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January 23, 2015

ZEEJLF Conversations: Mandy Ord

Text by Nittal Chandarana

“Humour is a natural reflex action for cartoonists. We put ourselves in and make fun of ourselves.”

Verve in conversation with cartoonist, illustrator and graphic novelist, Mandy Ord

On Anarkali and other collaborations
“Anarkali is a one-off at the moment. Annie (Zaidi) and I were approached by the publishers to do this collaboration. I’ve collaborated with other people before…with historians, with poets and with musicians. I was given a song with the lyrics and they were given one of my comics. My job was to interpret this song into a comic strip. But it was a silent comic strip; no words. The words would be sung. Their job was to translate my comic strip into a song, which was just words. And then when we performed it, we had images that would flash on the screen as images of the story being sung. And it was beautiful. It was an experiment. People really responded very passionately to it so we’re probably going to do that more.”

Clearing the air on comics and graphic novels
“I draw comics. A comic comprises of sequential panels using words and images to tell a story and that can vary from one page to 20 pages to 200 pages. Once it gets to the 400-800 page mark, it needs to be packaged in a way that is accessible and it often comes in the form of a book, so it looks like a novel. There’s discourse within what we term as ‘comics’, but there’s a school of thought where a lot of people think like me; they’re loyal to the comics. Other people would know what we’re talking about only if we said ‘graphic novel’. A ‘graphic novel’ is the term for the readership that hasn’t grown up with comics. It gives it a sense of maturity even if it contains the antithesis of maturity! It invites people to pick it up because it sounds more sophisticated. In terms of publishing, it works like any other book. If people are going to buy them in this format, then they are going to publish graphic novels.”

On her work
“It’s actually a huge mixture. I do autobiographical stories so I try to address the range of realities I am experiencing. Internal thoughts, external or physical realities and social context; so often, my stories are serious but I can’t help it. I think it’s just who I am. Humour is a natural reflex action for cartoonists. We can’t help ourselves and we also do a lot of self-deprecation. We put ourselves in and make fun of ourselves. People can laugh with us and at us at the same time.”

On comics being a part of a literature festival
“It’s amazing! There are some life-changing, very well-respected comics and graphic narratives but cartoonists don’t often get the chance to come and meet such different writers. For instance, there’s quite a lot of involvement at the Melbourne Cartoon Writer’s Festival every year, but that did not exist until maybe five years ago — before that, comics were resigned to comic festivals but now they are integrated more into the writing circuit.”

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