What follows is a statement on our plans for the future of Broken Frontier by Editor-in-Chief Andy Oliver on behalf of the Broken Frontier team…
As way of introductory explanation much of what you are about to read was originally written way back last Christmas. The idea then was to start 2020 by outlining the next evolutionary step in Broken Frontier’s mission and to come into the new year with an even more focused commitment to the wider comics community the site serves. We had to delay that announcement when it became apparent that there was essential work that needed to be done first on the technical side of the site, and shortly thereafter the pandemic hit and everything changed for all of us…
Little did I know back then when I spoke of the “turbulent times” we were living in exactly what was still awaiting us. But that only makes the words you are about to read even more relevant. Please read, digest, spread the word and give us your feedback. Now more than ever we want to use this platform, and the following and respect it has built up over the years, to play our small part in the struggle to effect positive change.
Three and a half years ago, when I took over the running of Broken Frontier from departing site founder Frederik Hautain, I spoke of my desire to continue building on the foundations of the site’s ethos by emphasising the four core values that I believed Broken Frontier stood for – collaboration, community, celebration and championing. Whether I succeeded in that aim is, of course, for our audience to decide but those four words have been the ones that have guided our approach to comics coverage in that time.
BF has gone through a number of different incarnations since its inception in 2002. You can read more about the site’s origins in Frederik’s farewell piece back in January 2017. But at its heart this has always been a venue that values comics in all their forms; placing as much importance on the work of the self-publishing zinester with a hand-stapled print run of twenty copies as it does on the household name, broadsheet-reviewed, major players of the graphic novel world.
Last year’s Broken Frontier Panel at ELCAF with Comics Laureate Hannah Berry, Andy Oliver, Jayde Perkin, Katriona Chapman and Aleesha Nandhra
Back in May 2013 we relaunched Broken Frontier with a new emphasis on the alt, the indie, the micropublished and the small press and, in time, largely stepped back from the commercial worlds of the super-hero genre. That BF 2.0, for want of a better term, was arguably the beginning of the direction currently most associated with Broken Frontier.
And, as it developed, so too did Broken Frontier’s mission of championing new creative voices. Our annual ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch’ programme offers not just extensive coverage on the site but also off-site mentoring and invitations to participate in BF events to artists wanting to take us up on those opportunities. Our Small Press Yearbook got the work of exciting emerging talent out to wider audiences. And a number of our ‘Six to Watch’ artists have gone on to be published by the likes of Avery Hill Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Image Comics, Myriad Editions, Street Noise Books, and a few others we can’t talk about (yet!).
The Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw with some of our 2019 ‘Six to Watch’ creators Olivia Sualdea, Joe Stone and Aleesha Nandhra with BF’s Andy Oliver
We continue to collaborate with our friends within the comics community with events like the Gosh! Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw, our ongoing media partnership with the wonderful East London Comics and Arts Festival (ELCAF), and in pre-lockdown days our participation in panels and events at the Cartoon Museum, Laydeez do Comics and numerous fairs and festivals.
It’s clear, though, that the time to think about the next stage in our evolution is overdue. Broken Frontier 3.0, so to speak, awaits us. It’s no secret that this is a turbulent point in history. We believe that comics, through their remarkably empathetic language, have a unique power to communicate and convey personal experience with a profound and intuitive eloquence. So, going forward, we want to proactively adapt during these unprecendented times we find ourselves living in with an increased focus in our approach to our content.
2020 has been a year of challenges but we still ran our annual ELCAF Festival Broken Frontier Panel online in July with Shangomola Edunjobi, Charlot Kristensen and Rachael Smith
Behind the scenes our internal team diversity and inclusivity plan already guides our prioritisation of coverage requests wherever possible for comics practice that promotes social justice, social outreach, diversity, inclusivity, activism and community. But we want to increase our responsiveness in order to more effectively make use of the reach that we have. This will be a work-in-progress – we’re a small team and we can only do so much – but if you feel your output/aims/work fits into that definition we want to hear from you.
As ever, we’ll do what we can in terms of reviews and interviews but we’re also willing to discuss using Broken Frontier as a platform for guest blogs for projects that embrace sequential art-based social activism; to provide a space for socially relevant creator, publisher or organiser commentary; to allow for potential takeovers and themed week coverage; and to continue to promote, celebrate and place an emphasis on events and work that focus on community endeavours and marginalised voices. You can contact us here to discuss that further. We know, as well, that there’s much work to be done to ensure that the make-up of the Broken Frontier team is far more reflective of our audience but we hope this will open up the site as a community hub for a more representative range of voices. Curated advertising for small press comics has always been free at BF as our small way of supporting emerging talent and we will be extending that philosophy as well in relation to this.
BF team members Jenny Robins, Ally Russell Shields and Andy Oliver out and about interacting with the comics community
Your normal BF service is going nowhere. You can still expect to see the same eclectic mix of comics craft from across the medium spotlighted every day. This is simply an expansion of the principles that have always underpinned Broken Frontier. I have pointedly never referred to BF as my site. It’s always been “our” site to reflect that we’re a team not an entity and to recognise the long history of contributors who have made it what it is. As of today, though, we want you to think of it as your site.
When I took over BF in 2017 I said: “We’re Broken Frontier. We’ll continue to strive to make a positive difference. And we sincerely hope you’ll be a part of that experience in the months to come.” Those words have never been more important than they are today and we’ll do our utmost to live up to them as we move towards 2021 and beyond.
Andy Oliver and the Broken Frontier Team, September 2020