Reframe artist statement and work: ILYA

ILYA portrait.jpg

ILYA is a comic book writer and artist. His books include his award-winning graphic novel series The End of the Century Club; a daringly different take on King Lear for Self Made Hero’s Manga Shakespeare series; and a contribution to noir anthology It’s Dark In London. His debut prose novel is THE CLAY DREAMING (Myriad, 2010). More recent publications include ROOM FOR LOVE, an Original Graphic Novel for Self Made Hero (November 2013) and The Mammoth Book of SKULLS, as editor (Running Press, 2014). Ilya edited three volumes of The Mammoth Book of BEST NEW MANGA. He also designs and tutors workshops and courses on the art of comics and manga. He’s currently collaborating with the creators of Ben 10 on a new concept.

These days we are mostly encouraged to perceive everything as strictly surface – taking a thing for what it appears to represent, rather than considering what it reflects upon or embodies. The comic strip I have crafted for Reframe, in response to and concerning UK feelings towards EU membership, was primarily intended to be entertaining. It could easily be dismissed as little more than a few easy ‘Allo ‘Allo style jokes around broad perceptions of national identity. It IS that… but also, as you will hopefully appreciate, a little bit more.

As a UK citizen, I am troubled by Britain’s hugely equivocal stance when it comes to the European Union and our place within it. Britain has been a member state since 1973 – nearly my whole life – but to hear most of its people talk, and the way our simplistic ‘news’ feeds continually carp about Brussels ‘madness’, you wouldn’t think it.

To strain an obvious football analogy, we were invited to play the game, and joined in. Two years later, in 1975, we voted to stay in. Ever since then, we seem to forever sulkily hold onto the ball, or else question the referee’s every decision.

We remain joined within ‘the community’, yet apart. We accept the benefits, whilst relegating anything we perceive as deficit to the status of someone else’s problem. (Consider for a moment the shameful treatment of Greece this last summer…)

To swap to a second metaphor, it is behaviour as childish and ridiculous as riding together on the same train, whilst at the same time expecting to keep one of the carriages all to ourselves…

Are we in or are we out?

We cannot have it both ways – but that is ALL that we forever seem to try and do.

There are currently moves afoot to put Britain’s continued EU membership back to the vote in a nationwide referendum, by 2017 or even sooner – a crucial, life-changing decision that an uninformed public is nowadays simply unqualified to make. With governmental bias and an entirely compromised media, what chances do we have?

One article’s strapline that I saw more than once today read, “Britain’s eurosceptics are not yet ready for a fight”. I must confess that I wonder just how much of a fight they will get…

The strip itself risks being a tad over-busy, which can be put down to the present author’s hard time ever being succinct. The Reframe project also allowed for a slight return to an old idea of mine, for what would have been an entire original graphic novel. My entry is based in small part on this – a tragicomic, transcontinental odyssey that explores and satirically skewers nationalistic fervour wherever it might be found – an unrealised concept that now seems more relevant and pressing than ever. So, if there’s any book publisher or editor reading this who’s intrigued to know more – talk to me! There’s a lot more where this came from…

Finally, a word on the colour palette. If you hadn’t already guessed, it is broadly analogous to the national flags of each country in which events take place – France, Germany (for Switzerland, too tall an order in only red and white), Italy. Not only that, it’s a conscious nod to the four-colour separation glories of the kind of British comics I grew up on (Beano, Beezer, etc). None of those sophisticated or restrained French BD album palettes here! Let’s hear it for the ol’ red, green, blue, yellow…