The idea for NDC came from reading about talking shops in Italy and France that forensically took apart comics in a quest to find new, more challenging ways forward for a medium considered to be treading water. In the jargon, they were deconstructing comics, much like Soviet filmmakers deprived of film stock did in the early 1920s, from which emerged so many seminal classics of the cinema.
Even as graphic narratives were becoming the new rock’n’roll in the UK, there was no escaping that barely a handful of publications were bringing something innovative and exhilarating to the creaking table. On their backs, a raft of really quite average mags and books were providing the illusion of a new Golden Age. The Guardian got excited and the literarti felt safe to venture into Gosh, but there were murmurings at the fringes of the business. We had to be capable of better, if only there was a handy sandbar somewhere where creators, readers and academics could get off surfing the wave and reflect for a moment.
The format was lifted hook, line and Speaker’s Guidelines from Laydeez-Do-Comics, and with their blessing. We had and have a different remit, broadly all things comics, sequential narrative, graphic literature etc etc in all its multiplicity of forms and contents. But our debt to Laydeez made us doubly conscious that the comics industry, the mainstream, is overwhelmingly peopled by men… white men. Fortunately for NDC, the great ideas, new approaches, exciting experiments and deep thinking are mostly found in the twilight zones of the medium, issuing from the indies, the DIYers, the web maesters, the critical readers and the academics with a streak of geek. And that world is heavily populated with women poised to shatter the glass ceiling.
To date, NDC has provided a platform for 26 female and 23 male presenters or speakers. So far so good. But where are the people of colour who read, create or have something to say about comics? It is not for the want of searching that we have so far provided a forum for none of the above. In a city as ethnically diverse as ours, with so many coming from countries where comics are more popular than prose… not good. The mind reels at the treasure trove of imaginative, inspiring, disturbing and culturally unique stories our BME community must have crying out to be written and illustrated, if they aren’t already.
If they are already, pleeeease let us know!