What an astonishing year of achievement 2015 was for Avery Hill Publishing. British Comic Awards nominations for EdieOP’s Maleficium and Rachael Smith’s The Rabbit alongside that much deserved BCA win for Tim Bird’s Grey Area: From the City to the Sea were just the tip of an impressive and daunting iceberg. They were also nominated in the Best Publisher category in the 2015 Broken Frontier Awards with Tillie Walden winning the Breakout Talent Award for her AHP-released books The End of Summer and I Love this Part. With a plethora of critically-acclaimed books last year, and a major retrospective exhibition in Orbital Comics, the only question left was how could they top those twelve months in 2016?
The first hints at an answer to that question have come in the initial AHP press release of 2016 detailing some of their schedule for this year. They include two favourite creators from the AHP repertory company, one name spotlighted in this column last summer, a return to the AH Arts line, and the next welcome instalments of a couple of serial projects.
Let’s break down the announcements book by book. AHP’s press release promos are in italics with my comments below them.
Internal Wilderness by Claire Scully
South London illustrator Claire Scully’s first book takes us on a journey through an internal narrative – an evocative nighttime exploration of an imaginary world with the only observer being the brillant full moon. Claire Scully is known for her nature-based illustrations which suggest folklore and myth; here she creates bold, graphic landscapes which encompass mountains, rivers, villages, woods and immense starry skies.
While it’s hardly been dormant – 2015 saw both Daria Hlazatova’s mesmerising musical A to Z A is for Amos and Elizabeth Querstret’s pensive Walks with LuLu – the AH Arts line has felt a little quieter in recent years. A nod back to AHP’s origins in artszine Tiny Dancing it’s always pleasing to see the Avery Hill brand expanding to work that sits outside of the traditional comics environment.
A quick browse through Claire Scully’s site underlines how eagerly anticipated this collection of her stunningly intricate nature-themed artwork will be. Now if only we could have another delve into the Mitchell Collection…
A City Inside by Tillie Walden
Shifting between the mundane and the surreal, A City Inside recounts one woman’s life story, from childhood to adulthood. An exploration of the process of growing older; the journey towards finding out who you are and building a world that you can live in. A City Inside was recently featured in the Guardian’s list Comics and graphic novels to look forward to in 2016.
I long ago ran out of superlatives when it comes to the work of Tillie Walden. Our 2015 Broken Frontier Breakout Talent Award winner has taken the comics world by storm over the last twelve months and last week she was also featured on The Beat as a creator to take notice of.
We were lucky enough to secure the first exclusive preview of her debut graphic novel The End of Summer here at Broken Frontier last March and, while I hardly needed high article hits to see what a major prospect she was, the continuing and significant surges of traffic as interest in that sneak peek grew certainly re-enforced what was already evident from the pages we ran.
From hereon out, new Walden work is always going to be one of the major highlights of the publishing year. If you want to read more on her thoughts on her comics and creative process then look no further than my interview with her here at Broken Frontier.
Artificial Flowers by Rachael Smith
Smith’s follow-up to the coming of age fantasy, The Rabbit, is the story of a young woman living in London, trying to start her career as an artist with the financial support of her family. When her little brother’s antisocial tendencies resurface, he’s sent by his parents to stay with her as part attempt at rehabilitation, part banishment. In the first ever “Smith Universe” crossover, fan favourites Chris (I Am Fire) and Siobhan (House Party) unite for a graphic novella about the frustrations and rewards that come from the ways in which we choose to express ourselves.
Exploring the previously tangential links between her comic I Am Fire (reviewed here in ‘Small Pressganged’) and her first graphic novel House Party (BF review here), Artificial Flowers is the much anticipated follow-up to Rachael Smith’s British Comic Awards-nominated The Rabbit (also one of my ‘Ten UK Small Press Comics You Need to Own!’ for 2015).
The plot summary of Artificial Flowers promises to give us another helping of what Smith does best – character-led storytelling that immediately immerses her audience in her protagonists’ mindscapes.
Parsley Girl: Carrots by Matt Swan
Parsley Girl is having a tough day. She’s just had tooth taken out by her superweird dentist, her best friend Margiotta Moonshine might be stuck in her mundane decorating job forever, her Robot Thomas is feeling obsolete, and there’s a mysterious puppy watching her every move. So it couldn’t be a worse time for a magical portal to open in her kitchen, allowing hordes of vegetable villains intent on vengeance to invade her village!
Join PG and her pals as they seek to save the day and themselves in Parsley Girl: Carrots, Matthew Swan’s all-new adventure from Avery Hill.
I originally discovered the work of Matthew Swan in the pages of ZAM; his and John Brown’s themed illustration zines. But it’s his Parsley Girl series of comics one-shots that most caught my imagination last year when I reviewed them here as part of Broken Frontier’s tie-in Safari Festival coverage.
A delightful, fun-filled fantasy series I described Parsley Girl as “an old-fashioned, escapist, comfort read from an always inspired cartooning mind.” AHP have a proven track record in selecting some of the very best new names from a richly talented pool of small pressers in the UK. I have no doubt whatsoever that Matthew Swan will prove to be another astute choice in that regard.
Metroland #3 and Reads #4
Also released in the first half of 2016 will be issue 3 of Metroland and issue 4 of our ongoing anthology Reads. Watch this space for more news on the second half of our schedule later in the year!
There can be little argument that, in general terms, numbered serial comics are a harder and harder sell in the small press world. The reasons for that are plentiful and the stuff of a different article altogether but it’s pleasing to see AHP persevering with old school narrative delivery in books like Metroland and anthology Reads (previous issue right). Ricky Miller and Julia Scheele’s twisting time-travel story has been missing in action for too long while Reads has showcased work from a number of ‘Small Pressganged’ regulars including EdieOP, Owen D. Pomery and Tim Bird.
AHP have come an incredibly long way from the early days of spoof Tony Hadley zines and handmade minicomics about aggressive badgers. A truly cracking line-up of books for the first part of this year, this is exactly why they’ve been on our Best Publisher ballot for the last two years in the Broken Frontier Awards and why you need to check their material out immediately if you haven’t before now. For those in the States don’t forget their distribution partnership with Retrofit Comics means it’s never been easier to get your hands on their output.
And this is just the start for their 2016 plans…