Cape/Comica/Observer Graphic Short Story contest – round-up

This Sunday, the winner of the 10th annual Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest will be announced — the (extra long – I’m sure it’s only been 6 previously?) shortlist can be seen on Paul Gravett’s Facebook page or in Orbital Comics in London, and is as follows:

(Edited to add)
The winner: If You’re So Wise, How Come You’re Dead? by Tor Freeman

Runner-up: Dennis and June by EmilyBob


My first thought? That there are more professional and previously-published comic artists that previously. Also — why do artists never update their blogs? Only one of the above has actually mentioned being on the shortlist as far as I can see.

(Edited to add: I’ve now heard from two of the shortlisted artists that they didn’t know they were on the shortlist – and in one case, only found out when it was too late to see their work on display).

The non-shortlisted entrants

I like to recognise the not insubstantial amount of work and hope that has gone into every entry, even those that didn’t dent the shortlist. In previous years, this exercise has brought to light a wonderful, long list of diverse and highly readable strips that might never otherwise have been evident to many readers. It’s also brought invitations to artists for at least one (that I know of) collaborative comic.

Here are the entries I know about so far. I’ll add more as I find them — and if you would like me to add yours to the list, please send me the link.

What I said at Gosh Comics

The launch for Salon of Rejects last night was really fun. Thanks so much to Gosh Comics for hosting it, and for all the people that came out on a chilly Wednesday night. Since the pessimist in me was expecting an audience of two people and a pet dog, I was really delighted to see that it was standing room only (I expect the people standing up weren’t quite as delighted).

Here are the slides I presented, if you’re interested to see them. They don’t make much sense without the words to accompany them, though, so you can see those here.

Thank you very much to Tom Plant for putting the comic together, to Michael Lomon for organising the event, and to my co-speaker Sarah Ushurhe. You can buy a copy of Salon of Rejects at Gosh Comics or online here.

The night was part of the Process series, a monthly event where artists talk about how they make comics.

It was rather nice to realise that the Salon of Rejects project initially came about because of my habit of collecting together people’s entries to the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest: a really good result.


Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story contest – 2015 round-up

banner image by MyfanwyTristramAs usual, I’m attempting to gather as many links as possible to entries for the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story contest. Apparently there were 200 of them this year. The Observer’s Rachel Cooke says: The standard was the highest it has ever been, and by some distance.

So much work goes into these, even those that are not placed that it feels like a good thing to compile them all in one place. So:

And the shortlisted finalists were (linked where I could find the strip):

The rest

This is a short list (literally short, not a ‘shortlist’) at the moment, but hopefully it will grow as I compile my usual list of links to every entry I can find.

Do let me know if yours is online anywhere, and I’ll be happy to add it to the list.

MOAR comics

While you’re waiting for more strips (do keep checking back), why not look at previous years’ entries?


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.


Observer/Comica/Cape Graphic Short Story contest – round-up 2014

Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_FIHere are links to every entry I can find online. I’ll keep adding more as I find them, and please do feel free to let me know in the comments if you have one I can link to (or if I’ve linked to your WIP below and you have a more finished version).

Fellow contest-obsessives-watchers might be interested to see this comment from Paul Gravett, one of the judges, which was part of an interview with Andy Oliver:

“I helped out again with the judging last Friday and the standard this year, the 8th year, was markedly better, some brilliant entries, many names new to me, and more entries than in the last few years. The challenge with a four-page story is to create enough mood, story and characterisation and to devise a surprising, or at least not familiar conclusion or twist or even open ending.”

Hope we’re all feeling like we did that… :/

Here are some other related bits and bobs to explore: