'LiveStock'.

Hannah Berry is a British comics artist who rose to notability through atmospheric mystery thrillers like 'Britten & Brülightly' (2008) and 'Adamtine' (2012). She also made the witty satirical dystopian graphic novel 'LiveStock' (2017). Berry works in a realistic style, which doesn't prohibit her from creating gag comics such as 'Vox Pop' (2016-2017) and 'Premeditations' (since 2018). She is known for hiding meaningful details and amusing jokes in the panels of her longer adventure stories. For years Berry has been an advocate of comics as a medium of self-expression and being more than just children's literature. In 2019 she was named the third official U.K. Comics Laureate and also the first female artist to enjoy this honour.

Early life
Hannah Berry was born in 1982. Her mother was of Ecuadorian descent and when her family moved to the United States, Berry went to a school in Maryland for a while. She also spent part of her childhood in Hampshire, near Basingstoke. With help from her grandfather, Berry learned English by reading comics. This gave her insight that comics are a "phenomenal and almost untapped" literacy tool for people learning a foreign language. In an interview conducted by Thomas Giddens for the website comics.grid.com on 5 July 2017, Berry said: "(...) I think people when they're new to comics don't understand that it's not about writing a story and then illustrating it, it's about these two different languages and there's a kind of- this sounds incredibly twatish - there's a kind of friction between the two; they'll never be exactly corroborating with each other. There's something between the two: there's something in the dialogue which is different to the image, and between them they build up an extra level of understanding. The possibilities are incredible and I find that so exciting. Also, you can do so many things with the form as well that I think you can't do with other mediums. (...) I mean, you basically have access to all of time and space with comics, with the panels and the interface and the images and text and it's, oh it's so exciting! I could, I could do them forever. My goal is to try and get everybody to do comics. I'm really just here to proselytise."


'Britten & Brülightly'.

She studied illustration at the University of Brighton. Among her graphic influences are Nicolas de Crécy, Raymond Briggs, Juanjo Guarnido and Bill Watterson. She furthermore adores the films of Christopher Nolan, David Fincher and Joel & Ethan Coen and enjoys watching crime TV series such as 'Columbo', 'Murder She Wrote' and 'Diagnosis Murder'. After graduation, Berry worked as administrator at the probation service for 4 years. She had to format pre-sentence reports by offenders for the court. It gave her access into the background and crimes of all these suspects and made her realize that it bore little resemblance to what she had seen in crime series and films. At a certain point she also worked at Blockbuster Video. It all provided her with more inspiration for her first graphic novel.

Britten & Brülightly
Berry wrote and drew 'Britten & Brülightly' (Jonathan Cape, 2008) on the side. The book revolves around an Ecuadorian private detective, Fernández Britten, who feels remorse over spying and tar-and-feathering so many people over the years. He and his sidekick Brülightly try to find salvation by taking on a case which could actually make a positive change, rather than ruin his victim's career. They delve deep into the suicide of a certain Berni Kudos, whose widowed fiancée, Charlotte, has the feeling there was more to his death than just depression... Trying to make a comic book all on her own, after hours, was already a daunting task. Yet Berry even went through a self-described "macho act" by hand-painting every panel! It was a painstaking process, but the end result justified the means. Her atmospheric noir-like tale captivated readers as well as critics and was translated in French, Dutch, Italian and Serbian.


'Adamtine'.

Adamtine
Berry's next graphic novel, 'Adamtine' (Jonathan Cape, 2012), was also a mystery thriller, but took a darker turn. The story revolves around a mysterious serial killer, "the Postman", who terrorizes the country. Some people suspect Rodney Moon, who nevertheless denies being the notorious criminal. Yet there are strong hints that he is at least familiar with the killer, since he admitted passing on his notes to police inspectors. The plot thickens when Moon disappears. In the light of these events we follow four people on a train at night. When the vehicle suddenly breaks down all other passengers vanish without a trace, leaving the four remaining travellers unsure of their fate.... 'Adamtine' received excellent reviews and was praised for being a disturbing psychological horror story, something most critics considered difficult to pull off in the comics medium. As a huge fan of the Japanese horror classic 'Ringu' (1998) and Emily Gravett's 'Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears' (Gravett, 2008), the author wanted to make something metafictional, where the medium itself becomes malicious. In some panels, for instance, one can see faces in the darkness watching the characters and also somehow watch the reader.


