The First Men On Mercury

The First Men On Mercury
from the poem by Edwin Morgan • a comic adaption by METAPHROG






The First Men On Mercury

"When Duncan Jones at the Association for Scottish Literary Studies contacted us about a year ago to see if we would be interested in adapting The First Men on Mercury into comic form, we were thrilled. The poem, being largely dialogue based, perhaps lends itself more readily to a comic adaptation, and we also were excited about trying our hand at science fiction.

The only restriction we were given was that the comic had to fit on four A4 pages. Very quickly we came up with a proposed layout, which was revised two or three times, to get the pacing right. In the poem there is no narration, but we all thought that for the comic to work as a story, it would be necessary to show the arrival of the Earthmen on Mercury. This we kept silent. The original text was of course kept intact. We were acutely aware that by adding any images we were simultaneously going to be taking something away from a reader's own visual interpretation of the poem read as pure text, and so tried to be as sensitive as we could to this fact.
Working together on the Louis graphic novels we always find ourselves trying to solve visual story-telling problems that are peculiar to each story. Normally our process would involve working back and forth together from script to dummy and then to final layout. Here, we had to carefully discuss the possible interpretations and ideas that explode from a poem.
Over a period of about a  month, the comic developed from layouts to pencils, then to inks (rendered by hand using technical pens), and finally came to life in computer colour. A change from working on the Louis books, which are all hand painted.

It proved to be great fun and we were delighted to receive the poet's blessing. We hope you will enjoy our graphic interpretation of Edwin Morgan's original poem."

Sandra and John (metaphrog)


To mark National Poetry Day – 8 October 2009 – the Association for Scottish Literary Studies is distributing over 32,000 copies of a comic-strip adaptation of Edwin Morgan’s poem ‘The First Men on Mercury’ to every Secondary school pupil in the poet’s home city of Glasgow.

‘The First Men on Mercury’ is one of Edwin Morgan’s science fiction poems – fizzing with ideas and bubbling with invention. It’s simultaneously fascinating, funny and just a little bit disconcerting, as we witness first contact between the brave explorers from Earth and the native inhabitants of the planet Mercury.

The form of the poem makes it ideal for adaptation into comic-strip form. For this project, ASLS collaborated with metaphrog: the Glasgow-based duo behind the critically acclaimed Louis series of graphic novels.



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