Thursday, November 13, 2008

Skimming, the Surface.

My attention has been drawn to this thanks to Fantagraphics Dirk Deppey being ever vigilant and Drawn and Quarterley's Peggy Burns helping to spread the word. This is hopefully going to be just an oversight - I'm sure.

The odd thing is, this ties in with a piece I'm sending to Joe at Forbidden Planet about the importance of "some" illustrators, later tonight.

Okay, listen up, especially you, my Canuck chums, although every illustrator out there should be interested. This is very important because although it might be a simple oversight, a mistake, and I might have to eat my words, it could be, although I'm sure it is not, the written word-worshipping literati of Canada flexing their muscles and trying to regain primacy in the face of the increasing popularity of graphic novels (we are stuck with the term so suck it up). In what could be be, as I have just said, simply an oversight, Skim, the tale of Kimberly Keiko Cameron, a goth girl in an all-girls school in Toronto, is up for, at least the writer, Mariko Tamaki, is up for Canada's very prestigious Governor General’s Literary Awards. The thing is, and once again I'm sure it is simply a horrible oversight, the illustrator of the book, Mariko's cousin Jillian Tamaki, has not been included in the nomination.

Ridiculous, I know, fortunately two of Canada's most high profile illustrators, Chester Brown and Seth, have been moved to write a strongly worded letter to the awards committee asking them to reconsider for the following very, very, important reasons:

We're guessing that the jury who read SKIM saw it as an illustrated novel. It's not; it's a graphic novel. In illustrated novels, the words carry the burden of telling the story, and the illustrations serve as a form of visual reinforcement. But in graphic novels, the words and pictures BOTH tell the story, and there are often sequences (sometimes whole graphic novels) where the images alone convey the narrative. The text of a graphic novel cannot be separated from its illustrations because the words and the pictures together ARE the text. Try to imagine evaluating SKIM if you couldn't see the drawings. Jillian's contribution to the book goes beyond mere illustration: she was as responsible for telling the story as Mariko was.

Chester Brown (Author of Louis Riel)

Seth (Author of It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken)

Just to quickly illustrate this point, I've snaffled the following page from Dirk Deppey:

It's clear from this drawing that the words "Dear's snowing." and the drawing above are working in consort to convey a mood and a meaning that is beyond what is written on the page. This is not a tacked-on drawing illustrating redundantly illustrating the obvious, in a way that one would find opposite a page of text in a picture book. The description of the scene is non-existent because that information is conveyed in the drawing, along with the hallow triumph of creating the pointless message in the lonely landscape. It is, at once, a beautiful, and sad, moment.


Mike Lynch said...

This is just wretched news and I've been keeping track of it since last month. I completely agree with you, Rod. The power of that one image you showed tells it all: the drawings are integral to the experience of the reader.

Just saw (via Tom Spurgeon's Comics Reporter) that today, the Canada Council of the Arts said it was "too late" to change anything. Phooey on them!

Rod McKie said...

Yeah, I caught it Mike. I think Seth is right, it's an enormous own goal. Clearly the concept of words and illustrations forming a new kind of literature is beyond them.