I didn’t read comics when I was growing up. I couldn’t engage with them. I found them frustrating and limited and I wanted to see movement. I wanted to see animation, or in picture books, I wanted to see the kind of details that seemed to be lost in comics. The language of comics (the use of panels and speech bubbles and thought bubbles) felt like a barrier. Comics seemed like a compromise. It wasn’t until my parents bought me a book for my birthday called Comics, Comix & Graphic Novels that I started to really understand their potential. The book is a comprehensive illustrated history of the medium and really opened my eyes. It showed me the sex and subversiveness of Robert Crumb, the horror of the Holocaust story Maus by Art Spiegelman and the dark and beautiful Violent Cases by Neil Gaiman/Dave Mckean, which became the first graphic novel I bought for myself. And I realised that not all comics use speech bubbles or follow the conventions that I found such a barrier as a child.
And now that I am finding myself illustrating comics and battling with the task of composing each panel and page, I am appreciating them even more. Below are a three panel strip exploring the use of speech bubbles and a series of pages from the comic for Shahad Abulainain’s Dual Identity project. I’m still not certain what comics mean to me, and how I want to use them, but I am going to enjoy finding out.