The Black Project, by Gareth Brookes

This was the winner of the First Graphic Novel Competition.

BlackProjectCoverThis was the winner of the First Graphic Novel Competition and I quite see why.

The storytelling is compulsive reading, but then I am also a complete sucker when it comes to lists in books. I love them: shopping lists, lists of presents received for birthdays, lists of what’s in someone’s fridge, lists of a husband's shortcomings. They all build up a perfect sense of time and place and people.

This poignant and funny book is no exception.

A boy decides to build a girlfriend. Well, a series of girlfriends really, as prototype after prototype get destroyed (bonfire night, mice, and other disasters).

He starts off with the building of Laura, who has the only thing that he has to spend money on (a rather beautiful pair of women’s long gloves that he purchases from a department store, saying they are for his mother); the rest of her is constructed of a stolen bra from his mum filled with grapefruits, a pillow, and a pair of tights. Her head is made from a papier-mâché model of Neptune that he made for a school project, with a picture of a girl's face from a magazine stuck on it.

As he progresses with his project, the building list becomes more extreme, featuring a plastic skull that he had for Halloween, a pair of bellows, plaster of Paris, socks, wigs, and polystyrene. Utterly fascinating and compellingly page-turning, graphic novels can hook you in with a brilliant combination of pictures and words.

Gareth Brookes will be at the Bookish Supper Society on Wednesday, February 4. Tickets from