A unique comic book is launching today which aims to engage new audiences with a tale of history, identity and the survival of people who lived and worked in the UK’s industrial towns and cities during the 19th century.
Archaeologist and comic book enthusiast (who has appeared on TV programmes including Channel 4’s The Great British Dig), Mili Rajic weaves a human story into the archaeological remnants and artefacts uncovered by Wessex Archaeology on a site in Sheffield in 2017. The comic book is a thought-provoking look at both untold queer history and the universal experiences of many people living in harsh and difficult conditions.
“I imagined this comic as a different way of connecting people with the past and its archive, in a way that is hopefully easier to understand and more accessible. Technical archaeological reports rarely reach the wider public at the best of times, and when they do, they can be complicated and sometimes very dry. I wrote Hollis Croft: A Matter of Time out of a need to get more people excited and engaged in archaeology, because the stories and potential stories are just sitting there in archives, waiting to be explored.
“Comic books and archaeology are a marriage made in heaven as both rely on visualisation and tangible narrative. I hope this will reach more people about the fascinating archaeology everywhere, and the invisible stories and people that are now gone, never to be forgotten.’’
The story itself follows an imagined young woman, Neive, who leaves the poverty of her parents' home in West Ireland to seek work in the industrial cities of Northern England. She finds herself in Sheffield, having to hide her identity to work in steel cementation factories, and she must also hide her forbidden love for Liz.
Mili uses evidence from an excavation she managed at Hollis Croft, Ordnance Survey maps and historical records to inform the story. Historical figures from the time, including Pablo Fanque, a circus owner, and Madame Naomi, a palmist, also feature in the book. Throughout the story links with the archaeological remains are made and readers can explore these further through Internet Archaeology.
Digital version of the comic links the historic Hollis Croft with its archaeological archive and historical records of the area and the time.