Pushing the boundaries of biographies: Recent graphic novels

Graphic novels come in all genres and topics and a popular genre is the biography, with some all-time great books like Persepolis and MausIn our recent picks we have a few new biographical graphic novels. We have The Buildings are Barking where Bill Griffith processes the loss of his wife; we have Dear Mini an autobiographical memoir about the writer’s teenage years; and if you want something more peculiar try The Second Fake Death of Eddie Campbell, where the author Eddie Campbell pushes the boundaries of what an autobiography can be. If biographies aren’t your cup of tea, there are lots of other great graphic novels to choose from our recent picks!

The buildings are barking : Diane Noomin in memoriam / Griffith, Bill
“After fifty years together, Diane Noomin’s death left her husband Bill Griffith alone. He processed her death by doing the same thing he did every day of their shared life: comics.” (Catalogue)

Dear Mini : a graphic memoir. Book one / Norris, Natalie
“This debut graphic memoir, is a bittersweet coming of age story that chronicles the author’s teenage experiences with sexual assault, PTSD, and resiliency. Dear Mini is not a cautionary tale, however, it is a vivid depiction of adolescent agency in the face of trauma. Norris’s spirited and free-flowing page designs and full colour cartooning bring her frank voice and personality to life.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The second fake death of Eddie Campbell ; The fate of the artist / Campbell, Eddie
“Eddie Campbell is not himself. But these days, who is? It’s meta-fictional mystery and mischief as the award-winning artist of From Hell sets out to find his own imposter. Plus, on the flipside- a deluxe new presentation of The Fate of the Artist, Eddie Campbell’s classic work of graphic meta-memoir!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

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Raymond Briggs, author of “The Snowman”, has died

Raymond Briggs, one of the world’s most unique and beloved author/illustrators has died, aged 88.

The Snowman, by Raymond BriggsAn iconic children’s author, he is perhaps best known for his hugely popular books of the 1970s, including Father Christmas, Fungus the Bogeyman, and especially The Snowman (1978). Although he was already well established as a children’s author at the time it was made, it was the 1982 multi-award winning animated adaptation of The Snowman that really propelled Briggs and his work into the wider public consciousness.

Born in Wimbledon in 1934, Briggs was evacuated as a child from London during the second world war. After doing his national service, he studied painting at University College London, which he briefly pursued as a career, before becoming a professional illustrator.

In 1966, he won the first of many major awards — the Kate Greenaway Medal, for illustrating  The Mother Goose Treasury. His 1970s work appealed to children, teenagers, and adults alike, whilst later works took on a more serious political aspect, with works such as When The Wind Blows (about nuclear destruction) and The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman (about the Falklands War).

In many of his works, Briggs liked to include autobiographical elements with poignant, humanist portrayals, such as Ethel and Ernest (about his parents). His last work — the brutally honest  illustrated memoir Time for Lights Out.

Taken as a whole the body of his works is remarkable funny, sad, political and sometimes deeply personal.  He always adapted his illustration style in a chameleon type way, to precisely suit the mood and tone of each work. In short, he created books that matter and will continue to matter as time passes and surely that is the ultimate point of great books, or indeed great art.

The snowman / Briggs, Raymond
“When his snowman comes to life, a little boy invites him home and in return is taken on a flight high above the countryside.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Father Christmas / Briggs, Raymond
“Strip pictures, with an occasional full-page spread, and words in comic-style balloons show domestic activities as well as the working life of a slightly reluctant Father Christmas.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Father Christmas goes on holiday / Briggs, Raymond
“Follows Father Christmas on a search for the ideal holiday spot.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Fungus the bogeyman / Briggs, Raymond
“Everyday life in Bogeydom is examined as Fungus the Bogeyman describes the skills of scaring people in the nighttime and living underground amidst slime and grime in the daytime.” (Adapted from Catalogue). We also have the award winning film available on DVD.

Ug : boy genius of the stone age and his search for soft trousers / Briggs, Raymond
“Ug, an inventive and inquisitive Stone Age boy, is misunderstood by his family and friends when he tries to improve their living conditions.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Puddleman / Briggs, Raymond
“Tom refers to his grandfather as ‘Collar’ because he drags him around on a lead. One day, Tom decides that he will take Collar on a walk to see the puddles he has named after the members of the family, but the puddles are not there. Collar insists that this is because it hasn’t rained, but Tom believes that it’s just because they haven’t been put in yet. He wanders off, leaving Collar talking to Mrs Whitebobblehat, and comes across just the person he needs.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Time for lights out / Briggs, Raymond
“In his customary pose as the grumpiest of grumpy old men, Raymond Briggs contemplates old age and death… and doesn’t like them much. Illustrated with Briggs’s inimitable pencil drawings, Time for Lights Out is a collection of short pieces, some funny, some melancholy, some remembering his wife who died young, others about the joy of grandchildren, of walking the dog… He looks back at his schooldays and his time as an evacuee during the war, and remembers his parents and the house in which he grew up. But most, like this one, are about his home in Sussex.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Notes from the sofa / Briggs, Raymond
“In ‘Notes from the Sofa’, Raymond Briggs traces the course of his life in a series of wonderfully observed vignettes that take him from the awkwardness and embarrassment of growing up to the vicissitudes and frustrations of growing old.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Gentleman Jim / Briggs, Raymond
“Jim is the story of Jim Bloggs, an imaginative toilet cleaner who, dissatisfied with his station in life, devotes his time to envisioning a world beyond it. His walls are lined with books like Out in the Silver West, The Boys’ Book of Pirates, and Executive Opportunities, which provide fodder for his ruminations on career change. Encouraged by his wife, who is also eager to incorporate more adventure into her life, Jim sets out to bring these dreams to fruition by accumulating various accoutrements, only to discover that the life of an executive, an artist, or a cowboy is more complicated and costly than it appears.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Interview: graphic artist, comic creator & illustrator Laya Rose

This year the fabulous Laya (Rose) Mutton-Rogers aka Laya Rose won two Sir Julius Vogel Awards. One in the category Best Professional Artwork for the cover art for “No Man’s Land” by A.J. Fitzwater and the other for Best Fan Artwork for Blue and Red (This is How You Lose the Time War), as well as being a finalist in The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Laya is no stranger to such accolades, winning NZCYA Te Kura Pounamu awards in both 2020 and 2021. Three previous Sir Julius Vogel Awards, not to mention being a finalist for the Chroma Comic Art Award in 2019 for her truly marvellous web comic Overgrown.

So, for your delight and edification we have an exclusive in-depth interview with Laya Rose; one of the most talented, creative, innovative, and versatile illustrators, graphic artists, comic creators in Aotearoa, where she talks in detail about her work, inspirations, background, and a whole host of other topics. For anyone interested in Laya’s work or, indeed, what a creative illustrator leading edge graphic artist comic creator does, the interview is unmissable.

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