10 YEARS OF THE BF SIX TO WATCH! If there’s been one thing we have been sorely lacking on the UK small press scene in recent years it’s the plethora of comics anthologies that were so abundant a decade or so ago. They provided a vital platform for artists not just in terms of visibility but for networking and building connections within the creative community too. ThirdBear Press’s Boxes, which bills itself as a “comics magazine” as well as an anthology, is a welcome new venture in this regard, bringing together a number of recognised emerging talents alongside artists that may be less familiar to you.
Two recent Broken Frontier ‘Six to Watch’ artists provide stories for Boxes #1 that show just why there’s such a growing buzz around their practice right now. In ‘Overflowing’ Sammy Ward uses stunning metaphorical imagery to give an organic sense of body horror to the experience of extreme anxiety. While Beck Kubrick’s ‘The World Isn’t that Great’ (below) provides us with a post-apocalyptic character piece where the immediacy of the moment and the relationship of the characters depicted is of more import than the realities of the world just outside the readers’ vantage point.
Where Boxes really shines is in the diversity of both styles and subject matter. Julie Campbell’s ‘Accentor’, for example, is a touching slice-of-life short that parallels garden bird life with a very human depiction of loneliness and solitude, while never deteriorating into the contrived or saccharine. Bob Turner’s wordless ‘Providence’ echoes the sequentials of a historical tapestry as a prelude to an article on silent comics, while editor Steven Ingram’s ‘Night Swimming’ (also cover feature above) takes us on a nocturnal aquatic trip replete with moody visual subtext. Stephen Goodall’s ‘Freytag Lane’ is another nod to the breadth of material in Boxes #1 with its eerie examination of trap streets and unknown spaces.
It’s Enrico Ariis’s ‘The Travels of Captain Ishmael’ (above), however, that proves to be the standout offering of Boxes #1. Interspersed through the pages of the magazine we join the Captain and his crew as they visit a number of strange islands and locations that give Ariis plenty of scope for witty, parodic, socio-political commentary, all wrapped up in a loving homage to expanded Sunday newspaper-style strips.
Boxes is clearly looking to provide a wider remit as a periodical publication, with articles and the odd review included. But it’s as an anthology that its true potential is apparent. We have long been looking for a spiritual successor to the much-missed Dirty Rotten Comics here in the UK and, while Boxes is clearly a more closely curated and polished entity than DRC was, it just may prove to be the kind of regular collective showcase we have been missing on the small press circuit for far too long in the UK.
Mark Brady, Sammy Ward, Stephen Goodall, Mason Wilson, Beck Kubrick, Steve Thompson, Julie Campbell, Alister Black, Bob Turner, Christian Porter, Enrico Ariis, Steven Ingram (W/A) • ThirdBear Press, £12.00
Review by Andy Oliver