So You Like British Comics. Where Next?

So You Like British Comics. Where next?

Storified by Alex Hern · Fri, Dec 14 2012 10:32:09

Even though I have been editing British Comics Week, I couldn't cover everything. I wanted to write about Kate Brown's marvellous Fish and Chocolate; I wanted to write about Great Beast comics – Marc Ellerby and Adam Cadwell – and their audacious self-publishing experiment. A real look at British comics wouldn't be complete without looking at the kings and queens of webcomics, like John Allison, Josceline Fenton, and Claude Trollope-Curson. Nor would it be missing a discussion of British manga, of alt-comix, or of anthologies like Solipsistic Pop and Paper Science. And – somewhat deliberately – this week has glossed over the contributions of Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, John Wagner, Pat Mills, and all of the other greats, in favour of covering writers and artists who you may not have heard of.

So hopefully, we'll have another.
When I was planning the week, I was aware I had a slight bias towards comics writers, so I put out a call to ask who the best artists and writer/artists in the Britain were.

The response overwhelmed me, and serves as a good list of all the people who we simply couldn't mention in the week. If you're thinking "that was good, where next?", try these:

@alexhern Luke Pearson, Kristyna Baczynski, John Allison, Joe Decie, Philippa Rice, Dan Berry, Lizz Lunney, Daryl Cunningham, Jamie Smart..Joe List
@alexhern …I could go on. There are a lot of great artist/writers in the UK right now.Joe List
@alexhern Alan Davis, Dave McKean, Brian Bolland, David Lloyd are all superbJingle the Hedgehog
@alexhern Standard issue Moore / Gaiman response. I also like Warren Ellis.Steve
(That's Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman. Neither of them are really artists, but Steve was confused)
@alexhern @blankslatebooks only publishes writer/artists: check their outputalison sampson
@alexhern and the same goes for most of @selfmadehero 's stuff and @nobrowpress but you knew this? i'd say @robgog @naobrown @philipparicealison sampson
(@Robgog is Rob Davis, and @naobrown is Glyn Dillon)
@alexhern That dude who illustrated "From Hell". Is he British tho?Matthijs Krul
(Matthijs means Eddie Campbell)
@alexhern basically anyone who ever appeared in an issue of Solipsistic Pop counts.James Hunt
(That's a lot of people. The full list of contributors is here.)
@alexhern Comics: off the top of my noddle - Jon McNaught, Eddie Campbell, Mick/Mike McMahon, Sean Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Brendan McCarthyTom Murphy
@alexhern decadence comics then. one without a lot of exposure. and will kirkby's writing is as witty as his art. hes a good self publisher.alison sampson
@alexhern My two cents: Luke Pearson and Kate Brown. Also, after Nao of Brown, I'd say Glyn Dillon.Michael Leader
@alexhern Note: those were mainly for the writer/artist side of the question. Also, young'uns.Michael Leader
@alexhern Glyn Dillon, Rob Davis, Posy Simmonds, Raymond Briggs, Gary Northfield, Jamie Smart, Simone Lia, Tom Gauld, Warren Pleece.Dave Shelton
@alexhern Off the top of my head: Bryan Talbot, Sean Phillips, Kevin O'Neil Gllyn Dillon, loads more I'm forgetting right nowSaul Taylor
@alexhern just personal preference but has to be Alan Davis. Still amazing after all these years. Oh and yeah @McKelvie is def up there tooIan Nicholson
(@McKelvie is Jamie McKelvie)
@alexhern Loads, but I have to single out Gary Northfield as he's dead, dead good. And I'm going to stop jerking him off in public now.Tralfamadorian Red.
@alexhern Eddie CampbellSebastian Sutcliffe
@alexhern not sure if he's been mentioned but David Lloyd needs to be in there somewhere.James Vincent
Although Tom Humberstone could well be included in this round-up, the next two tweets are replies to him and me:
@alexhern @TomHumberstone Steve Dillon and John Wagner.Matt Owen
@alexhern @TomHumberstone can o'worms! I like @olivereast @robjacksoncomix @DECADENCECOMICS and @joedecie amongst othersSimon Moreton
@alexhern Frazer Irving, Frank Quitely, Simon Bisley & I.N.J. CulbardIan Dunt
@alexhern I had the pleasure of interviewing him about Aces Weekly for Wired - was just a lovely gun. Also; Dave McKean needs in.James Vincent
@alexhern Jock, Bisley, Gibbons, O'Neill, Bolland. (Sliiiiiight @2000AD bias to my responses.)Kensington
(Simon Bisley, Dave Gibbons, Kevin O'Neill, Brian Bolland. Jock only has one name, like Madonna)
@alexhern Mart Brooker for art; writer/artist: Brendan McCarthy? Also impressed with Bryan Talbot on that scale.Craig Grannell
@alexhern Gotta mention Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson, Ed 'Ilya' Hillier, Glyn Dillon and a trio of Daves - Lloyd, McKean and Gibbons.Karl A Russell
Today, I decided that I'd gone too far the other way, and asked for a list of writers who deserved their own spotlight:
@alexhern Al Ewing, John Wagner, Si Spurrier, Kieron Gillen, Rob Williams.molcher
@alexhern John Wagner is absurdly underrated.Craig Grannell
@alexhern Rob Williams, Grant Morrison (obvs), Al Ewing, Kieron Gillen. Gillen top of the list for me this year. All the lists.Ian Dunt
@alexhern For me, it's @kierongillen by a huge margin. I'm a bit scared of what he might achieve at Marvel.John
@alexhern Morrison, Gillen (shh don’t let him overhear), Carey, Milligan, Moore (when he bothers).Seb Patrick
(Grant Morrison, Kieron Gillen, Mike Carey, Peter Milligan and Alan Moore)
@alexhern Alan Moore. Hands down. No contest. Obvious answer I know, but still.Trunkman Productions
@alexhern @jonlockcomics & @TheMatthewCraigjack davies
(Self-evidently, Jon Lock and Matthew Craig)
@alexhern Andy Diggle. Great action writer.Stuart Mckechnie
@alexhern @mistergristEd Sellek
(Paul Grist)
@alexhern Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Alan Moore, Mike Carey, Antony Johnston and Neil GaimanBerwyn Lloyd
@alexhern John Allison, Anthony Johnston, Andy Diggle, Josceline Fenton, Kate Brown, Warren Ellis.Adam Cadwell

