Inspired by... blog

6 posts from June 2014

30 June 2014

Emma Hayley: the UK graphic novel market and how to pitch to publishers

#CreateUK week began this afternoon and will celebrate the phenomenal success of the UK creative industries which generates £8 million per hour for the UK economy and continues to go from strength-to-strength. 

One strength is definitely the rise of comics and graphic novels. We're seeing a lot of creatives come to our Comics Unmasked exhibition and our first ever series of short courses on creating graphic novels has sparked a lot of interest. Emma Hayley, publisher and managing director at independent publishing house SelfMadeHero, tells us just what's going on in today's graphic novel market and gives aspiring graphic novelists and artists some tips on how to pitch to publishers. 

Newly commissioned artwork by Dave McKean inside an artist's studio in Comics Unmasked (c) Tony Antoniou
Newly commissioned artwork by Dave McKean inside an artist's studio in Comics Unmasked (c) Tony Antoniou

The value of the UK comic book and graphic novel market has risen by almost one thousand per cent in the last ten years, and is continuing to grow. We've seen general book shops (not just comic book shops) embracing the medium with hugely expanded graphic novels sections.

In 2012 Mary and Bryan Talbot's a graphic novel Dottor of Her Father's Eyes (on display in the Library's Comics Unmasked exhibition) won in the best biography category at the Costa Book Awards; this was the first year that two graphic novels were nominated for the award. As well as this, 2013 saw two British creators gaining recognition at the long-established and prestigious Angouleme International Comic Festival in France.  

Also in 2013, the Edinburgh Book Festival embraced the medium by having a special focus on comic books and graphic novels with their series of events called 'Stripped'. And with new comic book events popping up, such as The Lakes International Comic Art Festival last October, and attendance booming at already established festivals like Thought Bubble (where the first British Comic Awards began in 2012), we are witnessing a very exciting period in the UK's comics and graphic novel scene.

This year, the British Library's Comics Unmasked exhibition is further testament to the fact that the UK is thirsty for the medium. With comics and graphic novels becoming firmly entrenched in popular culture, publishers of the medium are enjoying a new dawn in publishing. It wasn't that long ago that British creators had to look to Europe or the US for commissions, but now creators are seeing their work commissioned more and more by UK-based publishers. 

Dotter of her Father's Eyes, 2012, by Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot (c) Mary and Bryan Talbot
Dotter of her Father's Eyes, 2012, by Mary Talbot, Bryan Talbot (c) Mary and Bryan Talbot

If you've got an idea for a graphic novel and you want to pitch it to a publisher, then study the publisher's website and see what kind of books they release. If your idea fits in with one of their series (make sure that you don't send a superhero pitch to a publisher that never publishes superhero stories!), then I would recommend sending them a synopsis, with around eight pages of sequential art fully finished and lettered to the publisher's email or postal address. Some publishers may have some specific submissions guidelines on their website, so you should follow these if they do.

If you want to send your pitch by email and you don't get a response, then try posting your pitch. Publishers receive a lot of pitches every day, so find a way of making yours stand out. It's always worth sending  a follow-up email a few weeks later to at least check that they received the pitch. If you don't hear back from them, don't get disheartened, editors are busy and not every submission can always get a response, in spite of best intentions. It doesn't necessarily mean your pitch is substandard, the publisher may have just decided not to take it any further for other reasons.

Try and make as many connections as possible by going to comic cons and festivals throughout the year. Meet and share ideas with other artists. Show publishers and editors your portfolio if you can. If you're a writer bursting with ideas then try and find an artist to partner up with. If you're an artist but your strength isn't writing, then find an appropriate writing buddy.

Read as many comics and graphic novels as you can, and attend as many events as you can. Monthly events like 'Process' at Gosh! Comics is a good starting point. It's a friendly and welcoming industry and you can find the encouragement that you need by sharing your ideas. 

Thanks Emma!

