BROKEN FRONTIER AT 20! To mark Broken Frontier’s 20th anniversary we invited the comics community to give a shout-out to a creator or project they first discovered through BF. In our ‘Broken Frontier at 20’ finale creators, publishers, commentators and organisers talk about some of the voices they were introduced to via BF. In some cases people just wanted to wish us well on our big birthday and we’re grateful to everyone who took part in this!
Is there an artist/project that you discovered first through Broken Frontier coverage whose work has really inspired you?
Shelly Bond (Vertigo, Black Crown, Off Register Press)
Oh I see what you’re doing here…trying to get me to tell that story about the poor comic book editing fossil who, while suffering from insomnia during our second Pandemic Summer, was introduced to the bloody Pocket Chillers by Douglas Noble and a host of incredible weird and scary AF creatives. I promised myself I would not go there, because as soon as I start to think about the word “Pocket” there are silverfish biting my toes and blood on the walls… Thanks for everything, Andy!
Woodrow Phoenix (Rumble Strip/Crash Course, She Lives)
Comics fairs are often a very awkward place to have a conversation with somebody when you’re on either side of a table, so I often buy work quickly, move on and check the creator out online later. Peony Gent’s prints called to me across the room at an event. After buying one I was delighted to find on Broken Frontier that her comic strip work was just as intriguing and I have been keeping an eye on her ever since. I pretty much love everything she does and I appreciate how creators don’t have to fit into specific categories for BF to showcase them. Esther McManus made my favourite book of 2019 with Between Friends and BF gave her some excellent exposure that just strengthened my feeling about how good it was! Almost every time I find someone I want to investigate—RAMZEE, Charlot Kristensen and Sarah Bowie to name but three—BF already has the info I need. I will keep looking to BF for its inclusive, critical and supportive effect on the comics scene in the UK. Here’s to the next 20!
Jenny Robins (Biscuits (assorted), Broken Frontier)
In a community as beautiful (on the inside pages as well as out) as the small press comics community, how can we measure the impact of a website? Perhaps when a website is so much more than a website, we can talk about ripples. Many of the people in comics that I now call friends I met in some sense or another through Broken Frontier. As regulars at the in-person Drink and Draw events some of us slowly got familiar with each other’s faces and stopped getting each other’s names wrong, others I met through tabling with Broken Frontier at ELCAF, attending Broken Frontier Small Press Day events, and more.
When you’re walking through a convention hall, browsing the small press section of a friendly comic book shop, meeting metaphorical eyes across the virtual chat box at a zoom conference, or finding common ground in the replies to Twitter call out, it’s amazing how often a familiar art style from the pages of Broken Frontier turns up in the very best of places. ‘BF-list’ celebrities may very much have day jobs, but I can still remember how starstruck I was the first time I met Danny Noble, Rachael Smith or Jayde Perkin in real life.
It’s more than a comics introductions service though, Broken Frontier sets the standard not just for quality, but for ethos. The expectation of integrity itself has ripples in an internet where no such expectation is standard. You can trust this website, not to necessarily review your comic (Andy receives more submissions than a human could read in a lifetime I believe), but to tell you the truth, and to share the good stuff. This is all a bit woolly and I am obviously biased, but I am very thankful for Broken Frontier and hope it has many more happy returns.
Karrie Fransman (Death of the Artist, Gender Swapped Fairy Tales)
Comic artists are a rare breed. Mostly introverted. Often found hiding in bedrooms drawing little windows to other worlds with their heads in clouds. Thankfully we have people like Andy Oliver and places like Broken Frontier to unearth them for us. To turn over the rocks at comic festivals and shine some lights on the amazing artwork of these strange little creatures. I first discovered Danny Noble’s amazing work via Broken Frontier’s ‘6 Small Press Creators to Watch’.
Geniuses like Danny are too bloody modest to be parading their work around (…I mean, I would If I could draw and write like her!) so when Andy promotes them they are a joy to discover. Broken Frontier remains the single place I’d recommend that champions the wealth of small press British talent. I wish we had 10 Broken Frontiers as I suspect there are a lot of hidden talents and modest comic creators. Keep up the good work Team BF!
David Schilter (kuš! comics)
Don’t really remember where we discovered Gareth Brookes first, it quite possibly might have been BF. His stories and the way he tells them with the vast amount of experimentation with different techniques sure keeps inspiring us! Also one of our favorite features on BF is the ‘Six to Watch’, such a great way to highlight and promote the talents of tomorrow. Always exciting to see who you discover next!
Rebecca Burke (Broken Frontier)
One artist I discovered through my work for Broken Frontier is Lee Lai; I claimed her debut graphic novel Stone Fruit on a whim because it looked a little wacky whilst still managing to hold space for a lot of big emotions. I love that this medium we review can juxtapose these dualities on the same page (gooosh, I just love comics so much!).
Lee Lai’s work also came to me when I was struggling to write any reviews – or make any content – after a rather intense break-up, and I am grateful that it was on Andy’s weekly round-up email of review opportunities. Reading Stone Fruit, I saw my emotions reflected in the characters, was reminded of the importance of other, non-romantic relationships in our lives, and learnt a lesson about the detriment of expectation. Now, I follow Lee Lai on social media and am very eagerly awaiting her future creations.
Gareth A Hopkins
Rather than the site itself, it’s through the community that exists around Broken Frontier that I’ve found some of my favourite creators. I’ve said before elsewhere, I’m sure, but Tom Murphy is one of my favourite small press creators, and I met him just from circling around BF and picking pieces up here and there. I know that Tom’s made a name for himself as an organiser for his work with Colossive Press, but his personal work is incredible. I was a big fan of his Croydon Spaceport series of light-hearted reality incursions, but The Testing Site – a floppy slab of photographs and tracing paper and ground-level military science horror – was a revelation for me.
It’s also worth mentioning the Gosh/Broken Frontier Drink ‘n’ Draws, whose physical incarnations I desperately miss. It was at the back of a standing-room-only session with Nick Bryan that I met Daniel Bristow-Bailey, a creator who I think still has great things ahead of them, having already proven that they can work equally well in different modes.
Josh Hicks (Glorious Wrestling Alliance)
Broken Frontier is a UK comics institution. Back when I was starting out in comics, it’s where I’d find out about anthologies, the indie-er side of UK shows like ELCAF and the great BCZF, and other cartoonists whose work I’d go on to seek out and love – for instance, I’m fairly sure it’s where I first saw a lot of the Decadence Comics and Breakdown Press stuff. Being listed as one of their Six to Watch in 2016 was a big shot in the arm in terms of comics confidence, and that annual list remains a great way to find interesting new people making comics in the UK. I love Broken Frontier! May it live forever.
Visit Josh Hicks’ online store here
Holly Raidl (Broken Frontier)
I’ve discovered so many amazing creators through Broken Frontier so it’s extremely difficult to pin down one. Beatrice Mossman is the first that came to mind. I picked up Lure of the Flesh at Catford Comic and Zine Fair and since then have been following her work. Her artwork is high contrast and her narratives thought-provoking. The detail in her work always astounds me and continues to draw me in.
Tille Walden (On a Sunbeam, Clementine)
I just saw a review about Shanti Rai’s Sennen, which looks excellent, and I can’t wait to read it!!!
David Robertson (Fred Egg Comics)
One truly stand-out comic that Broken Frontier introduced me to was What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen in 2020. It’s beautifully drawn with great colours, and a very moving and relatable storyline. It’s definitely one of my favourite comics of the past five years, and I am looking forward to future work from Charlot.
Tom Baker (Broken Frontier)
Douglas Noble haunts me. I don’t mean literally: I’ve never knowingly crossed paths with the fella, and (unless AI has grown impressively self-aware) his social media presence suggests he remains very much alive. It’s his work that I find impossible to shake. It’s a spectral presence that hangs around my subconscious, my longbox, my inbox. It seems like every time I walk into Gosh there’s another handful of new Noble editions in the small press section — with the recent Pocket Chillers series he curates, with a rotating team of artists and writers, his ministry has increased exponentially.
Douglas’s The Dreadful Work was the first comic I reviewed for Broken Frontier, during my first tenure with the site. Since then I’ve drifted back and forth from comics, a consistent character trait of inconsistency that was increased by the pandemic and its unsettling effects. Yet even during these lost years, I often found myself thinking of this comic, and of the anthology Jazz Creepers, and the tremendously smart and witty Got Your Nose. I just flicked through my copy of The Dreadful Work again, nestled amongst the many other issues I’ve picked up from his website and Gosh in the intervening years. It’s bloody brilliant and, like much of his work, combines many familiar reference points — folk horror, fumetti, linoprint and woodcut, classic Hammer films — into something that remains elusive in its “meaning” and uncannily lingering in its affect.
They’re also, y’know, really flipping scary. His Horrible Folk books are just absolutely masterful short thrills, the one-page (often one-line) mini-stories akin to an unnerving reference discovered in an ancient tome (or Wikipedia footnote), or as you might imagine overhearing in The Slaughtered Lamb. That’s the other thing about his comics: they’re also very funny. The set-up/punchline structure is as applicable to ghost stories as they are the sort of gags you’d share over a pint. That easy-to-replicate framework is probably what makes such stories and jokes stick in the memory and pass onto others. Coming up with them in the first place, though? That’s a whole other fish-kettle.
