‘Nelson’: A ‘fever dream’ graphic novel unites 54 U.K. creators

Nov. 15, 2011 | 3:48 p.m.
nelson Nelson: A fever dream graphic novel unites 54 U.K. creators

Scenes from "Nelson" (Blank Slate)

It began as a “fever dream” of an idea on Twitter — how special would it be to bring together an all-star roster of U.K. comics creators and let them tell a single life story by taking turns at their art tables and then handing off the narrative like a baton in a relay race?

The result is “Nelson,” now on sale, a 250-page experimental graphic novel that also functions as an exercise in charity with 100% of profits going to Shelter, a group dedicated to housing issues and the homelessness crisis in Britain.

“Nelson,” from U.K. comics publisher Blank Slate, chronicles the life of protagonist Nel Baker over 43 years. Each contributor portrayed a single event in Nel’s life over successive years, and the result is a cohesive arc that is also beautifully fractured. Blank Slate describes the project as “part exquisite corpse, part relay race” — which sounds about right.

1980 glyn dillon Nelson: A fever dream graphic novel unites 54 U.K. creators

Glyn Dillon art in "Nelson" (Blank Slate)

The  softcover showcases creators such as Sean Phillips (“Criminal”), Duncan Fegredo (“Hellboy”), Posy Simmonds (“Tamara Drewe”), Ellen Linder (“Undertow”),  Roger Langridge (“Thor: the Mighty Avenger”), and Philip Bond (“Hellblazer”).

Co-editors Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix — who also have pieces in the book — first connected on Twitter after Davis tweeted a crazy idea that had been gnawing at him.

“Rob had a fever dream to get a lot of people in the comics scene together,” says Blank Slate’s Martin Steenton. “Because the scene here really has picked up the past few years. Woodrow was the first person to respond, and it snowballed from there.”

1989 harveyjames Nelson: A fever dream graphic novel unites 54 U.K. creators

Harvey James art in "Nelson." (Blank Slate)

So it makes sense that in the book’s acknowledgments, Davis and Phoenix thank Twitter, “…the always-on microblogging network which connects the UK comics community.”

— Deborah Vankin


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