Friday Editorial: Making Graphic Novels In Ireland
I’ve asked Dermot Poyntz, publisher and founder of the new graphic novel publisher, Moccu Press and a graduate of NUI Galway’s MA in Literature & Publishing to write something about his soon to be published graphic novel, Curse of Cromwell: The Siege.
Graphic novels always appealed to me as a medium through which human experience can be conveyed. Comic book artist Will Eisner coined the term ‘Sequential Art’ when referring to this literary form, which arranges pictures and prose to narrate a story. In fact, Sequential Art predates graphic novels by thousands of years. Cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphics are two of the earliest forms.
I made the decision to publish a historical work in this format for two reasons. Firstly, Ireland has yet to develop this industry. There are only a handful of publishers in the Republic who produce graphic novels. Most notable is Cló Mhaigh Eo, who published five graphic novels in Irish, including the award winning An Táin.
The second reason is the success of O’Brien Press’ Blood Upon the Rose, which tells the story of the 1916 Rising in English. This graphic novel proved to me that Sequential Art can be successfully employed to transmit Irish history to a wider demographic.
In terms of writing the script for Curse of Cromwell: The Siege there was a number of challenges to overcome. The main problem was the task of condensing a massive amount of history into 46 pages, making up 177 panels. There was so much content that deserved inclusion, but because of space and budget had to be excluded.
Another issue that arose when writing the script is particular to the medium. Compromise between prose and artwork is a constant battle. Although the artwork comprises roughly 90% of the overall work, the prose is as important. It’s a delicate balance whereby you cannot let the narrative and dialogue impose on the artwork, but it’s paramount to the novel’s overall sense of meaning.
Considerations regarding how the reader’s will encounter the novel are also crucial. For instance, in film the viewer has no choice but to experience each frame one after the other in their intended sequence. With graphic novels you have to employ devices to control the reader’s intake of each panel in their correct order, because all of the panels are given on a page.
Producing the novel was an easier task in comparison, but still hard graft. All of the sketch work was prepared by hand, while the inking and colouring was completed digitally using Adobe Photoshop. This allowed the illustrator to produce a unique style and quality of artwork, as well as finishing the pages much quicker than if it was all made by hand.
Overall I’ve found graphic novels to be an extremely rewarding medium to work with, and intend to publish more in the future. I hope that Curse of Cromwell: The Siege will appeal to an extensive audience, and that all readers, from academics to those who have no knowledge of the subject, will find the novel a worthwhile experience. I would love it to be an impetus for people to learn more about Irish history, and to open people’s eyes to the endless potential of Sequential Art.