10 YEARS OF THE BF SIX TO WATCH! Yes, it’s time again for our Broken Frontier Six to Watch announcement! Undoubtedly one of our most eagerly anticipated posts of the year.
But before we introduce you to the six creators we will be following on the site across the year let’s assume that not everyone is familiar with this initiative. So here’s the usual blurb. Skip this paragraph if it seems too familiar! Every year since 2015 we have given a spotlight to half a dozen UK-based creative voices. We look to provide regular review, interview and feature coverage of what they work on during that time, as well as mentoring should they request it, and opportunities to be part of BF events, panels and festival appearances. There’s also a ‘Six to Watch’ Discord server where artists from all ten intakes can check out news about relevant events, anthologies/publishers looking for submissions, competitions to apply to, and get advice and support from BF and their predecessors on the programme.
And yes, your maths is right – this is our tenth year of running the ‘Six to Watch’ feature. So in 2024 we will also be catching up with as many former 6 to Watch-ers as possible in interviews, reviews and features on their work on the site. We are also hoping to be able to take the opportunity for some in-person celebrations in that time too. We’re talking to people about events, so watch this space!
There’s always huge interest around this announcement. Not surprising given so many of our former self-publishing stars have gone on to be published by the likes of (deep breath!) Avery Hill Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse Comics, Faber, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Universe, Icon Books, Image Comics, Koguchi Press, kuš! comics, Myriad Editions, Quindrie Press, Rebellion/2000 AD, SelfMadeHero, Street Noise Books, Titan and Z2 Comics. We do give you lots of notice about tomorrow’s stars today at BF so please take notice!
Of the names below some have indeed featured on the site before. Half of them haven’t. Some will no doubt be names you were hoping would be included for 2024. Others will be new discoveries. Their work ranges from genre comics to experimental stories, from deeply personal memoir to cross-media adaptation. But each and every one of them speaks the language of comics with fluency and nuanced understanding. We cannot wait to start championing their amazing practice!
Give a hearty welcome, then, to the Broken Frontier Six to Watch 2024. The future of comics is here and it’s in the most talented of hands…
When you know, you know. Dominica Claribelle’s command of sequential visual storytelling was instantly apparent from following her work on Instagram. Bold, inventive layouts that are not just gorgeously illustrated but also playful with comics’ relationship with the passage of time, and constantly shifting in the ways in which they ask the reader to connect with and interpret the page.
At Our Peril (above and below) is Dominica’s comics collaboration with writer Mike Ranahan and, as you can see from the examples here, showcases her approach to perfection. Dominica is currently working on the second issue of At Our Peril and other upcoming comics that will be released later this year. She also spends her time creating concept paintings in both digital and traditional form.
Make sure to check out Dominica’s website for more examples of her stunning artwork, including a full online comic Anaise; work which only underlines her versatility.
In the old days there had to be at least one creator in this list involved in the Dirty Rotten Comics anthologies. These days that obligatory position is taken by someone I have discovered through the WIP Comics collections, as I did with Mike Armstrong who produced an incredible one-page comic ‘Big Business’ for WiPXL just over a year ago.
Again, Mike is one of those artists who just absolutely gets what comics and comics alone can do as a form. Pages here that attest to that include examples from ‘The Knights Condeau’ in the recent WIP book Change (above) and from his self-published minicomic Bigger (below).
Mike is currently working on a soft reboot of his Lore Library series (example below) for younger readers which he describes as “Tintin Meets Hellboy”, a print collection of his Skeleton Crew webcomic, autobio work and, unsurprisingly, another comic for the next WIP project.
Sometimes you come across a new creative voice whose work seems fully formed and utterly assured from the very outset. Such was my reaction to the comics of Tinglin Liu when she first submitted work to BF for review in the Autumn.
Tinglin’s adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death is a remarkable translation of a story from one medium to another. Atmospherically charged with a monochromatic use of shade, light, and grey tones it brings the reader into the very heart of the original prose. A powerful blend of the grotesque and the real.
Tinglin is currently working on another Poe adaptation, this time of The Black Cat, and a fantasy graphic novel which she says is related to the theme of nature.
I was hugely impressed with Tom Philipson’s autobio comic Complicated Young Man (first two images below) when I reviewed it just before Thought Bubble. A collection of short strips exploring issues of mental health awareness, it constantly jumped from narrative styles – sometimes experimental, sometimes paying homage to the history of comics – and said of it then “what Complicated Young Man lacks in page count it certainly makes up for in meta irreverence, raw-to-the-bone honesty, and a self-deprecating humour that borders on the savage.”
Tom is also part of the Coco Comics Publishing collective, the hosts of Lancaster’s annual small press-focussed Coco Comics Con. His previous comics work includes action/comedy series StrangeWorld and a contribution to the Comic Con Survival Guide.
His upcoming projects include the fan-fictional Batman ’66/ Austin Powers crossover comic The Dark Knight Shags Again, co-written with Matt Simmons, and writing/editing The Stranger, a noir superhero detective story, co-written by James Patricks and illustrated by Devlin Baker.
I first met Zhenyi Zheng last year at the South London Comic and Zine Fair when I was chairing a panel on self-publishing. It was her first panel event as a guest and, despite expressing understandable nerves to me before we started, she spoke so eloquently and passionately about her work and about comics in general. I had already reviewed her SLCZF-debuting comic Banana Trap (first and third images below), a powerful exploration of worker exploitation, which I described as “a short 16-page story with a visual style that somehow manages to combine realism, a kind of elastic impressionism and moments of faux naivety to immerse us in the drama of events.”
Zhenyi’s other comics/zine work to date includes Conversations with a Stone and the Home Phrases series (below).
Her upcoming projects are a new entry in the ‘Food Politics’ series after Banana Trap, this time promising to reveal some little known facts about avocados! She is also working on a graphic memoir exploring the themes of home, belonging and identity, and an educational book for children in collaboration with a visiting scholar from University College London about the function of fingers, drawing on research in assistive technology for people with disabilities.
Zoè Delautre Corral
I first became aware of Zoè Delautre Corral’s comics from her longlisting for the First Graphic Novel Competition which is a testament to how artists can gain genuine exposure from being recognised by such important initiatives, whether or not they go on to be shortlisted or even win them.
Zoè’s entry to the FGNC was from her work-in-progress graphic memoir April 17th which she describes as exploring “the life stories, largely unknown, of the women in my family, the passing of my paternal grandmother, and my father’s suicide.” What instantly drew me to Zoè’s storytelling was the expressive, impressionistic quality of her art which manages the unlikely feat of feeling both dreamlike in presentation and yet firmly rooted in reality as well.
She is currently working on the second chapter of April 17th, with the first available to buy in print. Also coming soon is Byrne, looking at the life of 18th century historical figure Charles Byrne.
Article by Andy Oliver
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