Book Review: George’s Run #1by Henry Chamberlain

A biography in comic strip form, a perfect blend of genres

George's Run 2

 

As I said in my previous post, sometimes it’s good to get out of your reading comfort zone and to read something that’s not in the genres you usually favour. And I suggested trying graphic novels if that’s not something that’s on your bookshelf. I also mentioned comics author Henry Chamberlain and his blog.

I was reminded of the power pictures have to tell stories with few or no words when I discovered Henry Chamberlain’s Comics Grinder blog. Henry is a cartoonist whose blog is a richly stocked shop window and showcase for all sorts of comics, graphic novels and cartoons and their creators, as well as associated movies and conferences.

For all writers, whether it be of fiction or non-fiction, the construction and pacing of content is crucial to the finished work’s effectiveness and appeal. But for the graphic writer it’s crucial. A whole scene, or indeed a chapter, might have to be contained in a single picture. But this constraint can work in the graphic form’s favour as it gives it immediacy.

And perhaps that’s why Henry’s idea of writing a biography in cartoon form is such a good one. A huge amount of detail can be told economically and powerfully.

Henry Chamberlain’s book about the life and work of American science-fiction writer, George Clayton Jones, someone it’s obvious he admires, is coming out in serial form–– very appropriate for the genre and the subject. And Part One of George’s Run is out now.

Sadly Johnson passed away shortly after the publication of the first instalment but Henry’s work promises to be a fitting tribute to the man.

George Clayton Jones born in 1929, was part of the pop and counter-culture world of the 1960s. He wrote for the TV sci-fi series The Twilight Zone, a scary and fascinating series I remember from the black and white days of my youth and from long before the X-Files were even a twinkle in television’s eye. Jones also wrote the first ever episode of Star Trek–– legacy enough when you think how that series developed. And as well as that he was a co-writer of the original Ocean’s Eleven on which the much later movie is based. But for true sci-fi fans his greatest achievement is probably as co- author of the cult classic Logan’s Run.

This first part then of George’s Run is based on a face-to-face interview Henry carried out with George and is an introduction to the man and his work and how he grew up in a time of all sorts of possibilities and imaginings and was influenced by the radio and the movies, the new media of the time.

The pictures are charming and expressive and Chamberlain succeeds in having them do that picture tells a thousand words thing. It’s a great start to the full biography of an interesting and, yes, groundbreaking writer. It also seems particularly apt to tell this life story in graphic form. Perhaps more biographies could or should be done in this way.

George’s Run is available on Kindle in the UK here and the US here

Henry also has a collection of his best comics stories available in his book A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories.

Night at the Sorrento

 

Best Blogs Part 1: Comics Grinder

Comics Grinder

One of the best things about blogging is connecting with fellow bloggers. I follow a wide variety blogs and am always entertained, educated and excited by them. Over the next while I plan to post about some of the blogs I consider to be amongst the best.

First up is Comics Grinder the home of fellow WordPress blogger, graphic novel author and illustrator, Henry Chamberlain. You can visit his highly informative and knowledgeable blog here.

George's Run 2

Henry is a prolific poster. And the standard of his posts is consistently high. He reviews graphic novels, comics and comic conferences. He includes every sort of work aimed at all sorts of audiences. He generously highlights the work of other cartoonists and comic authors. But he’s also a talented comics author in his own right and is working on a graphic biography of George Clayton Johnson, the co author of Logan’s Run and the writer of the first ever episode of Star Trek. Part One is called George’s Run #1 (Amazon UK link) is available on Kindle. (Amazon US Link)

Comics: not just for kids but a good place to start

Comics were something I enjoyed when I was a child when I read the Beano, the Bunty and the Diana, to name just a few. I loved all the usual suspects. The anarchy of Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street kids was just fab, if not politically correct. Later I graduated to the Jackie and I devoured the comic strip tales of teenage love, and  Cathy and Claire’s problem page.  And of course, when I was a child no 1960s Scottish Christmas was complete without the comics latest annuals –  along with the new Oor Wullie or The Broons collections.

But then, once I grew up, apart from revisiting some of them when my children were young, I moved on from comics.

That is until many years later, when I made the move from my role as a primary school class teacher into the much more challenging role of a support for learning teacher. I had pupils who struggled to read or write anything – either because it was an intellectual challenge that left them feeling defeated before they even started, or because their emotional problems, or way of seeing the world, acted as a barrier to any kind of engagement with the printed word. I tried lots of things that didn’t work well and then I had a breakthrough. I rediscovered comics and the ‘grown-up’ version of the preschool picture book – the graphic novel.

The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words was never so true. I soon discovered even the most reluctant or cut-off child found a graphically told story irresistible. Stories like The Wolves in the Walls, or The Day I Swapped my Dad for a Goldfish, both  by Neil Gaiman, or The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan worked their magic. And before long my pupils were wanting to write their own graphic novels, or in the case of pupils with communication difficulties such as autism, use a comic format to compile a social interaction script that they could share with others. But the most unexpected thing about using the comic/graphic format was it also worked with more able children. I was sometimes asked to support and stretch these children too. Children who’d been coasting, who’d lost motivation because things came so easily to them, they too were inspired by the genre to experiment, to try new things in their writing and in their reading. Pictures can be the key to storytelling. They’re efficient, economic and vivid.

Comics and Graphic Novels for the grown-ups

Comic books have been around a long time for sure – think of all the Marvel heroes. But I think they’ve come to the fore again in our now highly visual,  online, picture-based world of Tumblr, Instagram and the selfie-based, shared status update. And the effect of that goes way beyond just children’s or young adult’s reading.

Comic books, graphic novels and graphic non-fiction are increasingly popular with grown-ups too. For example there’s Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis about her life in Iran, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home about living with her secretly gay father, and  Joe Sacco’s Palestine or his more recent Journalism. If you’re not a comic format fan why not get out of your reading comfort zone and give them a try? Any of the above would be a good place to start. As of course would Henry’s blog and his book George’s Run, Part 1 which I will review in my next post.

Discover a Great Blog and Learn More about the Graphic Arts

But in the meantime, if you want to know more about the grown-up world of comics and graphic novels then do visit Henry ‘s blog.  There’s everything from Wonder Woman to Star Wars. And Henry’s a welcoming host who’s happy to interact.