THOUGHT BUBBLE 2022! Cliché-ridden as it may sound you can always expect the unexpected when it comes to the WIP Comics group’s annual anthology. WIP is a regular meet-up of aspiring comics creators who get together to talk about their practice and provide a supportive space for discussing their process and comics. It’s produced a number of themed collections of participants’ work, most recently in the double anthology release of Success and Failure, and last year’s Lucky WIP where readers got a mystery pack of physical minicomics (and digital access to all 40-ish books created for the event). This year’s project is called WiPXL, a broadsheet-style newspaper comic that allows artists to adapt their storytelling to one-page, large format strips with ‘Big’ as the general subject.
Work by Joe Stone
As ever, it’s an eclectic publication and one that is a reminder of the late, great The Comix Reader (in presentation if not in tone). WIP showrunner Joe Stone kicks thing off with a Godzilla/King Kong parody strip ‘Wreck-sistential Crisis’ that sees a giant lizard monster debating the validity of their existences with a similar city-destroying creature called Cyber Ape. Stone’s ever ready wit juxtaposes kaiju-based philosophy with squished people gags with his accessible cartooning ably lending itself to the implied slapstick carnage of the piece.
Work by Mike Armstrong and Rachel Tubb
One of the true standouts here comes from Mike Armstrong who portrays tiny goblin-like creatures working on an underground mine by depicting them moving through one giant image. That Armstrong also manages to end this on a great visual punchline makes it all the more impressive. Given the nature of WiPXL I am limited to what I can show here but this one entry is alone worth the price of the comic. Similarly Alba Ceide – whose astonishing cartooning talent needs far, far more recognition – gives us ‘Moon Fall’, a story of how the Moon fell to Earth and had to be saved by a young boy. Illustrated in Ceide’s usual high energy, exaggerated and quirky style it’s an absolute feelgood delight.
Work by Mereida Fajardo and Lana Le
Emily Maher goes the slice-of-life route in ‘Impact’, a reflection on loss, impermanence and time’s passage that is all the more powerful for its subtlety and nuance. A story about the gaps we leave behind, it only makes me want to see far more of Maher’s work. And in another more traditional panel-to-panel offering Rachel Tubb’s irreverent batrachian take on the fantasy genre in ‘Beelzebufo’ has a genuine laugh-out-loud quality.
The novelty of WiPXL though will no doubt be centred around those artists who make full use of the possibilities of the larger page to produce something they simply could not have achieved otherwise. Chloe Starling, for example, with a powerful combination of panel-to-panel storytelling placed against a backdrop of visual metaphor in ‘Chasm’, a short exploring the prejudice around asexuality.
Work by Mostafa Zakaria and Ed Firth
Many contributors look to exploit this rare comics canvas. Ed Firth’s symbolic tale of awakening that eschews panel structure and yet still retains the sequential; Mereida Fajardo’s typically experimental ‘Supersharket’ that portrays a piscine slaughterhouse as if it were a particularly brutal Heath Robinson contraption; Havva Bird’s ‘Visit London’s Big Wheel’ with its cyclical spotlight on the capital’s history; and Josh Knowles’s ‘Burger Time’ with its visual “cacophony” of imagery.
As ever this a great sampler for not just experimental comics but also as an entry point into the work of creators you should be exploring further. The annual WIP Comics anthology now feels like a UK indie scene Autumn tradition. Long may that continue to be the case.
Anthology – Various Creators • WIP Comics, £8.00
WIP Comics is at Table 139 in the ComiXology Hall at Thought Bubble 2022
Review by Andy Oliver