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Bertie Carvel's diary: What would the French think about infidelity to Doctor Foster?

The joy of debuting a new series, Rupert Murdoch's squeamishness and a sting in the tail.

According to the adage, the first thing an actor does when he gets a job is to go on holiday. And so, having finished our sold-out run of James Graham’s Ink at the Almeida and with the show (in which I play a young Rupert Murdoch) about to transfer into the West End, I’m packing my bags.

But before I can skip town, I’ve one more professional engagement: the press launch of series two of the BBC drama Doctor Foster, which we finished filming at Christmas. I’ve now seen the final cut of all five episodes, and I’m excited to share it with an audience. There’s no substitute for seeing other people’s reactions at first hand, especially with a show that got people talking so much first time around, and it’s electric to sit in a cinema full of expectant journalists and commentators and feel the room respond. Nothing beats this: to put so much into making a thing and then experience an audience’s unmediated, reflexive reaction. When it goes well, you feel that you’ve shared something, that you’ve all recognised something together about how things are. It’s a unifying feeling. A sort of bond.

Cheating spouses

Handling the interviews has been tricky, when there’s so little one can say without giving the plot away. (The first series began with Suranne Jones’s character Gemma, a GP, suspecting her husband Simon of having an affair.) What’s more, lots of the questions invite moral judgements that I’ve tried my best to avoid; I always think it’s really important not to judge the characters I play from outside, but simply to work out how they feel about themselves, to zero in on their point of view. There’s a sort of moral bloodlust around this show: it’s extraordinary. People seem to want to hear that I’ve been pilloried in the street, or expect me to put distance between myself and my character, to hang him out to dry as a pariah.

While I’m not in the business of defending Simon Foster any more than I’m in the business of attacking him, I am intrigued by this queer mixture of sensationalism and prurience that seems to surface again and again.

Shock horror

Oddly enough, it’s something that comes up in Ink: many people have been surprised to find that, in a story about the re-launch of the Sun newspaper in 1969 as a buccaneering tabloid, it’s the proprietor who considers dropping anchor when the spirit of free enterprise threatens to set his moral compass spinning.

I’ve never given it much thought before, but I suppose that sensationalism relies on a fairly rigid worldview for its oxygen – the SHOCKERS! that scream at us in tabloid headlines are deviations from a conventional idea of the norm. But what’s behind the appetite for this sort of story? Do we tell tales of transgression to reinforce our collective boundaries or to challenge them?

For me there’s a close kinship between good journalism and good drama. I’m reminded of the words of John Galsworthy, who wrote Strife, the play I directed last summer, and who felt that the writer should aim “to set before the public no cut-and-dried codes, but the phenomena of life and character, selected and combined, but not distorted, by the dramatist’s outlook, set down without fear, favour, or prejudice, leaving the public to draw such poor moral as nature may afford”.

So when it comes to promoting the thing we’ve made, I’m faced with a real conundrum: on the one hand I want it to reach a wide audience, and I’m flattered that there’s an appetite to hear about my contribution to the process of making it; but on the other hand I think the really interesting thing about the work is contained in the work itself. I’m always struck, in art galleries, by how much more time people spend reading the notes next to the paintings than looking at the paintings themselves. I’m sure that’s the wrong way around.

Insouciant remake

En route to the airport the next morning I read that Doctor Foster is to be adapted into a new French version. It’s a cliché verging on racism, but I can’t help wondering whether the French will have a different attitude to a story about marital infidelity, and whether the tone of the press coverage will differ. I wonder, too, whether, in the home of Roland Barthes, there is as much space given to artists to talk about what they’ve made – in his 1967 essay, “The Death of the Author”, Barthes wrote that “a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination”.

No stone unturned

Touring the villages of Gigondas, Sablet and Séguret later that evening, I’m struck by the provision of espaces culturels in seemingly every commune, however small. The French certainly give space to the work itself. But I also notice a sign warning of a chat lunatique, so decide to beat a hasty retreat. Arriving at the house where I’m staying, I’ve been told that the key will be under a flowerpot. Lifting each tub in turn, and finally a large flat stone by the door, I find a small scorpion, but no key. I’m writing this at a table less than a yard away so let’s hope there won’t be a sting in this tale.

Ink opens at the Duke of York Theatre, London, on 9 September. More details: almeida.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear