Self Made Hero are one of the most forward thinking publishers of comic books and graphic novels in the UK. They are known for a variety of anthologies, works of fiction and interesting adaptations. A comic book take on the 1848 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is one of their more experimental publications, but illustrator Martin Rowson has taken on the task. Mohammad Sabaaneh on the other hand has a different take on politics. His book Palestine in Black and White raises awareness of the conflict in Palestine and depicts images of suppression and claustrophobia. Tonight the two creators are at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in a special event chaired by comedian, poet, performer and sometimes cartoonist Phil Jupitus.
Martin begins the conversation by discussing his adaptation and mentioning that the Communist Manifesto was a book of ideas as opposed to a manual to live by. Martin has taken an open minded approach to illustrating the book and uses satire, comedy and a steampunk style to convey the themes and content. Martin mentions that “Satire doesn’t need to be comedy” and that he was looking to present a unique take on the text. He also states that he first read the Communist Manifesto at 16 and then again at 58 and still found it hard to follow. With his graphic novel he is giving the complexities of the manifesto a visual edge.
With Palestine in Black and White Mohammad Sabaaneh has taken an expressive and personal look at conflict. He spent 2 months in prison without charge and was told that he was an enemy of Israel. Mohammad mentions that drawing was a form of therapy at that time and – “The most important thing for me to do as a cartoonist, is to do something new.” Mohammad is always looking to move things forward and educate and inform people with his work. The book is in black and white to convey the darkness, but also to present the light in the current situation in Palestine. He wants to show all sides of the conflict and has done so with brilliant illustrations.
Both books by Martin Rowson and Mohammad Sabaaneh show the importance of graphic novels and how illustrations can convey distinctive and evocative images that can inform and entertain in very different ways.