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Thursday, 25 November 2010

They were actually Irish you know

Brendan Burke and William Hare were actually Irish and didn’t steal cadavers from the grave – faced with a lack of bodies they embarked upon a murderous plan and provided 17 bodies for dissection by a medical lecturer, 16 of them were murdered.
Writer Martin Conaghan admits that his son and the success of other Scottish comic writers prompted him to try his hand again. He said: “Mark Millar and Grant Morrison were an influence on me.
“These guys are lynch pins in the global comic industry and to think a guy from Coatbridge (Millar) with a basic education is among the top five comic writers in the world is a great source of inspiration.”
A couple of years ago Martin spoke with Insomnia Publication’s creative director Nic Wilkinson about creating a line of books based on historical facts and then teamed up with graphic artist Will Pickering to resurrect and produce the graphic novel Burke and Hare.
“I had tried to follow the same career path as Mark Millar and became a bit disillusioned with it – it’s such a small industry.
“It seems large because of the movies it’s spawned but not a lot of people are employed in it.
“I have two kids of school age and my 8-year-old son was reading 2000AD and Star Wars comics and that got me back into it.”
Martin admits that Robert Louis Stevenson is such a renowned writer that some of his literary works have now been accepted as fact rather than fiction.

“I went through loads of historical papers, the book is entertaining and educational as well as being accurate. It’s a comic but it’s historical, there was so many gaps in the story and I’ve managed to merge fact and fiction.”
Burke was hanged in January 1829 while Hare was granted immunity from prosecution for testifying against his partner in crime.
During their research, Martin and Will went to see William Burke’s skeleton at the Anatomy Museum at Edinburgh University, where it remains on display to this day. The convicted murderer’s body was publicly dissected at the university and his bones put on permanent display there.
“They invited us in and to see Burke’s skeleton and it was a chilling thrill” said Martin.

He continued: “There were also masks made of their faces, this was a time before criminals fingerprints were taken. He was only about 5ft 4inches with rotten teeth and it really brought it home to us that this was the most prolific serial killer in Britain’s history.
“We looked at sketches that had been made of Hare and he looked like the Joker from Batman.
“When the Dark Knight came out The Joker looked like a force of nature; a nasty character who caused chaos. It was the same with Hare – little was known about him before the killings or after the court case.
“It was as if he was almost supernatural like a comic book villain.”
Martin Conaghan’s book costs £10 plus £2 p&p and is available at Waterstones Books, Amazon or HERE

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