Tag Archive for: graphic novel

Pride of Baghdad book cover


“Published almost 20 years ago, this graphic novel still feels frighteningly current. Pride of Baghdad focuses on the events of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and bombing of Baghdad. During the bombardment, the once-thriving city zoo was left abandoned. Reportedly many animals starved to death, while others were stolen by looters, and yet others – among them a small group of lions – managed to escape. This pride of lions reportedly roamed the ruins of the city for several days until they were discovered by US soldiers. ‘Pride of Baghdad’ imagines the dreams, fears, and misadventures of these creatures in the days before their death – spoiler, they (like so many innocent victims of that conflict) all perish in the end. 

To give you just a quick flavour of the story, our four anthropomorphised lions – Noor, Ali, Safa, and Zill – all have different take on the current circumstance. Thrust into the wide world, some embrace freedom while others long to return to the safety of captivity. We see flashbacks to traumatic events and dreams of brighter futures, but at its heart this is a simple tale of one family’s desire to find a home. This desire is shattered, however, by the realisation that the land has been ravaged by decades of conflict. There is no peace, no wilderness, no home to be found. There is only oil, and war. 

The brilliance of Vaughan’s storytelling here is in something I like to call ‘obvious-subtlety’. Like Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ and Adams’s ‘Watership Down’, these so-called creature-fables are told through the eyes of the non-human, creating a distance which softens the blow of tragedy and invites the reader to fill the gap with their own experience. There’s no hiding the truth of what’s happening, after all, one of the thrills of a graphic novel is that it’s graphic. One particular panel shows an exploding giraffe – quite possibly the definition of non-subtle. But also, the author isn’t trying to force-feed you any kind of ideology. The message may be subtle, but the medium delivers it with obvious, through sometimes blunt, precision. And while bluntness may not be the best way to change the world, generations of activists have proven that sometimes we need hammers just as much as we need poems to shatter the walls around us.

– Philip Webb Gregg 

Gigantic Beard that was evil book cover


Who was it that said the best way to teach a lesson is to tell a story? Whoever it was, I don’t doubt they would take their hat off to Collins. 

What exactly is the lesson? I’ve no idea, but I know that by the time you put this graphic novel down you’ll be changed. Something inside you will click and unlock, and you’ll be more open-minded afterwards. Perhaps the lesson is simply to embrace ‘the other’, or to rigidly reject authoritarianism, or perhaps it’s just that you let things that wish to grow, grow. 

The Gigantic Beard that Was Evil’ tells the story of an island where everything is ordered. A land ruled by straight lines and schedules, where everyone lives in neat little houses with neat little lawns. That is until our protagonist, Dave the everyman, finds himself utterly overcome by a huge, unstoppable and monstrous beard. Oh dear, chaos has arrived at the island. 

Told through gentle but well-crafted rhyme and illustrated in stunning black and white crosshatch perfection, this book should be on everyone’s shelves. It’s both beautifully surreal and deeply, sadly real. And best of all, it’s funny enough to make Road Dahl wet himself. 

– Philip Webb Gregg



The story is exactly what it sounds like: a modern retelling of the Coleridge poem. Told by a grizzled old codger to a young screen-eyed stranger in a park, Hayes takes the original eco-fable and updates it, weaving in plastic pollution and the dehumanisation of humanity when disconnected from the natural world. There are vengeful apparitions, oil slicks and raging tsunamis, not to mention the endlessly mounting corpses of the creatures of the ocean.

Hayes’s poetry is lyrical and energetic, alternately summoning laughter, tears, and moments of reflection. But the real magic at play here is the artwork. Reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts, there’s a simplicity to his highly-detailed lines that allows breathing space while demanding fervent attention.

Of course, you won’t be surprised to learn that nobody listens to our modern mariner. His tale is disregarded as the ravings of a mad hobo, and he is left alone on a park bench, listening to the wind and wondering at the strangeness of humanity. – Philip Webb Gregg

For years, when people asked me why I bothered reading comics, I would point them in the direction of Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing. Not only is it a beautifully illustrated and powerfully written work of counterculture storytelling, it’s also a testament to the true potential of the graphic novel medium. For many people ­– myself included – this comic came with a moment of awakening, in the style of: ‘Whoa, I had no idea comics could do that’.

A brief synopsis. Our hero is Swamp Thing, an elemental representative of ‘the green’ – the hive mind of all plant life on Earth. In Moore’s editions, Swamp Thing takes the human form of Alec Holland, a plant scientist who suffers a terrible tragedy and goes on a series of spine-tingling, occasionally psychedelic and deeply moving adventures, mostly set in a swamp. The stories are characterised for being highly philosophical and politically challenging, very much in line with the rest of Moore’s oeuvre, such as ‘Watchman’ and ‘V for Vendetta’.

I recommend The Saga of Swamp Thing to anyone yearning for a modern-age Green Man to come and protect our wild world using only the power of vines and roots, weeds and blooms. – Philip Webb Gregg



“Storytelling is our most ancient and powerful technology. Stories have shaped our world, have changed the course of history and transformed lives. It’s the life blood of our species, pumping through our collective cultural veins, informing our actions motivating us, spinning our webs of beliefs, ideologies and realities. No part of our lives remains untouched by the stories we are told or those we tell ourselves.

In many ways the ‘story’ of Extinction Rebellion has always been its most powerful asset, that by coming together in creative, collective civil disobedience we can harness our power and change a world hurtling towards a global catastrophe created by our insane systems and reckless appetites.

Paul Goodenough’s Rewriting Extinction project is a herculean attempt to reimagine our collective fate through story, to literally rewrite the mass extinction event currently under way. A dazzlingly ambitious collaboration of creative talent from across planet Earth, it contains wisdom from luminaries in the comic industry like John Wagner, Tula Lotay, Alan Moore and Amy Chu to the talent of people like Moses Brings Plenty, Lucy Lawless and Andy Serkis to name but a scant few.

It’s a love song, a war drum, a desperate plea and an inspirational call to arms to take action now on behalf of all life, to fight for every species, every inch of ground, every child growing up in these uncertain times. The project not only tells stories but weaves them into projects that are directly making a difference. The proceeds raised go towards a variety of projects and organizations that are contributing to our struggle for survival. These stories are dedicated to preserving life itself and this in itself is a testament to the power of change.

So read it, let it seep into your bones, then ponder what you can do to change the story of a planet heading for extinction, every action we take here on in is absolutely vital to every life living now. Rewriting Extinction is the only story worth telling our children, is the only story worth living and breathing. Because if we can craft a vision of change, can become that change, future generations may just look back on this era as the greatest story ever told.” ~ Simon Bramwell