Comics at the Arnolfini

Well done, Bristol Festival of Ideas, that was an excellent event last night.

For those who missed the publicity, this was an evening of events featuring comics creators. I missed the first speaker (sorry Simone Lia) due to a meeting with the City Council, but got there in time to catch Bristol’s Katie Green explain how reading a book by Shaun Tan had opened her eyes to the story-telling potential of comics. She was followed by Karrie Fransman. Her talk including some interesting discussion about what makes something a comic. Stained glass windows, for example, were often used as a simple and effective way of telling Biblical stories to the illiterate masses.

Next up, my friend Tom Abba got to interview Bryan and Mary Talbot. The discussion was mainly about their collaborative work, Dotter of her Father’s Eyes, but there was some discussion of Bryan’s other work including, of course, the Grandville series. Kudos to Jonathan Cape for getting advance copies of Grandville BĂȘte Noire down to Bristol for the event. I read it on the way home and loved it. Review coming soon. To paraphrase Bryan, it is a Bond-influenced story featuring Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows as the megalomaniac villain. Oh, and Chaz, Bryan says hi.

Next up was the person I most wanted to see, as she is here so rarely, Alison Bechdel. She showed some pages from her latest book, Are You My Mother?, and I was absolutely blown away by the tricks she uses to enhance fairly straightforward monologue with clever choice of background images. She also gave a fascinating short introduction to her creative process. I now have a signed copy of the collected Dykes To Watch Out For, which makes me very happy. And I got to thank Alison for all that she has done for trans people.

Due to train schedules I had to miss the final session so my apologies to Ravi Thornton and Andy Hixton, but I’d like to note that of the 8 comics creators on show, 5 were women. Of course none of the women do superhero stories, so you won’t see them at big comics shows in London, but they do exist.

4 thoughts on “Comics at the Arnolfini

  1. If you ever get to Athens, just not quite outside, is the suburb of Daphni and the Monastery of Daphni ( http://odysseus.culture.gr/h/2/eh251.jsp?obj_id=1514) Inside is totally decorated with what must be one of the earliest preserved sequences of comic art – educating pictures for a largely illiterate population. In my memory every scrape of space has mosaic linear depictions of biblical stories. Even today, almost 30 years later, I can still see in my mind these pictures and stories rolling across the walls.

  2. Not to worry – it has been there for 100’s of years and will be there awhile longer – ditto, the Parthenon and all the other wonders.

  3. I read the first two “Grandville” graphic novels and enjoyed them immensely. The first one took a bit of adjustment to accept the sight of funny animals engaged in violence. But working in a “steenking badgers” gag and other such moments helped immensely. The second one was more downbeat and more action-oriented than the first, but it was still worthwhile reading.

    Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the new volume and wonder what other funny animals Talbot will eventually parody.

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