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THE BLACK PROJECT

Gareth Brookes

WINNER: FIRST GRAPHIC NOVEL COMPETITION

WINNER: BROKEN FRONTIER AWARDS 2013

Paul Gravett

Exquisite, excruciating and exceptional... A landmark, once read, not easily forgotten.

Getting yourself a girlfriend is easy, according to Richard. All you need is papier mache, string, soft material, a balloon, some old fashioned  bellows, and a good pair of scissors. The difficult bit is keeping her secret.

Set in an English suburb in the early 1990s, The Black Project is the story of Richard’s all-consuming passion for creating ‘girls’ from household objects. But as his hobby begins to flourish, his real life friendships and family relationships deteriorate. Richard is an unreliable narrator, and the reader responds to his loneliness and his dogged attempt to find a companion, while being horrified by his warped creations. The novel’s focus is on the divide between childhood and adulthood; where sex, perversion, and the grotesque feature in their many forms.

The much-awaited debut from the winner of the inaugural First Graphic Novel Competition,The Black Project is a darkly funny story of obsession, beautifully crafted in embroidery and lino-cut. The judges included Ian Rankin, Bryan Talbot, Hannah Berry, Steve Bell and Ed Hillyer (ILYA).

Gareth Brookes

is a fine artist and print maker. He studied Fine Art at the RCA, where he also took a creative writing course. He started making small press comics in 2006 and has since been self-publishing and working with small press groups such as Alternative Press and the Comix Reader. This is his first book. He lives near Woking, Surrey.

Paul Ashley Brown, Comic Bits Online

It's a painstaking and wonderfully original artistic achievement.

Richard Bruton, Forbidden Planet

The Black Project is full of that creeping horror feeling, you know the sort… dark memories of childhood, creatures under the bed, the terrifying walk home in the dark, the sweat-drenching dream that leaves you unsettled and on edge all day, that sort of thing. Brookes plays on that feeling, adding dark humour and deadpan first person voiceover to create something really unsettling, genuinely creepy. Horrific at times, ridiculous at others, The Black Project is a fascinatingly creepy experience.

Andrew Moreton, Comiczine FA

A good deal of the text in The Black Project could be read and understood without the images, but on having finished it and looking back on it the words and the pictures and the manner of their creation are integral to each other. There’s the story and the stitching and the cutting of the story into a physical form, but unusually for my reading of comics, the actual method of execution adds depth and resonance to the whole story. You could follow every detail of the story if you only heard the words, but you’d be missing the half the pointwork.

Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier

Clandestine first love with a papier mache twist is the order of the day in this remarkable debut graphic novel from creator Gareth Brookes. The Black Project distinguishes itself not just for the deadpan morbid drollery of Brookes’s narrative delivery but for its unusual and idiosyncratic artistic identity. For those unaware of the small press work of Gareth Brookes this will be the perfect entry point into the wicked whimsy of his creative mind.

Paul Gravett

If I had to pick one solo highlight of September 2013, it would have to be The Black Project by Gareth Brookes, a landmark, once read, not easily forgotten. At times, you won’t quite believe what you are reading and seeing, all executed in embroidery and linocuts, four years in the making. Exquisite, excruciating and exceptional.

Jonathan, Page 45

'Some will find Gareth’s woodcut / iconography art style rather challenging, but after being initially unsure, before commencing, I found I loved it. It’s actually very clever, packed with lots of detail, and incredibly well executed.'

Teddy Jamieson, Herald Scotland

Brookes's story is told via embroidery and lino cut. The result is a bit like Cath Kidston embroidering for David Lynch.

Cherry and Cinnamon

The Black Project... is a very unusual premise executed in a very unusual way- and a black humour that stops it from tipping over into horror territory completely. The production is innovative, the dark humour made me laugh, and the ending humanises our protagonist. More than anything this book stretches the parameters of what comics can be. If you’re in any way interested in alternative comics, and or contemporary textile crafts I urge you to look this one out.

Nicola Streeten, Graphic Novelist

Brookes’ work is the story of an adolescent boy, Richard, grappling with his burgeoning sexual urges, through the disturbingly painstaking making of dolls – sex dolls. He experiments to create vaginas for each doll that he can put his penis into as he lies on top of her, so it will feel as he imagines it ought to. It is this last facet that makes the book so brilliantly excrutiating.

Stacey Bartlett, We Love This Book

Gareth Brookes has created something truly incredible with his first book, The Black Project, a graphic novel made from embroideries and prints…Brookes has done a masterful job with the voice of Richard, perfectly straddling the divide between unsettling introversion and youthful resilience. The strength of his voice, and indeed the whole book, lies in its design.The Black Project is genuinely unlike anything else happening in the graphic medium at the moment.

Emily Beber, It's Nice That

All 208 pages of this ominous tale are spectacular, mixing dark lino cuts with embroidery and hand-written text. Pack away the craft materials and get reading.

Joe Decie, Comics and Cola

I thought it was wonderful. Gareth has made his pictures with a mixture of embroidery and lino cut, they're elaborate and awkward and odd. And that's a good thing. Gareth has an amazing eye for detail. It's the little things that draw me in, draw me in and convince me it's a true story. You know a story is great when you want to believe it's real, and I do believe this is real. Also I'm a big fan of nostalgia, I lap it up, and this book is piled high with it.

Pam McIlroy, PAMREADER

The Black Project is a work of art… a masterpiece of comic timing and an extraordinary feat of imagination and creativity. I’m not surprised that it was the winner of the First Graphic Novel Competition.

Steve Bell, judge, First Graphic Novel Competition

Utterly bizarre and quite brilliant.

Will Self

I enjoyed his weirdness.

Sacha Craddock

Extraordinary emphasis on doing and making almost in real time.

Ed Hillyer, judge, First Graphic Novel Competition

Sublimely creepy … It feels authentic for the suburban setting, complete with spirit-crushing malaise, small joys and the lurking presence of circling, unseen terrors – a perfect, bland backdrop on which to examine the cruelty and banality of adolescence in full flame. The matter of fact delivery, through both word and image, works like a gift – not only in conveying moments of gruesome comedy, but also underplaying the inherent tragedy of frustrated feeling, still yet forming, barely understood.

Sarah Lightman, Laydeez Do Comics

Brilliant. Clever, inventive and beautifully written.

Stephen Collins, cartoonist and winner of the 9th Art Award

Completely bloody amazing. Dark and funny and sad and moving and totally original.

Dylan Horrocks, author of _Hicksville_

Holy shit this book is amazing! One of the most powerful and distinctive graphic novels to come out in a long time. I can't recommend this strongly enough - but brace yourself. It may make your skin crawl.

Steve Morris, The Beat

Brookes has a wonderful dark and wry wit, something that certainly comes through in this very unique book.

Peter Sutton, BRSBKBLOG

This is an endearingly odd tale and highly recommended. What could be a very dark and sordid tale is told with humour and is all the more human for it.

Tom Murphy, Full Page Bleed

Stunning craft, and a gripping voice like a very benign, home counties The Wasp Factory

RRP £12.99
208 pages • 160 x 230mm
ISBN: 978-1-908434-20-3
Published 12 September 2013

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Continuing a month of shows on horror and fantasy comics, Alex Fitch talks to Gareth Brookes about The Black Project. Originally broadcast Monday 28th October 2013, on Resonance 104.4 FM (London)

Gareth Brookes with work-in-progress from The Black Project