That I’d sat down to write maybe a hundred words about his work and waffled on for a great deal more — soz, Andy! — perhaps says more than I could about how much the work of Douglas Noble. Like the curse in “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” like a stone in a shoe, like my student loan repayments, it stays with me, always. Can’t say fairer than that for four quid a pop.
Dan Cox (Hitsville UK)
It’s difficult to speak about an individual creator. Broken Frontier is as much a part of the scene as any convention I’ve ever been to. Did I see the work on BF first? Did I see the work out in the wild and BF did a review or an interview that cemented it in my brain as something to check out?
The thing that does stand out is during the first waves of the pandemic and I kind of fell apart a bit. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Couldn’t read. Couldn’t focus. So I wasn’t really engaging with much, trying to work, trying to look after family and doom scrolling was pretty much it. One night I remembered Broken Frontier existed and I went and had a look and was really struck that… somehow the team were keeping on. They were continuing to write and critique and promote and be endlessly bloody positive in championing this incredible work that people were somehow still managing to do.
It was helpful. I don’t want to get all sentimental but there, then it really helped. Mostly BF just makes me want to bite my fingers through in jealousy at all the talented folk.
I like the hat mind.
Peter Morey (Endswell)
Recommended by Broken Frontier and bought from Gosh Comics small press section at the time, Danny Noble’s Was it… Too Much for You? and Ollie and Alan’s Big Move were significant small press reads for me in around 2016, and I still love everything about them. Just great comedy with an oddly ingenious premise, evoking louche (boozy) bohemian thespy life in scritchy scratchy cartoons where you can almost feel the red wine stains. A chaotically innocent hairy man in a Hawaiian shirt and naked from the waist down, shouting ‘What the hell do you mean “get the hell out of my ice cream parlour?”‘ is (surely?) never not funny in a cartoon strip.
Ally Russell Shields (Broken Frontier)
I first came across Kugali Comics while tabling for Broken Frontier at CECAF – AKA Crouch End Comic Art Festival – in 2018. There I had the pleasure of meeting co-founder Ziki Nelson, whom I later interviewed for the website.
Kugali takes its origins from the Swahili phrase ‘A-Kujali’, meaning ‘something that matters’. It’s a fitting moniker for the collective, which celebrates the work of comics creators from across the African diaspora. The company has gone from strength to strength since my first introduction, growing its ranks of talented storytellers, expanding into multimedia, and collaborating with Disney on the animated series Iwájú, which is set to debut in 2023.
Check out the Kugali website to read some of their free comics or order physical copies.
Sabba Khan (The Roles We Play/What’s Home, Mum?)
The two seminal practices that I happened to stumble upon on Broken Frontier’s website, and that then subsequently changed me forever are :
01. Kadak Collective
I subsequently got into touch with Kadak Collective and ended up working with them on the Bystander projects many years later. The seed of which was Broken Frontier and I’m forever grateful. Follow them, each member of the collective is brilliant!
02. Mereida Fajardo
I stumbled upon the images of Mereida’s work via an interview on BF and I was enthralled instantly. Her practice is vast, ephemeral and forever shifting, and it’s such a joy to see. I’ve recently particularly enjoyed her kinetic storytelling bird-like sculptures she shared on Twitter a while ago. Follow her, her work is brilliant!
Rebecca K. Jones (Boomerang)
I first discovered Jayde Perkin’s work through the Gosh and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw when she attended as a Guest Artist. I loved the emotional depth and connectivity of her work, the beautiful writing and the striking visual language. I have very much enjoyed getting to know and follow her work since then!
Katriona Chapman (Follow Me In, Breakwater)
I remember finding the work of Simon Moreton through Broken Frontier years and years ago. As a pencil artist I was always on the lookout for other artists using pencil, and especially ones making comics! I bought his first collection of work from Avery Hill in 2014 and later ended up joining the Avery Hill team – something that’s ended up being a big part of my life for the last 7 years. And I’m still a big fan of Simon Moreton too!
Sammy Ward (The Deeper You Go Into the King’s Wood, All Ghosts)
I discovered Beatrice Mossman’s fantastic work through Broken Frontier being a fellow BF ‘Six To Watch’ in 2022. As a horror fan I really loved Mossman’s short comic ‘I’m Not Your F**king Scream Queen’. Beatrice turns a classic horror trope on its head from a woman’s perspective. ‘The Lure Of Flesh’ is such a unique and special comic, I love the ethereal fairytale style of her work. Beatrice’s comics are so honest and innocent whilst facing darker themes, I can’t wait to see what she does next.
