Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Will these pictures really speak louder than words?

The graphic novel has finally received literary recognition after two examples of the illustrated genre were selected to compete alongside the double Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel in the Costa Book Awards shortlist.

For the first time, the Costa shortlist features two graphic works: Joff Winterhart for Days of the Bagnold Summer in the Novel category and Mary and Bryan Talbot in the Biography category for the graphic memoir Dotter of Her Father's Eyes.

Part memoir, part biography, Dotter is written by the husband and wife duo of academic Mary M Talbot and Bryan, an award-winning graphic-novels pioneer who has illustrated underground comics.

The story contrasts two coming of age narratives: that of Lucia, the daughter of James Joyce, who aspired to be a dancer but was shut away in a mental institution; and that of Mary, the daughter of the eminent Joycean scholar James S Atherton. Selecting the book in the Biography category, the judges hailed a "strikingly original graphic memoir which links two lives in a highly imaginative way."

Bryan Talbot, who drew Judge Dredd for the 2000AD comic, said: "This is one more step on the path to acceptance for the art form.

"A graphic novel is more than the sum of its parts," Mr Talbot said. "The illustrations work like a descriptive passage of text but the reader must have a love of drawings."

Winterhart, a film maker from Bristol who plays drums in a band, competes against Mantel's Booker-winning Tudor epic Bring Up the Bodies in the Novel category. The judges described the illustrator's novel, about a mother-son relationship between Sue (52), who works in a library, and heavy-metal fan Daniel (15) as "funny, sad, touching, original".

When the pair are thrown together for six long weeks, the story follows Sue's attempts at bonding - listening to Daniel's Megadeth CDs in the car and admiring his "poems", which are the lyrics of a Metallica song.

Winterhart said: "It is kind of terrifying competing against Hilary Mantel. My book isn't a novel in the conventional sense, it's a comic with pictures and speech boards." Winterhart believes that the perception of graphic novels began to change with the 1991 publication of Maus, the acclaimed depiction of the Holocaust using Jews as mice by the American illustrator Art Spiegelman.

Persepolis, the Iranian-born graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi's account of her childhood further established the genre's literary credentials.

Winners in the five Costa categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on January 2. The overall Costa Book of the Year winner will receive £30,000.

In the poetry section, a collection on beekeeping, which chronicles the life of a hive, and poems tackling the writer's experience of IVF, are on the shortlist.

Contenders for the children's award includes a story about a child who has a "second-sight" that enables him to spot Nazis hiding in post-war Britain.

The overall prize has been won on 10 occasions by a novel and only once by a children's book.

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