Gary Spencer Millidge, Strangehaven (Leigh-on-Sea: Abiogenesis Press, 1995-2005). In the 1990s Britain was home to an eclectic self-publishing scene: writers and artists were often their own editors and the comics they made were highly idiosyncratic and innovative. While they tended to have black-and-white interiors the covers were colourful and vibrant, as the first issue of Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven demonstrates. Millidge initially published this graphic novel in periodical form, and when each chapter finished serialisation, it was reprinted as a book. Like many self-published series Strangehaven did not last long enough for the story to reach its endpoint but it recently resumed serialisation in the anthology Meanwhile… (London: Soaring Penguin Press, 2014-present) and the entire narrative is due for imminent completion. Strangehaven © 1995 Gary Spencer Millidge
Mary M. Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot, Sally Heathcote, Suffragette (Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2014). While the eponymous character in this graphic novel is fictional, the events and people around her have been reconstructed from the historical record of the suffrage movement. Dialogue and headlines have been faithfully recreated to show the sacrifice and struggle that accompanied the battle to win the vote for women. Sally Heathcote, Suffragette (c) 2014 Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, and Bryan Talbot
Katie Green, Lighter Than My Shadow (London: Jonathan Cape, 2013). In Lighter Than My Shadow Katie Green narrates surviving an eating disorder and the sexual abuse she suffered when visiting a therapist. She uses a cloud of whirling black lines to symbolise her experience of anxiety and trauma, and while Green’s story is one of hope and endurance, the cloud never disappears. Here, at the end of the book, Green implies that the attention to detail in her drawings is a manifestation of the same cloud that has been hovering throughout her life. Lighter Than My Shadow © 2013 Katie Green
Asia Alfasi, Ewa (unpublished). Ewa, a graphic novel-in-progress by the creator Asia Alfasi, is the semi-autobiographical story of a Libyan family who go to live to Scotland. It evidences the influence of Japanese comics, commonly referred to as ‘manga,’ on the current generation of British graphic novelists. Contemporary graphic novel publication is indebted to manga, the popularity of which at the start of the 2000s led to expanded shelf space and dedicated comics sections in libraries and bookshops. Ewa © 2016 Asia Alfasi Art
Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), and Matthew Wilson (colourist), The Wicked + The Divine (Berkeley, CA: Image Comics, 2014-present). Gillen and McKelvie’s story of a pantheon of gods returning to life every ninety years is a meditation on contemporary celebrity culture, social media, and fan worship. The creators know about these things first hand, enjoying successful careers in the US comics industry and working on series such as Young Avengers and Uncanny X-Men. The Wicked + The Divine is published by another American company, Image Comics, but it’s a project straddling many national borders (the art in issue 15 was drawn by French creator Stephanie Hans) and the action unfolds in very specific geographical locations in the UK. The Wicked + The Divine © 2014 Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie.
Various writers and Chris Welch (artist), Introduction to Chile (London: Bolivar Publications, 1976). The Mexican cartoonist Rius pioneered a method of making comics in the 1960s and 1970s that utilised found images, photographs, collage, and swift sketches. He used this style to create long comics essays promoting left-wing ideas. Rius inspired many creators in the 1970s and his Marx for Beginners (1976) is widely read today. UK underground artist Chris Welch illustrated this 1976 history of Chile which ended with a call for British workers to show their solidarity with Chilean people and oppose the military junta who deposed and killed the democratically elected socialist President Allende. Introduction to Chile © 1976 Chris Welch and Bolivar Publications
Warren Pleece and Gary Pleece, Montague Terrace (London: Jonathan Cape, 2013). The Pleece brothers’ series of interlocking tales centres on the many different characters living in one building. The graphic novel takes readers into the inner space of the characters’ minds and deep underneath Montague Terrace. As it does so, we’re left questioning where public life ends and private life begins… Montague Terrace © Warren Pleece and Gary Pleece 2013.
Michael Moorcock, adapted by James Cawthorn, The Jewel in the Skull (Manchester: Savoy Books, 1979). Artist James Cawthorn and writer Michael Moorcock had been friends since 1956, collaborating on various fanzines, stories, and non-fiction books. They conceived of the post-apocalyptic adventures of Dorian Hawkmoon and his battle against the Dark Empire together, Moorcock publishing his prose novel The Jewel in the Skull in 1967 with Cawthorn’s graphic novel version coming out in 1979. It was meant to be available the year before, but a misprinted edition that rolled off the presses in 1978 had to be pulped. Only a few copies of that misprinting survive today. The Jewel in the Skull © Michael Moorcock 1967. This adaptation © James Cawthorn 1979.
Nicola Streeten, Billy, Me & You (Brighton: Myriad Editions, 2011). Thirteen years after the death of her son the comics creator Nicola Streeten recounted her experience of loss and grief in Billy, Me & You. At the end of the narrative she reflects on how she came to write and draw the very graphic novel that readers are holding in their hands. As is often the case with graphic novels, Billy, Me & You did not first appear as an entire book: individual chapters were published separately in periodical form. Billy, Me & You © Nicola Streeten 2011
Posy Simmonds, True Love (London: Jonathan Cape, 1981). Already enjoying a successful career as a newspaper strip cartoonist, Posy Simmonds took on a new endeavour in True Love, a comics narrative published in its entirety as a one-off book. It took existing characters from Simmonds’s Guardian strip and wove them into a story of love and relationships. True Love illustrates how our ideas about romance are tangled up with their depiction in popular culture, and we regularly see the world via the reveries of the comics-reading character Janice Brady. True Love © 1981 Posy Simmonds