Breaking news – Observer/Cape/Comica winner and runner up

The River by Alexis Deacon

The winner and runners up – yes, it turns out there were two runners up – can now be seen on the Guardian website:

Plus there’s an interview with all of them here.

My thoughts, in brief?

Let me just begin by saying that the Scribd interface doesn’t do the illustrators – or the reader – any favours, with its scroll bars. If you try to zoom in, it’s even worse – you’re still constrained by the frame and navigating round the page is almost impossible.

Secondly, I should mention that Beth Dawson is a friend of mine. When I first saw these strips, they didn’t have names attached, but when I discovered that one was Beth’s, it made perfect sense. Her strong graphic style and the ability to conjure up an emotion on the page is.. *all her*. And for me, any lingering wistfulness about not being placed is amply mitigated by the fact that someone so thoroughly deserving (and all-round lovely) has been.

The very minimal palette and the sugarpaper textures really lift this piece for me.

As I follow Beth’s Instagram feed, I also know that the marble necklace in the final frames is a real entity and one that she’s made herself (she’s a jewellery-maker, too). Not many cartoonists can claim that they’ve created incidental props in real life too!

As a commenter mentions below, Alexis Deacon is already a professional illustrator, with the children’s book Beegu being his best-known work (we have it – I read it to my daughter). Should established illustrators be awarded the prize? That’s for you to discuss in the comments. I do remember that the winner of the very first contest, in 2007, was also an illustrator:  Catherine Brighton.

In the interview linked to above, Deacon states that he wanted to prove his ability to work in the graphic novel form, that no-one would give him a chance to do so. Perhaps that puts him on the same grounding as everyone else – just a guy who wants to get into graphic novels? “At 36, and successful in his field, it’s not as if he’s just starting out on his career” says the interview in a sentence that rather resonates with me – as a middle-aged mum rather beyond that age, I sometimes wonder if I’m not quite what people are looking for.

That said, Deacon’s strip is beautiful and I can clearly see why it has won. The watercolour imagery reminds me of Posy Simmonds at her most painterly. My only quibble is that it took me a couple of readings to fully comprehend what had happened at the end, always a potential difficulty when frames have no dialogue.

The announcement of a second runner-up is a surprise. The Countess Markievicz by Fionnuala Doran is the one I find hardest to read within the Scribd format, a problem exacerbated by its light text and small font size. But for those who assumed the prize tended to focus on similar styles, well, here’s a third choice that is quite different from the other two winners; in total, they present a diverse range of styles that are also quite distinct from the previous years’ winners.

And with this strip, drawing takes second place to story – as it can do, quite acceptably, in comics.

Overall, this year I feel quite satisfied with the pick. They do at least adhere to the contest’s stated aim to find strips that tell a complete story, while offering strong characterisations.

The Observer interview ends:

The work of the three winners, plus that of five other finalists, will also be on show at Comica’s Comiket – a free comics market organised by the London international comics festival – at Central Saint Martin’s Platform theatre on 1 November.

Two things – first, I understand from my insomniac scrolling through tweets last night that the Comiket has actually been cancelled (or rather postponed until spring). And secondly, I have to say that if I was one of those ‘five other finalists’ I think I’d be a little annoyed that my name wasn’t published anywhere at all. Can we hear who they are please, Observer?

Don’t forget I’ve been collecting other entries together in this post.

Now over to you for your thoughts.


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.

16 thoughts on “Breaking news – Observer/Cape/Comica winner and runner up

  1. are you able to post the images on your site or the names of the winner and runner up on your site,because i cannot open the link you posted?

    1. The names aren’t shown! Unfortuantely I’m in town right now and just on my phone so I can’t do anything clever. I managed to see the full strips by downloading the Scribd app and searching for the numbers that are in the URLs.

