NEW version of The 5th Duke of Portland comic

At long last we can finally share our new version of issue 8: Duke and Disorderly which tells the story of a posh duke with a very long name: William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, 5th Duke of Portland (17 September 1800 – 6 December 1879). I wanted this story changed for two reasons: Firstly, the original narrative was over crammed with information which made it difficult for our target audience to follow. This is my fault because I wanted certain things including (the parallel lives of Sarah Winchester and the Duke represented by their respective building projects and influential father figures; the Archduke Ferdinand shooting incident).

Artwork from issue 8 Duke and Disorderly.

Secondly, the focus was too much on the two young characters in the story and not enough about the Duke of Portland. When you’re producing a monthly digital comic you get caught up in the flow of deadlines and it’s only as a project develops and more content comes in that you realise exactly what it is you want to achieve. I wanted the stories to have more literary facts, such as David Belbin and Ella Joyce’s Shelves (Stanley Middleton) and Kevin Jackson and Hunt Emerson’s D.H Lawrence Zombie Hunter. The below panels are examples of how we added text and images to build up a more comprehensive biography of the Duke.

duke stuff
Bottom left panel: We were able to add additional biographical facts about the roller skate rink, ballroom and observatory by linking to the books. The drawing on the right is new too.
duke with text
Originally this panel had no text. Now it gives info about the Duke as well as explaining why Ben (the character being run over) is on the Duke’s land.

There were too many characters in the original story and so the first thing we had to do was sharpen the reader’s focus. We did this on page 8 by removing the two characters in the top left panel and introducing Suzy and her new meathead boyfriend. This meant they appeared throughout the page and became more significant to the narrative. The additional text helped us introduce bullying to the story.

dinner time montage
Artwork from issue 8 Duke and Disorderly.

We introduced a new character towards the end, a young black girl who Ben hooks up with. She is the opposite of Suzy and likes reading, which fits better with the overriding theme of Dawn of the Unread. Again, this meant erasing peripheral characters so that the reader could focus on key characters.

Point 1: Is the original page and has no text and too many characters.

Point 2: Originally had a random girl taking a photo. This was changed to the black girl taking the photograph (3) as it enabled us to introduce her into the bottom panels.

Blk girl montage
Narrative edits.

We had to redraw the last two panels to sharpen up the narrative. In the previous pages we had seen how money has had a damaging effect on the Duke of Portland and Sarah Winchester. Now we could demonstrate that Ben had learned something and therefore isn’t tempted to sell his signed book on eBay.

Artwork from issue 8 Duke and Disorderly.

All of our comics include a small animation (again, this was something that was decided latterly). In this issue I wanted the inside of a trench from WWI to turn red to represent blood. This was vital in the rewriting of the story as it helped better link Sarah Winchester and the Duke of Portland as additional text added later on discusses the Duke’s love of the colour pink.

red trench
The red blood slowly fills the trench on this page.
pink duke
This is the linking panel on the following page. I’d like the pictures on the wall to disappear too as later on in the narrative we discuss how the Duke got rid of pictures.

The writer for our Duke of Portland issue is Andrew Graves who has been shortlisted for the Saboteur Awards for his spoken word show God Save the Teen. I’ve seen it three times, and I hope he wins because he’s a brilliant writer who is able to blend compassion, wit and politics so that you leave feeling a host of emotions.

There’s also good news regarding playwright Nick Wood, who wrote an embedded essay for us about his hopes of one day staging an adaptation of Mick Jackson’s Duke-inspired book The Underground Man.  It’s coming to the Nottingham Playhouse later this year.

You can read the new Duke of Portland issue here

DOTU Round logo

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.

The 5th Duke of Poundland

The quiz appears as an embedded essay in Issue 8 here.

A recent survey found that the East Midlands is the least represented region in the House of Lords. Is this because there’s no landed gentry in the area or because our lot can’t be arsed to make their way down to London? This brings us on nicely to William John Cavendish Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, aka the 5th Duke of Portland (12 September 1800 – 6 December 1879),who is our featured literary figure for our current comic. The Duke was made  Marquess of Titchfield between 1824 and 1854 and had lots of opportunities to pop down to the old smoke and dab in with the political process but he couldn’t be arsed, much preferring to build tunnels under his home at Welbeck Abbey and focussing on the things that really mattered, such as inserting double letterboxes into the doors of his mansion. This was in stark contrast to his brother who was bezzie mates with Disraeli and quite a dealmaker.

To celebrate the life of Nottinghamshire’s most eccentric mole-carrying toff we’ve devised a little quiz so that you can discover whether you are regal or illegal when it comes to social class. Dawn of the Unread has a unique gaming feature to it in which readers have the opportunity to appear in our final chapter if they complete certain tasks. Bwainz – multiple choice questions, are one such element. So get your practice run sorted and then try it out for real on our home site.

