Episode 36: Graphic Novels: A Comic Turn with Posy Simmonds & Paul Gravett
In Episode 36 (released 15 September 2021): The cartoonist, writer and illustrator Posy Simmonds brilliantly captures the ambitions and pretensions of the literary world, and the journalist and curator Paul Gravett has worked in comics publishing for decades. Together they bring graphic novels and comic books to the foreground with the Slightly Foxed team. We draw moral lessons from the Ally Sloper cartoons of the 1870s, glimpse Frans Masereel’s wordless woodcut stories of the 1920s, view the pictorial politics of Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo in the 1940s and revisit Art Spiegelman’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus before taking a closer look at more contemporary works.
From a tragicomic summer with Joff Winterhart, nuclear explosions with Raymond Briggs, the shadow of James Joyce with Mary and Bryan Talbot and an Iranian childhood with Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the discussion moves through panels, frames, splashes and spreads to Posy Simmonds’s own methods in bringing literature to life, including crosshatching to Vivaldi. Originally serialized in the Guardian, Posy’s Gemma Bovery builds on the bones of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and Tamara Drewe draws from Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, while Cassandra Darke takes inspiration from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Though rooted in the classics, the devil is in Posy’s detail, be it real French coffee pots, the joy of characters’ names, such as Kevin Penwallet, and fictional places, such as Tresoddit.
We continue our travels off the beaten track with our usual round-up of reading recommendations, and a trip to Gilbert White’s House and Gardens in Hampshire, where we view the landscapes that sparked his evergreen classic The Natural History of Selborne.