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Mocking the twits of the 21st century

June 23, 2011 in Comment, News

Bloghorn Opinion logoMaster Cartoonist John Jensen wrote to Bloghorn about the stories of criticism for the one year postgraduate study into Comics and Visual Communication recently launched by the University of Dundee. We publish his letter below.

Tom Harris is an MP whose hobbies include astronomy, science, fiction, cinema, karaoke and tennis. He was a journalist before he became a politician. His activities, particularly his wide range of hobbies (how does he find the time?) suggests a broad interest in the world around him.

Fiction or, if you want to be up-market, literature deals in words, whilst the cinema deals in pictures and they both, at their best, deal in ideas. So do comics, which deal in all these things.

The history of comics is itself a wonderful journey through time and many talents (admittedly some of them terrible!) but modern comics and graphic novels are revelatory. Countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy publish works showing the wide differences, and occasional resemblances, between each other. The United States and Japan share the comic experience but manga and its storylines is different from the storylines and violence found in Marvel Comics or in DC publications.

Many studies, either useful or just plain interesting, are to be found in those little story-telling boxes. The University of Dundee is offering a one-year Masters degree in comic studies: one year, not three. Probably too many students will try to enter what they see as an easy option, but someone perceptive and genuinely interested in the juxtaposition of words, pictures and ideas will not be wasting their time or ours – except, of course that of Tom Harris MP. After a hard nights karaoke, taking in a serious study of  ‘the relationship between international comics cultures’ would be just too tiring!

Bloghorn thanks  PCOer John Jensen for his thoughts and invites you to share yours in the comments below. If you are interested in the local reaction to the comments of Tom Harris and the issue you can read them at the Dundee Courier.

A degree of ignorance about drawing

June 17, 2011 in Comment, General, News

Bloghorn Opinion logoIf you have been following this story you will be unsurprised that Bloghorn thinks comics, and cartooning in all its forms, are all too readily undervalued in the UK.

It is more acceptable in the cultures of Japan, the US and across Europe to consider the narrative techniques and visual artistry employed by commercial artists as a powerful form for  business and personal communication as well as entertainment and teaching.

The best single piece of evidence we offer is the attitude of the UK arts funding body – The Arts Council –  towards the national Cartoon Museum* which despite its popularity, and the long history of the form in the UK , receives no central funding. We wrote about this here.

Of course, there are some exceptions in this country – political cartooning, for example, tends to receive grudging respect for its obviously satirical and “real-world” relevance. But all too often, the “cartoon” and “comic” are used here as catch-all terms for anything that is unsophisticated, childish or tacky.

Tom Harris MP on Dundee Cartoon and Comic Course @

Tom Harris MP on Dundee Cartoon and Comic Course @

Tom Harris speaking about the establishment of a one-year Postgraduate degre in study of Visual Communication at the University of Dundee. – The home of publishers DC Thomson

Another political figure, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, did exactly that last week. Criticising the Daily Mail, he described the paper as a “sexist, racist, bigoted comic cartoon strip(Bloghorn is only interested in the second half of that assertion, which we feel is a little unfair).

Academic appreciation of cartooning is, in fact, not new: since 1973, the University of Kent has hosted the British Cartoon Archive, a collection of more than 150,000 pieces intended to encourage the study and appreciation of cartoon art, including comic strips. The Cartoon Archive is freely open to those wishing to carry out research, and is actively involved in promoting the art form – often in collaboration with the national Cartoon Museum, the PCO and its fellow cartoonists organisations, the BCA and the CCGB.

Bloghorn is made by Matthew Buck, Royston Robertson, Alex Hughes and Rob Murray on behalf of the UK Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation

* We say please consider becoming a member to help fund them

The degree of visual communication

June 16, 2011 in Comment, News

Bloghorn Opinion logoThis story raised a storm about the value of the drawn form as a subject worthy of study. The row provoked by the Labour MP Tom Harris has provided some lively correspondence for Bloghorn. Rob Murray reports:

Dr Ernesto Priego, co-editor of The Comics Grid, publicly responded to Mr Harris by asking him whether he also believed that film courses constitute dumbing down.

Speaking  to Bloghorn he said: “The new programme at Dundee is a triumph for comics scholarship worldwide.

“It will certainly be an asset for Dundee and the UK.