You can pitch your idea for a graphic novel to Emma Hayley (and maybe even meet your future artist/writer partner) this Wednesday, 2 July as part of our short course Mastering the Graphic Novel - Pushing the Boundaries, From Pitch to Publication. Tickets here.  

19 June 2014

What to wear next summer: YMC SS15 London Collections: Men

Our front entrance hall never looked so cool when British label YMC (You Must Create) showed their Spring/Summer 2015 line for London Collections: Men last Sunday. I sure do love men in pink. Here are my favourites:  








A playful finale: bucket hats with built-in goggles.  

YMC designer Fraser Moss is exploring our vinyl record collection and vintage magazines to create a new design. Follow me at @BL_Creative for updates. 

Our collections are an amazing source of inspiration for fashion designers. Henry Holland was spotted in our Reading Room researching old Tatler issues for his debauched debutante line and E. Tautz designer Patrick Grant gave a talk on how historical resources inspire his designs as part of our Georgians Revealed exhibition.

We also host events on topics such as trend forecasting, intellectual property and how to generate PR for fashion designers who are looking to start, run or grow their business. Plus we have over £5million worth of market research and business information that's free to use. FREE. Sign up for a Reader Pass and get in here!

17 June 2014

Woodrow Phoenix turns the pages of She Lives at the British Library

Today at 18.00 and on Tuesday 22 July British comics artist Woodrow Phoenix will be turning the pages of his giant book She Lives which is on display in our Comics Unmasked exhibition. If you're in the gallery do pop by - this is a great opportunity to see all the pages up close and chat with Woodrow. He kindly gave us an interview below. 

SHE LIVES - a fast preview of a very big book by Woodrow Phoenix from superadaptoid on Vimeo.

What is your favourite exhibit or theme in Comics Unmasked?

The 15th century Bible that British Library curator Adrian Edwards unearthed from the Library's collection is absolutely beautiful and without a doubt real comics. The design and layout of those two pages is more modern than a lot of what we see from the 19th and early 20th centuries. It has given me a lot to think about and I would love to see the other pages of this volume, I'm going to put in a request!


Block-book edition of the Book of Revelation. [Germany, 1470?]. British Library Shelfmark: IB.14

What role do libraries play in your life? 

Libraries were pretty central to my life as a child. I learnt to read when I was three so by the time I started school I had read every book in the house. The school library was an incredible idea. All these books that I could look at! I got used to this idea very quickly and read my way through many of them in the course of the year. I was the kind of kid who took home the maximum number of books every week. I remember my first visit with my mother to Lewisham Central library which was like a kind of nirvana. There were three public libraries within two miles of our house and I had library cards for all of them.

When I was researching my book Rumble Strip about cars, roads and how we use them, I used my British Library Reader Pass  to look at traffic data and statistics. And also to pull up books that I was just curious about seeing. Library reading rooms are some of my very favourite places to be.

For those new to comics and graphic novels, what titles would you recommend?

I designed Rumble Strip to be completely accessible to people who have never read a comic book before. It has worked very well on that level because it's about a subject that affects every one of us every day, it doesn't require any specialist knowledge or interests to be relevant to you. I feel especially pleased that it is the first comic book that my 80-year-old mother was able to read, and importantly, enjoy. It works just as well for twenty-something hipsters so that's pretty good. Rated 'E' for Everyone! (Rumble Strip, Myriad Editions, £12.99 is available in the British Library Shop)

I also recommend another book I worked on called Nelson, which is a collective graphic novel written and drawn by 54 different authors. It gives a really great overview of what comics are doing in the UK right now, with a compelling story about a woman born in 1967. There is one chapter for every year of her life right up to 2011, and each chapter is written and drawn by a different person so it's a wonderfully varied and surprising collection. (Nelson, Blank Slate Books, £18.99)

Luke Pearson's series of books about a girl called Hilda, published by Nobrow, are brilliant. They are children's books that adults will get a lot out of as well, as they have all kinds of little resonances in them. They take place in a Scandinavian landscape of mountains and woods that's a cross between Moomin Valley and a Miyazaki cartoon. (Hilda and the Midnight Giant, Hilda and the Troll, Hilda and the Bird Parade and Hilda and The Black Hound, Nobrow/Flying Eye Books, £11.99)

What was the most challenging and enjoyable aspects of creating She Lives?

