How underrepresented comic artists have found a home at publisher Avery Hill

Retrograde Orbit by Kristyna Baczynski

Rising stars from London press Avery Hill Publishing talk to us about comic books and diversity.

This September sees the release of three special books from Avery Hill Publishing, the London small press rapidly making a name for itself in the independent comic book scene. Ranging from unique sci-fi excursions to idiosyncratic travelogues, the releases come from women and LGBT+ creators who've found a home with the relatively young publisher.

Founded in 2011 by zine creators Ricky Miller and David White, the publisher quickly made its name with key releases from the likes of American cartoonist Tillie Walden, whose latest release On a Sunbeam heads up Avery's latest releases.

Billed as a queer space opera, On a Sunbeam following lead character Mia across two timeframes – at boarding school in the stars, and aboard the spacecraft Aktis, where she and her team of primarily queer and/or non-binary characters travel into deep space to repair and rebuild amazing architectural structures.

The book is almost 600 subtly shaded pages of Tillie's intimate, poetic storytelling, closer to the intricate world-building of her debut The End of Summer as opposed to smaller-scale but equally masterful work such as I Love This Part, as also released on Avery Hill.

"I got into the comics field so I could draw quietly in my room, and Avery Hill have been supportive to me as an independent creator and open to my different ideas and perspectives," Tillie tells Digital Arts.

"The publishing industry as a whole still needs a lot of work when it comes to promoting marginalised creators, but in my own experience as a lesbian who has worked with Avery Hill, I can say they have done a good job supporting women and queer creators."

These views are echoed by fellow Avery author Katriona Chapman, who agrees the publisher has a "a focus on fostering good relationships with all corners of the comics community."

"Avery Hill's editors are also motivated by a real love of comics," she continues, "and they believe in helping creators make exactly the book they want to make, with as little or as much input as is needed.

"It's also great to work for a small company where it's quality over quantity."

Katriona, who also works for the publisher, is releasing her debut longform book Follow Me In, a Mexico-based travelogue that brings to mind a more adult-themed Raymond Briggs and which cannily expands upon the country's culture with detail-laden pages, bringing a more diversity-minded texture to its pages.

"The group that we’re drawing from tends to be more diverse than the upper levels of the mainstream, due to the barriers that have traditionally been involved in reaching that level," explains co-founder Ricky Miller. "They’re often fresh out of university or are making their way as freelance illustrators or storytellers.

"It’s an exciting group to work with as they’re willing to try things and have often yet to discover their limitations, or had limitations imposed upon them.

"One of our main motivations is finding these creators and helping them up on the ladder towards wider recognition. Unlike most other companies there’s nothing we like more than seeing our creators getting poached by a bigger publisher as it means that we’ve succeeded in some way."

One of those may be poached soon is Kristyna Baczynski, creator of Retrograde Orbit, Avery Hill's other sci-fi release of September. The story follows Flint, whose family was displaced from their home planet by a nuclear disaster, illustrated in a charming anthromorphic style by Kristyna.

"When my comics ambitions grew beyond what I could achieve with self-publishing I was drawn to Avery Hill," she tells us. "The team have been supporting of my comics for years and the idea of working with a publisher that was already a fan of my work was appealing, especially so for my first graphic novel.

"The idea of stepping up, stepping out and reaching new places is something we share enthusiasm about and creates a good home for my comics."

Retrograde Orbit by Kristyna Baczynski will be released by Avery Hill Publishing on 24 September, alongside On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. Follow Me In by Katriona Chapman is out now via the Avery Hill shop.

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