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Fabrizio Dori on Gauguin: The Other World

Italian artist Fabrizio Dori was reading comics at an early age, but like many readers for whom superheroes never really appealed, he lost interest as a teen. Dori, whose graphic biography Gauguin: The Other World is out now, rediscovered the medium in his thirties. It was only then, after studying at Milan’s Brera Academy of Art, that he felt the desire to start making them.

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“It’s a strange medium,” he says. “It balances two things [fine art and literature] that are really quite different from one another – things that, in theory, shouldn’t work together. But in practice, they do, and they do well.”

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According to Dori, it’s an exciting time to be working in this hybrid form. “Comics is quite a young medium, and it’s going through a transitional phase similar, more or less, to that which transformed the visual arts in the 8th and 9th centuries. During that period, artists were freed from the constraints of their traditional role within society and forged (with some difficulty) a place for themselves in the modern world. Making comics today is challenging, but it’s a special moment, full of opportunities.”

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Dori’s biography, the latest book in our Art Masters series, follows the extraordinary life of a man who was by turns a globe-trotting sailor, a brilliant stockbroker and an outcast painter. But it was something else about Paul Gauguin’s life that made him appealing as a subject. “I’m attracted to stories with a mythical and archetypical dimension. This element of Gauguin’s life was the spark that brought the book to life. We’re talking about the story of a man who’s looking for a lost paradise; who finds it; and who, after a hubristic downfall, loses it again.”

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Dori developed his ideas in writing before working on the architecture of the story. “I prepare an outline like a musical score; on this I arrange the individual scenes and define the style and the rhythm of the tale. This is a critical phase: if the foundations are not strong, the entire narrative will be unstable.

“The storyboard and script are worked on simultaneously. I imagine and realise the details of each scene at the storyboarding stage. Once that’s complete, I begin work on the final pages.”

The results of this process can be found in the beautiful Gauguin: The Other World, which is available now from all good book shops.

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New release: Josephine Baker by Catel and Bocquet

Dancer, civil rights activist, supporter of the Resistance and mother to the “Rainbow Tribe”: Josephine Baker packed a lot into her 68 years. Hers is a life that demands a monumental portrait, and French creative team Catel and Bocquet have kindly obliged: released this month, their latest graphic biography is 500 glorious pages of dancing and dissent.

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Josephine Baker was nineteen years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the era, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier and Simenon. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from London to Vienna, Alexandria to Buenos Aires.

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After World War II, and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation, publicly battling the humiliations she had for so long suffered personally.

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She led by example, and over the course of the 1950s adopted twelve orphans of different ethnic backgrounds: a veritable Rainbow Tribe. And it was one of her adopted children, Jean-Claude Bouillon-Baker, who acted as the Historical Consultant on Catel and Bocquet’s biography, which contains 100 pages of supplementary material.

Josephine Baker by Catel and Bocquet is available now from all good book shops.

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Inspirations: Néjib on Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie

In Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie, French comics artist and graphic designer Néjib tells the story of the young musician’s formative years, living and working in a Victorian house in Beckenham, south-east London. Here, Néjib reveals his inspirations and influences, and why he decided to let Haddon Hall itself take the role of narrator.

In Haddon Hall, I wanted to capture the spirit of the time. It’s not purely a biographical work; rather, it’s a snapshot of David Bowie at the twilight of ’60s. I consider this to be the most pivotal period in his creative development. We know that it was between 1969 and 1970 that David Bowie became himself, and these years held a little magic of their own.

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At first, I wanted to do it in black and white, and then little by little I was drawn towards Heinz Edelmann’s work (notably Yellow Submarine), as well as the work of other graphic artists from that time — Milton Glaser, for example.

I initially got stuck with my colour choices, and it was by looking at the work of these people that I saw the potential of a fairly limited palette. I tried using a dark blue line and saw that it could be interesting to work in that way. There was a lot of fumbling, but eventually I found a way to pay tribute to the musicians and graphic designers of the ’60s and ’70s.

