Astrid Goldsmith, an animator based in Folkestone in the UK, won the Jonathon Cape/Observer/Comica Graphic Short Story Prize 2021 for A Funeral in Freiburg, a story recollecting the frustrations and anxiety surrounding her late grandmother’s funeral in 2015.

Graphic Short Story Prize 2021

Announced in a post on the Guardian/Observer website, A Funeral in Freiburg won by unanimous decision.

Goldsmith’s rich, funny, plangent story isn’t only beautifully drawn; its subject, though highly particular, also has a universality that speaks to the past two years, a period during which too many of us have had to organise funerals at a distance.

On her win, Goldsmith said:

“That is the greatest compliment”

And elaborated on the experience that her winning entry was based on:

“Death is so raw and emotional, and yet you’re also greeted with this bureaucracy. If you’re lucky, the people helping you through will be great. But our experience really wasn’t; when we went back to Germany for the stone setting a year later, it was just as bad.”

There were two runners up for the 2021 prize. Tat Effby’s Cancer Sells! is an amusing take on publishing fads and trying to find entertainment in one’s personal trauma.

Meanwhile Andrew, by A. Wolfgang Crewe, gave a more direct reference to the strange pandemic times. A mixture of family disconnection and connection, Crewe uses the short to tell the story of getting in touch with their estranged uncle Andrew during the pandemic.

The Graphic Short Story Prize was begun by the UK’s Observer newspaper in 2007. It is currently additionally chaired and sponsored by publisher Jonathan Cape and Comica Festival. Winners and runners up in the Graphic Short Story prize have gone on to get publishing deals on longer works. The 2019 winner Edo Brenes just had their first book Memories From Limón published recently by Nobrow, the first chapter of which was Brenes’ competition entry. Other success stories include Matthew Dooley (Flake, 2020), Isabel Greenberg (who went on to do 2013’s Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and released Glass Town in 2020), and Joff Winterhart (Days of the Bagnold Summer, 2012).

The judges for the Graphic Short Story 2021 prize included journalist and BBC Radio Four presenter Samira Ahmed, and comics auteur Alison Bechdel – alongside the regular judging panel of Jonathan Cape graphic novels publisher Dan Franklin; Vintage creative director Suzanne Dean; comic expert and curator Paul Gravett; and Guardian/Observer journalist and graphic novel reviewer Rachel Cooke.

Participants in the Graphic Short Story Prize have to produce a four page comic that can be published across a double-page spread in the Observer newspaper’s New Review. The deadline for the Graphic Short Story Prize 2021 was December 10, last year. The winning entry receives £1,000 (about $1300) and runner up £250 (~$300). Both winner and runner ups would have their work published in print and online via the Guardian website.