Review

AMELIA EARHART FIRST LADY.indd

Review of: Amelia Earhart First lady of Aviation

First Published May 2012
Graphic Novel published by Uproar Comics

May and June has been a bit frantic, finishing off artwork for Accent UK, publishing a graphic novel, Amelia Earhart, First lady of Aviation and preparing for the 2D Festival. I owe a debt of thanks to a number of people,Gio, John and Danny at Uproar Publishing, Olly Green and the Earhart Festival (which ran in Derry from May 9th to 21st )and David Campbell and his team 2012 2D Festival. Now that the dust has settled a bit I can view events through that odd blue haze of distance that forms as you get a bit older…all that “the higher up the mountain you struggle the clearer and wider the view over your shoulder.” kinda stuff..thingy..err… stuff.

earhart poster copy

Odd Choice for a Graphic Novel?

I had a bit of that…Amelia Earhart…odd choice for a graphic novel? Well, maybe but …BUT he said, I think that’s the real strength of the genre, pushing the boundaries a little, doing something a little off the wall, using comic books to educate, inform and entertain, writing from where you come from, what interests you and from what you know may interest others. There again, if Earhart’s life and achievements are not good material for an adventure yarn I don’t know what is. After all we do have a unique perspective on a globally historic figure…and if you want to find out what that unique perspective is, well…it’s all there in the book!

Local Publisher

The other obvious opportunity is the fact that we now have a young, professional, ambitious comic book publisher on our doorstep here in Derry in the form of Uproar Comics. This is a real plus and the fact that Uproar are willing to speculate and try different titles is also something to be celebrated. The Zombie Hi series has at its core a sense of the city’s past. Those stories clearly reference the Siege of Derry. They take a contentious past and place it in a new context using it as a backdrop for a more universal story applying new technology and in so doing, appealing to a wider audience.

Earhart Ball 7

Martina Anderson MEP with a copy of Amelia Earhart graphic novel, announcing her appointment to the European Parliament and highlighting the importance of getting our story out to the world. Speech at the Earhart Festival Gala Ball, May 2012

The Earhart Festival/Support for artists

Talking about festivals, apart from the 2D Comic con, Derry also hosts the Earhart Festival in May. The Earhart Festival is a community arts festival… a mixture of arts and community focused events, (what else!) The objective is direct community engagement, ordinary people taking part in the arts and cultural activity.  It also engages a lot of local artists like me.

Apart from the launch of the graphic novel, the festival also staged the world premier of One Day in Derry a new stage play commissioned for the festival; The Amelia Earhart Awards for children of achievement; the first ever Amelia Earhart lecture at Thornhill College as well as music and dance workshops for teenage kids. The Festival is supported by Derry City Council and this year was also supported significantly by City of Culture Company.

Often unsung, Community arts provide direct support for artists, musicians, writers etc without soul destroying and time sapping bureaucracy. My direct experience has been that funding involves “gate keepers” many of whom are not artists at all but people or committees with bureaucratic backgrounds (civil service, administration, etc.) tasked with accounting for funds and implementing plans and strategies. Getting round that sophisticated begging process is a boon and Earhart made that possible for me. (That said I just got another SIAP award from the Arts Council – thank God!)

My graphic novel was made possible by direct financial support from the Earhart Festival. This is a significant thing. Print and launch costs were given to assist with the production of the novel because the reasoning behind the project was recognised as worthy. Telling the story of a significant global heroine who just happened to grace a green field in the north of Derry in 1932, dropping in briefly for tea on her way to immortality, has made us part of a wider story. As we emerge blinking out of a long conflict (like an audience from a dark cinema that screened a 35 year long war movie with no intermission) I think we need alternate viewing…to redefine ourselves, look further than our next door neighbour. Earhart is a world story. We need to frame ourselves thus.This was part of the thinking behind telling the story of a historic event

(Earhart’s solo Atlantic crossing in 1932 and subsequent landing at Culmore in Derry) in the form of a graphic novel… It’s a very accessible medium. You never know, it may even be read by teenagers!  The Earhart connection has the potential to really bring visitors to the city. It’s ultimately about jobs and opportunity. The more people know the story the better. And why not capitalise? Any practicing artist in the city will tell you what the inside of the dole office looks like! Maybe I’m wrong but we should look for these connections, in the United States (the biggest economy in the Western world) Earhart is a national figure as big as any president and as big as any Hollywood star, past or present and we have a unique perspective of her. My own personal opinion is that people have to buy into an idea and to do that you’ve got to know what you’re buying in to

 New Opportunities

But thankfully, given our mad recent past, things are beginning to change. The 2D festival in particular has helped change the immediate local landscape and arguably, the Irish arts landscape and its place in the comic world. Every time I see David Campbell I tell him “Dave, are you aware of the significance of what you are doing with the 2D?” Dave usually smiles modestly. But if he would allow me, I can see it. I was honoured to be one of the guests at the 2D festival. I say honoured because I’m aware of the level of some of those other artists/writers/creators around me at the 2D. What the 2D has managed to do is to bring the outside world into our own space. It has provided us with comparative measures as to what is “good” and to discover whether or not we measure up to the very best in the world. It also accommodates not only those at the top of the tree but also an indigenous, young emergent small press from all over Ireland. It was nice to meet Mike Lynch and Andy Luke who I’ve had contact with during the year.

As you sit in the Verbal Arts there are experienced professionals from everywhere reflecting the fact that geographic location means nothing anymore in terms of the business. All the artists are united by a common respect for the business of making comic books whether that’s by working for the finest publishing houses in the world or by making their own comics on a PC or a photocopier we share the same space – the genre of comic books.

Earhart Ball 1

The author, Felicity McCall and artist, Joe Campbell, discussing the graphic novel with Shona McCarthy, CEO of City of Culture Company, with John Campbell, Author’s son and artist in background, May 2012.

Why Earhart?

All that said things are changing (as they always will). The arts, cultural tourism not only has significance for the city (as evidenced by City of Culture, the One Plan and the noticeable presence of tourists here) but also for Northern Ireland as a whole and that has been the experience in Belfast (Titanic Quarter, Game of Thrones). The difference between what’s happening now and the past is that all these things require the city (and the North) to be outward looking. To me Earhart is worth the effort because although she may have a local connection she is also a global figure.

Until next time, speak soon…

Earhart Ball 3

Felicity McCall, (writer Amelia Earhart) Martina Anderson MEP and Joe Campbell (artist, Amelia Earhart) at the Earhart Gala Ball, May 2012.

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