'Vox Pop'.

Vox Pop
In May 2016 Berry started publishing a gag comic, 'Vox Pop' (2016-2017) for the weekly magazine The New Statesman. The comic was unusual in the sense that it had no recurring characters and addressed current events without being directly political or topical. Each episode features a regular person holding a monologue, often speaking directly to the reader. They are common people of all kinds of ages, sexes or races. Berry self-described 'Vox Pop' as a "weekly cartoon strip (...) about humans, because they are weird and wonderful."

LiveStock
A year later Berry published her third graphic novel, 'LiveStock' (Jonathan Cape, 2017). Contrary to her previous two books, 'LiveStock' is set in a nearby future when the government conducts human cloning. To legitimatize the experiments, they use the dim-witted pop singer Clementine Darling as a media distraction. The officials announce that her upcoming baby will need a heart transplantation, which only human cloning can bring about... 'LiveStock' is a witty satire of government intrigue, corporate greed and celebrity culture. In a 22 May 2017 interview by The Herald Scotland journalist Teddy Jamieson, Berry said she was inspired by a conspiracy theory that U.S. President George Bush Jr. seemed to use sensational media stories about pop idol Britney Spears to overshadow any ongoing possible political scandal at the time. While she didn't believe the theory, it did give her an alibi to express her disgust about tabloid stories involving media stars and how the masses just eat it up. Posy Simmonds praised 'LiveStock' as "engaging and timely, a rich brew of celebrity, menace, media-spin and human cloning", while Pat Mills called it "a savage and satirical read".

Premeditations
From 31 August 2018 on Berry created a monthly gag comic titled 'Premeditations' for the magazine Prospect. Just like 'Vox Pop', it doesn't feature recurring characters, just different regular people in different situations, most of which involve some kind of revenge on others. The joy of reading 'Premeditations' is trying to figure out how the character will act out his or her premeditated payback? Berry often plays with the situation by stretching it out until the revelation in the final panel.

Style
Berry said in the aforementioned interview with The Herald Scotland, that she enjoys dropping hidden details, clues and Easter Eggs in her artwork, which she sees as something personal, like having a "cheeky joke with each reader". She also avoids borders for her panels, because in her opinion a story flows better if there are no outlines, so they border themselves.


'The House on the Cliff' ('La Villa Sur La Falaise').

Graphic contributions
In 2013, at the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, a special graphic novel, 'IDP: 2043' (Freight Books, 2013), came about. The dystopian tale depicts Edinburgh 30 years in the future, after sea levels have risen and resources diminished. Six European novelists and comics artists collaborated on this graphic novel, among them Barroux, Hannah Berry, Kate Charlesworth, Dan McDaid, Pat Mills, Denise Mina, Will Morris, Adam Murphy, Mary Talbot and Irvine Welsh. The same year Berry also made a graphic contribution to another celebration graphic novel, namely 'La Villa Sur La Falaise' (Casterman, 2013), which honoured the 10th anniversary of the publisher's imprint Écritures. Based on a script by Benoît Sokal, it featues work by 10 graphic novelists, among them Cati Baur, Fred Bernard, Isabel Kreitz, Gabrielle Piquet, Nate Powell, Davide Reviati, Sylvain Saulne, Kan Takahama and Jiro Taniguchi. The story was only published in French, but Berry made an English translation of her contribution available on her site.

Berry furthermore contributed to 'Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics' (Duffy et al., 2014), Ravi Thornton's 'Hoax: Psychosis Blues' (Thornton et al, 2014) and Scream! & Misty's 'Halloween Special' (Berry and Willsher, 2017).

Recognition
'LiveStock' won the "Best Writer Award" (2017) at the Broken Frontier Awards. In 2018 Hannah Berry was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. On 13 October 2018, at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Hannah Berry was named Comics Laureate, succeeding Charlie Adlard and before him Dave Gibbons, making her the first woman in the function.

Other activities
Hannah Berry's comics have appeared in 2.000 A.D., among other magazines. She co-hosted the 'No YOU Hang Up' podcast with Dan Berry, interviewing certain creative guests. Since July 2012 she has her own Twitter account and an Instagram account too.

hannahberry.co.uk

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