RAMZEE (LDN, Cat-Girl)
I discovered Danny Noble through BF and I was bowled over by her work because not only is her art style really fresh and anarchic as her storytelling but in a book like ‘Shame Pudding’ there is an openness about the ugly poignancy that others might not connect with that I’d not seen executed so well – also her sharp observation and the unorthodox way she delivers her stories is really compelling and has been one of the things that has given me the confidence to be more idiosyncratic in how I tell my own stories instead of adhering to a standard form.
Letty Wilson (The Beechwood Helm, Owl People)
I’d seen Peony Gent’s work online in various places, but a column on Broken Frontier was the first place I saw talking about her comics, and the way they described her amazing use of poetry in the comics form made me sit up and take notice. She’s since become one of my favourite artists and her work is always inspiring! I love that you can see her hand in every drawing, and follow the pace of speech or thought in her use of the comics medium.
Lucy Sullivan (Barking, SHELTER: Early Doors)
Broken Frontier is the heart of the comics community. Through it I’ve found Small Press creators and publishers to adore and a wonderful group of fellow comers to share that with. I owe so much to the team from my first comic review by Andy Oliver to a Break Out Talent award and their wonderful continued support of my strange comics. When you’re starting out in comics you couldn’t ask for a better supporter than BF. Happy 20th and THANK YOU! May there be many more years of comics goodness to come!
Keara Baz Peppas (A Bit of Undigested Potato)
I first discovered Jayde Perkin’s work through Broken Frontier. On the mini shelf of my most precious zines you’ll find Insides on the Outside. This zine lays lightly in your hands, but is weighty in emotion. To me it is a beautiful and raw autobio comic about the overwhelming grief of losing your mother. Not easy to get across but I felt every page. Thank you to Broken Frontier for all your excellent discoveries and comics coverage!
Simon Moreton (Where?, Minor Leagues)
Gustaffo Vargas (Altiplano, L1MA)
Wow, 20 years is quite an achievement!
I moved to the UK in 2016, most probably I’ve known Broken Frontier only since 2017. And it’s always such a refreshing place to find new voices and stories, fantastic ways of exploring the narrative and discover new and fantastic creators.
Names that I discovered thanks to BF that come to mind are:
I was fascinated with Mereida’s work the first time I read a BF review of Quivertree, I finally got to meet Mereida at the latest Thought Bubble Convention. I could finally read Quivertree, Naglalamay and Throwing Pennies. Mereida’s work is an exploration not only of narrative but of different formats of exploring a story, whether it is cutting and folding sheets by hand, playing with smaller and bigger formats and even with cut-outs. It’s really impressive how much she explores on each of her books, letters, or paper pieces of storytelling. Her work is always a feast to my senses.
I was very impressed with her clean line work and style. After watching Underdogs by Chino Moya, I found out that the comic Flat Filters was created by Chino and Tal Brosh. The book is an immersive experience of simplicity and contemplation, colours are precisely put, and it’s a more evocative than a linear narrative read. It left me wondering about things, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need to keep on exploring.
I also finally could pick up books by Joe at the last Thought Bubble. I love how much love for graphic design is put in Joe’s books. His humor and simplicity mixed with the experimental narrative feel like a fresh breath of air.
I’ve been intrigued with Olivia’s work for a while. I finally could pick up some of her books at the latest The Lakes Festival. Usually, we read stories without being able to see all the processes that went behind making it. Sometimes if we’re lucky we can have some sketchbook and process extra at the end of the book. Olivia’s books feel like the process sharing the same space with the finished product, they’re a fascinating read, and very worthy of multiple reads. I can’t wait for more.
Other names that I want to explore thanks to BF are Alxndra Cook, Pigeon, Josh Hicks and Sabba Khan.
Names that I re-discovered at BF or that were the confirmation that I should look into them, and that I love are: Norm Konyu, Anna Readman, Lucy Sullivan, ShortBox and Tillie Walden.
This means that I’ve been spending more money on books thanks to BF and I couldn’t be more thankful for it!! 😄
Happy 20th Anniversary!!
Wallis Eates (Wings, Like an Orange)
I discovered Brigid Elva’s work through BF’s 2016 ‘Six to Watch’. I was immediately drawn to her visual language – it was like peering into someone’s world of angst and ants in strong, uncompromising marks that declare their existence with a bold kind of love. Everything Brigid does is like this – even her use of emojis seem to have her unique stamp on them. After becoming a fan, I was then delighted to learn that Brigid is my birthday twin!