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When I was writing the first draft of the script, something didn’t add up. There was information I wanted to include but it came across too heavily on the page. At some point, I don’t know why, I thought it might be nice if the house became the narrator. The idea won me over right away; I think the story benefits from a loose sense of fantasy. I didn’t think too much about it, but it was a decision that unlocked the narration: when I wanted to say something, it was the house that said it. It also gave the story a narrative thread.

Néjib is a graphic designer and comics artist. He is the art director at Editions Casterman. Born in Tunisia, he now lives and works in Paris. His favourite David Bowie song is “Sound and Vision”.

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie is available now from all good book shops.

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It’s Our 10th Birthday!

A decade ago today, SelfMadeHero published its first two books. A party at Bloomsbury’s Horse Hospital saw the launch of the first two titles in the Manga Shakespeare series: Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

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Since then, we’ve published over 100 graphic novels, and our list has grown to include graphic biographies, original fiction, gift books and a whole lot more. This expansion is a testament to the richness and diversity of today’s graphic novel landscape. A decade on, the graphic novel remans an increasingly vital and ubiquitous part of our culture, and at the heart of this rise is an amazing community of talented, tireless creators.

Our anniversary year will see a number of celebratory events and activities take place. But for now, we’d simply like to thank everyone who’s been involved in our story over the last ten years – especially our fabulous artists and writers. In no particular order:

Richard Appignanesi, Sonia Leong, Emma Vieceli, Kate Brown, ILYA, Patrick Warren, Nani Li, Robert Deas, Mustashrik, Chie Kutsuwada, Ryuta Osada, Faye Yong, Paul Duffield, Merlin Evans, Cally Law, Sylvain Coissard, Alexis Lemoine, Lisa Wrake, Andrew Collins, Martin Rowson, David Zane Mairowitz, Chantal Montellier, Jaromír 99, Ian Edginton, I.N.J. Culbard, Peter Sís, Leopold Maurer, Margaux Motin, Typex, Barbara Stok, Clément Oubrerie, Julie Birmant, Andrzej Klimowski, Danusia Schejbal, David Hine, Mark Stafford, Will Sweeney, John Matthews, Catherine Anyango, Alain Korkos, JAKe, Robert Sellers, Arne Bellstorf, Rob Davis, LAX, David B., Jean-Pierre Filiu, Edward Ross, André Diniz, Maurício Hora, Will Bingley, Anthony Hope-Smith, Catel Muller, José-Louis Bocquet, Reinhard Kleist, Paul Collicutt, Oscar Zarate, Glyn Dillon, Christophe Blain, Abel Lanzac (a.k.a. Antonin Baudry), Scott McCloud, Philippe Nicloux, Laurent-Frédéric Bollée, Jérémie Dres, Li Kunwu, Philippe Ôtié, Judith Vanistendael, Frederik Peeters, Javier Mariscal, Fernando Trueba, Patrick McEown, David Prudhomme, Dan Lockwood, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Leigh Gallagher, Matt Brooker, Shane Ivan Oakley, David Hartman, Alice Duke, Ben Templesmith, Jamie Delano, Simon Spurrier, Ben Dickson, Chris Lackey, Chad Fifer, Dwight L. MacPherson, Steve Pugh, Attila Futaki, Matt Timson, Mick McMahon, Adrian Salmon, Bryan Baugh, Warwick J Cadwell, Nicolas Fructus, Paul Peart-Smith, Aneke, Kit Buss, Fouad Mezher, Alisdair Wood, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Black Francis, Josh Frank, Steven Appleby, Nick Abadzis, David Camus, Jörg Tittel, John Aggs, Si Spencer, DIX, Slava Harasymowicz, Dan Whitehead, Peter Kuper, Barbara Yelin, Steffen Kverneland, Anne Martinetti, Guillaume Lebeau, Alexandre Franc, Deborah Levy, Mike Medaglia, Fionnuala Doran, Edmond Baudoin, Box Brown, Aimée de Jongh, Néjib, Fabrizio Dori, Paolo Bacilieri, Chris W. Kim, Pieter Coudyzer and anyone I may have missed.

