Dawn of the Unread’s opening chapter is done in the style of American 50s horror comics, which according to campaigner Fredric Wertham were responsible for corrupting young minds. The psychoanalyst outlined his theories in a book, Seduction of the Innocent, which was substantially full of lies. What better genre to open our collection with? The aim is to play about with people’s expectations of what a comic is. The colours for the story are directly sampled from an old issue of one of those comics, and the tradition of having a narrator to introduce the story is followed too. Rather than a cryptkeeper or ghoul, ours is a take on literary heroine Edith Sitwell. We choose Edith for three reasons: 2014 is the 50th anniversary of her death, her incredible angular features make her a joy to draw and our chapter was released on 8 March, on International Women’s Day. Rumour also has it that she occasionally slept in a coffin…
This is my first attempt at a graphic novel/comic and I can’t begin to express how utterly demoralising and frustrating the process is, and I’m smiling as I write this. There are so many people involved in the chain that important information gets lost in translation and what you were expecting turns out to be a completely different beast. Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted with what we’ve created but it’s been a big learning curve and consequently there has been a dramatic overhaul of processes and how information is communicated. Fortunately this documentary on the BBC called ‘What do artists do all day?’ has helped put it all into context.
The artist for the chapter is Mike White and the fantastic video of him at the top of the page was put together by students studying at NTU (thanks to Daniel Finnerty, Natalie Lau and Hannah Barker for this). Mike is an incredible artist and very kindly offered to illustrate this for free. This is part of a deal I struck many months ago and will result in us commissioning students at Confetti and their media team (Loops). Rhianne Murphy is our colourist for this chapter and will be followed by Jess Parry who will be debuting on 8 April.
Nottingham very rarely gets credit in the wider media and so it is pivotal that we are ambassadors for our ‘duck’ speaking brethren. This led to an interesting debate about one panel where I’m reading LeftLion but the front page was drawn on the right hand side instead of the left. This didn’t seem particularly relevant to Mike as I guess it did its job and ‘signified’ LeftLion, but I don’t want to give anyone the chance to pick holes and so gave him the option of redrawing it correctly or erasing it. He chose the former. I don’t want people accusing us of being slack and considering that Eddie Campbell will be illustrating our third chapter, I want everything perfect. What these kind of debates highlight is the differing priorities of writers and artists. As with any good marriage, both sides, in their own way, are right.
These issues may seem trivial when you see such beautiful artwork but I think comics are such an emotional journey that it’s difficult not to become obsessed. The lesson to be learned is roughs need to be approved before full blown drawings are finished so that you can add extra details. But this is easier said than done. Time was really against us with the opening chapter but fortunately my partner in crime Paul Fillingham, who in addition to being a technological genius has a background in fine art, was able to make a few tweaks to the completed artwork, such as putting the Robin Hood symbol in the eyes of this ugly looking get. Small details such as this make me smile on the rare occasion my head hits the pillow.
The digital versions of the comic will be released on 8 April. We’re a bit behind on this front because getting things passed by Apple is a right pain in the arse. But I’ll save this particular gripe for another blog. We’ve also got a very special video being made that celebrates that famous Tunes ‘Dottingham’ advert that we will embed into the App version. It relates to this panel here with William Booth, who’s got quite a bit to say about our project…
Dawn of the Unread has taken up my every waking hour for nearly a year now and it’s so very difficult entrusting this vision to so many people, no matter how talented, but I’m slowly getting there. I’m learning to let go, honest. I do hope that you like it and sign up to follow us on our 14 month adventure into Nottingham’s incredible literary history.
- Daily Rituals: How Artist’s Work (venetianred.net)
- The Comics Featured in Seduction of the Innocent (stwallskull.com)
- William Booth’s Conversion and the Church’s Resistance to the Poor (lexloiz.wordpress.com)
- William Booth’s Birthplace Museum , Sneinton (tonyshaw3.blogspot.co.uk)
- An introduction to comics academia in the form of a letter to my past self (womenwriteaboutcomics.com)
- Women and Welfare, an International Women’s Day perspective (eastmidlandsgreenparty.wordpress.com)