by writing the script first and then the drawing comes after. They say that a good graphic novel is built from the interlocking of the pictures and the words, so that all can be followed easily.
Interestingly the writers said that there was a decline of the weekly comics, including superhero comics, but there is a rise in graphic novels and even superhero comics have been making the shift to this, from their traditional comic form.
To conclude, the discussion then moved onto the fact that graphic novels are more visible now. Earlier in their talk, they mentioned how The British Library in London is now recognising this form of story-telling to an extent, where they did actually hold an exhibition of some of them. To finish they said how graphic novels are becoming more accepted and there are awards for them and how they are getting invited a bit more to literary festivals and not just comic-cons.
It was a pleasure and interesting meeting these authors who write in a genre I am aware of. but don’t actually read, so I learnt a lot. Sometimes it is worth taking a chance to see someone who you may not have heard of before or works who you have not looked too much into before, even if it is just out of curiosity. Book Festivals that last a weekend, where you have the option to buy 1 ticket to let you into many panel events lends itself well to allowing readers to do this a bit more than you might if it was individual priced tickets, amounting to a lot.
So, were they worth seeing? Yes and fans of this genre or curious people will enjoy what they have to say during their tours.
*Please note that the authors did give their permission for their photos to appear on my blog, of which I thank them both for.