The winner and runners up – yes, it turns out there were two runners up – can now be seen on the Guardian website:
- WINNER: The River by Alexis Deacon
- RUNNER UP: After Life by Beth Dawson
- RUNNER UP: Countess Markievicz by Fionnuala Doran
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.