The first stab at a script for this comics novella emerged from musicologist Jonathan James in July 2017. Rather remarkably it took us nine months and nine versions before we nailed the script to our joint satisfaction, ready for Brick to start drawing it up. One year later, to the month, the artwork is complete and the daunting challenge of visualising classical music has been surmounted.
The story is a comedy conflating two concerns that plague classical music – the Curse of the Ninth, that saw so many famous composers into an early grave, and the historic lack of opportunities for female composers.
Now all Jonathan and myself need is a visionary publisher who appreciates there is a market for a music comic that isn’t about punk, rap, blues or pop music. Below, samples of various ways in which we handle the music. Scroll over to pause fades.
Written by Al Feldstein, this remarkable comics story was published in 1955 in EC Comics’ Impact first in series. Aside from the strong narrative, Krigstein’s depiction of expanded time on the final page is now a comics art classic (eat your heart out, Sam Peckinpah!), but prepare to be dazzled by his handling of the strobe effect of flashes of the passengers as the train travels through. There is so much to admire in this piece of work, I’ve enlarged the original page size to enhance your appreciation of an illustrator at the top of his game. To learn more, start with Everything 2.
The opening page of my latest opus. Co-written with musicologist Jonathan James, Albert Angst… riffs on the misfortune that appears to have plagued too many classical music composers, that of dying during or shortly after creating their ninth symphony. Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, Mahler, Bruckner and several lesser composers all fell victim to the curse. But classical music has also been cursed by a lack of women composers. As the deadline gets ever closer for him to present his ninth to his publisher, Albert becomes increasingly creatively paralysed, and when his wife offers to anonymously compose it for him, well… the ghosts of the cursed are less than ecstatic!
This self-portrait from the mists of time was recently unearthed by my daughter while rummaging through her attic. I have no memory of doing it but, judging from the date, it comes from a time when I was teaching myself to draw. In ’68 we were more interested in tearing down the State than laying the foundations for a career in art, which meant weeks of sit-ins and strikes at the college I attended, in solidarity with everything May ’68 meant in Paris but with an added protest against the indolence of our lecturers. I went to an art college expecting to be taught how to draw, expecting to spend hours in life drawing classes, but quickly discovered none of our fine art lecturers could wield a pencil to any great effect. It was the era of typed statements and emotionless, impenetrable photographs that constituted so-called Conceptual Art. Of that year’s intake, I am the only graduate who went on to actual make a living from my art, if you can call cartooning such.
In case you get the impression that Brick is strictly a monochrome B&W sorta ‘toonist, behold the full splendid colour of a private commission for young Bill’s 60th birthday, featuring the back of him cycling up Mount Ventoux in France, which was his heart’s desire for the great day, carrying his whole extended family in panniers with grandchildren running along side.
Also a piccy of Bill’s wife, Jennie, presenting him with the commemorative ‘toon after the event somewhere yummy near the mountain. Check out the delight…
Spotted on an estate in Sherwood, Nottingham, is this miniature brash pile at the foot of one of the many lime trees lining the avenues (known as ‘the Dales’). The adjacent garden featured a lovely ramshackle corner of chopping-block-sized trunks, sculptural logs and rotting wood meshed together by English ivy and bristling grasses. Somebody knows their bugs and loves their birds.
You can never have enough rotting wood lying around in the city, particularly brash piles that provide habitat for a greater variety of tasty insects than a single large log or pile of the same. These are the handy take-aways for local bird life, and the idea of an inconspicuous little pile like this at the foot of the tree that provides all the building materials is brilliant. It can’t have taken any longer than five minutes to build from the mess of twigs and tree litter found at the base, materials that would otherwise be crushed out of existence or swept away by Man or flood. It’s hard enough for a bird to survive on our city streets, so anything that helps…
On this avenue it is evidently working. In the handful of minutes it took me to walk it, I heard or saw blackbirds, sparrows in abundance, pigeons, doves, tits galore, magpies, robins, a sparrow hawk, tree-creeper and woodpecker.
My contribution to Tim Bird’s Rock’n’Pop – Various Artists site.
Have a soft spot for music comics, ever since the heady days of the great underground comic Rock’n’Roll Madness. Tim’s excellent project is one to be supported and contributed to.