Pretty much every aspect of making that book was challenging! I had to start the process by making the book itself before I could work in it. Wrestling giant sheets of paper around, trying to make them lie flat and wondering what would happen when I put glue on them was terrifying and fun at the same time. Maybe we could make Extreme Bookbinding into a new sport?

It was surprisingly physical to work on drawings at that size. I was covering so much paper, I was doing a lot of bending and stretching and I would be exhausted at the end of every day. But I did really enjoy doing something that used all of my body rather than just a bit from my elbow to my fingers. It was almost as if I was inside the artwork in a more painterly kind of way. And I derived great satisfaction from taking a giant blank page and turning it almost completely black with ink. 

It took 19 months to make, which is a very long time for me. Usually my longest projects last seven or eight months. So it felt endless and at times I wondered if I would ever finish it. Now that it's done and sitting in a case I am slightly sad that it's over. Only slightly though!


Book now for short courses on creating graphic novels!

Becoming a Graphic Novelist - Who is in charge? The dynamics of image and text
Thu 19 June 2014, 18.30 - 20.30

Becoming a Graphic Novelist - Subverting Stereotypes
Wed 25 Jun 2014, 18.30 - 20.30

Mastering the Graphic Novel - Playing with Fire: Sex, Subversion and the Self
Thu 26 June 2014, 18.30 - 20.30

Mastering the Graphic Novel - Pushing the Boundaries: From Pitch to Publication
Wed 2 July 2014, 18.30 - 20.30


13 June 2014

Interview with Fionnuala Doran - winner of Comics Unmasked Arts Thread x British Library competition

We love supporting young creatives through competitions that use our collections as inspiration. Royal College of Art student Fionnuala Doran won the top prize in our Comics Unmasked competition in partnership with Arts Thread for her 9-panel comic The Story of Roger Casement. Here she tells us more about her her work. 

*** Are you a creative writer and/or illustrator and want to have a go at making a graphic novel? Maybe you already have one ready to pitch to publishers? We're hosting a series of evening short courses inside the Comics Unmasked exhibition gallery focusing on the inspirational and practical sides of creating graphic novels. Find out more here. ***

What inspired you to tell The Story of Roger Casement?

I've been interested in Roger Casement and how his life seemed so oddly out of place in Edwardian Britain for a long time. I originally planned a mini comic on the story of Roger Casement's work in the Congo and South America, juxtaposed with his secret 'black diary' life way back in 2010 (below), but because I was working full time it never really went anywhere apart from the back burner. When I saw the brief for the competition I was stumped, but then I thought back to the one pager I had laid out ages ago and with a bit of a rejig, it seemed to fit the brief nicely.

FDoran_Roger Casement 2010

FDoran_Roger Casement 2010_2

Did you draw the comic by hand or using digital tools?

I drew about 75% by hand. The other 25% was using my drawing tablet and Photoshop. I usually try to work mostly by hand but sometimes its easier to correct mistakes digitally. I always find myself misspelling things in speech bubbles, for instance.

You’re doing an MA in visual communication at the Royal College of Art – how’s that going? Did it help with this entry?

It's going really well! There's a small but friendly community of comic and zine makers here - we're actually working on an illustrated/comics/photography/reportage magazine, which we're currently running a Kickstarter campaign to promote. I've made two mini comics during my first year, and the time I put into structuring and composing really paid off when preparing my Arts Thread x British Library entry, I think. It's good to get feedback and have the time to be reflective about what you're making, especially when it's something as structurally complex as a comic.

The Assumption_FDoran 1

The Assumption_FDoran 2

Above from 'The Assumption' - Doran's graphic novellete in progress,  2014

Tell us about your experience drawing – I know you also did a BA in fine & applied art. Have you been drawing since you were very young?

