Friday, August 16, 2013

Graphic Novels & Cartoons in the Caribbean

Lauren Hinds at her desk working on her comics
In contrast to my time studying at Kyoto Seika University in Japan, one of the main hubs of Manga and Comic research, the Caribbean has not been as acutely aware of sequential art/cartoon/ comics as a creative practice. Many of us in Jamaica for example, grew up exchanging Archie comics, borrowing a few Marvel and DC comics from friends and reading the Sunday funnies. The stories in these comics have often not been our own however. The appeal has always been there for these very relate-able and human stories which poke fun at daily life situations. The Jamaica Observer and The Daily Gleaner both feature the work of acclaimed cartoonists Las May and Clovis. These at least are daily reminders and reports which poke fun and satirize the political and social situations. Many cannot close the newspaper without their daily fix, whether it be local or syndicated from overseas.

There has also been a huge influence of Japanese animation on Caribbean creatives however and occasionally there will appear reports of Caribbean comics which closely resemble either the DC/ Marvel aesthetic or Anime and Manga (Japanese comics). It can leave us as audiences thinking that comics are an artform dominated by pre-programmed aesthetics from other regions and also as a more male-oriented artform. I recently spoke with Lauren Hinds whose work takes a different approach. She is influenced by literature and her work deals with issues such as growing up, being an outsider, relationships and friendships and internal dialogue.  Her work relies mainly on the visuals rather than the wit of her words even though the words themselves are often quite poetic. Lauren talks more about her work with me below.

You run a blog, "Sketch in Stories", what motivated you to start blogging publicly about your creative journey and how does blogging contribute to your creative work?

I started my blog by guess not really putting much thought into what I was going to blog about. It then turned into an avenue for me to become confident and comfortable about letting my work be seen. I think visibility is important if you want to take your work seriously and be successful at what you do. If anything it has contributed to pushing me to be my best and zero in on the   projects that I enjoy doing.

You trained at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, what was that experience like and what do you feel you took from this experience?

Being a cartoonist is a very humble profession. I think anybody who decides to become a cartoonist must know that it will push your skills at different levels. You have no control over what that will do to you. I went there not knowing much about comics except for reading Archie Comics, Mad Magazine, Photographic Romance comic books, the odd comic strip in the newspaper then later Graphic Novels. Because I went in sort of ‘naive’ about comics at CCS, I soaked up everything and questioned everything even things about myself. It worked for me and  I believe at the end of that experience I became who I wanted to be, a cartoonist.

On returning to Trinidad, how did your training at The John Donaldson Technical Institute and time as an Illustrator and Graphic Designer increase or change your creative options and outlook?

Those skills I acquired in the early part of my career have been good foundations going into comics. I definitely feel both occupations have brought me to this point in my life. They’ve added tremendous benefit to the process of making comics which demand the ability to illustrate and design a sequential story well. I also feel I can make better creative decisions due to these skills.

Frames from Lauren Hind's Outaplace

Your online comic "Outaplace" first caught the notice of ART:Jamaica as having a different perspective from a lot of the visible Caribbean comics. It is about a little girl at school, told from a female perspective and it doesn't explicitly reference Marvel, DC or Japanese comics. Tell us what “Outaplace” is about and what the story will develop into and what influenced it.

Comics has provided me an outlet to tell stories and give my perspective on topics that interest me. I feel that I’m bringing something unique to an audience who still view comics as only humorous or it has to have the appeal of mainstream comics to be accepted. My hope is to continue making honest stories I enjoy, using my voice.

Outaplace actually began with the present character in my comic strip, Frances Rustlebean. I wanted to introduce a girl who was very assertive, who said and did many quirky things. As I wrote and drew more she developed into a meek character who didn’t fit in at school and couldn’t make friends while questioning her place in the world. I approached the story from both a personal and observational account of how girls socialize with each other where they all meet for the first time, at school. Based on those experiences both good and bad it determines who they become. The main character is older, at 11, on the cusp of becoming a teenager who moves to a new school in the city. It’s a view into her world as she makes those transitions. Outaplace is being developed into a book, roughly about 64 pages.

A page from Hinds' graphic novel- in - progress, Wingless

You have a new project called "Wingless" which is a graphic novel. Is this based on Jamica Kincaid's short story of the same name? Will this be published as a book and what is it about? The initial drawings you have shown are very eye-catching, how do you develop the aesthetic and story of this seemingly personal graphic novel?

Constructing a story where I am the main character has forced me to peel away many layers of myself, as I grow, the story grows as well. It’s hard to explain how I developed the aesthetic for those initial pages, they were really based on a feeling or a memory while I was abroad. In some cases the writing came first, other times the image but I always leave some room for fantasy and the unexplained, it keeps the story interesting.

 Although I had been gradually developing this story for some time as it was initially called "Fear". The title changed when I came across Jamaica Kincaid’s short story Wingless. It was fascinating to me that there was so much subtle connections in her poetic prose, imagery...I saw myself, my story.The narrative started to come together as some of the themes I was exploring in my writing and illustrations had been written in her short story. There are underlying similarities - the constant use of nature as a mode to self-discovery that keeps recurring in my work also. That aspect of Kincaid’s story I’ll be exploring further in my graphic novel. Wingless is still being developed, not sure yet how much more of her work will be reinterpreted in mine. My hope is to have my book published.

 See more of Lauren Hinds' work and contact her at her blog Sketch in Stories 


  1. very interesting article... loved it :)

  2. So proud of you loved it <3

  3. Love your work Lauren so proud of you.... Great job.... Keep it up

  4. I studied alongside this artist and it is fantastic to see her work getting the attention it deserves :)

  5. Fascinating interview, some truly amazing work here!

  6. This is very good art, love to know we have something going on

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