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10 comics everyone should read, as rounded up by ELCAF

Posted by Grace Wang on Friday, June 15 2018
Ahead of this year's East London Comics and Arts Festival, we ask the team for the ones to watch
Comics are a huge part of the independent publishing world, combining cutting edge illustration with personal storytelling that speaks to a wide range of modern experiences. But it’s hard to know where to look, especially as smaller artists can easily get overshadowed by the big guys. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of the comic geeks at East London Comics and Arts Festival to tell us some of their favourites, ahead of their seventh annual event. Taking place from 22 to 24 June, it will see small publishers, writers, and illustrators from around the world gather for a festival of pop-up stalls, talks, workshops, screenings and exhibitions. Read on for ELCAF’s Angela Sangma Francis’ guide to 10 comics everyone should read, all of which will be featured at this year’s event.

Who? Aisha Franz
What? Shit is Real
Where? Berlin

Shit is Real by Berlin based artist Aisha Franz is a new 288-page feast that un-peels the reveries and emotional setbacks that come with heartbreak and loneliness. It traces the journey of a brokenhearted woman named Selma as she spontaneously, and unannounced, occupies her glamorous travelling neighbour’s apartment and tries to stay afloat in a confused world of laundromats, jilted men, pet shops and over-sympathetic friends. Aisha’s artwork shifts masterfully through black and white panels with a hazy grace which underlines the dreamlike world that we find ourselves twisting through.

Who? Akvile Magicdust
What? Tropical Wildchilds, featuring Lucy the Confused Girl, Tiger and Alien
Where? Lithuania

Lithuanian illustrator Akvile Magicdust was the 2017 winner of the ELCAF x WeTransfer award; a fund for the development and publication of an original idea. Akvile had previously drawn for a weekly comic on Vice where her protagonists Lucy the Confused Girl, Tiger and Alien undertook comical and often quite bizarre adventures into the world. Her book, Tropical Wildchilds, which will be debuting at ELCAF 2018, is a 64-page, full colour, soft cover book featuring all three characters as they take the reader on an eye opening journey from planet Kepler 187f to the Amazon rainforest.

Who? Cat Sims
What? Xenos: At The Edge of Life, one about environmental collapse
Where? South London

Cat Sims is a graphic artist based in South London working largely in risograph to produce colourful and highly detailed zines that pack a real punch. Sims’ newest comic about environmental collapse — triggered through the human transformation of the natural world — Xenos: At The Edge of Life will also debut at this year’s ELCAF. The book comprises a series of disaster scenarios divided into five sections, some set in the near future, others in the near past, which might nevertheless be a possible future. The work presents ideas surrounding waste, industrialised farming, viral mutation and infection in exploding visuals in visceral and intricate yellow, gray and black graphics.

Who? Design for Today, Joe Pearson
What? The Squeeze Book (which you can actually squeeze)
Where? London

Design For Today was founded by Joe Pearson, an established collector and writer on mid-century lithography. His finely curated list of publications are a visual treasury of reissued ‘forgotten classics’, contemporary European classics of illustration and mid-century design, as well as new, beautifully crafted publications printed using traditional processes. In his latest publication The Squeeze Book he’s teamed up with illustrator and art director of Okido Magazine, Alex Barrow. Together they have created a compendium of illustrated accordion music from around the world, published with dye-cuts and in an accordion format across a 12 panel double-sided concertina — affording the reader a chance to actually have a squeeze!

Who? Samandal, a non profit print collective
What? Topia, a comics compilation
Where? Beirut

Samandal is a volunteer-based non-profit organisation carving out a new landscape of experimental publications from their base in Beirut, Lebanon. Their anthologies represent a dynamic scene that has been emerging from a changing comics culture that’s making waves throughout the Middle East. Topia is their most recent comics compilation, celebrating the collective’s 10 year anniversary. It is a 216-page epic with silkscreen printed covers and a fully risograph printed interior, which exists in three languages (Topia in English, Topie in French and Toupya in Arabic) and gathers 17 authors around the theme of Utopia. In recent years, however, the group has been fighting a censorship battle (as detailed by The New Yorker) which is threatening them with imminent collapse.

Who? Evan M Cohen
What? Visions, an exploration of physical and spirutual relationships
Where? Beacon, New York

Evan M Cohen, illustrator and comic book artist, has a distinct visual personality. His silent strips often melt across pages as the world and their situations are boiled down to unmask the simplicity in truth. This is the first time Evan is attending a festival in the UK and he is bringing a stack of newly published zines and prints to ELCAF. Visions, his latest three-colour risograph comic is an exploration of relationships, both spiritual and physical.

Who? Conor Stechschulte
What? Generous Bosom III, an erotic psychological thriller
Where? Chicago

The latest work from Chicago-based cartoonist Conor Stechschulte is an erotic psychological thriller charting the fallout following a stranded motorist’s unexpected encounter with a strange, isolated couple. This is the third in Conor’s ambitious series published by cutting-edge London based publisher Breakdown Press. The 62-page comic is printed in risograph, which is used as a central aspect of the trilogy’s storytelling with the use of overlapping imagery and colour lending itself perfectly to the narrative sequences. With Generous Bosom II being described as being ‘the most mind boggling comic of the year,’ it’ safe to say we’re looking forward to seeing how part three unfolds.

Who? Patrick Kyle
What? Everywhere Disappeared: droll dialogue, foreign figures, strange settings
Where? Toronto

Everywhere Disappeared is a collection of Patrick Kyle’s short comics from 2013 to 2016 in which the machinations of life, work and art are pulled apart with droll dialogue, foreign figures and strange settings. Patrick is a Toronto-based artist who has already published several books with Koyama Press and his latest is yet another experiment in composition where the page becomes a playground for textures, lines and broken boundaries. We’re thrilled to have Patrick speaking at ELCAF this year, and even more excited to get our copies of the book signed.

Dilraj Mann/Nobrow Press
What? Dalston Monstaz, a sassy gang of London-ites
Where? London

It’s been years in the making and we’ve been patiently waiting for Dilraj Mann’s first full length graphic novel with Nobrow Press to be published. Finally, finally it’s here! Dilraj has attended ELCAF for the last four editions, each time bringing with him a fresh stack of prints and mini zines featuring a sassy gang of London-ites pouting their way meanly across the pages. Dalston Monstaz, though still located within the pit of East London’s trendiest quarter, is a different beast altogether. In the vein of Joss Whedon, Attack the Block, and Saga, this is a story of friendship and corruption in a vision of the future not far from today.

Who? Bebel Books
What? The Spaceship Theory
Where? Brazil

The Spaceship Theory by Luan Banzai and Leila Raverdino is an exploration, conceptualisation and theory on the subject of love. Whilst the subject itself has been covered time immemorial, what makes The Spaceship Theory interesting is the collaboration between Luan and Leila where perspectives were teased out and opposition celebrated. Together they came up with visual representations to understand the concept with a final thought on why we should not abandon our own spaceships. The Spaceship Theory is published by Brazil-based publisher Bebel Books, who is tabling at ELCAF for the second time.