My mum says I was drawing before I could talk! My sister, brother and I all used to make our own comics, actually. It's like second nature now.

What is your dream career?

I'd love to go on and publish my own comics/graphic novels - proper, long-form ones. So far the longest I've completed has been 16 pages, but hopefully in the second year of my MA I'll get the chance to complete my first full-length comic. 

For those who are new to comics and graphic novels, what titles do you recommend?

Persepolis is a great one for first time comic readers. Marjane Satrapi's voice is so charming and the art is accesible but also expressive. I know a lot of people who wouldn't consider themselves comic readers who've read Persepolis. Also, Scott Pilgrim is amazingly great fun. I like to think they're both 'gateway' comics that get you geared up for the harder stuff.

*** Creating graphic novels evening short courses 19, 25, 26 June and 2 July 2014 - find out more here. ***

10 June 2014

YMC opens London Collections: Men at the British Library

For the first time the British Library is playing host to major fashion event London Collections: Men with British label YMC (You Must Create). 

Our sweeping front entrance hall with its marble staircase makes the perfect fashion show venue. When I met founders Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins last year, I floated the idea past them and now it's happening!

"As a British brand, YMC feel particularly proud and privileged to show our Spring/Summer 2015 collection at the British Library. This iconic building has a such a unique ambiance and is like entering a cathedral of knowledge and literature representing the history of the United Kingdom and beyond," says Moss.

For nearly 20 years YMC has been developing modern, functional and understated clothing. Menswear is their main business but they also have a small line for women (I love this dress). They are a major player in the three-day LC:M programme which showcases over 60 emerging and established brands - from Fashion East's Craig Green to Paul Smith.

LC:M also aims to emphasise the rich cultural landscape that contributes to the inspiration and success of menswear so it's very fitting that the opening show is taking place at the British Library, where the creative industries are constantly finding inspiration in our collections. YMC's designer Fraser Moss is exploring our vinyl record collection and underground magazines for a new design. We've welcomed E. Tautz designer Patrick Grant to our stage for a talk on Georgian menswear and Henry Holland was spotted in our Reading Room researching old Tatler issues for his 'debauched debutante' A/W2014 line.  

Is London the capital for men's clothing? I think so. Follow #LCM and you'll see just why.  

YMC LCM 15 June 2014 invite
YMC invitation inspired by British Library stamp for manuscripts. 

Related articles

04 June 2014

From the high end to the street: Fashion inspired by comics

Our current exhibition Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK comes at a perfect time when comic book art is more than ever inspiring fashion designers. Today's guest blog comes from Geraldine Wharry, known for her Future Trend consultancy based in London and inspiration sharing platform Trend Atelier

Geraldine Wharry_Trend Atelier

When I first collaborated with the British Library Business & IP Centre for a trend forecasting event in September 2013, I presented the key fashion trends for 2014 in womenswear, menswear, textiles, graphics and accessories. One of the trends was “Cartoon Reality” and showcased the resurgence of comics and superheroes influencing designers and makers. The trend fit within a larger concept called Pop!, a whimsical and edgy design direction filled with bold colour juxtapositions and graphic statements.

Fashion and comic book art share an exciting relationship. Comic book illustrations have fueled the imagination of many fashion labels, from high-end designers such as 3.1 Philip Lim and Tom Ford, to high street brands Topshop and ASOS. I call this the “Pow Wow!” effect. In the 1960s, Pop artists who delved into comic art and illustrative drama such as Roy Lichtenstein came to influence Donna Karan, Moschino, Viktor and Rolf and Yves Saint Laurent.

Whilst researching the trend, I came across such a large amount of visual content, stylized editorials, and quirky garments created in the last few decades that it’s clear the relationship between comic book graphics and fashion has reached a tipping point. Comics and superheroes have become a perennial source of print and pattern inspiration in fashion, revisited season after season and acting as a complement to core items such as whimsical polka dots, logos and graffiti art.

