Last month saw Glasgow’s Aye Write Book Festival hit the City again and I made it along to two of the Comic themed panels that took place as part of it’s Aye Con strand.
First up was an interview presented by Outspoken Arts Scotland & Unthank Comics with Steve Orlando talking about his comic book beginnings and recent run with DC’s Midnighter character leading to the whole question of diversity as it relates to LGBT & every other group in need of equal representation in the comic book world. Who best to take the reins for that interview than Garry Mac who has already played his part in getting an increase in the exposure LGBT creators & titles need through his own work, creations & projects.
The man behind Unthank Comics fired some key questions at Steve who elaborated on his achievements with Midnighter in particular, with a focus on how he has managed to ease a gay character into the mainstream. Not an easy task by any means but a character like this mixes ultra-violence, an element of fun and the everyday life of a gay man particularly well without relying on any stereotypes to cloud the very real attempt to add something to the inclusion debate. This all combines to highlight the fact that a well-rounded, well-written character will be embraced by the comic reading public regardless of that characters sexual orientation or any other character trait that could be used to segregate.
Overall the back n forth between creator and interviewer took us to the core idea that inclusion for all is the main goal and only through making a broader range of characters with a broader range of differences accessible will we take further steps towards that. As comics & graphic novels continue their ascendancy into their well-earned place as a rich & powerful medium we’re sure to see more of these types of so-called “minorities” appear in mainstream titles with an added bonus of a whole spectrum of creators behind them. The LGBT mart that took place alongside this event proved that the raw talent that is poured into the small press/indie titles around the world have already embraced diversity……it just needs chance to shine and it’s creators like Steve, who are challenging the redundant status quo, that will help pave the way for inclusion itself to become more mainstream.
Next up was “The Many Faces of Scottish Comics” with a panel that included Alan Grant, Frank Quitely & Metaphrog aka John Chalmers & Sandra Marrs, with each giving an insight into their own background in comics and thoughts on the progress that has been made in recent years.
Alan was his typical unassuming self as he helped us reminisce about some of his early days as a writer of teenage romance fiction……a field he wanted to escape but was assigned with time & again before his break into comic editing got him involved in rewriting other peoeples misguided attempts at comic writing. He spoke of his relationship with John Wagner in those days and their recent team-up to bring us Rok of the Reds through Black Hearted Press which blends sci-fi with Roy of the Rovers…..which sounds like the kind of stuff Grant & Wagner can pull off any day.
Frank offered us some details on his early attempts at artwork and the development he found in the limitless world of Glasgow’s indie comic scene….something that has very much blossomed today. There was some great chat about work that he had done with Alan too as they spoke about an unpublished Lobo collaboration titled “Hand to Hand Job” which never saw print…..I can’t think why.
John Chalmers & Sandra Marrs spoke about their foray into comic books and coming from very different backgrounds they somehow became a recognized contributor to the wider comic book scene when they formed Metaphrog. They emphasized how closely they work together on each of their projects which seemed in contrast to the solitary approach that Alan & Frank discussed but the end result was very much the same…..a passion for the medium and a drive to tell stories with pictures that they were compelled to get out there.
This second panel also helped highlight the part Glasgow has played in the creation of comic books themselves with a new Comic Invention Exhibition at the Hunterian Musuem at Glasgow University which is running now through until July and we got to see the companion release from BHP that ties into that exhibition. Some laughs, some great stories and some real insight into the approach to creating comics that blossomed from each of them starting off as comic fans.
Both events were a prime example of what impact comics & Graphic Novels make and its events like this that help highlight that fact while including a literary form that often gets pigeonholed as something juvenile or just for kids. Instead, it’s a valid source of imaginative stories & events that can help readers cope with differences, life struggles or simply entertain in equal measure.
Roll on Aye Write! 2017!!!