Remember, remember, the 5th of November… yes, well, I do, because I’m going to this! Come along to the private view of isabelgreenberg's new exhibition, in honour of a new comic, Dreadful Wind and Rain.

Q&A: Emma Chichester Clark

Emma Chichester Clark is already a well-known children’s book author, and illustrator so I imagine lots of you will have already heard of her and/or read some of her marvellous books. For Cape, however, she has created her first comic, Plumdog, based on the exciting life of her dog Plum. (It’s rly great by the way, so you should all totally get the book.)

What was the first comic you wrote?

Plumdog is the first – though it is more like a visual diary, illustrated by me and dictated by my dog, Plum. The other books I’ve done have mostly been picture books for children.

Who are your comic heroes and influences?

There are so many. I adored Charles Addams when I was a child. I had no idea what was funny about most of the jokes but I loved the drawing and the characters and composition. I love James Thurber and William Steig and many children’s illustrators, such as Ludwig Bemelmans, Quentin Blake, and Neal Layton. My heroes of the graphic novel are Posy Simmonds and Alison Bechdel and Bastien Vives.

What was the last comic you read?

It was Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. It is an extraordinary book that works on every level. The drawing is sublime and there is not a word out of place or a moment out of time. I need to read it again because it is so dense. It was like reading a complicated novel of many layers and I found it completely fascinating and absorbing.

What helps you write?

It used to be cigarettes, now it’s just anxiety. Knowing I have a long chunk of time stretching ahead with nothing else in it, other than being allowed to sit at my desk, is the greatest thing. That helps my brain unfold and then there’s a chance of having an idea. Big empty skies help too, and walking – plodding along without thinking. Sometimes the rhythm of the plod produces little sentences that repeat in my head. Other than those pleasures, it is all relentless dredging and sorting until something comes up.

Who is your favourite dog from literature?

I have two: One is Genevieve from Madeline’s Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans. She was beautiful and brave, only to be despatched, cruelly, by the trustees of the convent, leaving the little girls distraught. Her fate seems desperate, but thankfully, everything turns out well in the end, when she returns with a litter of puppies and ‘…there was enough hound to go all around.’

My other favourite dog is from a wordless book by Margery Sharp and Roy McKie, published in 1957. The heroine is Melisande, a poignant figure at the beginning, clothed – though wretchedly, and standing on two legs, selling violets outside the opera house.  She is the only canine in an otherwise human world. When she is taken in by the famous and wealthy diva, Rosa bel Canto, Melisande becomes a lady’s maid and it is soon discovered that she has a perfect ear and perfect pitch, so when her employer gets a cold, Melisande has to perform. It’s a story of rags to riches and back to rags again and it’s a real tearjerker. The drawings race across double-page spreads in black brush strokes. Some pages are dense with delicious detail, others are calm and quiet, but throughout, it is Melisande’s gentle character, noble nature and honesty that make you really care.

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Emma Chichester Clark is one of Britain’s best loved children’s authors and illustrators. She is the author of the immensely popular Blue Kangaroo series and many other books, and has illustrated books by Roald Dahl, Kevin Crossley-Holland, Peter Dickinson and Michael Morpurgo.

It’s really quite hard not to love Plum, Emma Chichester Clark’s canine chum. I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t get enough of her, so thank god that Jonathan Cape have just published the diary Plum has been keeping over the last year.

Whether you’ve already heard of Plumdog or not (ughhh, where have you been), here’s a dandy little trailer to introduce this beauteous whoosell to you all, with an introduction by Plum below.

Hello. My name is Plum and I’m a whoosell – that’s whippet mixed with Jack Russell and poodle.

I especially like swimming, leaping, catching, and croissants, and my favourite fragrance is fox poo. I live with Emma, an illustrator, and Rupert. My sister, Liffey, lives nearby.

Over the last year I’ve been keeping a diary. Emma has helped with the pictures, but the words are all mine.

Plumdog is available to buy now, and you can find out more about it here.

Some Comics by Stephen Collins is out NOW (!!!) and we had the chance to catch up with the man himself.

What was the first comic you wrote?