“The MP’s opinion was misinformed. It represents the view of many people who still don’t understand what comics are, have been, can be.” Dr Priego added: “I believe it’s also our responsibility to inform the wider public, and the policy makers, [of] the importance of graphic storytelling.”

Dr Priego is not alone. The Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie has also come out against his colleague’s comments. You can read his thoughts on the cultural value of comics here.

Bloghorn thanks Dr Priego who  holds a PhD in Information Studies, focusing on comics and digital technology, for his time and opinions.

EDITED: Noon 16th June

Bloghorn thanks Gregor Murray from the office of Stewart Hosie for passing details of the local media story which you can read here.

Editor, Matthew Buck adds:

Isn’t there a need for more courses like Dundee’s (at degree level or, indeed, much lower down the education “value chain”) to help move opinion about drawing beyond such ill-informed prejudice?

It would help develop better practice of communication for both business and people in the digital age.

Please have your say in the comments below. Bloghorn will be publishing more reaction to this story tomorrow.

Grandma returns and Oor Wullie goes

October 13, 2010 in News

Grandma has returned to Ipswich. The statue of the legendary Giles character was removed earlier this year to make way for a redevelopment of the area, but is now positioned looking up at the window where cartoonist Carl Giles worked as the centrepiece of the newly renamed Giles Circus (as previously reported in Bloghorn).

Meanwhile, north of the border a sketchbook belonging to Dudley D Watkins went under the hammer in Dundee last week. The sketchbook, which featured three sketches by Watkins of his comic characters Oor Wullie and The Broons went for £1600, easily beating the expected price of £1000. Also sold was a plaster cast of Oor Wullie sitting on an upturned bucket, which sold for £240.

Cartoon books coming out

October 27, 2008 in General

The clocks have fallen back, and subsequently the nights are drawing in, so as we race towards Christmas publishers are putting out books on cartooning. Here’s a selection of recent example that may be filling stockings come December.

First up is The History of the Beano: The Story so Far, a comprehensive round-up of the iconic DC Thompson comic from the last 70 years, here reviewed by the Daily Record and by Danny Baker in The Times. This book also ties in with the recent exhibitions in Dundee and the Cartoon Museum in London.

The History Of The Beano – The Story So Far is published by D.C. Thomson and Waverley Books, priced £25. The Beano and Dandy Birthday Bash continues at the The Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH until 2nd November 2008.

Next is Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster on the life and times of the late Daily Express pocket cartoonist Osbert Lancaster, which is reviewed in the New Statesman, the Spectator and by cartoonist Nicholas Garland in the Telegraph. This book also ties into an exhibition at the Wallace Collection (reviewed in the Telegraph, the Guardian, and the Independent) .

Cartoons and Coronets: The Genius of Osbert Lancaster, edited by James Knox, is published by Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd, priced £25. The exhibition continues at The Wallace Collection, Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN until 11th January 2009.

And finally we come to The Best of Punch Cartoon, a collection of cartoons from the legendary satirical magazine spanning over 150 years of humour, the launch of which was attended by the PCO’s own Pete Dredge. Reviewed here by cartoonist Peter Brookes of the Times, by Michael Heath, cartoon editor of the Spectator, and in the Independent.

The Best of Punch Cartoons, by Helen Walasek, is published by Prion Books, priced £30.

The PCO: Great British cartoon talent

Cartoon Exhibition: The Beano in Dundee

August 4, 2008 in General

Amid the coverage of the London launch of the Beano and Dandy Birthday Bash last week at the Cartoon Museum, we should mention that there’s a parallel exhibition in the Beano and Dandy’s home town of Dundee. The exhibition is being held at the Lamb Gallery at the University of Dundee until the 20th September, Monday to Friday 9.30-20.30, Sat 9.30-12.00, and best of all, it’s free to enter!

More details at the University of Dundee’s website. Not being able to attend ourselves, Bloghorn would be keen to hear any reports from the exhibition.

Getting back to the London event, ITN sent a reporter along to cover the event last week, and here’s their report.

Thanks to Lew Stringer for his Blimey! It’s another blog about comics for the above links.

PCO member Steve Bright, who worked for the comics for more than twenty years, asks us to point out that ITN have made a clanger in their copy. The current editor of The Beano is Alan Digby, not Rigby. Independent Television News, what can you say … thanks for pointing that out Steve.

It’s British cartoon talent