Man’s best friend is his____________
a) Avatar
b) Followers on Twitter
c) Dog
d) Mole

You’ve got a shit load of cash to splash out on new clothes. Do you__________
a) Shop at Primarni
b) Shop at Armani
c) Get a nicked shirt from a mate who works at Paul Smith
d) Ask a valet to source you 3 frock coats and a false beard that you will wear at the same time.

It’s time to give your ancestral home a make-over. Do you___________
a) Invest in some family portraits and tapestries
b) Ring up Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen
c) Go mental with MDF and laminate flooring
d) Paint everything pink

As Marquess of Titchfield you are elected as a Tory MP. Do you_________
a) Revel in the new found power and vow to improve society through political discourse
b) Abuse your position and take cash for questions
c) Ban all immigrants
d) Barely turn up at Parliament, preferring to dig tunnels under your mansion instead

You reward hard working staff with________
a) A pay rise
b) Nothing. I’m not a charity.
c) What staff? I thought they were here because they liked me.
d) An umbrella or donkey

What’s the best way to communicate with people?
a) Look ‘em in the eye and talk freely
b) Like them on Facebook
c) Install letterboxes in rooms
d) Install double letterboxes in rooms, one for ingoing mail and another for outgoing mail.

It’s hungry work instructing people to do everything for you. Therefore________
a) You treat staff to a curry once a week
b) Give out food vouchers
c) Eating is for wimps!
d) Have a chicken roasting 24/7

The best way to deliver food is_______
a) Take-away
b) In a newspaper (telegraph)
c) On your best Denby
d) Via heated trucks that run on rails through the underground tunnels

You build an underground ballroom. Do you___________
a) Invite all your mates and show off
b) Rent the space out for fundraising activities
c) See if you can get on Grand Designs
d) Never use it

Mostly ‘A’s it’s Poundland I’m afraid
Mostly ‘B’s they wouldn’t even let you in Greggs.
Mostly ‘C’s you have potential. Are you good with a spade?
Mostly ‘D’s congratulations. You are a thoroughbred member of the nobility.

Literature: The must have fashion accessory…

Jaume Plensa's 29 palms
Jaume Plensa’s 29 palms. Photo James Walker.

As a lover of books I’m always interested in ways that literature can be expanded into other art forms as a means of generating an interest in the written word. The Spanish artist Jaume Plensa is a good example of this. His recent exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park demonstrated how text could form the framework of large scale sculptures, enabling readers such as myself to spend hours devouring each word while other visitors simply appreciated the form and structure.

And where do you start with the Alhambra Palace in Granada? The intricately stylised walls at first look like decoration but in between the images are over 10,000 Arabic inscriptions which are currently being decoded. Is this the world’s largest book or a piece of architecture dating back to 889? Well, it depends on the reader…

Within fashion Agnes Richter’s embroidered straight jacket is particularly inspirational. Agnes Richter was a German seamstress held as a patient in an insane asylum during the 1890s. During her incarceration she documented her thoughts and feelings directly onto her straitjacket. This remarkable cultural artefact was collected by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who collected the artwork of his patients at a Heidelberg psychiatric hospital in the early 20th century.

Agnes Richter, handmade jacket embroidered with autobiographical text, 1895, Prinzhorn Collection, Inv. No. 743.

One of the featured figures in Dawn of the Unread is William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, aka the 5th Duke of Portland. The Duke was known to wear up to three frock coats at once, enjoyed wearing false beards and was generally a sartorial nightmare. When not annoying the Victorian equivalent of Gok Wan, he focussed his attention on ridiculously ambitious building projects, most of which took place underground.

Visually this lends itself perfectly to the graphic novel medium but his story is also something that can be told through fashion. Based on Agnes Richter’s straightjacket, what peculiar thoughts would be embroidered into the Duke’s (many) jackets? I’m currently talking to Claire Ritchie about this.

Claire is an interdisciplinary practitioner merging the edges of fashion, textile and anthropological garment research. She’s currently embarking on a new body of work based upon the concept of the ‘jacket’ and how this might be visually deconstructed and re-manipulated using the addition of vintage embroidered patches, badges and other visual motifs to create a truly autobiographical or fake ‘life’ for the garment. This links into past customization projects which Claire has completed for members of the punk and metal subcultures and also brands including BSA motorcycles.

A specially commissioned jacket inspired by the Duke could make for a very memorable catwalk as well as the perfect means for Claire to launch her new line of clothing.

An abridged version of this blog can be read at Creative Nottingham 

Andrew ‘MulletProofPoet’ Graves will be bringing the Duke back to life for us, Please visit his website here. 

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Tunnel vision: The 5th Duke of Portland

Photographs of T.C. Druce, 1860s Source wikipedia.

The aristocracy of Nottinghamshire has produced more than its fair share of mad gets over the centuries and it’s time to celebrate the most sartorially challenged of them all, The 5th Duke of Portland. Andrew Graves (Mulletproof Poet) gives us a little insight into his chosen literary figure for Dawn of the Unread as well as a poem. If ever there was a figure perfect for a graphic novel it’s Willy Cavendish…

Apparently, only the rich are afforded the luxury of being truly eccentric in this country; the rest of us poor boggers have to make do with being a bit mental. But as eccentrics go, you can’t get much more entertaining than the late great 5th Duke of Portland: failed politician, underground phantom, sartorial nightmare and proper Notts nutter.

