Alumni Services

Sean Michael Wilson

Sean Michael Wilson's time at Edinburgh led him to meet students from across the world, including someone from Japan, which happens to be where he now lives and works as an award-winning graphic novelist.

Name Sean Michael Wilson
Degree Course MSc Social Anthropology
Year of Graduation 1995
Sean Michael Wilson

Your time at the University

I’m from Edinburgh and went to school just 5 minutes away from the University, so I was aware of it being some kind of interesting place since I was a little boy. However, I was the first one in my extended family to go to University.

Student life made me more international and was my first chance to get to know people from outside of Scotland and in reality; I was the only Scot in my Masters course! I remember that there was a Japanese woman in our degree and when she spoke in seminar meetings, no one interrupted her. Everyone gave her a chance to think about what she was saying, since it was tough for her go into those difficult subjects in a foreign language. That was my first time to get to know someone Japanese - and now here I am, living in Japan!

Student life made me more international and was my first chance to get to know people from outside of Scotland.

Sean Michael Wilson

Tell us about your experiences since leaving the University

I work as a graphic novel writer and now have around 20 books published in seven different languages. As graphic novels (comic books) are a combination of visuals and text, people presume that I studied art or literature. In fact, I studied Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology but my books are often about history and culture, so the two aspects are related.

During my time at University, I learned a key skill that I use in my work now, in University you need to read a lot of information, often with little time to do it in. Then, in writing an essay about it, you need to reformat it and present it in your own way while still being coherent and capture the main points of the subject. Essentially, that is also what I do while writing my books, because a lot of my work has been making visual versions of classic books or biography or historical subjects. So, the same skills are needed and the time is often rather tight, with publisher's deadlines to meet.

My degrees are BA, MSc and then I got a PGCE from London University, and taught Sociology and Psychology in an further education college there. I could have continued in an academic route and studied for a PhD but I decided to take the artistic route, because in some ways I was only a moderately good academic. My interests were too much on the poetic aspects of those subjects, and I wasn’t that great at statistics or experiments or steady methodical research. However, this is why graphic novel writing is great for me - it’s a combination of those things. If , for example, I am doing a book on a 17thC Japanese samurai there is a lot of research involved, since the book may be about 150 pages or more. So the research involved is about the same as that for doing a dissertation. However, rather than having to make the book confirm to a strict academic format, I get to shape the flow and contents of the book in a poetic way, with an artistic take on the subject I'm tackling.  

Alumni wisdom

We should try to learn everything on every subject - for its own sake, because it’s interesting. Not just to pass exams or get a job. We'll fail at that aim, of course - it's an impossible task. But we'll learn a lot on the way…