Sixteen months and sixteen issues later and it’s all over. I don’t know whether to cry or scream for joy. Some sleep might be a good idea. Ironically it has taken us till this point to figure out the identity of our front covers which is why only the last two are identical in format. We may dip back into the technological void and remedy this at some point but for now, here’s all of the covers with a bit of blurb explaining the process.
Issue 16 Paul picked up from the previous cover and branded this the same. This time he lobbed in our Guardian award, too, which we would make more noise about if we had the time. I love the way the title is given a kind of superhero status and the colours look glorious on an iPad. There is no living image of George Africanus and so I had to give artist Conor Boyle a general guide as to what would work. My only concern is Africanus’s eyes should be brown and I don’t want to be accused of distorting his roots by making them green. But for now they stay.
Issue 15 When Gary Erskine sent through his roughs for this comic he’d used a backdrop of a bridge from Newcastle to reference one of the titles held by Margaret Cavendish’s husband William. But this may have confused readers picking up a literary comic based around Nottingham and so I sent through various images of local locations with my preference being the Writers’ Studio (I was the Chair for three years). Therefore this had to be the cover. But this was a difficult decision given the comic is centred around a ROLLER GRRRL mirroring Margaret Cavendish’s life. Again, Paul added some colour but in constant consultation with Gary who used minimal spot colours in the comic. This was also the issue where Paul found the identity for our comics and at some point will go back and change them all so that they follow this format (Dawn of the Unread logo, credits)
Issue 14 Considering this is teenager Ella Joyce’s first commission I was blown away when this artwork came in. Like Corrina Rothwell she has an exceptional eye for colour. Stanley Middleton wrote 44 books, roughly one a year, and this is represented by the years flowing above his head.
Issue 13 has the distinctive colour palette and fun drawings you expect from Corrina Rothwell. My only input here was it had to have a spider’s web somewhere to refer to the title – which was decided a few hours before publication. I love the textures Corrina uses for Mary Howitt’s face, and the greyness works well too.
Issue 12 Carol Swain sent through her artwork in the post on A5 paper which left me petrified in case it got damaged. Paul quickly scanned it in and then took elements out to create his own front cover. The title refers to a famous quote which appears on the opening page of Sillitoe’s debut novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Carol was commissioned because her rough crayoning style captures the gritty realism of Sillitoe’s work and so Paul made this more prominent in the background. My only input was insisting Ray Gosling, Blakey and the Brains man appeared somewhere as I knew locals would enjoy these references.
Issue 11 Steve Larder went for a simple cover. The communist icon refers to Geoffrey Trease’s Bows Against the Barons, which was a kind of Marxist interpretation of the Hood legend. There’s just enough information to make you wonder what’s inside the book although I think I would have preferred Steve’s drawing of Geoffrey Trease pulling back a bow as the cover, mainly because I love the way he draws faces with their pointy noses.
Issue 10 Aly and Amanda Tribble probably had the most dialogue when working together and discussed every detail, stage and process of the comic. I love the silhouette bringing Nottingham’s most famous couple together in one image. I was also delighted that Amanda drew a more masculine looking Ms Hood rather than some big breasted stick insect in pink tights.
Issue 9 We had lots of discussions about what Bendigo should be smashing for this cover but the iconic lions in front of the Council House did the trick. It may also be read as a nod to Al Needham’s former role as editor of LeftLion magazine. My favourite bit is the stag in boxing gloves at the bottom of the page, mocking Nottingham’s crest. This was our second issue to come with an age warning due to swearing and fighting.
Issue 8 Although this cover was drawn by Toni (or Tony) Radev, Paul decided to add a bit of colour as he felt this would work better on mobile devices. I personally would have liked this cover to have featured numerous tunnels coming in and out of the page to get across the Duke of Portland’s subterranean obsession. But it does feature the main characters of the story which is the purpose of a cover.
Issue 7 Hunt Emerson totally changed our perceptions of how much text you can fit on a page with easily the most comprehensive literary analysis in our series. DH Lawrence constantly raged against the world and this is captured in glorious colour here. Even the black border to the credits has sharp edges to get across his prickly character. This is easily our most popular cover.
Issue 6 This cover beautifully captures the delicacy and simplicity of Judit Ferenz’s style. It was the first issue we had to add a 13+ warning to due to the drug references inside. Hence the rave dummy…
Issue 5 Kate Ashwin didn’t do a front cover and so this was down to Paul and I. The most important thing was the title stood out as Byron Clough is such a wonderful pun we knew this would create intrigue. I love the font that Paul chose for this, it really captures the playfulness of our literary hybrid.
Issue 4 Our Gotham Fool issue explored the porous boundaries between what is real and what is fiction and the problems with labelling behaviour. To symbolise this Francis Lowe boxed in the cover credits. As for the green frog… What green frog?
Issue 3 Originally we wanted every issue to be in colour but when Eddie Campbell insisted his must remain in black and white we weren’t really going to argue. This cover is a mock up of an iconic front cover of the Police Illustrated News that ran with the headline: ‘Phrenological Head of Charles Peace, The Burgler’
Issue 2 John ‘Brick’ Clark was so inspired by Slavomir Rawicz’s life that he became a keen traveller and hiker and so put himself on the front cover. It was coloured by Confetti student Jessica Parry.
Issue 1 This artwork was created by Mike White and uses samples from real 1950s comics. It doesn’t include the name of the writer (me) or the artist. This was largely due to it being our first cover and therefore not being entirely sure what information should be on there. It is most likely that this cover will be replaced with a mock up of a Salvation Army poster as we are currently working on this for another project and it may simply be too good to waste.
Dawn of the Unread is a graphic novel celebrating Nottingham’s literary history. It was created to support libraries and bookshops. It began life online and won the Teaching Excellence Award at the Guardian Education Awards in 2015 and has since been published by Spokesman Books (2017). All profits go towards UNESCO Nottingham City of Literature.