Issue #one – Scotland, Comics and Nordic Noir

DSC_0631I am a book lover and an art lover and fell in love with this medium at a young age. Holidays with the european side of my family meant that Tintin, Asterix, Suske en Wiske and MAD were always around. At home in Scotland it was The Broons and Oor Wullie at Christmas and those crazy adverts in the back of kids comics for X-ray Specs and Grow Your Own Seahorses fascinated me.

Last Summer I was particularly excited that the Edinburgh International Book Festival held a special strand of events on graphic novels and comics called Stripped. I was pleased that Scotland was embracing the ninth art in its festival culture.DSC_0630

I bought the graphic novel version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when I was at the Edinburgh International Book festival, then Douglas bought the second one at Bloody Scotland when we attended a session where Denise Mina spoke about her work on the these graphic narratives, working with text alongside an artist and her interaction with the Larsson Estate.DSC_0629

It was easy to imagine the Steig Larsson series as graphic novels before even buying the books as Lisbet Salander is such a visual character. Larsson’s descriptions of her are clear and vivid and there is a huge variety of description in the series from dirty violence to beautiful Scandinavian interiors. This Nordic Noir link has brought me back to comics after a break. This interest along with a vibrant and lively comic scene in Scotland at the moment took me to the S.I.C.B.A. (Scottish Independent Comic Book Association) Issue #one Symposium in Glasgow recently.

Other bloggers have written and live blogged about the event already so I will put links below, however I do want to mention two things. Firstly, a friend who also attended the event introduced me to the idea of comics as a medium. It may be an obvious thing to point out but saying ‘comic’ is a bit of an umbrella term. Just as you would say ‘the visual arts’ or ‘music’ so the word ‘comic’ embraces many different types of publication and comic should be seen more as the medium than a finished product. I was interested to read that a new graphic narrative had been commissioned by Historic Scotland and has just been released telling the Bannockburn story. One of the specific ideas behind it was to use this medium to tell the story in a different way from traditional history books and thus appeal to a different readership.

Issue One panelThis leads me on to the elephant in the room at #issueone, not the friendly rivalry bewteen Dundee and Glasgow as the #1 Comic City or the ongoing gender debate that exists in the comic world but the Scottish independence debate. No one spoke about it or asked about it in the Q & A session. (I include myself, guilty as charged). There was talk of setting up a National Academy. I interpreted this as a Scottish National Academy despite D.C Thomson now having a strong Fleet Street base as well as their HQ in Dundee. We should have spoken about it. Debate is healthy and the referendum is something that is part of all of our lives in one way or another in Scotland. It is a debate that the creative sector and academic sector are involved in. It would have been interesting to hear the panels thoughts on it.

William McIllvaney said that ‘images keep you nailed to the earth…an image is a very succinct way of putting across a meaning and its also a very democratic way of doing it. We all understand images.’ I would have to agree and hope to hear more and see more collaboration going on at #issuetwo. I hope more Nordic Noir texts are presented as graphic novels and I really hope that the vision of some of the people at this talk in terms of an academy, a museum or a great festival come to fruition and keep comics nailed to Scotland.


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