The UK has a long tradition of making good comic books. Yet since the 1980s, sales of comics in newsagents, while still stronger than some magazine sectors, have declined drastically. Comic creator Sean Michael Wilson – author of the upcoming graphic novel The Many Not the Few with artist Robert Brown, introduced by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, is calling for better funding support for comic art projects to encourage creators.
He’s just launched a petition to government, calling to “Fund the art form of comic books to the same level that opera is supported“.
“The many talented British creators need more funding support in order to continue creating interesting comic books,” says Sean. “We do it for opera, so why not for this part of British culture?
“Comic books in Britain stretches back into the 19th Century,” he continues, “taking in many aspects of our culture. British comic book artists and writers have contributed important aspects, characters and stories to the art form. It’s a key artistic area we have led the way in.
“Yet nowadays, most talented creators scrape by on a pittance and the medium is in danger of dying off.,” he fears. “If we can support opera with grants and funding then this arguably even more significant aspect of British culture should be supported too.”
His petition comes as the launch date of The Many Not the Few on 20th May 2019 draws closer, taking place the Houses of Parliament itself!
A new book about British history, it’s introduced by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and is being published as part of the Workable Books imprint of New Internationalist, in partnership with the General Federation of Trade Unions.
“This launch is, we think, the first time a comic book has been launched in Parliament,” says Sean, a comic book writer from Scotland, “so it’s a symbolic little victory for the art form in general.”
In The Many Not the Few, offering a mix of serious research and family jokes, old union rep, Joe, and his granddaughter, Arushi, go into the complicated history, the ideological battles, the class conflict, a consideration of what unions are for, and what the future of unions may be.
Starting way back with the 14th-century Peasants’ Revolt, taking in the Levellers and the Luddites, the expansion of the unions in the 19th century, the height of their power in the 1970s, the great conflicts and decline of the ’80s, and considering the future positive role for unions.
Sean Michael Wilson has had many books published with a variety of US, UK, and Japanese publishers, such as Breaking the Ten, Portraits of Violence and The Book of Five Rings, and edited the critically acclaimed AX: alternative manga (Publishers Weekly’s “Best Books of 2010” in comics).
In 2016, his book Lafcadio Hearn’s “The Faceless Ghost” and Other Macabre Tales from Japan was nominated for the prestigious Eisner Award, and in 2017, his book Secrets of the Ninja won an International Manga Award from the Japanese Government.
Artist Robert Brown, from the Midlands, has been publishing his comics since 2004, when he released the first issue of his solo anthology series, Dream Logic, which ran for four issues, until 2007. He began publishing his current comic book series, Killjoy, in 2011.
He’s also contributed strip cartoons to anthology series such as Solipsistic Pop, Paper Tiger Comix and Sea Mouse, as well as illustrating pieces for Soaring Penguin’s Eisner-nominated anthology To End All Wars (written by Lex Wilson) and New Internationalist‘s Portraits of Violence, also written by Sean Michael Wilson, with Brad Evans).