” ‘ Oh, the Troubles! It’s an ancient struggle that will never be resolved. Ireland is haunted by her history etc., etc..’ One got barstool explanations in simple black and white. This side was good, that side was evil. But the images flickering nightly on the television screen defied such simplistic analysis.'” WILL EISNER, Introduction, 1995
The Cartoon Company Ltd. in Dublin, established by Dudley Stewart and Grainne O’Rourke held classes for aspiring cartoonists and graphic novelists. Professional guests were invited to lecture the students. In a moment of sheer inspiration, Will Eisner was one of these guests. But he didn’t just jet off after his lecture never to be seen again. Will visited Dublin on numerous occasions (and invited me to join them, which is how I know all this) and one of the end results was this innovative graphic novel which explains the history of Ireland until the Peace Treaty in August 1994.
The writers they got were experts: Morgan Llywelyn’s Lion of Ireland sold in excess of 15 million copies and Michael Scott’s Story of Ireland is an essential introduction to the history of this amazing country.
The young artists who brought this story to life were tutored by Eisner and others. They include Eoin Coveney who has drawn Judge Dredd, Future Shocks, JFK100 (an online graphic novel). He is also the co-creator (along with Gordon Rennie and Emma Beeby) of The Alienist. The cover artist, Steve Simpson has had an illustrious career in design. Check their websites for many visual treats.
The graphic novel takes us from the Neolithic settlers who created “the oldest engineered buildings on the planet, predating the Great Pyramids”, through the Viking, Norman, and English incomers, to the religious wars, and the Great Famine which was the seed of the Civil War which Westminster downgraded to the “Troubles”.
This is a very worthy addition to any collection of important graphic novels. Or, as Eisner himself puts it: “IRELAND A GRAPHIC HISTORY is a book to read and re-read, and refer to as future history is made”.