Since 2014 Dirty Rotten Comics have been bringing us some of the most exciting new voices in UK comics and putting them side-by-side with acclaimed and established artists while also providing a platform for creators at the very beginning of their comics journeys. They’ve embraced both the grassroots side of the scene and the micropublishing ethos, branching out in recent times into their larger Throwaway Press operation. And, throughout, they’ve done so by ensuring that the work of the people they publish is as affordably and accessibly priced as possible.
In short, they’ve a philosophy that mirrors our own at Broken Frontier and that’s something we’ll always support here.
With their landmark tenth issue – published this week – editors Gary Clap and Kirk Campbell have put together something a little different. For this very first all-colour edition of the book they suspended the usual submissions process for one issue and, instead, curated a collection of some of the top talents to grace their pages over the last couple of years. And what a celebration of DRC it is, featuring some of the very best work the anthology has produced to date!
Enclosed in a gorgeous Lucie Ebrey wraparound cover that is essentially a narrative-in-waiting in itself, Dirty Rotten Comics #10 is crammed full of a whole host of Broken Frontier favourites. Indeed, no less than seven of our Broken Frontier ‘Six to Watch‘ creators from all three intakes of the initiative are involved (Josh Hicks, Peony Gent, Olivia Sullivan, Jey Levang, Emily Rose Lambert, Rozi Hathaway and Danny Noble)!
Of those artists, Jey Levang has been a near constant presence in DRC over the last couple of years and their witty deconstruction of the macho guy stereotype in ‘The Badass Mr. Sir Boss’ (above) is enlivened by their anarchic and busy layouts. From the same 2016 ‘Six to Watch’ crew the tightly panelled pages of Emily Rose Lambert always add a sense of movement and perspective to her stories and ‘Broughton Road’, an account of a young girl discovering the cruel realities of the natural world is a beautiful piece of understated storytelling.
From the most recent ‘Six to Watch’ group, upcoming ELCAF exhibitor (and Broken Frontier panellist) Peony Gent provides another piece of graphic poetry dealing with loss and remembrance that proves what a genuinely unique new voice she is on the UK small press scene. Her work really is quite unlike anything else out there; a powerful and evocative fusion of imagery and verse.
In ‘Madoka’ a recreational puzzle-generating piece of hardware evolves into a city-style environment in a neatly imaginative premise from Mikael Lopez and Josh Hicks (above). The sense of motion and fluid panel-to-panel storytelling from Hicks is well executed and this is a story that could easily be spun into something far more expansive. Danny Noble’s ‘Green Light’ – all trademark visual hustle and bustle and chaotic energy – gives us a canine-inspired encounter between two dog-owners that showcases her ever subversive approach to the confines of the page.
Few artists I’ve covered in this column have developed as rapidly as Olivia Sullivan has over the last couple of years. It really has been quite remarkable to see her come so far in such a short time and her dystopic four-pager ‘Brave New World’ is a testament to that. Another ‘Six to Watch’ artist who continually surpasses her previous work with each new offering is Rozi Hathaway. In ‘Aquarium’ (above) we witness a young girl’s wonder at the sea life she is observing with Hathaway playing with the space between panels to emphasise two worlds coming together. It’s quite brilliant in structure and is the finest piece of pure comics in the issue.
In ‘Out of Hours’ (below) Alex Potts (A Quiet Disaster) explores a strange post-working hours society that exists in an otherwise normal office environment and gives us another concept that simply begs not just to be expanded into a full-length comic but also has enough potential to become something far longer-form!
‘Membury Services’ provides Tim Bird with the opportunity to distil the essence of so much of his psychogeographical work into just a handful of pages. One man’s stop-off at a motorway cafe sees the past merge into the present as elements of the locale’s history are laid bare once again. Bird is so very good at exploring how environment is defined by those who pass through it and this is an excellent short form taster for his longer (British Comic Award-winning!) work.
Andrew Warwick’s horror shorts are always eerily disturbing with his use of black and white art adding to the shadowy atmosphere of his tales in previous issues of DRC. With ‘The Mulberry Tree’, though, he makes intelligent use of colour to emphasise the enticing presence of a malevolent supernatural threat hiding within the beauty of nature.
There’s nearly a hundred pages of work herein so, as ever, only a handful of them can be covered here but others that particularly caught my attention included Matthew Dooley’s darkly comedic AI monologue/existential crisis ‘The Computer that Destroyed All Humanity’, Hector Lowe’s rodent motivational speech and journey to safety in ‘House’, father and son double act Henry and Stanley Miller’s team-up in the gloriously bizarre ‘Nasal Passage’, Kathryn Briggs’s resonant collage autobio ‘The Arrival’ (above) and Julian Hanshaw having lots of fun playing with the addition of colour in another entry in his ‘Shit List’ series (below).
Never bought an issue of Dirty Rotten Comics before? You should buy this. Looking for an introductory taster to the fabulous talent of the UK small press scene? You should buy this. Want to join in a celebration of everything that DRC has done for new voices in indie comics since 2014? You should buy this. In short, just buy it. Because what Throwaway Press have put together here is a beautiful encapsulation of the diversity, experimentation, eccentricity and brilliance of our ever inspiring small press scene. Their contribution to that world over the last two years should never, ever be underestimated.
You can follow Dirty Rotten Comics on Twitter here and Throwaway Press here. Visit their website here for more details on their books. You can order the book online here or from Amazon here. You can see full preview pages from the issue here on Broken Frontier.
For regular updates on all things small press follow Andy Oliver on Twitter here.