We Shall Fight until We Win is a graphic novel of women in politics, an idea motivated by the celebration of 100 years of women having the right to vote. Writing about women in the form of comics is not new for BHP Comics, since they had earlier published The Mighty Women of Science, which presents women from the history of science in alphabetical order. This time, with the book We Shall Fight until We Win their aim is to present an anthology of political women, including popular, unheard and forgotten female politicians.
At the Edinburgh Book Festival, three of the book contributors, Laura Jones (404 Ink), Sha Nazir (BHP Comics) and Heather Palmer (BHP Comics) discussed with Jenny Niven (Creative Scotland) about the idea behind the book, the funding (through Kickstarter), the creative process, and the response of the readers so far. The idea was born based on the women’s vote celebration; however, it developed into focusing on the progression of women’s presence and position in politics. They chose the form of a graphic novel, because they believe that it is a more accessible style of novel for (almost) everyone. Their aim is for the book to be appealing not only to girls and mothers buying it for their daughters, but also to male readers, especially younger ones.
Twenty illustrators and various writers collaborated to create the individual stories, which put a lot of different dynamics into the creative process and led to this interesting and diverse result. Some of the contributors haven’t written comics before, needing more guidance and time to work on this style. Time was also taken over deciding on the women that would be included in the book. The team wanted to include women from various political parties, world figures, contemporary politicians, unheard and unpopular women, and also to try to present one woman from each decade since when women gained the right to vote.
The writers had to do a lot of research on the woman of their story and they had to decide which aspect of them they would like to portray. For example, Heather Palmer explained that there is a lot of material about Margaret Thatcher which made her research harder, but she decided to focus on Thatcher’s relationship with other women and her position as a female pioneer in politics. This ended up being not a celebration of Thatcher, but more like a critical look at her.
The creators addressed the lack of diversity of characters in comics, and how many people cannot identify themselves with superheroes and lead comic figures. They mentioned that they encourage young artists to tell their stories and present a good reflection of themselves without barriers and specific shapes and forms. Additionally, they expressed their concern on the way some people still look at comics, at least in the UK, as something childish. It was pointed out that comics can also be educational, which allows them to get into schools easier and be more widely accepted.
The three contributors and the chairwoman concluded the discussion by questioning if we live in a progressive society, since the comparison among the contemporary women and the women of the past in politics shows no real progression in the last 100 years. For this reason, they suggest We Shall Fight until We Win.
We Will Fight Until We Win
Various artists & authors
BHP Comics & 404 Ink
Image: Ben Snooks via Flickr