The end result of the Full Colour Project, an initiative to promote diversity in Scottish comics and provide mentorship to young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic artists, BHP Comics’ Full Colour anthology features the work of the best part of twenty aspiring comics creators in the 14-26 age range. Edited by Nyla Ahmad (also co-project lead alongside BHP’s Sha Nazir) the stories between its covers encompass a wide variety of genres including slice-of-life, fantasy and super-heroes over 60-ish black and white pages.
Given the origins of Full Colour as a project it seems as appropriate to use this space to talk about the importance of books like this in giving a first creative platform to new artists, and championing diversity and inclusivity in our indie comics scene, as it does writing a formal review full of the usual BF-style critical analysis. It’s something we constantly underline here at Broken Frontier, perhaps ad nauseum, but it’s a point that’s always worth repeating. At its finest comics is the most wonderfully democratic medium and one with a unique power in terms of self-expression. And that’s exactly why projects like this are so vital in encouraging and showcasing new and under-represented voices.
Given the scope of the varying ages spotlighted in Full Colour there are understandably a range of levels of technical proficiency on show. Standouts include ‘Dee Dee and Me’ (above) wherein a drag artist and her “hijabi sidekick” Afia stand up to the local bigots. There’s an endearing sense of attitude to Arusa Qureshi and Nicole Munogee’s short with Munogee’s jauntily paced panel-to-panel storytelling culminating in a killer last page.
Olivia Hicks’s ‘Stacey the Kaiju’ (below left) gives us a rather sweet and wordless giant monster romance story that is undoubtedly the most technically proficient comic in the anthology. But it’s unlikely any story herein will hit you with such emotional impact as Sarah Trenholme and Jules Valera’s ‘Waiting Room’ (below right) which explores ideas of loss, grief and family. I’ve covered Valera’s work in passing before at BF but this is something very special in terms of the way that page structure echoes theme.
Natasha Natarajan reminds us of how effectively comics can immerse us in the life experiences of others in ‘Brown Privilege’ (below left), another piece of insightful autobio that explores the pull of different worlds with a very likeable, self-deprecating honesty. And Areej Al Musalhi’s surreally existential ‘Something is Going to Happen’ (below right) with its enticingly impenetrable story revolving around the impending end of the universe is both utterly baffling and yet so distinctive in tone and approach that this is the one name in the book I most want to check out further in future.
Some of the practice herein is admittedly a little raw and representative of artists getting to grips with the tools of comics storytelling for the first time. But that’s actually a strength and perhaps even a necessity in a book with the philosophy of Full Colour. Arguably it would be failing in its remit if that weren’t the case. Brimming with enthusiasm, honesty and joy Full Colour embodies the concept of comics community at its very best. There’s an accompanying exhibition from September 14th-17th at The Lighthouse in Glasgow for those wanting to check out the work of the artists involved further.
Olivia Hicks, Arusa Qureshi, Nicole Munogee, Jada Amoah, Areej Al Musalhi, Laeticia Eve Danica, Jonas Onuwa, Sarah Trenholme, Jules Valera, Anita Bhadani, Joey Chen, Ruby Whittle, Kelsiey Tollan, Ny Ali, Natasha Natarajan, Karli McLaughlin, Raksana Simane, Edalina Vaskova (creators) • BHP Comics, £8.99
Available to buy online from BHP here
Review by Andy Oliver