10 YEARS OF THE BROKEN FRONTIER SIX TO WATCH! My go-to advice for aspiring comics creators who decide to plunge straight into full-length work is that it’s essential not to work in isolation. Getting an extract of the book out there in the wild has numerous potential dividends. A self-published and largely contained sample can generate reviews which may then capture the attention of possible publishers. Submitting to competitions or awards will get your name out there if the project is longlisted or shortlisted and seen by important players in the medium. And there’s also an added benefit that reader feedback may give a creator pause for thought and an opportunity to reflect on their narrative approach to date.
BF ‘Six to Watch’ 2024 creator Zoè Delautre Corral had already fulfilled all of those suggestions when her work first came to my attention as part of the 2023 First Graphic Novel Competition longlist. Her comic, April 17th, presents the opening chapter of sorts to her longer-form work-in-progress of the same name. Its almost lyrical illustrative style, alongside its dreamy yet eloquent layouts and powerful self-reflection immediately caught my attention. A relevant reminder us of how important competitions like this can be in the profile-raising stakes.
In this excerpt of the autobiographical April 17th we meet French-Spanish, UK-based artist Delautre Corral in 2017. It’s a point in time where she is considering her scattered family heritage and life in London in the wake of the results of the catastrophic Brexit referendum. It’s also the morning when she is to receive a fateful phone call from her cousin in France telling her that her paternal grandmother Denise is dying. So begins a road trip with her mother Paloma and maternal grandmother Elena, as Delautre Corral races for the chance to hold Denise’s hand one last time…
April 17th’s wider storytelling remit is to “hold the hands of all the women” in the artist’s family whose stories have remained silent while at the same time exploring her own identity and how that has been shaped by the early suicide of the father she never knew. This opening chapter may hone in on the specific event that is the catalyst for that journey but it also echoes those themes with a sense of displacement and detachment ably communicated throughout, Delautre Corral’s own meditative thoughts allowing the reader a degree of instant empathy with her in her dual role as narrator and protagonist.
It’s her haunting artwork that flits between the moody and the atmospheric, though, that will entrance the reader on first appraisal. Character-building, and using visual metaphor to great effect to convey the message of these pages, it eschews traditional panel-to-panel storytelling for a more freeform sequential art style; one that feels particularly resonant given the contemplative nature of these pages. While this is work that is also indicative of a creator find their storytelling voice the promise inherent herein is undeniable. The first steps on a creative path that we can only hope sees this project fully realised in due course.
Zoè Delautre Corral (W/A) • Self-published, £5.00
Review by Andy Oliver