Two takes on one subject

My daughter and I triumphed over railway engineering works and long diversions yesterday and made it to London to see the musical I’d given her tickets for as a birthday gift.

A view of London through an archway in the duck. You can see the sign of the Ritz hotel sillhouetted backwards against the sky. Several people are walking past and there's a bright red phone box.

The show was Dear Evan Hansen, and I went in knowing nothing about it. The plot turned out to revolve around a highschool suicide and the effects it has on friends and family – a bit more pertinent to me than I’d anticipated.

And of course, when in London, you have to visit comic shops, and before the show we popped into Gosh!, where I picked up Skim. And as it so happens, Skim‘s plot also revolves around a teen suicide and the effects it has on classmates.

Both gave me plenty to think about, given that my work in progress Satin and Tat also deals with a suicide from my own teenage years.

Of course, everyone will come to the same topic from different angles, but all the same, there are questions that you can apply universally. How much reverence do you give the subject? How upset will your characters to be, and how much do you want your audience to empathise with them? How do you generate that empathy? Are there deeper things to say than ‘it’s sad’, and are there intersecting plotlines wrapped around your main one? Etc, etc.

I suppose you could argue that a musical is more likely to tug at the heartstrings, having all the tricks of music and voice and lights and grand gestures at its disposal, and indeed I did find myself shedding a wee tear at certain points, something that definitely didn’t happen while I was reading Skim.

There again, Skim lingered less on the emotional after effects of the death and more on the complications of teen friendships. It was still super-adept – both the drawings and the entwining plot-lines. That’s no surprise; This One Summer is still one of the graphic novels I regard most highly, and I knew I’d be in good hands with the Tamaki cousins.

I should give a shout out to Gosh!, who continue to support small press creators with a large section dedicated to their work right by the shop’s front door. They kindly agreed to take some copies of my Protest books to sell, so if you’re a Londoner, maybe pop by and save yourself the postage fees.

Meanwhile, my daughter bought Goodnight Pun Pun and I also picked up another book by Anneli Furmark, whose Red Winter I raved about the other week.

My daughter and I had a good long talk as we walked around central London, and one thing she said – in relation to her ambitions around working in theatre or TV – was how easy she found it to envisage stories in the form of storyboards. I wondered whether this is because there have always been comics and graphic novels around, and she’s read them as much as she’s read written books.

Also in happy news, I was contacted by the Workers Gallery in Porth, South Wales, who have asked me to exhibit my protest illustrations this summer. This feels like a great example of how you never know where just sitting down and drawing a comic will take you. I had very small plans for this comic, but I’m so glad that it seems to be making waves.

We’re in conversation at the moment and both sides are getting excited about a multitude of possibilities for associated activities and workshops and talks! Between us we’ve had so many good ideas and I really hope we can bring some of them to fruition.

I’m off work this week, so hoping to think through a few logistics, and also to get my thoughts together for the two upcoming Draw the Line launch events, at the Cartoon Museum and at LDComics (details coming v soon).

I’ve also unexpectedly got an illustration commission to work on at short notice, AND I need to clear everything out of our lower ground level of our house as we are having a new floor and a long-awaited new kitchen put in. So it’s not exactly going to be a week off… well, let’s just hope it’s true that a change is as good as a rest.

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.

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