In 1872, Maharajah, an Asian Elephant, walked from Edinburgh to his new home in Belle Vue Zoo with his keeper Lorenzo Lawrence. Oliver East, a Manchester-based artist, walked the same route in April 2016, as inspiration for a full-length comic, co-commissioned by Manchester Museum and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.
Now the Museum is exhibiting a special exhibition of work from the project, which runs until 1st September 2016.
After his walk, Oliver spent months drawing a full-length comic – on sale now – combining Maharajah’s story with recollections of his experiences walking 200-odd miles in all weathers and environments.
His walk was also filmed by Cumbrian-based film-makers Dom Bush and Simon Sylvester along the way.
“It’s a story many Mancunians have heard, but it’s definitely one that more should know about,” said Oliver last October of Maharajah’s original epic, 200-mile journey from Edinburgh to his new home at Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester. The journey captured the imaginations of millions back then because rather than taking the train, Maharajah made the entire journey on foot.
“The story goes that when Maharajah got on the train he smashed up the carriage and got thrown off, so he and his keeper, Lorenzo Lawrence, had no choice but to walk to Manchester instead. But there’s something about that which doesn’t ring true,” says East. “Once the elephant was on the train that was it for Lorenzo, job done, so there’s a theory that he tricked the elephant into panicking and then offered to walk him to Manchester – thus getting an extra ten days’ work and, eventually, a gig at Belle Vue.
“The thing is, Maharajah had been part of a menagerie and would have been well used to travelling, but if you’re about to see your bread and butter disappear…”
The exhibition has been specially prepared for the Museum, and Oliver’s illustrations combine historical events with his reflections, exhibited around the mounted skeleton of Maharajah in Manchester Gallery.
Oliver East is perhaps best known thanks to the album sleeves he designed for Elbow – Build a Rocket Boys! and The Seldom Seen Kid – but he has been working on various “walking comic” projects such as Take Me Back To Manchester for the best part of a decade, with associated book releases that include The Homesick Truant’s Cumbrian Yarn (also supported by the Lakes festival) and the wonderful Trains Are Mint.
• Take Me Back To Manchester runs until 1st September 2016 at Manchester Museum. Web: www.museum.manchester.ac.uk
• Oliver East Official Site: www.olivereast.com
• Buy Take Me Back To Manchester here
Heres’ some sample art from the book © Oliver East…
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.