Oh now you’re asking - I seem to recall entering a Blue Peter comics competition with a strip about a mouse who inflates his fist with air so that he can punch a cat really hard in the face. It didn’t even get shortlisted - it lost out to some typically sappy Blue Peter thing about the Earth getting all sad because it’s got pollution in its hair. I think I’d rather misjudged the nice Blue Peter tone. I just went straight in there with the whole ‘extreme animal violence’ thing, and it turned out that wasn’t really their bag. 

The first proper attempt at a comic I made was called Albert Ross the Albatross (see what I did there), about an Albatross who jailbreaks all his animal friends from the zoo. I think I must have been about 10 or 11 when I made it, at the height of my Asterix obsession. A plot hole immediately presented itself when I realised that no humane zoo would actually keep an albatross in captivity. My mum says she still has the comic. Albert never got to free his friends of course, as his story stopped about 3 pages in. It was intended to be this huge, full-length comic album. I was definitely as misguidedly ambitious then as I still am, in terms of getting out of my depth with these too-large projects. 

Who are your comic heroes and influences?

My earliest influences were Gary Larson and Goscinny-era Asterix. I distinctly remember reading Larson’s Prehistory of the Far Side and thinking, “Hey, I could do that”. 

My most significant influence in recent times has been Chris Ware. Just the novelistic scope and the complexity of his stuff, and the way in which his stories could only be comics, not films or novels or poems - simply because their narrative structures and techniques are entirely new, pretty much invented by Ware as far as I can tell, for the purpose of making comics alone. Jimmy Corrigan is one of the few works of art which I can honestly say has changed my life in a tangible way. I was an illustrator before I read that book, and now I’m a cartoonist, for better or worse. ‘Genius’ is an overused term, especially in the arts, but Ware is one of the few who actually deserve it.

I have loads of other influences as well - mostly modern North American cartoonists like Dan Clowes, Alison Bechdel, Seth, Charles Burns, Michael Deforge. I also get very fired up by pretty much everything that Nobrow put out.  

What was the last comic you read?

(In A Sense) Lost and Found by Roman Muradov. An incredible piece of work, wholly original and stunningly beautiful. There’s another recent influence. 

What helps you write?

I’ve actually just started using this app called Write Or Die which literally deletes your words in front of you if you stop writing for too long. I’m finding that very helpful because I can easily start over-thinking things while I’m writing scripts, and I’ve got so much actual prose to write for my next graphic novel before I can even start drawing it that this app is already helping me get through it faster. It’s a very ugly and strange app, but I’d recommend it to anyone who writes as slowly as I do. 

I’m always scripting things with one eye on how it’ll look visually as well, so once I start blobbing sentences around the pages design, then that helps me edit the writing also. Designing your words around a page comic form is an interesting way to get your head round how things will read. You’re literally ‘designing’ the experience for the reader, and I’d recommend that even to prose writers, as a conceptual exercise.

Have you ever run into an old schoolfriend who was, in fact, an anteater?  

No, but the comic in the book to which you’re referring is called I Met That Danny Clark From School The Other Day, He’s An Anteater Now, and I did know a guy at school named Danny Clark. The kid in the comic even looks a bit like I remember him. But it’s not about the real Danny in any way at all - it’s just quite a normal name, so it worked well with this extraordinary situation the comic describes.  

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Stephen Collins is a cartoonist and illustrator. His first book, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, was published by Jonathan Cape in 2013. Praised by the likes of Raymond Briggs and described as ‘a future classic’ by the Observer, it became the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for Waterstone’s Book of the Year and won the Edinburgh Festival’s inaugural 9th Art Award.

Stephen previously won the Jonathan Cape / Observer Graphic Short Story Prize. His work has appeared in many publications worldwide, and he contributes regular comics to the Guardian Weekend and Prospect magazine. He lives near Hertford with his wife and son.

A few photos from the launch of Nick Hayes’ Woody Guthrie and the Dust Bowl Balladswhich took place in east London on Friday night.

Thanks to Nick for organising it, to the music-makers for being awesome and playing excellent music and to everyone who came along and danced the night away. It was an all-round, brilliant thigh-slapping night.