The Stripped strand of The Edinburgh International Book Festival takes an in-depth look at comic books and graphic novels. Events are spread throughout the duration of the festival, but on Sunday 12 August there is a full day of presentations and a Comic Art Fair at the Principal Hotel in Charlotte Square. The Fair is arranged by the Edinburgh Comic Art Festival and features variety of local independent creators including Metaphrog, MJ Wallace and Kathryn Briggs. Over at the main Book Festival site there a series of events and talks covering a wide range of topics and authors.

The first Stripped event involves Nicola Streeten – the co-founder of Laydeez do Comics and the writer of Billy, Me & You. She is at the festival to discuss her latest book The Inking Women. This is a curated book showcasing comics, zines, graphic novels, strip cartoons, postcards and illustrations by women creators. Nicola co-edited the book with Cate Tate and we learn that The Inking Woman is based on an exhibition (of the same name) that was held at the Cartoon Museum in London in 2017. The event is chaired by Heather McDaid from publisher 404 Ink. Nicola gives a presentation on the history of women in comics and illustration. She explains that archives are inherently masculine and that finding work created by women is a hard task. That makes The Inking Women feel vital and poignant and this importance was evident in Nicola’s talk. It’s also important to say that Nicola’s event was presented under a ‘pay what you can’ scheme. A payment model that may allow more people to see events at the Book Festival.

The comic talk continues as Tom Gauld and Hamish Steele discuss their latest books in the fine surrounding of The Spiegeltent. With Baking with Kafka, Tom Gauld won the prestigious Eisner Award for Best Humour Publication. The book curates a series of strip cartoons that are all in Gauld’s simplistic, but effective style. The humour is dry and witty and the laughs leap off the page. Hamish Steele has a very different visual style in his comic books. His graphic novels are bright, bold and exciting. The event is chaired by James Runcie and is an opportunity for both authors to present their work as a performance. Tom showcases his illustrations which are screened behind the author as he narrates the dialogue for the cartoons. Hamish Steele presents pages from his book Pantheon. His bright, colourful style and punchy sense of humour goes down equally as well with the audience and this leads to an engaging and insightful Q and A. Here we learn more about the creative process of both artists. 

Paul Gravett is a comic book scholar, super-fan and overall champion of the medium. With the book Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics, the writer has published a history of comics books in Asia. The event is chaired by Stuart Kelly and as Gravett is not a comic book creator himself; the discussion focusses more on the medium, as opposed to the craft of making a comic books. Paul presents images from the book and also photographs taken from an Asian comics exhibition that is currently touring Europe. He shows work from legendary creators such as Tezuka Osamu and Fujiko F. Fujio and key images from lesser known artists. It is an engaging talk that only scratched the surface of comic books in Asia. The hour flies by and there is barely time for audience questions at the end. Mangasia is a massive book and does a good job of giving an overview of a massive subject area.

Reinhard Kleist is a fan of Australian musician Nick Cave. He is such a fan he has published two books on the songwriter. Kleist has a history of creating interesting and engaging illustrated biographies of fascinating people, including Fidel Castro and Johnny Cash. This event at the Book Festival is a live drawing performance where the illustrator interprets Nick Cave’s work visually, meanwhile the Zephyr Quartet and Ukulele Death Squad provide a live soundtrack. Each musical act plays a selection Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds songs and then a cover from another artist. The Zephyr Quartet tackle The Weeping Song and The Mercy Seat, while Ukulele Death Squad take on Red Right Hand, The Ship Song and Into My Arms. The 90 minute presentation/performance is a unique and thoroughly engaging way to see an artist go about their process. The visuals and the music worked in perfect harmony.

The eclectic mix of comic book events continue into the evening with John Harris Dunning, Michael Kennedy and, Javi Rey taking to the stage at the Corner Theatre. John Harris Dunning and Michael Kennedy have recently collaborated on the book Tumult. This is a psychological thriller in a Hitchcockian vein and was recently released by the publisher Self Made Hero. Also on Self Made Hero is Out in the Open, a comic book based on the novel by Jesus Carrasco. Javi Rey illustrated the book in his evocative and expressive style and mentions that the he saw the project as more of a translation of the original novel, as opposed to an interpretation. The creators discuss their use of colour and their creative processes and underlined why comics are such an expressive and exciting medium to tell stories in.

The Stripped Strand continues throughout the Edinburgh International Book Festival during August with events from Warren Pleece, Frank Quitely and may others.