Youth in Decline‘s long-running series Frontier is coming back after a nine month hiatus. For those who may not have encountered Frontier yet, is a quarterly comic series focusing on a single artist whose either an up and coming talent, an international artist or an established artist doing a singular project of interest. The format remains the same each issue, each issue is 32 pages long and the artist gets to explore whatever they wish within this limit. It’s been nominated for various awards over the year and has just recently been nominated for the 2017 Ignatz Award in the “Outstanding Series” category. It’s been one of the titles I’m always looking forward to when they’re published every quarter. I was saddened to hear that they announced they were taking a break at the end of 2016. Ryan Sands, the founder and editor of Youth in Decline, and his wife were expecting a child and decided that they wanted to focus on welcoming their daughter properly. I can fully understand, comics are great, but having a child takes up a lot of time. But now, Youth in Decline is finally planning a resurgence at SPX as Sands returns from paternity leave.
While Frontier is a showcase series who either features new artists who haven’t been published, international artists or established North American artists. The series had veered from its original goal. It moved slightly away from the original concepts as the series featured work by more established cartoonists than international or new cartoonists. Michael Deforge, Eleanor Davis and Rebecca Sugar were examples of that trend, but this upcoming season of Frontier aims to return to the series’ roots to feature a better mix and distribution of artists. This next season of Frontier will include comics by the following creators. :
- Frontier #15: Tatsuro Kiuchi: Tatsuro Kiuchi is an illustrator living and working in Tokyo. Tatsuro is the author of the picture book The Lotus Seed and the comic The Earthling. He is the owner of studio PEN STILL WRITES and teaches illustration at AOYAMAJUKU
- Frontier #16: Ako Castuera: Ako is a painter, sculptor, and textile artist based in Los Angeles. She is a former character designer on Metalocalypse and a writer/storyboard artist on Adventure Time. Ako’s Frontier issue will focus on her recent sculpture work that depicts hybrid elements of human, animal, and architectural figures.
- Frontier #17: Lauren Weinstein: Lauren is the creator of Normel Person, an Ignatz nominated weekly strip for Village Voice. She’s also done of my favourite oversized comics called The Goddess of War for the now defunct publishing house Picturebox. Lauren’s story in Frontier will be “comics sharing personal reflections on the hopes & fears of a parent in these troubled times“.
- Frontier #18: Tiffany Ford : Tiffany is a cartoonist and animator based in Los Angeles. She worked as a colour stylist on Steven Universe, and is currently working on a new project for Cartoon Network. Ryan Sands mentioned her personal comics “are a hilarious glimpse into the fun & frustration of contemporary daily life.”
A new subscription drive will begin in advance of SPX 2017 on September 13th. There will also be a new shirt and a small “behind-the-scene” zine which will contains a look at the first three years of Frontier which should prove to be interesting for those who wishes to learn more about the production of comics. More details on the subscription will be available on Youth in Decline’s online store.
I’ve had the pleasure to chat with Ryan about the return of Frontier and Youth in Decline. The grand return of Frontier took longer than initially anticipated, but Sands recognized early that this series was the core of Youth in Decline. It’s the driver of all the other initiatives. of the publisher. Getting Frontier back up and running is then a way to push forward all the other Youth in Decline projects. We should expect more announcement on their upcoming projects once Frontier is back up and running.
Our discussion veered heavily towards parenthood. We both became parents recently and the subject was inevitable. Parenthood changes your entire life. You essentially have a new full-time job. You have to feed, change, put to sleep, entertain and teach a child while doing countless other and new chores when you can. You sleep when you can…well, you don’t sleep much really. It’s hard to adjust at first, though things do eventually get better. I was curious to know if being a parent changed the way Ryan Sands approached publishing. The Richie Pope and Rebecca Sugar issues of Frontier dealt with parenthood, whether it was the disappointment of father figures in Richie Pope’s Frontier #13 – Fatherson or an homage to art and her mother in Rebecca Sugar’s Frontier #14. Was he more inclined now to take on work that revolves around that theme?
From his own account, Sands has modified the way he approaches comics as a publisher, though not as consciously as he initially expected. He’s more interested in how parents are able to keep doing their work, and integrate their artistic pursuit in their life. Finding out how people manage to maintain a work-life balance if you will. There is a surprising amount of parents within the contemporary cartoonists community that are trying to find different ways to make it happens. Sands recognized how this affected his choice artists to showcase. In particular, with the next line-up that will include a comic by Lauren Weinstein. Weinstein has been doing this phenomenal strip about parenting in the age of Trump and her inclusion in Frontier is a phenomenal addition.
Parenthood doesn’t only change who you are as an individual, it changes the physical space in which you live. In the case of Ryan Sands, he relocated his comic collection to his studio in order to make space for a crib and other children’s items. He mentioned one of the positive thing coming out of this is that it might make focusing on work easier. It provides more of a structured environment that can be treated like a company and less like his own personal interest project.
Youth in Decline is coming back as a leaner, more focused operation because the publisher himself has changed. But again, change has always been the focus of Frontier. This series should keep on surprising us for the foreseeable future.
Philippe Leblanc is a Canadian comics journalist. In his regular life, he improves Canadian medical education, and is the co-host of the Ottawa Comic Book Club. He reads alternative, indie and art comics at night and write about them for the Comics Beat.