The very clever VV Brown

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Singer VV Brown has taken a break from music to write her first graphic novel in collaboration with David Allain and illustrator Emma Price. We caught up with her to find out a bit more about The City Of Abacus, which is published on 6 May.

Brown’s story takes place in the grim city of Abacus, where freedom of expression and creativity are under the stifling control of evil Queen Virusos, and music has long been banned. Cue the discovery of a young orphan, mysteriously immune from the crazed despot’s power. With her collaborator David Allain and illustrator Emma Price, VV Brown has created what looks set to be an intriguing tale of rebellion.

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ESQUIRE: What inspired you to write a graphic novel?

VV BROWN: I wanted to be more political as an artist and wanted to express this through animation. That's why I love Tim Burton; he has this way of revealing truth through fantasy. That's why I love comics.

ESQ: How did the process differ from writing music?

VVB: It wasn’t so restrictive. I can show the side of VV that is hidden sometimes. You can be completely creative and not have to work with parameters. You can be extremely conscious and just completely experimental.

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ESQ: Have you always been a fan of graphic novels?

VVB: Always. I read them as a kid and love the world of imagination. They are so cool and such a bundle of love and time. You really go into the Freudian part of an author’s mind when you look at the pictures and read the text. It’s so psychological.

ESQ: Which graphic novelists do you particularly admire, and why?

VVB: I really love A Jew In Communist Prague by Vittorio Giardino, Tintin In Tibet by Herge, It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken by Seth, Kingdom Come by Mark Waid. There are so many. Strangers In Paradise: I Dream Of You by Terry More and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore.

ESQ: In the novel, Freeda seems to be fighting against conformity and the death of creativity, is this something that worries you about our society?

VVB: There are so many things happening within our world that are creating a sterile plastic bubble where substance is being lost and everything feels "plastic". We seem to me hypnotised and desensitised en masse by these collective things, which I think are breaking down our individuality. It is almost like a beehive, when we collectively think as one zombie working unit rather than on our own with our own ideas. The "fame" game teaches our children the need for social acceptance and hierarchy, which makes us more psychologically ready to conform. Artistic intelligence doesn't seem to be measured or nurtured in schools and mass consumption and bar codes echo the ideal of priorities being driven into shallow things.

ESQ: Did you base your characters on people in your life?

VVB: They can be seen in all our lives somehow. They are symbols of the system and personality types within our own worlds. It’s not a micro thing, it’s very phenomenological.

ESQ: Would you consider adapting the graphic novel into a film, and if so, who would be your ideal Freeda?

VVB: That is our aim, to make an animated movie. Freeda’s voice would be mine. It’s a dream of mine to do a voiceover. Angharad Jones

For more, see www.thecityofabacus.com