This week’s indie round-up is a mixture of eclectic indie and small press titles, which range from: the best up and coming creators profiled in the Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook; the latest adventures from Nobrow’s coolest scandi adventurer Hilda in The Bird Parade; the surreal world of a crazy wrestling federation in Joshua Hicks’ Glorious Wrestling Alliance; and the most unconventional book from Avery Hill’s excellent 2016 line-up, Internal Wilderness from Clare Scully.
Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook 2016
As well as being a great website about comics culture, Broken Frontier has begun to make waves in the world of indie publishing too. Firstly with the excellent Broken Frontier Anthology and now with their Small Press Yearbook 2016. Featuring six exclusive stories from their ‘Six Small Press Creators To Watch from 2015’ each one tackles their own interpretation of ‘breaking frontiers’ in a unique way. There are also a collection of stories from established indie names, inducing Owen Pomery, Mike Medaglia and Edie OP, in the ‘Friends of Frontier’ section at the back. This eclectic group of creators manage to cover a huge variety of genres and styles from history to science fiction, from loose and impressionistic watercolour washes to tight pen and ink cartoons. Although they are all firmly at the arthouse end of the indie comics spectrum (no capes in site!) there is enough variety in here to make it a really enjoyable read as well as a great showcase for the creators involved. Standouts for us were Alice Urbino’s Teenage Dirtbag (about a girl down a well which has a kind of Posy Simmonds feel to it) and Adam Vian’s Court of the Mapkeeper (about a mysterious fortune teller that is drawn in a tight and cartoonish newspaper strip style – complete with off white paper stock). While in the ‘friends’ section we also really enjoyed Rebecca Bagley’s haunting The Catch. As a first step into the diverse world of small press Broken Frontier’s Small Press Yearbook is a fantastic showcase for everything that makes the scene so great and we hope that it is the start of big things for all those involved!
Purchase the Broken Frontier Small Press Yearbook for £6 from the Broken Frontier Store
Glorious Wrestling Alliance (Josh Hicks)
There’s something about comics and wrestling that create a wierd synergy, from Headlocked and Vreckless Vrestlers to Box Brown’s outstanding Andre the Giant book. The latest addition to this growing roster of combatants is Josh Hicks’ Glorious Wrestling Alliance which definitely fits into the ‘surreal/indie’ weight class as it stars ‘The Great Carp’, GWA champion and intergalactic fish man who is having a bit of a crisis of confidence ahead of his huge fight at Ultrabrawl XXV. It’s a really fun read as Josh manages to take the larger-than-life characters of wrestling and makes them even larger than larger-than-life, by making them super weird! Alongside Carp there is the Death Machine (a villainous poet who doesn’t see wrestling metaphors in his writing), the human gravy boat (who is looking for a new gimmick and struggling because he is actually full of actual gravy!) and a female wrestler looking to convince the men she is an equal by putting on a mask and beating them at their own game (even though no-one notices she is wearing a bra top!) The stories are told via a series of one-pagers, that feel quite newspaper strip like, with each one being relatively self contained and building to a punchline or resolution by the end of the page. There is an overall arc, but it’s quite basic, and doesn’t detract from the jokes which are genuinely laugh out loud funny at times. Visually Josh’s art has a really simple, cartoony style, (reminiscent of the aforementioned Box Brown) and with only one colour of line (red) throughout. It has a really sophisticated sense of design to it, especially in one of the opening spreads which featuries a brilliant Jamie McKelvie-style geometric layout of the main wrestling headquarters with Carp navigating his path through and interacting with various characters. If GWA were a wrestler it would be a fun loving cruiserweight or upper mid-carder. What it lacks in heavyweight stature it more than makes up for with high-impact humour and tons of originality. All of which makes it into a champion comic!
Purchase Glorious Wrestling Alliance from Josh’s Big Cartel Store
Hilda and The Bird Parade (Nobrow Press)
If Nobrow Press had a signature series or character, we like to think it would be Luke Pearson’s super charming all-ages adventures starring the super cool Hilda. From it’s cool Scandi style to it’s quirky contemporary folk tales it feels like a mix between the Moomins and Studio Ghibli, but with the look of a hipster Hergé. This latest issue ‘Bird Parade’ sees our intrepid heroine Hilda relocate from the mountains and into the city of Trolberg, where she goes off an adventure with her new school chums only to find out they aren’t as nice as they seem when they injure a bird who Hilda befriends. This talking raven is much more Hilda’s kind of chum, and they get up to all kinds of adventures as they try to find their way back to Hilda’s worried mum before that evening’s Bird Parade. These antics include encounters with all manner of weird and wonderful creatures on the streets of Trollberg, from sinister salt lions to terrifying rat kings. Hilda and The Bird Parade continues the effortlessly charming story-telling from previous issues but with a new edge added thanks to being set on the city streets. The creatures are just the right side of scary and the titular bird parade has a surreal and slightly sinister Dia Des Muertos/ psychedelic fever dream style to it. But don’t worry, it’s still just the right side of scary for youngsters to read (and there’s enough substance in there for adults too) and we cannot recommend this book enough to help get any kids in your life into exciting and innovative comics that aren’t from the mainstream.
Purchase Hilda And The Bird Parade for £7.99 from Nobrow
Internal Wilderness (Avery Hill Publishing)
The latest release from Avery Hill continues their excellent run of titles for 2016 with perhaps their most adventurous, and certainly their most experimental. Internal Wilderness is described in the notes at the back of the book as a a collection of landscapes that are the start of a bigger adventure that serve to answer the question of what lays beyond the horizon – how profound?! Although it may sound a tad pretentious, Claire Scullys work is so beautifully rendered that you can almost forget this deep and meaningful subtext and just enjoy the sublime landscapes on show in each and every page. She has a highly regimented, cross-hatched style that seems to revel in highly structured and complex pages (for example rows and rows of trees in a forest) which feel very constrained for such open subjects. With a minimalistic colour palette that only uses blues and greens it gives the book a dream-like and hazy quality, while the lack of any people in the shots (with the exception of one page) gives the book an emptiness and an uncertainty which we presume you are supposed to fill in with your own idea of how a potential story could develop. For some this could could stimulate memories of past experiences, while for others it may begin to make them question what is happening off camera or in the far distance where subtle details like a plume of smoke or a simple building lead the eye in could be hints at an untold narrative. While for other they may wonder what the point even is?! It’s definitely not a conventional read and may leave many who are not prepared to embrace this uniqueness confused, however we hope that the quality of the images and the open-ended nature of the story rewards those who pick the book up.
Purchase Internal Wilderness for £7 from Avery Hill Publishing
Author: Alex Thomas
Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.