SelfMadeHero’s Graphic Anthology Programme promotes diversity in comics publishing

British publisher SelfMadeHero has launched a Graphic Anthology Programme, designed to find, develop, publish and promote emerging comic artists from Black, Asian, Arab, mixed-race, Romani/Traveller and non-white Latinx backgrounds from across the UK.

Working in partnership with writer development agency Spread the Word, SelfMadeHero will identify eight exceptional emerging comic-book artists and give them the tools to become publishable creators.

Beginning in May, participants will embark on a 12-week online mentoring programme led by five established graphic novelists: Asia AlfasiCatherine Anyango GrünewaldSonia LeongMustashrik Mahbub and Woodrow Phoenix. With the mentors’ support, each participant will create a graphic short story, which will then be included in an anthology to be published by SelfMadeHero in October 2021.

“The UK comics scene is young, vibrant and culturally progressive, yet there remains a lack of ethnic diversity among published artists and writers,” says SelfMadeHero’s Managing Director Emma Hayley. “A 2020 survey commissioned by UK Comics Laureate Hannah Berry found that Black and Minority Ethnic artists were less likely to be published by traditional print publishers than their white counterparts.

“The launch of our Graphic Anthology Programme marks an important step in acknowledging, addressing and reducing this disparity.”

During the 12-week programme, participants will work to improve every aspect of their creative practice, from plotting and pacing to language and layout. They will learn how to successfully plan a project, work to deadlines and develop the resilience and skills that a career in graphic novels requires.

“The lack of professional provision and access for non-white comics creators is very real”, says GAP mentor Woodrow Phoenix. “It’s great to see a very necessary correction from SelfMadeHero with this new initiative.”

Fellow GAP mentor Catherine Anyango Grünewald adds, “I hope that the Graphic Anthology Programme platform can empower its readers to enrich and expand their worldview, and empower the artists involved to trust in the importance of their stories and the beauty of their expression.”

Alongside weekly mentoring sessions, the programme will provide participants with an introduction to the comic-book industry, eight masterclasses from industry professionals and first-hand experience of working with a publisher.

The core publishing, editorial and design/production team is made up of Emma HayleyTxabi Jones and Ayoola Solarin. Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, is an advisor to the programme and will support participants’ writing development.

At the end of the programme, participants’ graphic short stories will be published in an anthology by SelfMadeHero that will be launched at the 2021 Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

The Graphic Anthology Programme is intended for emerging comic-book artists, specifically any comics artist or illustrator from a Black, Asian, Arab, mixed-race, Romani/Traveller or non-white Latinx background who has not yet been published by a traditional print publisher. Participants must be over 18 and resident in the UK.

The mentoring programme is provided free of charge to participants. This was only made possible thanks to public funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England, and additional support from SelfMadeHeroAbrams & Chronicle BooksOiffy and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. The programme is run in partnership with Spread the Word.

How to apply

The Graphic Anthology Programme has launched with an open call for submissions. Further detail is available here:

Key Dates

• Call for participants: 19th February to 26th March 2021
• Mentoring programme: 18th May to 11th August 2021 (Three hours a week plus eight masterclasses)
• Launch of graphic anthology at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival: 15–17th October 2021

GAP Partners

SelfMadeHero is a London-based publishing house specialising in graphic novels aiming to publish works that provoke, entertain, inspire and inform through the medium of the graphic novel. The publisher is proud to publish ground-breaking and beautiful work by authors and artists from across the globe, from the quirky and humorous to the political and profound.

Spread the Word is a charity and a National Portfolio client of Arts Council England. It is funded to help London’s writers make their mark on the page, on the screen and in the world, and to build strategic partnerships to foster a literature ecology that reflects the cultural diversity of contemporary Britain.

Spread the Word has a national and international reputation for initiating change-making research and developing programmes for writers that have equity and social justice at their heart. In 2020, it launched Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing by Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente, Goldsmiths, University of London, in partnership with The Bookseller and Words of Colour. Spread the Word’s programmes include: the Young People’s Laureate for London, the London Writers Awards and the national Life Writing Prize.

Abrams & Chronicle Books distribute a wide range of award-winning books, gift products and stationery. Based in London, Abrams & Chronicle Books is the European arm of two acclaimed US publishing houses, ABRAMS, based in New York, and Chronicle Books, based in San Francisco. Their illustrious lists include best-selling and globally renowned authors, illustrators, designers, artists, chefs and photographers.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. They have set out their strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 they want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. They invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

Oiffy is a production company established in 2011 by directors/writers Jörg Tittel and Alex Helfrecht and producer Philip Munger. They make films, TV, theatre, games and comic books. Alex is currently directing the painted animated feature A Winter’s Journey, which she adapted from Franz Schubert’s masterpiece. The film will star John Malkovich and Martina Gedeck. Jörg is writing and directing a game for VR and next-gen consoles with art by Mick McMahon. An animated feature based on his graphic novel Ricky Rouse Has a Gun is also in the works.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, often referred to as LICAF, is an annual comics art festival held in Kendal, a market town on the edge of the English Lake District in the UK. Established in 2013, the not-for-profit festival takes place over a weekend in October each year, as the culmination of a year-round programme of education, commissioning and international work.