  2. Both really, really beautiful. Oh, just my cup of tea! The runner up you posted, “After Life” touched me deep (well, the theme is not too far from my entry – how strange! But this one is about million times better than mine :). There is another runner up here:

    This year, I’m impressed! I will be excited when the gender of the winner will be revealed (you know why).

  3. they look god. the winner is by alexis deacon an already known children book illustrator who did beegu and other children books. I wish they chose an unknown as their winner if they were looking for fresh talent,because that part seems a bit unfair,however at least they have two runner ups this year and the stories are good! I just don’t think i’ll enter again as does seem that they never chose people who draw really detailed and go for a loosely drawn style.

  4. It really is a great competition and I think the runners-up in particular are both very good!

    I entered for the first time time year and was just wondering if anyone with experience from previous years could tell me if you ever get an acknowledgement that your entry has been safely received?

    I wasn’t expecting to win or anything but it feels very uncanny to have spent a week drawing every night and to never hear that it got to the judges safely.

    1. Hi Joey,
      I can answer that question – no, there’s no acknowledgement. It’s one of my main grumbles about the competition – I even blogged about it here :)

      Have you put your entry online? If so I will happily add it to the list I’m compiling here.

  5. Having re read the rules(see below) and looking at the wining entry,which is indeed lovely to view and a good story, i do agree with the fact the contest was about finding emerging talent and they chose someone who is already has books published by their publishing house and already is established as a writer/illustrator a tad unfair. Because it does make me wonder if he got chosen by the fact he is already known.(i’m not saying that his work isn’t good)

    ‘9. Judges – The competition will be judged by 6 judges who will
    look for emerging talent and seek to identify writers/artists of excellent
    and original graphic short stories. The judges’ decisions will be final and
    no correspondence will be entered into in relation to their decisions or the competition’

    Also, does anyone know who got shortlisted or if they contacted those that got shortlisted via email? It would be great to see those pieces.

    1. That’s an interesting clause, because it’s the one I always think will mitigate against me, as someone who’s no longer young/fresh out of art school (though by no means an established professional illustrator).

      I have found one shortlisted strip in my round-up post (and he knew he had been). If previous years are anything to go by, shortlisted names and strips are not printed anywhere but they are displayed at Comiket. The thing is this year that Comiket has been cancelled, so I’m not sure how that will work. If I were shortlisted, I think I’d feel a little bit aggrieved not to get a small piece of glory!

  6. Just wanted to thank you for posting up my and all the other entries for this years comp… really enjoyed looking at them all. Liked the winner this year too.

  7. Hi Myfanwy, and any other readers;

    My name’s Lindsay, and I was a fellow entrant in the Observer / Jonathan Cape competition.

    I was away for a month when the judging took place. I saw that you had posted links to other entrants; what a super effort. I really enjoyed reading through them. So many talented writers and illustrators – sigh! It is so hard to be placed in competition with ones fellow travelers. I agree with the general sentiment some people have expressed in this thread and the other; the winners earned their plaudits, no doubt. But there was so much good work that went unseen, and it would be nice if the publishers could post all entries in a single site, regardless of the winners. It would be such a nice gesture. After all, it’s a slow and hard road to make a comic.

    Anyway, I have returned home, and for what it’s worth, popped my entry on my website; if you’ll pardon the liberty, it is here –

    Myfanwy, your style is lovely. I wish I could master such an expressive looseness; reminds me of Danny Gregory, who I like very much. I really thank you for bringing all this work together, it’s very community-minded of you. Warm wishes to you and any other hard-working illustrators passing through here.

    Warm wishes, Lindsay

    1. Thanks so much Lindsay – for your strip and for your kind words. I will add yours to the list as soon as I get a chance. Annoyingly, our wifi has gone down this afternoon!

      1. Thanks Myf; Blooming wifi! Please don’t trouble yourself.

        Much as tooting my own little trumpet in this impromptu forum for competition entrants / survivors, I wanted to thank you for your troubles, and praise all the work you gathered here!

        Good luck with your internet :)

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: