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.

Find your way home – a new strip

Still can’t crack the Observer/Cape/Comica contest! Oh well, here’s my entry from this year. Click the pages and then click again to see them at full size.

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p1

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p2

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p3

Find Your Way Home by Myfanwy Tristram p4

I’ll probably do my usual round-up of other entries in a blog post, so let me know if you’ve put yours online and I’ll link to it.

Come to Comica

Comics best thing ever Sticker by Myf Tristram

Don’t forget that it’s London’s comics festival, Comica, on Saturday.

I’ll be at the Comiket Market with my pal Zara, selling our comics:

  • Two Birds, our joint compendium
  • Everything My Ten-Year-old Daughter Wore in November, my collection of daily clothes drawings
  • If you are quick (I don’t have many left), Salon of Rejects, the anthology of non-winning Cape/Comica/Observer strips
  • Zara has a fantastic new comic out, Don’t Call Me A Tomboy
  • We’ll also have postcards and stickers, yay! Some of these are brand new designs, which I haven’t even put in my shop yet (and some are reprints of previous designs). I will add them to my shop, but probably not until after Comica.


(available as a pack of 3):

comics literally the best sticker by Myf TristramComics best thing ever Sticker by Myf Tristramcomics totes count sticker by Myf Tristram


yay comics postcard by Myfanwy Tristram

swimmers postcard by Myfanwy Tristram

girls rock postcard by Myfanwy Tristram

girls rule postcard by Myfanwy Tristram

booner postcard by myfanwy tristram

tins postcard by myfanwy tristram

iggy postcard by myfanwy tristram

muesli mountain postcard by Myfanwy Tristram

Hope to see you there. Swing by for a chat, even if you don’t buy anything: we’ll still be happy to meet you. :D

(But if you do want to buy, remember to bring plenty of cash: most sellers, including us, won’t have card payment facilities).

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.


Building a ship with 50 Shades of Grey: when life imitates art

50 shades ship by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s a funny thing. In 2013, my entry for the Comica/Cape/Observer Graphic Short Story competition pivoted around a charity shop worker who built a ship out of surplus donations.

Those surplus donations were mainly copies of the book Fifty Shades of Grey.

The whole thing came from my imagination. And yet… fast forward a couple of years to this morning, when I scroll through Twitter over breakfast, only to see:

Mashable: 50 Shades of Grey fort

Is it just me, or is that a bit of a coincidence?

You can read the news story here. And my original strip is at the foot of this post, if you’d like to see how on earth I included this unlikely extremely probable concept.

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?


My entry for the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story competition, 2015

It’s that time of the year again, when the shortlisted artists for the Observer/Cape/Comica graphic short story prize will have been notified.

Once again, my email inbox is inexplicably empty (INORITE, some mistake surely), so I’m sure it’s fine to share my entry now. 

As in previous years, I’ll be collecting any others I can find and linking to them in a big round-up post, although, gotta say, I’ve barely seen any mention from other entrants yet. Hopefully everyone else is just waiting like I was, and will start putting them online soon. If you’ve done so, let me know!

Meanwhile, please enjoy “Whatever Works”. As usual, you can click each image to see it more clearly.

Whatever Works by Myfanwy Tristram P1 lowres

Whatever Works by Myfanwy Tristram P2 lowres

Whatever Works by Myfanwy Tristram P3 lowres

Whatever Works by Myfanwy Tristram P4 lowres

Here we go again – entering the Comica/Cape/Observer graphic short story contest

It’s that time of year again: entries are open for the sixth Observer/Comica/Cape graphic short story competition.

I’ll post my completed entry after the closing date, but for now here are some pictures showing work in progress.

Continue reading “Here we go again – entering the Comica/Cape/Observer graphic short story contest”

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.


Cartoon competitions update

by Myfanwy Tristram

As you may recall, I’ve entered three illustration/comics competitions in recent weeks:

(I’ve also entered the competition to design a new pound coin, just for fun! And so did my daughter. But that’s another post for another time).

It’s interesting to compare and contrast the entrant’s experience for each of these contests.

Thought Bubble: After submitting my strip by email, I had an acknowledgement to thank me for entering.

I just had a look at the competition page and to my surprise they have put all the entries online. I’m also surprised to see how few entries there apparently are – 38 in the over-18s category and just eight in the 12-17s. Still, that’s a nice wodge of comic strips to browse if you feel so inclined, and several of them are excellent.

Thought Bubble will be displaying every single entry over the course of the festival, which also gives a good incentive to enter, whether or not you think you might have a chance of winning.

Cape/Comica/Observer: The date that the winners will be informed is clearly given on the contest website, and that has now passed (sorry to break it to you gently if you are still hoping!). In fact, run out and buy your Observer on Sunday because that is when the winning strips will be printed.

There’s no acknowledgement email, or indeed any other communication to the entrants until then… but then, of course, there are far more people submitting entries to this contest. Last year I remember seeing that they’d had 180, and this year they’ve announced that the number had gone up. So perhaps it would be impractical for them to put all of them online anywhere.

Luckily, as you know, I’m making it my mission to collect together as many entries as I can, and you can see the results here. Please let me know if you have seen any I’ve missed, or have one to add yourself. So far I have found 23, which is already more than I managed the year before, though clearly only a small proportion of the complete set.

Prize for Illustration: I got an automated email on upload of my entry, and today I’ve just had an update to tell me who the judges are and that they had an “overwhelming” number of entries (ulp!). They will be judging on the 29th of October and hope to tell everyone the outcome shortly after that date.

As 100 entrants will be selected to be exhibited, this also feels like a competition where the odds are a little kinder. Plus, among the several judges there are an agent and editors of magazines: it has to be a good thing that your artwork is passing under their eyes.

That’s my summary of how it feels to be an entrant in one of these illustration and comics competitions. In short, from the entrants’ point of view, a little communication goes a long way.

Have you entered any of these? How are you feeling about it?

Giddy Heights, a graphic short story by Myfanwy Tristram

In my last post, I started compiling a list of places where you can see entries to the Comica/Cape/Observer graphic short stories competition. So it seems rather churlish not to share my own – here it is.

Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page1
Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page2
Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page3
Giddy_Heights by MyfanwyTristram_page4

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:

Random House

Comica entry by Myfanwy Tristram

Comica entry by Myfanwy Tristram
I’ve got a Facebook friend who occasionally adds a hashtag to some status update when she’s pulled off a really great piece of karaoke: #sinofpride.

That’s kind of how I feel now: forgive me Padre, for I cannot help the small blossoming of pride in my bosom when I see this cartoon script, printed out and, finally, FINISHED.

I’m sending it off in the post on Monday. I hope it gets there. We had an episode this week with some train tickets that never arrived, so our confidence in the postal service has wavered.


Funnily enough, I walked past Random House with my daughter on Thursday. I told her the joke about it*, which she appreciated.

If only I’d a) finished my strip that little bit earlier, and b) planned ahead, I could have delivered my entry by hand.


*A man addresses an envelope to Random House, but the Post Office refuse to accept it, saying that he has to specify the house it’s going to.


The art of throwing your work into the void

three pages by Myfanwy Tristram

test drawings by Myfanwy Tristrampencil rough by Myfanwy Tristrampainted in by Myfanwy Tristrampage 2 coming together by Myfanwy Tristrampage two complete by Myfanwy Tristrampage three complete by Myfanwy Tristramframe closeup by Myfanwy Tristramthree pages by Myfanwy Tristram

The last time I shared a drawing with you was on the 30th of May. That is not because I haven’t been drawing. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Since then, I have been dedicating all my free time to creating a four-page comic strip for the Cape/Comica/Observer competition. Every night, I put in between an hour and three hours’ work, depending on whether it’s my turn to put my daughter to bed or not. At weekends, I fit in as many hours as I can between the demands of family life.

I’m not pulling my weight with the housework or with childcare.

This has been going on for four weeks, and the end is in sight. I’ve pencilled, inked and painted three and a half pages. I need to go back and probably redraw the top half of one of those pages, and I also need to do the lettering. After that I’ll also need to do a quick tidy up in Photoshop, and get the darn thing printed out physically, because they only accept entries on paper.

It is a bit scary, how much time it’s taken – but that’s another post.

And what will happen now is this:

  • I will take it to the post office and send it off.
  • I won’t hear anything for a couple of months.
  • Occasionally I will worry about whether my entry even got there safely.
  • One day, I’ll open the Observer (or see a tweet from one of the participating organisations) and see that someone else has won.

Which is fine! Really! Because the only way to go into this competition is with the knowledge that it’s not about the winning. The best reason for doing it is to have another 4-page cartoon in your portfolio, one that is hopefully the best you can do.

Well, that’s my thinking, anyway.

Last year, I and a few of my illustrator pals talked about bundling our unsuccessful entries together and publishing them into a zine. We haven’t done that – but guess what? Now we’ll have double the number. Heh.

BUT. If there’s one thing I wish that Cape/Comica/Observer would do, it’s to send an email to confirm that your entry has arrived.

Assuming that they already collect entrants’ data on some kind of spreadsheet, this needn’t be a lot of effort, and it would at least go some way to making it feel like I was putting all this endeavour into something, before posting it into a black hole where I would never hear from it again.

Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story – update

Work in Progress by Myfanwy TristramJust a quick camera phone snap of some work in progress, so that this post has an image – it’s not actually relevant to the rest of the post : )

An update on my attempts to gather together entries for the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest. Apparently 180 people entered this year. I have managed to find and link to 14 of them (including my own), which is not even 10%.

I can’t believe that anyone who’s a cartoonist or comics artist these days doesn’t put their work online – surely! So perhaps people aren’t labelling them in the same way that I’m Googling. Do let me know if you manage to find more.

I was in Edinburgh last week. For some reason, I was waking insanely early each morning, which did at least give me time to listen to a Guardian podcast about the competition, while my daughter slept.

One of the judges, Rachel Cooke, talked a bit about it. I was hoping for some stunning insights into how they chose the winners, or what sort of strips almost made the grade, but no dice. To be fair, it was very interesting listening to previous winners talking about the projects they’ve gone on to create: Stephen Collins’  The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, and Isabel Greenberg’s Encyclopaedia of Early Earth.

One thing that was mentioned, and which I’ve also seen online, is that there were fewer entries than expected, and they put that down to people being intimidated by the professional-looking entries that won previously. I wonder if that’s why they chose a strip that is technically less polished this year.

Apart from that, I haven’t seen much analysis online, either. There are endless re-announcements of the winner, but I’m not reading people’s thoughts about it, really. Again, maybe I’m just Googlin’ in all the wrong places. I haven’t seen the shortlist yet, either, though there’s a lead in the comments to my last post

While we were in Edinburgh, we experienced a few full-on torrential downpours. One of these rather serendipidously put us through the doors of Forbidden Planet, where they had a special offer on selected books. I picked up Guy Delisle‘s Pyongyang, about his two months as an animator in North Korea.

Ahhh, it was brilliant. Like many, I’m already kind of fascinated by North Korea, and my goodness. People often say that books make you feel like you’ve been to a place yourself – well, this makes it clear that graphic novels can do that for you, too. I gobbled it up, and by the end, I also felt like I’d spent two months in this utterly surreal country.

Shenzen next then, I think.

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