September 10, 2016

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SPX Spotlight/Graphic Nonfiction: Lucy Bellwood Ships Facts About Shipping

It's another entry in Panel Patter's SPX SPOTLIGHT series! If you want to track our personal recommendations of creators who'll be attending one of the best small-press shows in America, make sure you follow along. It's a great way to create your own personal guide for the show on September 17th and 18th, 2016, in Bethesda, Maryland. Don't miss it! You can find all our SPX SPOTLIGHT posts here.

It's really been an amazing time for Lucy Bellwood. She's really exploded onto the comics scene, combining her love of all things nautical with her artistic talents. This year sees the release of her Baggywrinkles collection, which I urged you to back when it was a Kickstarter project. She'll definitely have copies at SPX, so if you missed your chance and you'll be at the show, make sure you grab one.

Baggywrinkles is a collection of Lucy's mini-comics about sailing, designed as a fun instructional tool. They feature an avatar of Bellwood going around correcting misconceptions, like the whole idea of "walking the plank" --which, while shattering my hopes and dreams, is one of the highlights of the collection. Done originally in black and white, they're colored now by the team of Joey Weiser (of Mermin) and Michele Chidester. The book's production values are second to none, and the writing is both crisp and funny--the perfect combination for learning.

To give you an example of Lucy's artistic abilities and also her dedication to research, I'm featuring her recent appearance in The Nib about Wind-Powered Cargo. It's a great short piece on shipping history, shipping present (and the unknown to me ongoing ecological disaster that is the huge shipping boats I used to see in Baltimore), and some hints at the future of shipping, if we open our minds to the possibilities.

While Lucy often works in watercolors, such as the gorgeous "Back to the Sea Again," this time we see her taking a more traditional approach, and the result reminds me a lot of the gold standard for graphic nonfiction, Andy Warner. Like Andy, Lucy balances showing the reader illustrations with actual quotes, statistics, and other needed information. It's truly a visual article, and the blend is spectacular. Here's a few panels to give you a feel for it, and Lucy's work in general as a nonfiction creator:





I selected these panels to give you a good idea of Bellwood's range. The first shows her attention to historical detail. The second is a sideways bar graph, but it's designed to catch the reader's eyes. In the third panel, perhaps my favorite of this group, Lucy puts herself in the middle of a scale, showing the difficult position of wanting to improve things, but also acknowledging that you can't just wish your way (or take radical steps) to a solution. Hard choices must be made, and Bellwood, by being on the scale itself, represents all of us. The final panel gives a good example of her figure work. I love the fuzzy beard!

Though this is true to some degree with any nonfiction comic, I can honestly say I really learned a lot from this one. I had no idea what was going in in the world of international shipping or how thin regulations are due to the use of international waters. It's a perfect example of why I started this feature on Panel Patter, and I hope you'll read the full comic here. It's extremely enlightening.

I also hope you'll visit Lucy at SPX this year. In addition to Baggywrinkles, she'll likely have copies of her smaller autobio works and will happily sign your copy of Cartozia Tales, the group anthology that's not quite finished yet and is a great example of imagination and group collaboration.

Can't make it SPX? Lucy's website is here.