In this interview Karrie Fransman discusses some of the aesthetic choices that she made in creating her comic book Over Under Sideways Down, the story of a young asylum seeker, which deals with a series of harrowing events: exile, journey and displacement, and then the struggle to attain the right to remain in the UK. Fransman considers the ethical and artistic issues raised by the telling of Ebrahim's story, which includes episodes of pain and loss and which, moreover, he had already recounted many times over to disbelieving interviewers, who had the power to grant or refuse him refugee status. Fransman expresses her pleasure in discovering that the rendering of his story into comics form has helped Ebrahim to feel that he has gained control over it. She reflects on the process of condensing the narrative and heightening key moments, her concern to avoid turning violence into spectacle, and her use of resources of the medium, such as symbolism and metonymy, to convey the intensity of emotion.
An Interview with Karrie Fransman
In this interview, the Brighton-based comics artist Hannah Berry discuses her current role as Comics Laureate, which has included the commissioning of a survey into the conditions of work of comics artists in the United Kingdom and has demonstrated the financial hardship that most of them endure. She also talks about the importance of mentoring, organising work around childcare, and how she came to produce a weekly strip for the New Statesman. The interview then focuses on Berry's three published graphic novels, touching on the influence of films, the tension between storytelling and play with the codes of the medium, the use of gutters and text as elements in a horror story, comics as a corrective to fake news, and the political research that underlies satire.
Ann Miller and Joost Swarte
Joost Swarte, the Dutch comic artist, designer and architect, and inventor of the term ligne claire ['clear line'], played a major role in the conception of the new Hergé museum at Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium. The museum website (http://www.museeherge.com) has details of the rooms and exhibits, and includes an explanation from Swarte about his role as scenographer. In this interview with European Comic Art, he further elaborates some of the points made in that text, and sheds interesting light upon issues raised by contributors to this volume.
Ann Miller and Kaveri Gopalakrishnan
In this interview, Kaveri Gopalakrishnan discusses childhood reading, formative influences and how her training in animation has impacted on her visual language as a comics artist. She describes the pleasures of collaborative work, but also gives a sense of the solitude necessarily involved in comics creation, and shares her insights into the artistic and technical challenges involved in conveying emotion and sensory experience. The theme of gender runs through the interview, both in relation to the models that she encountered as a child in Indian and American comics, and to her own satirical take on the rules of female decorum imposed upon Indian schoolgirls. Kaveri reflects on her choice of Instagram posts as a way of publishing a certain type of personal comic, and on the very different demands of producing illustrations for educational books. The current projects that she sets out at the end of the interview demonstrate the breadth and ambition of her work.
An Interview with Morvandiau
Ann Miller and Morvandiau
This interview with political cartoonist and comics artist Morvandiau focuses mainly on his 2007 comic book D'Algérie. After the murder in 1994 of his Uncle Jean, a père blanc ['white father'] in Tizi Ouzou, along with three of his fellow priests, followed by the failed suicide of his father, a Pied-noir, eight years later, Morvandiau decided to carry out research into his family and its links with France's colonial adventure. Through the resources of the comic art medium, he was able to give form to a story which is both personal and public (Figures 1-2). The subtle and sober portrayal of his search for identity is contextualised by a highly absorbing panorama of political events. In the interview, he explains some of the aesthetic choices that he made, and discusses the challenges of working from documentary material, and how he drew on the resources of the medium to tackle issues of individual and collective identity.
Mise en abyme
Laurence Grove, Anne Magnussen, and Ann Miller
This edition of European Comic Art was not planned as a themed issue, but during the editing process, we noted that all four articles may be regarded as offering variations on mise en abyme, the use of an image within an image or text within a text, whereby the inner picture or story illuminates the outer work. This is a term whose heraldic origins link it to visual depictions, and a figure that the comics medium, with its single and multiple frames, can deploy to particular effect. We will show in our conclusion how the frame within a frame occurs in the articles introduced below, either literally or metaphorically.
Comics and Transnational Exchanges
Lawrence Grove, Anne Magnussen, and Ann Miller
Re-viewing the Past and Facing the Future
Laurence Grove, Anne Magnussen, and Ann Miller
This edition of European Comic Art begins by adopting a retrospective viewpoint and ends with a look to the future, not entirely rosy but not wholly bleak. Our first article offers a reassessment of the relationship between Hergé's Tintin and conservative Catholic discourses of the 1930s. We then move on to a personal recollection of a landmark moment in the legitimisation of comics in France: the Cerisy conference of 1987. In our third article, two virtuoso comics autobiographers reflect (in an email discussion that took place in 2006, here translated into English for the first time) on the loss of the searching, edgy tonality of early comics life writing in favour of something more crowd-pleasing. Finally, a young Brighton-based comics artist shares her love of the medium and her experience of solidarity among her fellow artists but has a cooler appraisal of the current political scene and the health of the comics culture in the United Kingdom.