EXHIBITING AT BCZF!
Earlier this year Emma Burleigh was announced as the inaugural winner of the Laydeez do Comics Prize for her work-in-progress graphic novel My Other Mother, My Other Self. When I interviewed Emma at the first Laydeez do Comics Festival back in March (as the shortlistees were awaiting the judges’ decision!) she described the premise of the project to me as about finding “my birth mother who I traced about ten years ago… it’s really just the story of how I found her and how our relationship unfolded. It actually becomes more about my relationship with myself.”
A deeply personal story then and also a worthy winner among a group of incredibly talented shortlisted creators. Burleigh has taken the wise step of publishing an early section of the story as a self-contained one-shot comic (something which Broken Frontier readers will know we often encourage new creators to do to build up interest, get feedback and help them to feel they’re not producing work in a vacuum) and it’s an excerpt that shows exactly why she caught the Laydeez judges’ eyes.
“Shortly after my birth, I was cut out from my own story.” From the very beginning of My Other Mother, My Other Self the raw honesty of Burleigh’s introspective text packs a powerful emotional impact. It’s a reminder of the fundamental foundation of both our existences and constructed personal narratives that many of us will take for granted. Yet for Burleigh this gap in her understanding of self leaves vital unanswered questions about her identity; that gaping void represented by an expansive use of white space in the opening pages.
Visually Burleigh adopts an impressionistic style that can veer from hazy realism to nightmarish tableaux through to childlike representations; the latter perhaps mirroring the motif of the relinquished child as figures become distorted and emotionally intense. That indistinct, almost dreamy imagery captures a sense of detachment from her own history; of an intrinsically missing piece of self. Colour, too, plays a vital part in building up mood and atmosphere and is used to enhance feelings of oppression, depression, revelation and confusion.
Given its subject matter there are, of course, interlinked themes running throughout My Other Mother, My Other Self. Truth and discovery walk hand in hand with responsibility and consequence. Ominous and foreboding metaphor – the myth of Pandora is used as a narrative parallel – sits next to harsh actuality as Burleigh remembers clandestine childhood missions to pick the lock of a box in her parents’ home that contained paperwork details about her adoption and her birth mother.
My Other Mother, My Other Self combines uncompromising yet carefully crafted prose, brutal candour and haunting, melting artwork to bring us directly into its author’s mindscape. As readers we can only hope the book finds a publisher sooner rather than later. But find a publisher it undoubtedly will because the potential here in terms of Burleigh’s delivery, craft and distinctive visual storytelling is undeniable.
For more on the work of Emma Burleigh visit her site here and follow her on Twitter here. You can find her online store here. Emma will be exhibiting at this year’s Bristol Comic and Zine Fair on October 6th on the Laydeez do Comics table.