Trench poetry collection cements comics’ dedication to WW1 authenticity

The reality of war: This forthcoming collection, adapting World War One poetry into comics form, might teach Michael Gove a thing or two about factual accuracy.

The reality of war: This forthcoming collection, adapting World War One poetry into comics form, might teach Michael Gove a thing or two about factual accuracy.

Michael Gove won’t like what follows.

But then, he probably thinks that comics are a waste of everybody’s time; children should be too busy reciting their times tables and adults should be sweating on the fracking site or slaving at the workfarehouse. Right?

Too bad. Following on from yesterday’s Beastrabban article about the forthcoming graphic story collection To End All Wars, I got in touch with top writer Pat Mills, and he told me about a couple more World War One-related comics projects that are likely to have Mr Gove boiling in his propaganda pit.

Above the Dreamless Dead from First Second [publisher] … features graphic adaptions of WW1 poems, including my 10-page adaption with David Hitchcock of Dead Man’s Dump [by Isaac Rosenberg],” Mr Mills told me. “Amazing art!”

You can see some of the art above – albeit only the book’s cover. The other poems are:

All the Hills and Vales Along, by Charles Sorley; adapted by Kevin Huizenga

Ancient History, by Siegfried Sassoon; adapted by Liesbeth De Stercke

At the Time of “The Breaking of the Nations,” by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Anders Nilsen

Break of Day in the Trenches, by Isaac Rosenberg; adapted by Sarah Glidden

Channel Firing, by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Luke Pearson

The Dancers, by Wilfred Wilson Gibson; adapted by Lilli Carre

Dulce et decorum est, Greater Love Hath No Man and Soldier’s Dream, by Wilfred Owen; adapted by George Pratt

The End, by Wilfred Owen; adapted by Danica Novgorodoff

Everyone Sang, by Siegfried Sassoon, and Therefore is the Name of It Called Babel, by Osbert Sitwell; adapted by Isabel Greenberg

The General, by Siegfried Sasson; adapted by Garth Ennis and Phil Winslade

Selections from The Great Push, by Patrick MacGill; adapted by Eddie Campbell

I Don’t Want to Be a Soldier, Sing Me to Sleep Where Bullets Fall and When This Bloody War Is Over; soldiers’ songs adapted by Hunt Emerson

I looked up from my work, by Thomas Hardy; adapted by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen

The Immortals by Isaac Rosenberg; adapted by Peter Kuper

Lamentations: The Coward, by Rudyard Kipling; adapted by Stephen R. Bissette

Next War, by Osbert Sitwell; adapted by Simon Gane

Peace, by Rupert Brooke; adapted by Simon Gane

A Private, by Edward Thomas, and The Question, by Wilfred Wilson Gibson; adapted by Hannah Berry

Repression of War Experience, by Siegfried Sassoon; adapted by James Lloyd

Two Fusiliers, by Robert Graves; adapted by Carol Tyler

War, by Francis Edward Ledwidge; adapted by Sammy Harkham.

Above the Dreamless Dead will be released on September 23, almost exactly 100 years after the outbreak of the hostilities that inspired its authors. First Second books can be found on the web here.

That’s not all. Pat Mills told me of another project that could leave Mr Gove frothing with jingoistic fury.

The Beast mentioned in his article yesterday that Mr Mills produced, with the late Joe Colquhoun providing the art, what’s been hailed as probably the best British war comic ever: Charley’s War. This meticulously-researched, dedicatedly pacifist story ran from 1979 to 1985 in the British weekly Battle and has now been adapted into a series of collections from Titan Books.

Now, the writer has a new project – “in Charley’s War genre” – entitled Brothers in Arms. Illustrated by his Above the Dreamless Dead collaborator David Hitchcock, the piece is currently in search of a publisher. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for it to find a home.

Comics. They might be fun for kids – but they’ll also teach Michael Gove not to mess with history.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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2 thoughts on “Trench poetry collection cements comics’ dedication to WW1 authenticity

  1. beastrabban

    Reblogged this on Beastrabban’s Weblog and commented:
    More great news about comics tackling some of the jingoistic distortion and messages surrounding the centenary of the First World War. Alan Moore once described comics as ‘literature for a post-literate generation’, which is a clever way of describing comics and graphic novels as a new kind of literature, one that relies on visual as well as verbal story-telling. Note that he didn’t say that they were ‘literature for an illiterate generation’, which is how comics are often dismissed. Artists and comics professionals like David Lloyd, who illustrated Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’,campaigned hard for comics to be seen as a form of literature in its own right, with a vast potential to tackle adult themes and genres. This is comics dealing with some of the most profound and moving poetry of the 20th century. Some of the poets selected are well-known classics, like Kipling, Hardy, Brooke, Sassoon, Owen and Sitwell, while others are less known. It’s hard to see how Gove can criticise the choice of the poets anthologised, without appearing to be an utter moron. It has to be said, though, that this hasn’t stopped the Tory party yet. Remember the Tory MP who declared that opera was ‘a fat Italian, singing in Italian, dressed as a woman’. Quite. The cover illustration also shows the use, at least by some of the artists, of the painterly technique introduced into the graphic novel by Bill Sienkewicz, amongst others. Though the inclusion of Hunt Emerson as the illustrator for the soldier’s songs means that there should also be more traditional, cartooning fun from this veteran of underground and adult comics.

    Mills and Hitchcock’s new project, ‘Brothers in Arms’, also sounds extremely promising. ‘Charley’s War’ is undoubtedly one of the classics of comic literature, and coming from Mills it will be meticulously researched. Mills was one of the first comic writers in Britain after Frank Hampson on ‘Dan Dare’ to view comics as a serious art form, whose stories required research. One of the first things he did when he and the others launched 2000 AD way back in the 1970s was to buy books on general science so that there would be some science in the Science Fiction. So Gove should beward: he probably knows far more about it than Gove does.

    As for Tory attitudes to comics, the most dismissive comment I’ve come across by a Conservative columnist was by Julie Birchill after ‘Batman: The Dark Knight’ made it to no. 7 in the best seller lists. ‘Anyone still reading comics over the age of 18’, she ranted, ‘should not be allowed to vote’. As she then used to fill the Daily Mail with her rants against the Left and praising Maggie Thatcher, she tends to prove the opposite: it’s the often the people over 18 still reading comics, who can be best trusted to use their vote wisely. In the meantime, let’s hope it won’t be too long before Mills and Hitchcock’s new work also finds a publisher.

  2. jess

    I have to say, Mike, that I welcome this from the ‘comic’ artists.

    Looking through their selection of poems, they seem to me, well thought through.

    They should be aware, too, that they have predecessors, in the trenches and elsewhere.

    Many units produced their own ‘comics/journals’ to keep up morale at the front and at home. The best known of these is the Wipers Times, which has been regularly reprinted and was the basis for that bane of Michael Gove, Oh What A Lovely War.

    They were quasi-official publications. The War Office kept a fine collection, which is now with the British Library. The War Museum also has a good set. But they were more representative of the horrors and privations endured by the troops than representations in the ‘popular press’ at the time.

    And Conscientious Objectors also had their ‘comics’, circulated clandestinely within the prisons to which they were eventually consigned. Unfortunately only one or two of these survived [Friends House has one], but a small anthology of the poetry within them was printed just after the war. And that is relatively easy to get hold of.if you have access to a good reference library.

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