The Duke, otherwise known as William John Cavendish-Bentinck-Scott, spent much of his life residing at the once-impressive Welbeck Abbey, taking up the title of Duke when his father died in 1854. Although no-one has been able to pinpoint the beginning of his strange behaviour, certain historians believe it stems from the period up to the assumption of his duties; not only was he shunted up the pecking order upon the sudden death of his older brother, but his one and only marriage proposal was knocked back by the actress Adelaide Kemble.

Whilst his early military career had been nothing less than honourable, his life in the political arena – as a Tory MP for King’s Lynn – had been a notorious disappointment. With a mid-life crisis looming and all other toff-related avenues explored and blocked off, there was nothing else for it but to devote time and money into being a full-time mentalist.

The first thing one would have noticed on the rare occasions that the Duke sallied forth from Welbeck Abbey was his appalling dress sense; it would have had the Victorian equivalent of Gok Wan reaching for his pistol. On a good day, he would wear up to three frock coats – yes, all at the same time – and his wig-encased head would be topped with a two foot-tall stovepipe hat. He would also fasten pieces of string around his ankles, for no apparent reason, finishing off the ensemble with the application of false beards and moustaches.

The Duke’s obvious discomfort with the outside world – there were rumours, never confirmed, of him suffering some sort of skin condition – manifested itself in the extreme lengths he went to in order to remain hidden from the general public. His extremely put-upon valet was the Duke’s sole conduit to the outside world, with tasks ranging from nipping over to Worksop to collect the racing results by telegraph to acting as the go-between for the Duke and his doctors, who were denied actual physical contact with him. Various ailments and symptoms were communicated to the doctors, and the recommended treatments would be sent back.

Predictably, and probably unfortunately for him, he was the biggest employer in the area. He was actually seen as a very decent gaffer for the times, with his workforce being treated and paid well (and being gifted with free umbrellas, something the Duke carried with him whatever the weather), as long as they didn’t look, point at or touch their boss. One worker made the mistake of saluting his painfully shy employer and was sacked on the spot. He also built an ice-rink for his staff, and was extremely narked when it wasn’t used. According to the records of a relative, the Duke “wished his housemaids to skate, and if he found one of them sweeping the corridor or stairs, the frightened girl was sent out to skate whether she wanted to or not”.


The true legacy of the Duke was, by far, his insatiable mania for building projects. He went on a huge rebuilding binge at the Abbey, adding a peach wall that stretched for a thousand yards. a ballroom (that was never used), a mirror-lined riding stable with 4,000 gas lights (where overfed mares grew fat through lack of exercise), and a miniature railway network. What’s more, much of his additions were all built underground, linked by a secretive network of dimly lit tunnels. His subterranean obsession made it difficult to cope with those who – strangely – preferred walking on the ground, in daylight. “Here have I provided for you at enormous expense a clean pathway underground, lighted with gas too, and you will persist in walking above ground”, he said, in a rare outburst.

Even his death – in 1879, in London, at the age of 79 – was bestowed with the Tales of the Unexpected treatment, in the shape of the infamous Druce Case, when it was claimed that not only had he lived a double life as an upholsterer called Thomas Druce, but he’d fathered kids who were, in effect, the heirs to the dukedom. That particular episode took twenty years to clear up and was exposed as false. When the 6th Duke of Portland took residence at the Abbey after his uncle’s death, amongst other things he found hundreds of unframed masterpieces, crammed haphazardly around the edges of the riding stable. There was also an impressive Gobelin’s tapestry which, according to Catherine Caulfield’s book The Man Who Ate Bluebottles and Other Eccentrics, was ‘rolled up and packed with peppercorns in an old tin box’. Whether barmy, reclusive, or simply a rebel with an urge to build, the 5th Duke of Portland remains a truly unique local legend.

by Mulletproof Poet
beneath the weight of a century
and its spare change seasons
beneath the jet fighter trails
a future and reason
wrapped in ambiguity
and garments of wire
the house that never rests
welcomes or smiles

where tunnels spread as arteries
pulsing under woodland skin.
where bleeding gaslight scabs old wounds
and long forgotten things
where ghosts of obese horses
stare always at themselves
where no dancers waltz to memories
and distant church bells

where time takes a holiday
and masterpieces hide
to consider their tin box options
of oil based suicides
a recollection of a workforce
digs deep and shields its eyes
and chambermaids skate eternally,
carving stories in the ice

where authorities of silence
command the passages of age
cursing lonely circumstance
and a name scrawled on a page
where a duke found no peace,
company or home
but a necessary labyrinth,
a forever in which to roam

Mulletproofpoet’s website

Welbeck Estate website

This article was originally published in LeftLion