I first encountered Miranda Smart’s work when she was picked by Broken Frontier as one of their 2020 ‘Artists to Watch’ alongside myself and four others.
Her work immediately captured and fascinated me; the wildly imaginative skilful drawings, the graphic yet intricate details and choice of bold colours.
I had started working on an abstract comics book back in 2018 which I abandoned but her work reminded me how powerful this medium can be and was one of the reasons I got back to working on it. I’m pleased to say the book is now finished and will be coming out soon.
Alba Ceide (Salamanca Blues)
I discovered the art of Gustavo Vargas through BF tweets and reviews on the website. I particularly like the dynamism of his work and how he uses colour. I also like the mix of sci-fi elements with Peruvian imagery. Gustavo has a very energetic and inspiring body of work.
Dominique Duong (The Dog and the Cat, Catalyst)
Someone I first heard about through BF was Pigeon (aka Kamila Król). Pigeon’s art style is absolutely gorgeous, and beautifully captures Polish folklore.
Oh, this is an easy one. Olivia Sullivan. It was the small press-ganged 2019 feature that got me interested and led to collaboration on a comic, and asking to Olivia to exhibit in Framed and to take part in an interview. I think Olivia’s work is amazing.
Tony Wolf (Tales From The Wolf)
There is an artist named John Cei Douglas who I interacted with in the early 2000s on former pop culture message board site Barbelith (inspired originally by Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles), and I was thrilled to see his newer work covered and praised on Broken Frontier. I also learned about Guy Delisle through Broken Frontier.
Through the years, I’ve continually been excited by the creators I’ve read about on BF, and I look forward to many more years of discovery to come! I’ve also really enjoyed seeing the results of the Drink & Draw prompts done in collaboration with GOSH! that I’ve seen over time.
Moe Abbas (Broken Frontier)
My history with Broken Frontier as a contributor dates back to 2011/2012 and played a significant role in shaping who I am today. Back then, the world was crawling out of the wreckage that was the 2009 financial crash. Frederik Hautain was at the helm of Broken Frontier, steadily guiding its ship through the famously choppy waters of mid ‘aughts indie journalism. Meanwhile, I stood at the gates of Adult Life, having deferred university graduation to enter a post-recession world with more to offer (how naive I was!). Only problem was, I didn’t know which gate to go through. As an Iraqi-Canadian, where did I belong? Who would care what I had to say?
Frederik cared. Growing up during the post-9/11 era, I had spent most of my life negotiating “community” and “belonging” — spaces shaped by fear, paranoia, or blind acceptance that cared more about cultivating a public perception than giving me a voice.
Broken Frontier not only cared about my voice, it also gave me free rein to write about what I wanted — a rare privilege for BIPOC writers who are often pigeon-holed into writing about their community’s output.
Unlike other media outlets and their scramble to ensure representation, Broken Frontier has never ignored the existence of “the rest of us” — folks who are black, brown, LGBTQ+, or some Venn diagram in between. Unlike other sites that scope-creeped their way into film, television and videogames, Broken Frontier has always focused on the craft of comics, culminating in the gorgeously rendered Broken Frontier Anthology published by ‘A Wave Blue World’ in 2016.
Whatever doubts I may have had about the future of comics, of Broken Frontier, of diverse representation for my ilk, one particular entry in the anthology, Kismet, Man of Fate restored my faith in the future. Doubling as a preview of the eponymously titled book by ‘A Wave Blue World’, Kismet was originally created in 1944 by Elliot Publishing and is considered the medium’s first identified Arab Muslim superhero.
How many other Arab Muslim superheroes have their own books today?
Every week, Andy Oliver and his team reminds us that, at its core, despite its flaws, comics have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to the diversity of representation of storytelling. If comics are perpetually on their death bed, as many like to remind us, Broken Frontier remains the best barometer for the state of the medium’s soul. Like the best of comics, Andy Oliver and his team share their love for the medium without using sales numbers or trendy takes as a crutch. Never mind comics — Broken Frontier is one of the few pop culture criticism sites that has kept its integrity intact during the tumult and lunacy of the last twenty years, and the medium is better off for it.
KISMET, MAN OF FATE
Writer: A. David Lewis
Artist: Noel Tuazon
Colorist: Rob Croonenborghs
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Editor: Tyler Chin-Tanner
Publisher: A Wave Blue World
Tom Oldham (Breakdown Press)
No, but I’m glad BF exists and appreciate its broad church editorial policy. Happy Birthday. Shout out to Steven Walsh who should really still be on this planet doing his work in comics.