Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story competition

The shortlisted entrants for the Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story competiton (that is *such* a mouthful. I think they need to rebrand it as ‘Plonk’ or something) have been decided.

For me, as someone with a history in cartooning, it looms large as ‘THE competition’. This year I was determined to enter, because, apart from anything else, it’s super to have such a well-defined comics project to work on. I’m not sure I’d have the impetus to sit down and work on a four-page graphic short story without a good reason.

Anyway, now that the shortlist has been announced, I feel I can blog my entry – there’s a clause in the rules about the work not having been published anywhere before, and I’m always a bit paranoid that that might mean ‘even on your own blog’.

I’d also like to use this blog post to collect links to other entries – so, if you entered and your work is online, leave a comment. I’ll keep editing the post to add new links as they become apparent. Here’s what I’ve found so far, via a quick Google (there must be LOADS more than this… please shout if you have a strip I can add).

Now here’s mine. It’s called ‘Overstock’. Click to see each page larger.

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 1

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 2

Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 3Overstock by Myfanwy Tristram page 4

Published by Myfanwy Tristram

I am an illustrator, situated in Brighton on the south coast of England, and with a special interest in comics and graphic memoir. I also work for a non-profit which encourages people to be active in democracy and to exercise rights such as the right to information through FOIA.

35 thoughts on “Jonathan Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story competition

    1. Thank you! I will add it to the list. I *had* seen yours; I just couldn’t remember where. It’s amazing to see the different styles and media just in this small selection.

  1. Hard to luck to everybody who lost. I’m humbled to see the quality of the submissions. I wish I could draw half that good…

    Do you know if there’s actually a list of shortlisted entrants? I don’t know where you’re located but how do we get to see what’s on the wall of Foyles Cafe for those of us who don’t live within 20 minutes on central London?

    1. Yeah – I’ve searched for the shortlist online but haven’t been able to find it. I agree, the quality is really high, but I was steeled for this from having entered in previous years and being equally daunted to see how many professional, polished entries there were!

      1. Typical isn’t it? I did extensive research before entering and thought from a graphic point of the view the level was high in previous years but, honestly, I wasn’t impressed by the writing with the exception of a few such as Stephen Collins’ ‘In Room 208’. Being similarly honest, I really disliked the winning entry this year. The runner up was, for me, better though still a bit routine. Without trying to flatter you, I much preferred yours. Having said that, I expected this kind of result. I drew three strips before I drew the one I submitted and for those long nights for weeks I spent working on them, I sat there thinking: I bet the winner will be a washed out, poorly drawn expression of middle class life. I was right. But here I am sounding bitter and I don’t mean to be. I just wish we’d all lost to something with a bit of meaning, some heart and a touch more sincerity.

      2. There was a shortlist on display at the Lakes International Comics Festival in Kendal. I haven’t seen it on their Facebook page yet, but you could ask there.

  2. That’s nice of you! OK, so I got what I wanted out of this competition, which is a reason for me to sit down and see a 4-page strip to the end . And now I have a 4-page strip that I might think about submitting elsewhere.

    I do know what you mean – I must say that the result surprised me a little, only because in previous years they’ve a) stressed the need for an actual story rather than a “moment in time” and b) picked very technically adept illustrators. The runner up was more the kind of thing I’d expected.

    Having said that, my almost 9-year-old just read the whole of ‘Colonic’ and said ‘They must have picked it because it was the funniest one’ and ‘She’s very good at drawing, isn’t she?’ – so, y’know, different tastes and all.

