A graphic novel produced to commemorate the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, released by the National Trust for Scotland and written by Fiona Watson, illustrated by top independent comics creator Conor Boyle and lettered by Jim Campbell, has been generating plenty of attention since its release earlier this year.
On Dangerous Ground: Bannockburn 1314 takes a different look at the events, some of which are fictional, that took place in June 1314 and explores the character driven stories of those affected by the battle.
The graphic novel was commissioned by the Trust to mark the opening of the new, state-of-the-art Visitor Centre (http://battleofbannockburn.com) in time for the 700th anniversary of the battle this year.
Some 76 pages long, with some sections in 3D (glasses provided!), the story was written by historian Dr Fiona Watson, a member of the Bannockburn Academic Advisory Panel, working closely with artist Conor Boyle and designer Adam Stanning from Bright White Ltd.
Robert the Bruce and King Edward II feature in the story, as does the key scene when Bruce slew English knight Sir Henry de Bohun.
However, the main story centres on lesser known figures including two real English soldiers, a knight Sir John Fauconberg (Jack) and his squire Stephen fitz Conan, as well as a Scots woman Eva.
“Of course, it is fiction,” notes Dr Watson, “but nevertheless we can take the general story of what actually happened 700 years ago and create a believable story of how it might have been to be involved.”
The graphic novel was conceived to compliment the interpretation of The Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre, ” Adam Stanning explains of the project’s origins. ”
The centre takes a high level view of the battle, the types of combatant, arms and armour and the tactical decision making of commanders on the battlefield. The graphic novel on the other hand explores the more human, character driven stories of those affected by the battle.
“Like all battles there is no black and white and we wanted to explore characters that exist within the grey regions, whose allegiances may shift or who may have a very different perspective on the battle than expected.
“It was through this thinking that a story with multiple protagonists evolved, allowing us to explore characters with wildly different motivations.”
“The concept behind the novel was to use an exciting, popular and relevant modern medium to engage the public in the story of Bannockburn,” Tom Ingrey-Counter, interpretation project manager at the National Trust for Scotland, told The Scotsman.
“The graphic novel is aimed a very broad age range, excluding the very young due to some adult themes and violence. However, there was a conscious effort to ensure the novel appealed to the hard-to-reach teen and young adult ages,” Adam Stanning expands. Conor Boyle’s illustrations then combined what Adam feels is the perfect mix of detail and style, doing the research justice whilst pulling the reader from one panel to the next.
“Conor was able to create action in the most unexpected of places, something as simple as a conversation becomes a visual treat as he lures you from one panel to the next and then the artwork explodes in the battle scenes.”
Adam says the novel has been exceptionally well received and when paired with the interpretation at the centre, forms one of many strong avenues for engagement with this incredible story.
• On Dangerous Ground: Bannockburn 1314 is available now from the new shop at the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre and from the National Trust of Scotland web site
• There’s more from Adam Stanning about the creation process that went into making On Dangerous Ground here on the Celebrate Scotland web site
• Another Bannockburn-related comic, King Robert the Bruce and the Wars of Independence, is also available to order directly from the King Robert the Bruce educational web site. You can read our news story on that project here