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There was a time when comics were just for kids and artists made images for grown ups. I’m not sure if that many artists have been able to make the switch to working for a younger audience, but certainly illustrators and other narrative based artists have been able to successfully address a more adult audience. Working primarily through the graphic novel they’ve turned the visual language of thought bubbles and sequential boxes from a simple three act gag into a rich art form that blends story telling with image making, the framing and pacing conventions of cinematography with narratives that are deeply personal or fantastical.

Paper Science 6, Looking up by Kristyna Baczynski
Paper Science 6, Looking up by Kristyna Baczynski

The development of storytelling through illustration hasn’t stopped there. The boundary between fine art and graphic novels is becoming increasingly porous, as Carolina Miranda’s recent Comic Relief article in Art News points out. From the early counter-culture cartoons of Zap comics to the post punk fanzines and comics of Gary Panter, these artists have been challenging what constitutes comic art for decades, from the content of the narrative, who the story is for or the form of image making itself, such as the painterly gesture of Panter’s work. As Panter points out in the article “When I was coming up, there were these giant walls between comics and art—but the younger generation doesn’t see those walls, I always felt I had to explain, ‘This isn’t for kids.’ That’s not so much the case anymore.”

The Burning Monster by Garry Panter
The Burning Monster by Garry Panter

One look at this years’ Thought Bubble Festival of sequential art that starts next week in Leeds, will tell you that comics are for everyone. The festival celebrates everything from superhero comics to independent and small-press artists and writers. This years’ festival sees artist and writer residencies from Matthew Sheret, a writer and co-founder of We Are Words + Pictures, a team who promote the work of comic book writers and illustrators in the UK and Kristyna Baczynski an illustrator, designer and comic book artist, along with guest appearances from a wealth of comic book, cartoon and animation talent. If you’re interested in this area of visual communication it’s worth having a look at the Festival’s guest page for a comprehensive list of who’s who.

Posted by author: Christian Lloyd
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4 thoughts on “Thought bubbles

  • Comics don’t attract me but I do find Krystyna’s work interesting. I might get the book. Maybe I will get converted.

  • I’ve always had an interest – starting with Beano, moving through Commando to Marvel as I grew up and on to things like “V for Vendetta” and “From Hell”, etc. Now, I quite enjoy manga, although I can’t actually read the Japanese text. It’s quite amazing in Japan how you can see respectable looking men in their middle ages reading manga whilst on the metro, etc. It really is for all ages (and all interests, but lets not go there).
    Looking at some of the various stories I’ve read over the years, there’s some wonderful artwork around (ok, some is also pretty ropey), and Dave McKean is a particular name that is worthy of mention – his covers for Sandman in the 80s/90s were sublime. I might try and get over to the festival, although time is a struggle at the moment.

  • I remember distinctly my disappointment when I moved from the richness of childrens’ books to grown up books. It seemed the prize for being a fluent reader was in fact to be penalized by turning pages lacking the delights of the vivid images I grew up with. I’m with Rob, starting with the Beano, my hero was Billy Whizz. (Jane H not Paul here).

  • I watch kids cartoons all the time! There is some really good stuff out there! It makes me laugh! Sometimes its really surreal for me as an adult to watch, but the kids just see through it and think its great. I am going to try and go to the festival at some point.

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