THOUGHT BUBBLE 2023! Where does one even begin when writing about a book like Change, the 2023 edition of the annual WIP Comics group anthology? Packed to bursting with work from some of the finest indie creators from the UK and beyond it’s a sharp retort to recent assertions that the small press publishing scene is in a parlous state of health. If you can’t find multiple examples of the medium being used with skill, invention and insight from the 50-plus creators featured in these pages then maybe comics just aren’t for you…
Any review of a book like Change can only skim the surface of the deep creative pool contained herein. As a result a commentator is reduced to picking out just a handful of storytelling gems while remaining painfully aware that so many other equally strong strips will go unremarked on. Such is the nature of anthology reviews. So what follows are a few of the entries that I enjoyed specifically because they either had novel approaches to the anthology’s titular theme or, given that you’re reading this on Broken Frontier of course, they did interesting things with the language of comics.
Mike Armstrong (above) provided one of my favourite comics in last year’s WIP anthology WiPXL. His fantasy tale with a very contemporary twist this year works up to a cracking punchline as a knight confronts a dragon guarding its massive hoard of treasure. It’s a (near) topical gag that means I cannot even reveal the strip’s title without ruining the fun but it will definitely bring a smile to the reader’s face. Similarly Adam Westbrook’s ‘Steam Engine’ gives us a wonderful retro steampunk parody of the AI art plague with a most skewering wit.
Gosh and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw Online regular Tami provides a delightfully innocent tale of art gallery vandalism in ‘Minor Adjustments’ while Bruno Stead’s ‘Letterland’, which creates a comics story out of lettering, is an outstanding example of out-of-the-box, meta thinking. The standout of Change is definitely Alba Ceide’s ‘Jackeline’s Jacket’ (above) with Ceide’s frantic, animated cartooning bringing this imaginative tale of a girl whose clothing is home to a civilisation at war to brilliant life. Again, really pushing the potential of what comics can be, Jenny Robins’ ‘The Body Keeps the Change’ (below) is a breathtaking visual odyssey through biological imperative.
WIP supremo Joe Stone gives us the Kafka-esque ‘MetamorJoesis’ sees him adapting to life as a giant insect. It’s another of those moments of Stone whimsy that so ably contrasts the mundane and the fantastic. Meanwhile Rachel Tubb takes her usual irreverent approach to myth and legend as the three heads of Cerberus pass the time with a game of D&D in ‘Dungeons & Drachmas’. Zubair M Chaudry is a new name to me but I was very taken by the colour choices in ‘Octahedra’ and its “journey through analog alchemy.”
Just a few of the other notable offerings herein include Emily Maher’s ‘Seeds’ where we revisit childhood’s antidote to stinging nettles as a parallel broader commentary on change; Tristan Spill’s infographics four-pager ‘Missing: The Catalogue’ giving us a visual compendium of the history of iconic cats; Lara Callaghan’s ‘There Was a Party House’ with its resonant portrayal of the ghosts of the past embedded in buildings; Deadly Knitshade’s visit to a seaside arcade in ‘2p a Play’ which takes a totally different approach to the theme of the book; Chloe Starling’s ‘The Rental Game’ which uses the possibilities of comics and non-traditional sequential storytelling to portray the topsy-turvy realities of the ordeal of home rental; the near dayglo hues of Ed Firth’s nihilistic ‘Tuesday’ (below); and the rich use of colour in Manon Wright’s moral fairy tale ‘The Changeling’.
Undoubtedly, and as I have probably said before when reviewing WIP collections, there are artists at various stages of their storytelling development and confidence here so some people’s work is far more assured than others. That’s absolutely the point though given that WIP Comics is a community group offering mutual support and camaraderie as creators learn their comics craft. But if you want a wide-ranging sampler of the kind of comics being created on the UK indie/small press scene right now you will not find a better publication than this. For that reason Change is absolutely our Broken Frontier Thought Bubble book of the festival for 2023.
Adam Westbrook, AJ O’Neill, Alba Ceide, Alex Demetris, Alex King, Alex Manda, Andreas Cealera, Andrew Attwell. Anna-Maria Glover, Ben Nunn, Brett Gowlett, Bruno Stead, Chloe Starling, Chris Halls, Chris Hazeldine, Claudia Matosa, Cretien Hughes, Deadly Knitshade, Doz, Ed Firth, Eggitures, Elena Cerisciola, Gary Broughton, Greg Donert, Hanna Gwynn, Infinity Agbitu, Jenny Robins, Joe Stone, Joshua Knowles, KitsuneArt, Lara Callaghan, Lauren Marie Sandercock, Leo Lamb, Manon Wright, Mary Bluestocking, Mike Armstrong, Miki Shaw, Nancy ArtMusic, Navy Bird, Nick Bryan, Pavlo Domitrashchuk, Phng, Keng Boon, Rachel Tubb, Rob Jones, Rosa Fruzza, S.A Lee, Sam Whitehall, Sonya Kinsey, Tami, Tristan Spill, Valerie, Zach Cobb, Zubair Chaudhry • WIP Comics
WIP Comics are at Table C17 in the Redshirt Hall at Thought Bubble 2023
Review by Andy Oliver