Anyone who’d like to know what the last 10 years of graphic novels has comprised could do worse than to Google these names. Ditto if you’re wondering what the future’s likely to bring. (Spoiler: it’s looking good!)

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Revealed: SelfMadeHero’s Spring Releases

2016, eh? It was nothing if not eventful.

Well, if you’re worried about fake news, Donald Trump and the price of Marmite, SelfMadeHero is here to help. This spring we’re offering bibliotherapy in the form of six enlightening, emotive and inspiring graphic novels. Our spring list takes in the extraordinary lives and glorious times of Josephine Baker and David Bowie; the troubled existence of the outcast painter Paul Gauguin; and offbeat stories of cruciverbalists, street performers and human beings transformed. So, pick up your gratitude journal and behold six reasons to be cheerful.

In February we publish Néjib’s graphic biography Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie. At the twilight of the Swinging Sixties and the dawn of the decadent Seventies, an old villa in the suburbs of London was the sole witness to a major event in the history of pop music: David Bowie’s invention of himself. 

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Part commune, part creative hub, Haddon Hall became home to a community of artists and hippies and hangers-on – a place where egos clashed and parties got out of hand, but also one that allowed David Bowie’s creativity to flourish.

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Published in March, Fabrizio Dori’s Gauguin: The Other World captures the astonishing life of a man who was by turns a globetrotting sailor, a brilliant stockbroker and an outcast painter.

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In the latest addition to our Art Masters series Fabrizio Dori paints a balanced and absorbing portrait of a fearless artist and flawed human being whose all-consuming passion – for art, for women and for himself – destroyed everything in its path. Gauguin’s primitivist paintings won him few admirers in his own lifetime, but his radical break from Impressionism would pave the way for a new generation of artists, among them Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and Henri Matisse.

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In April, another intoxicating graphic biography: Josephine Baker by Catel & Bocquet. The creative duo behind the backlist favourite Kiki de Montparnasse tell the incredible story of the pioneering dancer and ’20s icon.

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Josephine Baker was twenty years old when she found herself in Paris for the first time in 1925. Overnight, the young American dancer became the idol of the Roaring Twenties, captivating Picasso, Cocteau, Le Corbusier and Simenon. In the liberating atmosphere of the 1930s, Baker rose to fame as the first black star on the world stage, from Buenos Aires to Vienna and Alexandria to London. After World War II and her time in the French Resistance, she decided to devote herself to the struggle against racial segregation, the humiliation of which she was all too familiar with. She led by example, and over the course of the 1950s adopted twelve orphans of different ethnic backgrounds: a veritable Rainbow Tribe. Josephine would be a victim of racist abuse throughout her life, but she would sing of love and liberty until her final breath.

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April also sees the release of Paolo Bacilieri’s breathtakingly inventive, brilliantly playful FUN.

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Professor Pippo Quester – respected novelist and public intellectual – is writing a history of the crossword puzzle. Together with his protege, the Disney Comics writer Zeno Porno, he unearths stories of pioneering editors, genius cruciverbalists and eminent compilers, among them Margaret Farrar, the so-called “first lady of crosswords”, and the literary giants Georges Perec and Vladimir Nabokov.

As Professor Quester and Zeno Porno explore the crossed destinies of comics and crosswords, the story sweeps from New York in the 1920s, through wartime Britain and mid-century Milan, to 1970s Paris. But the sudden appearance of Mafalda, an enigmatic former student carrying a heavy grudge and a handmade pistol, returns Quester sharply to the present, and the two writers become entangled in a puzzle of their own.

At once an impeccably researched history and a playful literary crime story, FUN is an inventive graphic novel that explores the intersection between high and low culture, the borderline between coincidence and cryptic communication, and the strange power of one of the world’s most popular pastimes.

