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Inspirations: Néjib on Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie

12 March 2017

In Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie, French comics artist and graphic designer Néjib tells the story of the young musician’s formative years, living and working in a Victorian house in Beckenham, south-east London. Here, Néjib reveals his inspirations and influences, and why he decided to let Haddon Hall itself take the role of narrator.

In Haddon Hall, I wanted to capture the spirit of the time. It’s not purely a biographical work; rather, it’s a snapshot of David Bowie at the twilight of ’60s. I consider this to be the most pivotal period in his creative development. We know that it was between 1969 and 1970 that David Bowie became himself, and these years held a little magic of their own.

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At first, I wanted to do it in black and white, and then little by little I was drawn towards Heinz Edelmann’s work (notably Yellow Submarine), as well as the work of other graphic artists from that time — Milton Glaser, for example.

I initially got stuck with my colour choices, and it was by looking at the work of these people that I saw the potential of a fairly limited palette. I tried using a dark blue line and saw that it could be interesting to work in that way. There was a lot of fumbling, but eventually I found a way to pay tribute to the musicians and graphic designers of the ’60s and ’70s.

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When I was writing the first draft of the script, something didn’t add up. There was information I wanted to include but it came across too heavily on the page. At some point, I don’t know why, I thought it might be nice if the house became the narrator. The idea won me over right away; I think the story benefits from a loose sense of fantasy. I didn’t think too much about it, but it was a decision that unlocked the narration: when I wanted to say something, it was the house that said it. It also gave the story a narrative thread.

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Néjib is a graphic designer and comics artist. He is the art director at Editions Casterman. Born in Tunisia, he now lives and works in Paris. His favourite David Bowie song is “Sound and Vision”.

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie is available now from all good book shops. It was chosen as The Observer's Graphic Novel of the Month by Rachel Cooke, who said, "What a dazzling book this is. Nejib is wonderfully alive to the influences on Bowie in this crucial period." Read her full review here.