First Graphic Novel winner

Discover the early days of The Black Project, a dark and surreal first work of award-winning graphic fiction

Gareth Brookes’ The Black Project has won Myriad Editions’ first competition for an in-progress graphic novel, coming out on top of a shortlist of seven.

The Black Project is about Richard, a boy who has a dark and bizarre hobby – turning his fantasy girlfriends into reality by the use of clothes and objects. The book uses illustration and text, combined with embroidery, print making and lino cuts.

Graphic novels commissioning editor Corinne Pearlman, who judged the First Graphic Novel competition alongside novelist Ian Rankin, graphic novelists Bryan Talbot, Ed Hillyer and Hannah Berry, and cartoonist Steve Bell, described Brookes’ novel as “funny macabre”. The author will be working on it while away in New Zealand and the finished book will be published by Myriad Editions in 2013.

Pearlman said: "We had an incredible shortlist and we felt all the submissions were extremely publishable. We weren't expecting a fait accompli, and we want to work with Gareth to make it into something both he and we are proud of. Working on it together was part of the prize.

"We ended up choosing Gareth’s novel because it had beautiful artwork, it was well written and like nothing else we’ve ever seen. We wanted something that had its own criteria… we couldn’t really compare it to anything else so it was in a league of its own."

Brookes studied Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, but started making small press comics in 2006. He has recently been in Thailand teaching printmaking at a charity school.

The winner was announced at First Fictions, a weekend event on 20-22 January championing first novels past and present, which took place at the University of Sussex, Brighton.