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May sees the release of a debut graphic novel by the Toronto-based comics artist and illustrator Chris W. Kim. Herman by Trade is a captivating and beautifully drawn story about art, identity and making room for self-expression.

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Herman is an introverted and unambitious street cleaner, his life as predictable as it is dull. Or so it seems to those he works with on the city’s waterfront. In fact, Herman is creative, curious and complex. What’s more, he has a remarkable hidden talent: the ability to transform his appearance at will. An open casting call sees the city swept up into a frenzy of creative ambition. As a queue forms along the waterfront, Herman is emboldened to perform. But his decision to enter the audition room brings his creative and professional lives into conflict, and the consequences are irreversible.

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Finally, also in May, another outstanding work of fiction: Outburst by Pieter Coudyzer. An award-winning animator, Coudyzer has turned his extraordinary talent and unique imagination to comics, and the result is a darkly compelling modern fairy tale.

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Outburst tells the story of an introvert named Tom. Bullied at school, at home he finds solace in recordings of nature and the wild spaces of his imagination. But when he falls prey to a particularly cruel trick, this imaginative wilderness becomes rampant. It wants out. Centring on a disturbing metamorphosis, Coudyzer’s debut graphic novel is a compelling coming of age story and a masterpiece of magical realism.

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See, 2017 promises to be momentous for all the right reasons!

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Launching at Gosh! Comics: The Can Opener’s Daughter by Rob Davis

On Thursday 8th December The Can Opener’s Daughter by Rob Davis launches at Gosh! Comics in London. Join us from 7pm to raise a glass to the second book in the trilogy that began with the British Comic Award-winning The Motherless Oven. As ever, there’ll be free booze, fine company and a chance to get your copy signed.

In The Motherless Oven, Scarper Lee asked: “Who the hell is Vera Pike?” In the follow-up, we get a chance to find out.

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Vera lives in the cruel world of Grave Acre. Her mother is the Weather Clock, the megalomaniacal Prime Minister of Chance. Her father is a can opener. Charting Vera’s childhood, The Can Opener’s Daughter takes us from her home in Parliament to suicide school, and from the Bear Park to the black woods that lie beyond.

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In the present day, Vera and Castro Smith are determined to see their friend Scarper again – but is he even still alive? Can anyone outlive their deathday? A darkly inventive sequel, The Can Opener’s Daughter answers many of the questions posed in The Motherless Oven, while asking plenty more of its own.

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The launch takes place on Thursday 8th December at Gosh! Comics, 1 Berwick Street, London W1F 0DR, 7-9pm. Sold? Join the event on Facebook and let everyone know!

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London: The Tetris Block Party, with Box Brown

On Thursday 3rd November Box Brown, author of Tetris: The Games People Play, is the special guest at SelfMadeHero’s Tetris Block Party, which takes place at London’s premiere gaming bar, Scenario (97 Stoke Newington Rd, N16 8BX; nearest station: Dalston Kingsland). Everyone’s welcome and attendance is free – just RSVP through Facebook or by email to sam@selfmadehero.com.

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Expect an evening of retro gaming and cutting edge comics: there’ll be Tetris on the consoles, game-themed cocktails behind the bar and a pop-up graphic novel stall provided by Soho’s finest, Gosh! Comics. Go head-to-head with friends, compete for the Grand Prize or just drink, relax and play.

tetris-for-blog-2Box Brown will be on hand to answer questions and to sign copies of Tetris, which untangles the complex and intriguing history of one of the world’s most popular videogames, while delving deep into the role games play in art, culture and commerce. 

The Guardian has said of the book, “it reads like a thriller… It’s a blockbuster in every sense of the word.” Come equipped with good spirits, nimble thumbs and terrible Tetris puns.

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Thought Bubble 2016: Box Brown, Aimée de Jongh, Leah Moore and John Reppion

The British comic book community shares a peculiar quirk: we actually look forward to November. Why? Two words: Thought Bubble.

On Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th November, we’ll be laying out our wares in New Dock Hall (tables 90-92). There you’ll find signed books, exclusive prints and discounts flying in the face of Brexit, as well as four very special guests.

Box Brown visits Thought Bubble to celebrate the release of his brand new graphic novel, Tetris. As well as signing copies of the book throughout the weekend, he’ll discuss the game’s complex and intriguing history with Paul Gravett at a free event on the Saturday (“Tetris: The Games People Play”, News Room, 12.10-13.00).

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Flying in from the Netherlands, Aimée de Jongh: considered one of the brightest talents on the Dutch comics scene, de Jongh’s trip to Thought Bubble coincides with the release of her debut graphic novel, The Return of the Honey Buzzard. Winner of the Prix Saint-Michel, de Jongh’s book is a masterfully crafted story about grief, love, our actions and their consequences. Here’s what Starburst had to say about it in their ten-star review.honey-buzzard_blog

Last but not least, John Reppion and Leah Moore join the SelfMadeHero contingent, signing copies of their latest graphic novel, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Vol. 1, which collects four adaptations of stories by M.R. James: “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook” (illustrated by Aneke), “Lost Hearts” (illustrated by Kit Buss), “The Mezzotint” (illustrated by Fouad Mezher) and “The Ash-Tree” (illustrated by Alisdair Wood). Expect spine-chilling tales of spectral artworks and vanishing children.

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Thought Bubble takes place on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th November at the Leeds Dock and Royal Armouries (10:00-17:00 both days). You’ll find SelfMadeHero on tables 90-92 in New Dock Hall. For more information, check out the full festival programme.

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Leah Moore and John Reppion: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Vol. 1

Admired by writers from H.P. Lovecraft to Ruth Rendell, M.R. James is the acknowledged master of the English ghost story. Disdaining gore in favour of atmosphere and suggestion, his enduring tales of are masterpieces of understated horror.Ghost stories_cover for blog

Writers Leah Moore and John Reppion have crafted adaptations of four stories from James’s first collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary: “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook” (illustrated by Aneke), “Lost Hearts” (illustrated by Kit Buss), “The Mezzotint” (illustrated by Fouad Mezher) and “The Ash-Tree” (illustrated by Alisdair Wood).

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To mark the release of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Vol. 1, Leah Moore and John Reppion will be giving away a bundle of M.R. James goodies to one lucky winner every Friday of this month. Head over to their website or Twitter feeds (@johnreppion & @leahmoore) to find out how you can win not only a copy of the graphic novel but original artwork, an audiobook, a limited-edition poster and more.

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Debuting at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival this month, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, Vol. 1 comprises graphic tales that are at once true to their source and powerfully reimagined for a visual medium. Lovecraft called M.R. James “a literary weird fictionist of the very first rank”. Leah Moore and John Reppion’s latest collection joins our Lovecraft anthologies among the ranks of a growing canon of disturbing, unputdownable graphic adaptations.

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October: Mike Medaglia brings gratitude to the Mind Body Soul Experience

Fresh from his appearance at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Mike Medaglia returns to the Mind Body Soul Experience in London. The event takes place from 21st-23rd October inside the beautiful Alexandra Palace.

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You’ll find Medaglia at our dedicated One Year Wiser stand (table 81). He’ll be signing copies of the latest addition to the series, One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal, as well as offering up other beautiful printed goods: prints, greetings cards, calendars – not to mention his bestselling gift and colouring books.

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But that’s not all: he’ll also be leading a workshop, “Illustrate Your Mantra”, both on the Friday (11:30-12:30) and on the Sunday (11:00-12:00). Join him to find out how to bring an inspirational quote to life through illustration.

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We look forward to seeing you in the Palace! In the meantime, you might like to read Medaglia’s latest Huffington Post blog, which looks at the power of gratitude and the art of living gratefully.

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