The following is an interview with author/illustrator Edmund Trueman regarding the upcoming release of the graphic novel, Postcards from Congo, through Arsenal Pulp Press. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Trueman about his approach to depicting the history, society, and culture of Congo, what he hopes that readers will take away from the story, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Postcards from Congo! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the focus of this graphic history book, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Edmund Trueman: As a youngster I was really influenced by the work of European comic artists, especially Hergé’s Tintin. When I first read Tintin in the Congo, I was pretty confused – I was too young to know much about the history of colonialism, but it was obvious that Tintin’s Congo was a dark and twisted version of reality. As the years went by, I tried to learn more about the real Congo, and at some point I decided that the Congolese people deserved a much fairer write-up from the international comics community. With Postcards from Congo, I’ve done my best to give a brief introduction to the history, society, and culture of Congo. You can think of it as an illustrated encyclopedia of Congo and the wider world.
BD: In taking on both the writing and illustrative duties for this project, as well as the incredible research, how would you describe your creative process in bringing the Congolese people’s story to life?
ET: I’ve tried to focus as much as possible on the lived experience of regular people. The work of Congolese historian Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja has been an indispensable resource, as his writing focuses on social movements and people’s history. As well as reading enough books and papers to get a general overview of the events of history, I also had to develop a good idea of how things looked visually. That side of the research involves looking at a lot of photos, and where photos are not available then gathering the visual information from wherever possible – written descriptions, interviews, paintings, even the lyrics of songs. I’ve worked together with the historian Didier Gondola to check the accuracy of the illustrations, and in some cases I re-drew the images altogether on his advice.
BD: What makes Arsenal Pulp Press the perfect home for this graphic novel?
ET: From the very beginning, they’ve shared my opinion that now is a great moment for the international community to start taking a more serious interest in African societies. Obviously, my way of contributing to that trend is in sharing my interest in Congolese history with the general public, and Arsenal Pulp have supported me all the way.
BD: At Fanbase Press, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Postcards from Congo will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
ET: When the Black Lives Matter movement exploded in 2020, we saw people of all ethnic origins unite to re-asses the history of colonialism and slavery in Africa and beyond. I believe that Postcards from Congo will be a particularly appealing book for readers of all backgrounds who want to build a more in-depth understanding of the different cultures of this world. The story of Congo in particular is such a relevant one to readers across the globe, as no matter where you are from, the history of your own people has tied into the history of the Congolese in some way over the past 150 years. It’s truly a global story.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
ET: It’s been great fun to produce Postcards from Congo, which is essentially an illustrated introduction to Congolese history. Now, I’m eager to dive deeper into a couple of topics which interest me, and do some first-hand research of my own. The travel restrictions seem like they might have calmed down for good, so I’m hoping to get out to Congo at the start of next year and start work on a new project.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Postcards from Congo and your other work?
ET: The best way is to follow me on Instagram at @junk_comix. Anybody who wants to order the book can do so from the Arsenal Pulp Press website. If you live outside of North America, then there are plenty of other online bookstores who have the book, the best thing to do is just Google it. It’s also available as an e-book, and with alt text for folks who are hard of sight.