It was only on Sunday that I asked rhetorically how Rob Davis has made adapting Don Quixote look so easy, when great artists like Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam have failed so spectacularly in the past. Well, it took a spectacularly short amount of time for the universe to answer, in the form of this post at Joe Gordon’s always-brilliant Forbidden Planet International Blog. Well, “spectacularly short: in the time scale of the history of Cervantes’ 408-year-old classic novel.
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It’s been a big couple of weeks for U.K. comics publishing, and a lot of that might have to do with this weekend’s Comica Festival (a.k.a. “the 10th London International Comics Festival”). There has been a rush of titles from British graphic novel publishers of late, no doubt timed for a big push at this most art-centric of U.K. comics conventions (it’s hosted this year at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, and I dare anyone of a certain vintage to think of that place and not start humming this).
There’s a lot of great stuff out there at the minute that’s maybe not getting enough coverage internationally, so let’s do a round-up, shall we? There’s a myth that the American comics audience is insular, so let’s disprove it: These books are even already available in English, although their spelling is a bit suspect at times. Yeah, you heard me, buy a dictionary, limeys!
• The Man Who Laughs, the oddest of Victor Hugo’s novels, adapted by David Hine and Mark Stafford, published by SelfMadeHero: Hine has posted a host of panels from the book at his blog. I was previously ignorant of Stafford’s work, but these are some handsome-looking samples; they reminded me a little of the great Dave Cooper. Hine is always good value, and has a track record of making some genuinely unsettling comics (Strange Embrace, The Bulletproof Coffin), so this sounds like the perfect alignment of talent to source material.
So yesterday was Hourly Comic Day. A few artists attempted the challenge, and their updates showed up regularly in my Twitter feed and Facebook timeline. Maybe the most interesting and accomplished artist to do one this year is Rob Davis, the editor of the format-busting award-winning anthology Nelson, and a man you can trust to adapt one of the high points of world literature and make a damned good fist of it. The nature of the Hourly Comic project means you read one of these things not expecting much — it’s always going to be self-reflexive, a strip doomed to be about a day spent drawing a strip — but if anyone can elevate the form, it’ll be Davis. He’s posting his work throughout the day over at his blog, Dinlos and Skilldos.
Art Barrage favorite Rob Davis has debuted the cover for his adaptation of Don Quixote Part Two. Davis’ work on the first book of Cervantes’ masterpiece was that rare treat, an adaptation that crossed from one media to another and still seemed fresh rather than redundant. This is because Davis is a creator of rare intellect and taste, with his blog being the place to see the amount of thought he puts into every project he embarks upon.
When I mention here that the U.K. is going through a Golden Age for graphic novel publishing, Davis has proven to be a key figure in its renaissance. Two of the publishers now regularly producing a steady stream of great books have worked with him, with Self Made Hero releasing these Don Quixote volumes (there’s a collected edition hitting the American market in the not-too-distant future); the ground-breaking anthology he co-edited with Woodrow Phoenix for Blank Slate Books, Nelson, would surely have won a multitude of awards this year if it had been published by one of the big U.S. indies (no, really; if you haven’t read it, click the link, look at that list of contributors, and ask yourself if it isn’t worth a punt, you won’t regret it).
More below, including another Don Quixote cover by Davis, and work by Jonathan Edwards, Rian Hughes, Etherington Brothers and more.
U.K. artist Rob Davis traveled to Russia last year at the invitation of the Respect Project to talk about comics and human rights and then create a small comic about Gypsies to be distributed to Russian children. As Davis says on his blog, “I’m not great at black and white politicking,” and that’s a good thing; far from being preachy, his comic addresses the stereotypes and the real experiences of Gypsies (including himself) and, in his words, “left all the thinking to the reader.” It’s poetic and heartbreaking at the same time, and well worth a look.
The concept behind Nelson is quite unique: A 43-year old tale about the life of Nel Baker, born in 1968, as told by 54 British creators, published by Blank Slate Books, in a 252-page collaborative graphic novel. (Is that enough numbers for you?) Did I mention that all profits from the book go to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity? To mark the book’s recent release, Woodrow Phoenix (who co-edited the project with Rob Davis) took the time for a recent email interview. Once you’ve read this interview, be sure to enjoy CBR’s Mark Caldwell’s interview with Davis, as well as CSBG’s Greg Burgas explaining why he ranked this book as one of his best graphic novels of 2011.
Tim O’Shea: In the afterword for this book, you noted that there is “an invisible jigsaw in this book that you could put together if you knew where to look for the pieces. A secret history, a kind of group autobiography, comprised of memories and reflections from each of the creators of Nelson.” Did you always see the jigsaw pieces, or did the pieces reveal themselves to you as you compiled the book?
Woodrow Phoenix: Those pieces gradually made themselves apparent as we put the book together, really. Because the idea with the story was to ground it in recent history through the eyes of Nel, our protagonist, many of us used bits of our own lives. Things that we remembered, that we had seen or been told about, personal family history or items that had been in the news at the time. We based our stories on them or did ‘what if’ fictional riffs with them and Nel. You’ll notice a lot of real events are alluded to in the backgrounds of strips. There are a lot of pop music references, for instance. Before the late-1980s and cable & satellite TV, songs that were in the charts were the only music you’d hear on local or national radio and everybody had to listen to the same three or four stations because that was all there was. So they are a really good indicator of moods and styles in 1970s and 80s Britain, and most people used them for texture in their stories.