A new piece up on The Guardian, where I have a chat with superb creators Posy Simmonds, Katie Green, Isabel Greenberg, and Kate Charlesworth ahead of this weekend's Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal.
We look at why they picked the comics medium, the subversive and communicative powers of comics, and how things have changed - and remained the same - for women creators across the decades.
Long-time Guardian favourite and multiple award-winner Posy Simmonds is one such guest, a prolific artist who has been drawing comics since she was a little girl. Her collection last year, Mrs Weber's Omnibus, brought together her long-running strips for the Guardian about a well-meaning middle-class family.
"As a child," Simmonds tells me, "I liked the combination of words and pictures - in bound copies of Punch magazines and, later, in the piles of comics some American kids used to give me. There was also something subversive about comics that appealed - adults didn't approve of them."
A long-form interview with the lovely Howard Hardiman, creator of the recently collected The Lengths - a controversial and important comic about male escorts, told with canine characters.
Howard's answers were simply far too interesting for me to worry about distracting from, so I went with a Q&A format for maximum ease of reading. A very fascinating interview, and a book that I highly recommend reading.
"One of the funniest responses to reading it came from someone working in the sex industry, who said “you let straight people read this?” because he’d become so used to secrecy.
"Other than that, though, the response has been reassuringly positive. I waited almost five years between the interviews and making the book because I needed to have a distance from telling too much that could have identified people, especially given that I’d been told a lot of things that could have resulted in them having trouble with the police or the inland revenue!"
I'm really pleased with this great interview with the lovely Mary Talbot, published in today's Independent on Sunday.
Mary, along with husband and UK comics legend Bryan Talbot, made headlines earlier this year when her debut graphic novel, Dotter of Her Father's Eyes, won a prestigious Costa award. We had a long chat in the sun about that win, how she came about entering the world of comics, and her upcoming second graphic novel and brand new comics festival.
“It was a medium of expression that I was very much aware of on a daily basis,” she explains. “I mean, I’ve been watching Bryan create and been part of the process to some extent, in terms of reading his drafts and scripts, looking at pages as they form on the page, very often commenting on them. I’ve never participated before, fully, but I’ve been to some extent involved. I must have soaked up quite a bit of it!”
Making the transition into working in comics herself was perhaps, then, a natural step. “The whole thing started off as a suggestion from Bryan,” Mary explains. “Would I consider writing an autobiographical graphic novel? That was the starting point. I was uncomfortable with the idea, because I didn’t think it would have legs.”
Though she modestly thought no one would be interested in her upbringing, Bryan assured her that her story was both unique and compelling. Her father, the Joycean scholar James S Atherton, has cast a long shadow upon Mary’s life, which naturally suggested a link to James Joyce himself. Aware that the Ulysses author had a daughter, Mary began to see how her own story could be intertwined into something larger.
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!
In the midst of the Stripped programme at the Edinburgh Book Festival, I was lucky enough to catch up with Grant Morrison once more about what he'd been up to in the last year. The results were published as a three page spread in The Guardian and went down very well indeed.
It was a crazy deadline, but well worth it. And as ever, the full and uncut version will be coming soon!
Glasgow, the late 1970s. A woman is busy cranking out copies of her teenage son's latest creative work on an old copier, blissfully unaware that they will one day be collector's items. The boy is called Grant Morrison and a faded copy of this old fanzine, called The White Tree, recently sold on eBay for more than £100.
"That's ridiculous!" laughs Morrison, writer of Batman, Superman and The X-Men amongst many others. The Scottish scribe is one of a cracking line up of guests from the world of comics and graphic novels at Stripped, a new programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
"The first one was printed on, you know, those Banda copiers." He smiles. "It was steampunk technology. They did weird copies that came out in blue ink. It would fade over time. Every subsequent issue was done by my mum, up in the typing pool. She'd do like 150 issues of this thing. But honestly, all I really remember of that magazine is that I drew a barbarian girl on the cover of issue three. And she had a fur bikini on."
The women in the typing pool, he adds, confused her swimwear for something else. "All the girls were saying, 'What kind of muff is that?' I was mortified, a 16-year-old boy. 'Oh god,' I thought. 'What have I done?' I went back and painted in this huge kind of skirt thing – with a skull on the front. So there are two versions."
The launch day of The Bunker, a new comic from Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari is finally here! Make sure you don’t miss out, and while we’re all excited over this new epic comic, lets sit down and have a chat with Fialkov himself.
There has been a huge amount of secrecy around The Bunker– what can you tell us about the story itself? What was your inspiration behind the (fantastic!) premise? And do you have it all mapped out on a giant wall?!
JHF: It’s a story about a group of friends who discover that their lives as they saw them are essentially over. If they don’t change who they are, there will be dire consequences. Like, apocalyptical consequences. And we get to see the story from both ends, so to speak. It’s hard to talk about without spoiling things, though…