‘Yellowman’ Graphic Novel Twists Science And Magic In Victorian London

‘Yellowman’ Graphic Novel Twists Science And Magic In Victorian London

Dark and mysterious, a new top-hat thriller takes us back to steam power, carriages, and magic.

Nestor Bailly, PSFK
  • 12 october 2011

A young man emerges from a London pub and is assaulted on his way home. Just before being offed by his assailants, he is rescued by a mysterious bandaged man with a raven-head cane.

Yellowman Graphic novel cover

The next day, he wakes up hungover to the news that he has been released from his professorship due to some undisclosed, unsavory nature of his work. Following a tip from a blind man speaking through a young girl, he tries to find his rescuer and gets more than he expected.

Dark, mysterious, and thrilling, Yellowman is Warren Holder and Justin Quirk’s debut graphic novel. Set in Victorian London, this self-published work explores the shadow-filled backstreets and brilliant halls of science of a London hurtling towards modernity through the darkness of magic and the past.

Yellowman graphic novel p6

Warren Holder is a renowned illustrator from the UK who recently worked on concept art for Tim Burton’s Sweeny Todd and Alice in Wonderland. Justin Quirk is a contributor to The Guardian and is an award-winning writer and editor. Together they have created what has been hailed as “part From Hell, part The Master and Margarita” and “a beautifully drawn debut,” Yellowman reads like a thriller and packs a remarkable amount of architectural and era-specific detail into each frame.

We sat down with Justin and asked him about Yellowman‘s plot, the appeal of storytelling, and the benefits of the graphic novel as a medium.

You seem to have some sort of steampunk hero. Can you describe the plot?

It’s about an African albino who’s being pursued through London by two groups of people; a secret society of English industrialists and an African voodoo group. The industrialists want him to read the future for them (there’s a common superstition that despite having bad eyesight, Albinos can see the future) and tell them where to speculate for minerals in Africa; the Africans have already killed his parents for their skulls and need his to complete the set as albino skulls are a hugely powerful voodoo fetish. He reluctantly falls in with a pair of disgraced scientists who have their own – not entirely honorable – motives for helping him.  It then pulls in a load of bigger stuff about the empire, the war between magic and science, Kent, a psychic cat and an undersea world…

As a journalist why have you turned to storytelling through the graphic novel form?

Well, like every journalist I know, I’ve always been chipping away at various books and screenplays in my spare time. But they’re huge undertakings in terms of time and work and a DIY mechanism doesn’t really exist for credibly getting them out there (Kindle is making some difference, but printing your own novel still has a whiff of vanity publishing about it). So, I wanted a project which would be a smaller undertaking, as you could put out one chapter and test whether there was any kind of audience without having to spend three years at work on an entire finished project. And the comic industry seems to have a DIY scene which is similar to the music industry – creating a small number of beautifully produced items and releasing them selectively seems like a viable project. And, for any creative, just working start to finish on one project, without having to pass it over to someone else at some point, or wait for it to be green lit or funded, is hugely satisfying. By printing it ourselves, we had a greater initial outlay, but it meant that we could really go to town on the details (spot varnishing, UV coating, heavy paper, even matching envelopes). Basically, we’re old fashioned print-nerds at heart.

Yellowman close-up

What does the medium permit you to do – over text and photographic imagery?

Firstly, all credit for the visual look of Yellowman must go to Warren Holder. From some written instruction and a few photographic references, he’s turned this loose idea of mine into an entirely realized world on the page which is now as much his as it is mine. He’s worked on a lot of concept art for Tim Burton (Alice In Wonderland, Sweeney Todd, etc.) and has this incredible ability to convey ideas, emotions and even silence through these tiny, detailed illustrations. As for what it permitted me to do: I think the crucial thing was making myself work in a completely different medium and one which I wasn’t hugely familiar with even as a reader. By placing these parameters around yourself (in terms of textual economy, frame numbers, color selection, etc), I found myself thinking in a completely different way. All fiction I’d tried to write before was very realist, very modern. Suddenly, ideas which would have seemed outlandish in prose seemed to work in this different format. If you’re feeling creatively jaded, giving yourself these new rules to work by can be very liberating.

When is the next issue?

We’re aiming for early next year and the iPad version is almost ready to go.

Thanks Justin!



Brand Engagement At The Gates Of The World's Largest Open-Air Gallery

Asia Today

Safe Drivers Rewarded In Japan With Free Coffee

Driving Barista is a new app that encourages Japanese motorists to put their phones down as they drive

Arts & Culture Today

Michael Kors Has Designed Their Own Instant Camera

In a partnership with Fuji, the limited edition Instax Mini 70 comes in an exclusive metallic gold color


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Health Today

Manage Your Emotional Health Through Your Phone

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer has created a new iOS app meant to help patients track mental progress and set goals

Food Today

Delete Food Pics Off Of Instagram To Feed The Hungry

Land O'Lakes and Feeding America are donating meals for every picture of a meal taken off of the social platform

Related Expert

Layne Braunstein

experimental motion design and post-digital storytelling

Design & Architecture Today

This Shape-Shifting Pod Could Be The Future Of The Cubicle

MIT and Google have designed a new form of work enclosure meant to offer privacy in open-office layouts

Advertising Today

Billboard Spies On People As They Walk By

To promote the movie "Snowden," the advertisement broadcasts information on passersby without their knowledge

Fashion Today

Anti-Pollution Scarf Helps Cyclists Ride Through Cities

An innovative system filters pollutants and its accompanying app monitors quality of the air


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Yesterday

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs Today

New Mentorship Ecosystems Benefit All Levels Of An Organization

PSFK’s Future of Work report explores how technology is being leveraged to support cross-team communication

Automotive Today

Volvo’s Self-Driving Trucks Will Soon Be Put To Work In An Underground Mine

The fully-automated vehicles are part of a development project to help improve safety for workers

Op-Ed Today

Energy Expert: How American Consumers Are Taking Control Of Their Power Use

Jennifer Tuohy, green tech expert at The Home Depot, discusses green home technologies and developments for renewable technologies in US homes

Work Today

Editorial Roundtable: How Will Companies Staff The Workplace Of The Future?

Managed By Q, Soma, Workbar, Primary, AltSchool and thinkPARALLAX examine the ways that a people-first workplace might disrupt the job hiring process

Arts & Culture Today

Mischievous Drone Will Drop Paint-Filled Balloons On Targets Of Your Choosing

A German photography team developed the flying device to accurately deliver a payload wherever needed


Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders

Fashion Today

100 Backpacks Made For The World’s Top Influencers

Heineken and TUMI have collaborated on a unique custom NYC-inspired bag

Financial Services Today

This Peer-To-Peer Insurance Company Is Powered By Bots

Lemonade is a new product designed to lighten the paperwork and provide instant, helpful service when needed

No search results found.