    1. Oh, my four page strip is now in the bin. I think publishing it on my blog means that it’s worth nothing. Not that it was worth anything anyway…

      But I’m surprised by the winner. I tend to feel some sympathy with the comments over there at The Guardian, pointing out that the winner is another of those safe middle class Guardian types. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t photograph well against a sunny window with dogs. Might manage a grim look to camera in front of a Manchester canal. For me, all that talk about ‘poo’ was just miserable. As for being funny? Maybe you’re right but if that’s funny, then I guess I don’t know ‘funny’ and I begin to understand why my last book didn’t do so well and why nobody reads my blog… ;)

      1. Ah! You’ve given me my first laugh of the day, so thank you. Actually, it’s the second laugh. I laughed when I saw that photo and realised she ticked every box I could never tick. Beautiful, young, Cambridge educated, posh house, and writes well about excrement… No wonder I’m so depressed today…

    2. Excellent. Surely it shouldn’t be so hard to discover! Actually, I think they publish the runners-up in a web comic, so maybe when that comes out, it’ll be more public knowledge?

  3. Hey, thanks for the follow – I really enjoyed reading your entry, it’s lovely :) Feel free to add mine onto the list – it’s Rebecca Jones – Bin Day. (I didn’t tag it as observer prize entry on my blog
    because I had the same fears about ‘publishing’ it…)

    1. I thought it might be an entry!

      Loved reading it: I finished the first page and really noticed how much I wanted to go on to the second, not something I’ve felt with all the entries I’ve seen… I will add it in now.

      1. Thanks – and nice detective work! It’s a great idea to have a list to see what else is out there and has been submitted – can be quite hard to find sometimes..

    1. Thanks Frances – I’ve added yours in. It’s great – and to be honest, the kind of strip I’d thought more likely to be a contender: polished style, full story, beautifully rendered, etc.

      Post mortems are half the fun but at the end of the day, I guess you never know what kind of things sway the judges, do you? It must boil down to many things in the end – for example, my friend says she’s noticed the winner alternates between men and women each year. To me, it’s like a job interview. It comes down to so many factors, not least the taste of the judges.

      That’s interesting about the age – especially interesting to me, as an older person. I have no idea whether or not they look at the age when making their decision, but if they use it as an indicator of how established one is in the illustration world, it’d be way off for me. :)

      I did notice one of the judges tweeting how nice it was to be able to give a young artist a boost early in his career, or words to that effect – I think she must have been referring to James Eve, as Emily Haworth-Booth is 33.

  4. It just struck me as weird that you have to give your age – I’ve entered many illustration competitions over the years via the AOI, London Transport etc. and never had to give my age. I have no idea of the ages of past winners, but I kind of suspect that no one over 40 has ever won it. I have a sneaky feeling that it must count, or why would they ask?


    1. Cor, I sure hope you’re wrong, or there’s no hope. You’re not allowed to ask for age on job applications, are you? Maybe we should lobby for the same in this case ;)

    1. You could try Paul Gravett on Twitter – @paul_gravett. I think he’s one of the main driving forces behind the competition and if he didn’t know, he’d know who to ask.

  5. Ah, just came back and saw the thing about age. When I filled in the form I’d thought that myself but, then, I also didn’t want to put my gender or address down because I thought both of those could be used against me. I might as well have written “male northerner who doesn’t photograph well”…

  6. OK well I’ve asked… twitters character count is a little limiting in situations like these but at least I’ve tried. Male/Female winners seem pretty equal, and they don’t ask for a photo, unfortunately the address thing is pretty standard in competitions. I suspect ‘young talent’ is probably part of their remit, but as the competition is open to anyone over sixteen ticking a box to say that you are over 16 should be enough.

  7. No reply…I think this is a question that needs to be posed next year when the competition is announced. It’s very easy to sound bitter after the winners have been announced. I love Michael Parkins entry, and I think in the past runners up have often faired better than the winners as far as publishing goes. It’s amazing work for a student.

    1. Ha ha, great winkie talk! Page 3 made me snurfle. Thanks for the link; I’ve added it to the list (but perhaps should have listed you as Gavin? And am not sure of the strip’s title).

      1. Thanks, Myf! I love your gouache colours. What type of paper do you work on? I’ve always found it difficult to keep ink crisp when outlining gouache. You’ve seemed to have master it.

        1. Ah, thanks! It’s Daler Rowney fine grain heavyweight – 200gm. Over the top of the gouache I used a dip pen with ink and I think there are probably places where I also used a Unipin, my favourite pen.

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