1. What led you to come up with this idea for an anthology of graphic non-fiction?
First Hand came as an idea almost two years ago. For me, comics that told urgent, contemporary stories– for example, in the form of journalistic or biographical or even political commentary– were too few. This kind of information most often comes to us as reports, or in the form of books – but rarely as a visual story that can bring them alive with details, characters, location etc. At the time, I had many friends who were going out and collecting narratives as part of their work – as researchers, journalists, film-makers. When they came back and shared them with me, many of the stories altered my understanding of what was happening around me socially and politically – and, more so, because they were told with personal details and perspective. This kind of individualistic storytelling is well suited to comics. Building collaborations between writers of this nature and artists suddenly made a lot of sense – this was the initial kernel, which later evolved into an anthology when we put out our call for applications.
2. What are some of the stories that really stayed with you? To be honest, as an editor, it’s difficult for me to make that differentiation. Each one of them has had such an intense and particular process over the past two years – they’re all going to stay with me for a long time!
3. Any that didn’t make the cut but you wished you could have kept — and any stories or anecdotes that surprised you?
The application process threw up amazing, novel stories. I remember we were looking at stories on subjects as varied as the history of free speech to evolutions in musical form to water crises. In most cases, it was just that the schedules didn’t match up – but most of still working on their ideas, which is exciting. Out of the ones that are in the book, I think ‘Rangoon to Vadakara’ was new for me, as it explores an aspect of people’s history (the mass exodus of people living in Burma in 1942, back to India) that I personally didn’t know too much about before. Similarly, ‘The Nawab’ is a documentation of the evolution and inner life of a journalist, something that often goes unnoticed.
4. You’re a comic book fan — what are your top five picks of graphic fiction/ non-fiction that everyone should read?
As a comics writer – Maus (Art Spiegelmen), Black Hole (Charles Burns), Abandon the Old in Tokyo (Yoshihiro Tatsumi), Palestine (Joe Sacco), and Fun Home (Allison Bechdel)