The Stripped programme of the Edinburgh International Book Festival continues with a special event from two very different graphic novelists. Hannah Berry has recently released Livestock, a comedy satire that has (some would say unfortunately) managed to parody the current political climate. Meanwhile, Sarah Laing is presenting her excellent graphic memoir Mansfield and Me. This book weaves together stories from Sarah’s own life and the life of fellow New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield.
The event is chaired by reviewer and writer Joe Gordon and begins with Hannah Berry reading from Livestock. As she reads we see images from the graphic novel projected onto a screen to the back of the Bosco Theatre at the Book Festival’s new expanded location on George Street. Viewing Hannah’s artwork on a large scale really shows the quality of her work and her ability as an illustrator and storyteller. Sarah also gives a reading and again her artwork takes on a new life when combined with her words. Sarah’s artwork has an animated quality which makes the characters appear alive and vibrant even though they are static on the page.
Both the creators discuss their process and admit that producing graphic novels is a tiresome and time consuming task. Sarah emphasises the research she undertook in her work for Mansfield and Me and Hannah explains that she was pretty much chained to her drawing desk for three years when creating Livestock. The industry and painstaking work that has gone into both books is obvious within their exquisite pages. Both Hannah and Sarah clearly love the medium of comic books and mention that they will continue to work within the format in the future. Hannah Berry does suggest that she may not create another long form book and will likely concentrate on her work for The New Statesmen and weekly science-fiction comic book 2000AD. As long as both Hannah Berry and Sarah Laing are creating new work then that can only be a good thing.