For such a small country, Scotland has long maintained a great influence over the comics industry - at least that part that reads in English at least - from the long-running Beano to modern day maestros Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, not to mention every Judge Dredd and Electric Soup in between.
Scottish comics are thriving, with sold out conventions in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee, the first Masters in Comic Studies at Dundee University, and small press success for many.
Yet despite Scotland's illustrious history and a reputation for funding national endeavours, the country lags far behind our European cousins in taking comics 'seriously'. While comics are now winning Costa Awards and elbowing review space in the UK newspapers, the popularity of "wham! pow!" headlines is still high, and negative publicity the more frequent outcome.
This Monday, the Scottish Independent Comic Book Alliance (SICBA) introduced Scotland's first comic symposium, Issue #One, drawing together speakers from academia, the comics industry, and beyond to discuss - with a willing audience - "the future of Scotland’s comic book industry".
Kicking off the second round of Stripped events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival came the legendary and fabulous Melinda Gebbie, known for her work in the American underground comix of the ‘70s, the infamous and illegal Fresca Zizis, and of course her collaboration with Alan Moore on Lost Girls.
Melinda Gebbie is one of my heroes, and this was my first time listening to her speak in person. I was amazed that the room was only half full, perhaps due to overlapping events, but it was one of my absolute highlights of the festival. Larger than life and with one hell of a sharp sense of humour, Gebbie gave a career retrospective as well as a great big dose of enthusiasm for any women working in – or around – comics.
During the Stripped strand of the Edinburgh Book Festival, I also conducted three video interviews for the festival organisers, asking a mix of standard questions for newcomers to the comics medium and a few fun questions too.
You can see the interviews with Grant Morrison, Mary and Bryan Talbot, and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie on the Edinburgh Book Festival Youtube channel - enjoy!
We opened with congratulations to Morrison for getting his MBE from the Queen earlier in the year, with Gordon cheekily asking if her maj was a fan. “She likes that early Vertigo [stuff],” Morrison quipped, before revealing that it had been Prince Charles who had presented the award and breaking into a top notch impersonation of Charles extolling how much he loved the Eagle and Dan Dare before dissolving into giggles. “I told you Dan Dare was a fascist,” he joked.
A series of interviews with guests at the Stripped Festival, including Stephen Collins, Paul Cornell and Grant Morrison, looking at the politics both present and absent in their work.
"One of the historical roots of modern comics is of course the political cartooning of the early newspapers; the mechanical reproduction of images finally allowing art to be consumed by the masses rather than the privileged few, with cartoonists leaping at the chance to communicate complex political situations via their deceptively simple form.
"The idea of comics as a political tool is not without its controversies, from grumbles amongst novelists to riots over religious icon portrayals. Any fan of superhero comics can tell you that comics don’t have to be overtly political, but the recent insistence by creator Todd McFarlane that historically no comic book that has worked has been “trying to get across a message” was largely met by the rolling of eyes."
I've been delighted with the feedback on this long-form piece, and the discussions that it has provoked. You can read the full article at the New Statesman.
Following Chris Ware in the Stripped programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival came the very entertaining and engaging Joe Sacco, creator of numerous critically acclaimed journalist works, including Palestine, Safe Area Goražde, Journalism, and his upcomingThe Great War.
Beginning with expanding upon his introduction to Journalism, which collected several of his shorter works and came out last year, Sacco spoke about how he rejected objective journalism outright. “I think there’s a lot of subjectivity in journalism that’s portrayed, put across as objective journalism,” he explained, pointing out that all reporters carry baggage and preconceived notions with them on their journeys, regardless of how hard they may have studied objective journalism.