Monday 23 April 2012

Irish emigration: comic book style

It might seem an unlikely subject for the publishers of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but Irish emigration now has its very own comic-book style novel: Gone to Amerikay.

The 144-page book was written by Derek McCulloch, writer of the acclaimed 2006 graphic novel Stagger Lee, and illustrated by Colleen Doran, one of the very very few female artists working in mainstream US comics, and was published earlier this month.

It tells a tale of Irish emigration that spans 140 years, recounting the experiences of three characters. First up is Ciara, who sets sail for the US in 1870 believing that her husband will join her there. He doesn't. Abandoned in an unfamiliar country, she and her young daughter, Maire, have to survive in the notorious Five Points slums of New York.

Johnny McCormack is next to step off the boat. An actor and folk musician, he is drawn to express himself in the Greenwich Village scene of the 1960s.

Bringing the story up to date is Irish business tycoon Lewis Healy, flying into Manhatten on his company's jet in 2010.

Gone to Amerikay is a romance with a ghost tale and a murder mystery thrown in, and I'm told these different elements are cleverly woven together to create a story far removed from those you'd expect in what is now known as a graphic novel.

Adult themes are explored and, as if to prove that the comics genre has moved on from the prudish days when strangely hued thick-necked men wore underpants over their trousers, there's even some nudity hidden among the pages. The inevitable mutterings of distress have not carried across the Atlantic.

Gone to Amerikay is published by Vertigo, the edgy arm of DC Comics. ISBN 978 1401223519. It's available at Easons at €25.10 (that's comic books in 2012 for you!) and Amazon.

Many thanks to Planet Slade for alerting me to this publication and sending images of the preview copy.