The Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook 2016 – a showcase celebration of this column’s ‘Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch in 2015‘ – debuts in print this month featuring the work of that fabled half dozen of Rozi Hathaway, Jess Milton, Danny Noble, Emma Raby, Alice Urbino and Adam Vian, alongside a whole host of established British-based comics creators who began their careers in the world of the small press.
Over the next fortnight, to commemorate this exciting event, I will be talking to those six creators about their Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook contributions, looking back with them on their year of dedicated coverage at BF, and asking them how their practice developed in that time.
My first catch-up interview is with the ever versatile Jess Milton. In 2015 Jess’s work could be seen in anthologies like Comic Book Slumber Party’s Greasy’s Guide to Nookie, Dirty Rotten Comics #5, and One Beat Zines books Not a New Wave and Identity. Red, her acclaimed re-imagining of the Red Riding Hood story, debuted at Thought Bubble last year. Her webcomic The Flying Ship (image above) debuts this Spring.
Today we chat about finding your creative voice, her new projects in 2016, and that most infamous of historical figures the Marquis De Sade…
ANDY OLIVER: Can you give us a short spoiler-free summary of your story in the Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook?
JESS MILTON: A glimpse at a fleeting moment in the life of one of history’s most notorious perverts, the Marquis De Sade (see sample page below). Taking place during his time at a strict boarding school where corporal punishment kept students in line, this is how I imagine De Sade’s “origin story” unfolding.
How does it fit into the anthology’s theme of “breaking frontiers”?
I’m interested in the way institutionalism can push in on a person from all angles; in this case, the rules set in place to control the inhabitants of the school push a special student so far that he snaps – and has an experience that rejects the rules. De Sade did some pretty monstrous things throughout his life, but many people feel that his writings and philosophy sparked a fuse; a catalyst towards freedom of sexual expression. He was a bad, bad man, who changed the world.
How do you feel your comics practice evolved in 2015?
I’ve been working full time as an illustrator this year for the first time – and I work in an extremely nurturing environment creatively, so I feel like I’ve come a long way. Just being able to draw every day is fantastic, but this year I’ve tried to focus on the content of my storytelling and tried to explore what it is I want to say. I think this comic in particular is the first step towards figuring out what that is.
Art by Jess from Greasy’s Guide to Nookie, Not a New Wave (story by Hannah K. Chapman) and Dirty Rotten Comics #5
When I interviewed all of the ‘Six UK Small Press Creators to Watch’ last year I asked you where you wanted to be at the end of 2015. Do you feel you achieved those objectives?
I think I might have been a little ambitious to think I might be a great writer by the end of the year, but I’ve definitely improved and my approach is much more considered than before. I think the changes in my work are subtle, but many. I feel I’m a much more well-rounded artist, which can only be a good thing!
What went particularly well for you in the comics world in 2015? What were your most memorable highlights?
Debuting Red (above) has been a great experience, I got a whole lot of really valuable feedback and it’s really encouraged me to keep going. More than anything the people I’ve spent time with in the world of comics have surprised and delighted me again and again. It’s been a pleasure to meet so many artists with a genuine desire to make the world around them a more interesting and diverse place. And if that world is full of comics, so much the better!
I will be selling comics throughout the year on my shop which can be found via my website, and I plan to be at Thought Bubble 2016.
What’s coming up from you next? What future projects can you share with us?
The Flying Ship (right) – a fantasy webcomic that’s been in the works for some time – will be launching this spring. I’ve already started working on the prologue, so it’s happening! For updates and info, head to my tumblr.
If you could give the new 2016 ‘Six to Watch’ creators one piece of advice for their year in the spotlight what would it be?
If someone is good enough to give you advice, take note. But stay on course with your plans and don’t accept praise to be the stamp that says your work is good if you think you can do better. You know your work and yourself, so you have to be your own teacher, and your biggest critic.
The Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook launches at London’s Gosh! Comics on April 29th and Jess Milton will be signing copies on the night. Full details here and on the Facebook event page here. Pre-orders are available online here priced just £6.00 plus postage.
For regular updates on all things small press follow Andy Oliver on Twitter here.