Desert Island Comics – Episode 46 – Graham Johnson

Published On February 9, 2013 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Desert Island Comics

Time for another Desert Island Comics – the feature wherein we send some poor unsuspecting soul off to their own private bit of the FPI empire, with only a few comics and a luxury to keep them company on those long, lonely days ahead.

Then again, these are 8 of their favourite comics – and peace and quiet is so hard to come by in this modern world!


Today’s castaway is the comic writer and artist Graham Johnson whom I first discovered as the artist on the wonderful Arthur and Posy with writer Ella Risbridger (reviewed here – Issue 1 & Issue 2).

I loved it, absolutely loved it, and said so. A lot. Got as far as putting it on my best of 2012 list.

Risbridger and Johnson describe it as “A big glittery gay fairytale fandango about a boy who’s too pretty to be a boy and a girl who doesn’t want to be a girl” and I summed it all up with “this is a wonderful little comic book, rough, raw, vibrant, absolutely charming.”

For the future Johnson intends to return to his Sixth Form soap opera webcomic Private Study (above) and he’s currently working on a new comic project called Port In A Storm, a project he describes as

“a story about a student house and the people it’s home to. Not just the people who actually live there, because that’s not how houses or homes work. It’s a year in their lives, and the idea is very much that the house is as much a character in the story as the people, even if it’s much more subtle. Tonally and thematically, it’s very much a grown up version of Private Study. Most of the characters aren’t having to find themselves, because they’ve done that already. It doesn’t stop the drama or the comedy in their lives though. Nothing EXTRAORDINARY will happen, because life doesn’t usually work like that. It’s just eight people and their home.”

And in between then and now, there’s the whole university thing, although why Johnson’s worried about that I have no idea, as he’s due to wake up on a desert island in a few hours time…..

Desert Island Comics – Episode 46 – Graham Johnson

minus. By Ryan Armand

What can I say about minus. (definitely no capital by the way). It’s beautiful for starters. I love watercolours, and Armand has a fantastic grasp of them. A collection of whimsical stories originally done as a webcomic (It’s still there! There’s a couple of stories only in the book though) minus is a little girl with the power to do anything she wants. She’s a little odd. But weren’t we all when we were little? One day she’s having a snowball fight with a statue, the next she might be warrior queen of the ants with her best friend, and then the next taking a casual jaunt to an alien planet. A true work of art, presented perfectly in a nice big book.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Arguably, I actually prefer Thompson’s Habibi as a comic, but Blankets meant a lot to me when I was starting to get back into comics after my silly early teenage scepticism. Blankets was the book that made me want to make comics, so how could I not take it to a desert island with me? It’s also probably top on my list of comics I suggest to people who don’t think comics can be anything but vaguely deformed people flying around in spandex making things go bang.

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Chew is probably my favourite ongoing series (not that I read many!). Insane in the perfect way, every volume of Chew introduces more mystery and intrigue and depth to the world. Even the core concepts of bird flu having been a lethal epidemic, leading to chicken becoming an illegal substance, and the main character Tony Chu can eat anything (Except beetroots) and know its past, are pure genius in my opinion. And that’s just the start.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

I’d be lost without this book. Enough said I think?

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Smile is one of my favourite autobio comics. It perfectly captures the age of the kids, and does it with beautiful, beautiful art. I would love a full length animated film of Smile actually. It’s an amazing comic but something about the art would lend itself so perfectly to that.

The Spirit: A POP-UP Graphic Novel by Will Eisner

So, I’m not actually sure this is even that great a comic. I mean, it’s The Spirit, yes, but the change of form to a pop up book does admittedly take some stuff away from it in terms of structure. And yet the pop up is the exact reason it’s on my list. However successful this example may or may not be, I see it as a reminder that there are so many possibilities for comics and they should never stop being explored.

The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

As you probably know if you’re reading this blog, Dillon’s book has received a lot of praise, and all deserved. Not only is it a beautiful work of art, it’s a fantastic story. Something that’s made it hold a special place in my heart now in the same way Blankets did when I was younger, even if my experiences with mental health problems have been different to Nao’s, so many aspects hit home. To name just a couple, the ever spiralling mental rituals or the occasional seemingly hopeless fall into the grips of despair. There is absolutely nothing I’d change about this book.

Pinocchio by Winshluss

When I realised I’d gotten to my last comic I had a genuine panic. Too many to choose from! Why am I being sent away to this desert island with just eight comics, it’s quite frankly cruel. But anyway. Winshluss’s interpretation of Pinocchio is quite frankly, genius. It’s hard to even describe. You think you know where you are and what’s about to happen and then the book might as well punch you in the face with its little twists and turns. Definitely not for kids by the way…

And a luxury. Oh dear lord. Having had a think, it might seriously have to be a cow. Conversation (of sorts…) and milk. What more could you need? It’s probably cheating though. As would be my boxes of little floppy independent comics (arguably the comics just happened to be inside the boxes, I wasn’t to know that) um. Some kind of cooking implement that I wouldn’t be able to improvise. No idea what. And I’ve thought long and hard about what I could and couldn’t improvise on a desert island.

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About The Author

Richard Bruton
- Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he's written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard's day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children's graphic novel library in the country.

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