Trench poetry collection cements comics’ dedication to WW1 authenticity

More great news about comics tackling some of the jingoistic distortion and messages surrounding the centenary of the First World War. Alan Moore once described comics as ‘literature for a post-literate generation’, which is a clever way of describing comics and graphic novels as a new kind of literature, one that relies on visual as well as verbal story-telling. Note that he didn’t say that they were ‘literature for an illiterate generation’, which is how comics are often dismissed. Artists and comics professionals like David Lloyd, who illustrated Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’,campaigned hard for comics to be seen as a form of literature in its own right, with a vast potential to tackle adult themes and genres. This is comics dealing with some of the most profound and moving poetry of the 20th century. Some of the poets selected are well-known classics, like Kipling, Hardy, Brooke, Sassoon, Owen and Sitwell, while others are less known. It’s hard to see how Gove can criticise the choice of the poets anthologised, without appearing to be an utter moron. It has to be said, though, that this hasn’t stopped the Tory party yet. Remember the Tory MP who declared that opera was ‘a fat Italian, singing in Italian, dressed as a woman’. Quite. The cover illustration also shows the use, at least by some of the artists, of the painterly technique introduced into the graphic novel by Bill Sienkewicz, amongst others. Though the inclusion of Hunt Emerson as the illustrator for the soldier’s songs means that there should also be more traditional, cartooning fun from this veteran of underground and adult comics.

Mills and Hitchcock’s new project, ‘Brothers in Arms’, also sounds extremely promising. ‘Charley’s War’ is undoubtedly one of the classics of comic literature, and coming from Mills it will be meticulously researched. Mills was one of the first comic writers in Britain after Frank Hampson on ‘Dan Dare’ to view comics as a serious art form, whose stories required research. One of the first things he did when he and the others launched 2000 AD way back in the 1970s was to buy books on general science so that there would be some science in the Science Fiction. So Gove should beward: he probably knows far more about it than Gove does.

As for Tory attitudes to comics, the most dismissive comment I’ve come across by a Conservative columnist was by Julie Birchill after ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ made it to no. 7 in the best seller lists. ‘Anyone still reading comics over the age of 18’, she ranted, ‘should not be allowed to vote’. As she then used to fill the Daily Mail with her rants against the Left and praising Maggie Thatcher, she tends to prove the opposite: it’s the often the people over 18 still reading comics, who can be best trusted to use their vote wisely. In the meantime, let’s hope it won’t be too long before Mills and Hitchcock’s new work also finds a publisher.

Mike Sivier's blog

The reality of war: This forthcoming collection, adapting World War One poetry into comics form, might teach Michael Gove a thing or two about factual accuracy. The reality of war: This forthcoming collection, adapting World War One poetry into comics form, might teach Michael Gove a thing or two about factual accuracy.

Michael Gove won’t like what follows.

But then, he probably thinks that comics are a waste of everybody’s time; children should be too busy reciting their times tables and adults should be sweating on the fracking site or slaving at the workfarehouse. Right?

Too bad. Following on from yesterday’s Beastrabban article about the forthcoming graphic story collection To End All Wars, I got in touch with top writer Pat Mills, and he told me about a couple more World War One-related comics projects that are likely to have Mr Gove boiling in his propaganda pit.

Above the Dreamless Dead from First Second [publisher] … features graphic adaptions of WW1 poems, including my 10-page adaption with David Hitchcock of Dead Man’s Dump [by Isaac…

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