It’s only natural comic art would influence fashion designers as they are always on the hunt for captivating imagery. With bright colour palettes often used against black and white lettering, this makes for impactful visuals, which designers use on garments as their canvas. The layout of comic book pages with their exaggerated fonts and messages also inspire stylists and fashion editorials in publications such as Vogue.

1_Action by Jack Adrian and Mike White_Craig McDean Vogue USA May 2008
Left: Action 1976-77, by Jack Adrian and Mike White. Action, used with permission from Egmont UK Ltd. Right: Photographer Craig McDean for Vogue USA May 2008 via Loyal KNG

Head to toe looks showcasing comic art are now often seen worn by style makers and photographed by Street FSN or other renowned street photographers such as Tommy Ton and le 21ème.

Street FSN
Via Street FSN 

The designers who are currently building our fashion landscape also grew up with comics and superheroes. They instinctively reference their teenage years, children’s books and favorite superhero movies, all embedded in their visual consciousness. This is clearly seen in collections by designers like Jeremy Scott who often uses comic book imagery such as monsters seen in his Autumn/Winter 2014 collection.

Jeremy Scott AW14_The Trials of Nasty Tales 1973 Dave Gibbons and Richard Adams
Left: Jeremy Scott A/W14. Right: The Trials of Nasty Tales, 1973, cover art (c) Dave Gibbons and Richard Adams  

The sexually seductive nature of female superheroes also inspires designers of the likes of Tom Ford to create alluring silhouettes with references to comic book splashes of colour and text bubbles as seen in his Fall/Winter 2013 collection.

Tom Ford Fall Winter 2013_Torrid Erotic Art 1979_Erich von Gotha_Robin Ray
Left: Tom Ford Fall/Winter 2013. Right: Torrid Erotic Art, 1979, (c) Erich von Götha - Robin Ray

On a deeper level, the relationship between comics and fashion goes beyond the idea of using the style as a purely graphic source of inspiration. Comics can be subversive vehicles for sexual and political statements, which is precisely the focus of Comics Unmasked. As it stands, subversion is fashion’s second name.

Throughout history, the designs that stand the test of time are the ones that challenged our perceptions of gender and body image as well as channeled designers’ sense of humour and whimsy. Fashion if anything else, is about making a statement, in between shocking the audience and creating awe. Designers use clothing as a powerful tool of expression to surprise, seduce and turn the shocking into the beautiful.

Name the punk era and Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s, Balenciaga and his cocoon shaped jackets in the 1950s, or Yves Saint Laurent’s popularization of trousers for women, and you will find in each one of these examples a deeply subversive spirit aimed to provoke change.

More recently, we see alternative music groups collaborate with high fashion brands to create thought-provoking street wear. The best example being South Africa’s Die Antwoord and co- founder/rapper/illustrator Watkin Tudor Jones (also known as Ninja) whose subversive futuristic rap is paired with Basquiat-inspired characters and street punk styling. The group and its impactful graphic streetwear fronted Alexander Wang’s T campaign in 2012.

Waddy Jones from Die Antwoord_Punk Memories, Escape 9 by John BagnallLeft: Waddy Jones from Die Antwoord. Right: Punk Memories, Escape 9, by John Bagnall (c) John Bagnall

Cartoon comic artists and fashion designers have created a great dialogue and creative exchange. We classically saw cartoon heroes on jersey t-shirts and the growing influence of street style on high fashion in the last 50 years has made it possible for cartoon graphics to gradually make their way onto silks and organzas. The subject matter moves effortlessly from paper and celluloid to fabric as its canvas.

As street style and bold graphics continue to influence the high fashion, this trend is set to grow from strength to strength - so stay tuned. For a full view of the cartoon research and sources used for this article visit my Pinterest Cartoon Reality Board. 

Geraldine Wharry and Trend Atelier are hosting Fashion Forecasting: Trend hunting and gathering on 24 June 2014 in our Business & IP Centre. Get the tools you need to identify the fashion trends for 2015/2016 - find out the more here.