Shakespeare in the Funny Pages

Shakespeare's plays just beg for repurposing; great icons of literature like that are just too tempting. Conor McCreery is one of the creators of Kill Shakespeare, a graphic novel series that "plunges Shakespeare's characters into weird and wonderful adventures that Shakespeare didn't quite think of"; Mya Gosling is the artist behind Good Tickle Brain, "the world's foremost and possibly only stick-figure Shakespeare comic" an online webcomic that (among other profound things) retells the plots of Shakespeare's plays in three panels. A conversation from the 2017 Stratford Festival about the funny side of serious.
The Kiss: a detail from the graphic novel series "Kill Shakespeare" by Conor McCreery. (Conor McCreery)

What if Shakespeare's characters escaped from the play that they're in, and went off on a grand adventure of their own, freed from the chains of their creators imagination? What if they lived in the modern era and communicated with cellphones and autocorrect? Well, all things are possible through the magic of the human mind. In this episode, a panel discussion from the Stratford Festival featuring Mya Gosling and Conor McCreery in conversation. The discussion is moderated by the Stratford Festival's literary and editorial director, David Prosser.

Bringing Shakespeare's characters and plays into the modern era

Mya Gosling is the creator of Good Tickle Brain, which she calls "the world's foremost (and very possibly only) stick figure Shakespeare webcomic." Imagine if Shakespeare's characters had text messaging and autocorrect: imagine "a house, a house, my kingdom for a house" — what a different play that would be; or think about , "Once more unto the beach dear friends."

"Kill Shakespeare": Dark tales of a reclusive wizard

​Conor McCreery is one of the minds behind Kill Shakespeare — a multi-volume series of graphic novels, described as a "dark tale" in which "the bard's most famous heroes embark upon a journey to discover a long-lost soul." Hamlet, Juliet, Othello, Falstaff, Romeo and Puck search for a reclusive wizard who may have the ability to assist them in their battle against the evil forces led by the villains Richard the Third, Lady Macbeth and Iago. Who is that reclusive wizard? William Shakespeare.

"The comic book thing was tough for some people, because people look at comics as a genre rather than as a medium. 'Oh it's superheroes, and I don't like superheroes, and I'm not a twelve-year-old boy — there's nothing there for me.' I'm very passionate about the idea that comics are a medium, descended from the cave paintings, basically imagery to tell a story." – Conor McCreery

Kill Shakespeare's core conceit is that somewhere out there is a land where all of the Bard's greatest characters co-exist, not as literary constructs, but as flesh and blood humans. Why shouldn't Juliet climb a balcony to see Hamlet, and who wouldn't want to see Lady Macbeth in bed with Richard (figuratively AND literally.) 

Cornwall: One of the all-time favourite Shakespearian n'er do wells Cornwall tries to charm a teenage Juliet in the series' flashback title: Past is Prologue: Juliet. Spoiler Alert - she's just not that into him. (Conor McCreery)
The Escape: After bringing Hamlet to The Merry Wives of Windsor - a famed bawdy house naturally - Falstaff is forced to make a quick exit, both to escape assassins and his unpaid bills. (Conor McCreery)

** This episode was produced by Philip Coulter.


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