There’s a fantastic moment in Rebecca Sugar’s latest Frontier issue, when Sugar recalls her obsession with 90’s cartoons. She describes how, now that she’s creating cartoons, she is in a way perpetuating that cycle by enthralling people to her work. Sugar is the creator of the popular cartoon Steven Universe. This acknowledgement that her silly obsession with the cartoons of her youth will be passed on to a new generation, who will in turn be obsessed with the cartoons from their own childhood is associated with an image of romanticism. Cartoons are real, because the reader makes them real. A reader’s fascination and obsession with cartoons can spark their own creativity and, in turn, lead to them create their own cartoons, if they take the time and energy to fully explore this interest. Doodling in a sketchbook is important, if only to help one discover one’s interests and talents. That’s important.
Another fascinating aspect of Frontier #14 is that it’s interspersed with poetry written on an iPhone. Beautiful prose about connection and the importance of relationships. There’s something to be said about the ephemeral aspect of writing on an iPhone. With the entirety of the world’s information at your disposal and countless distractions possible, there’s a note, hidden under all these layers and folders, containing a tiny kernel of poetry. Putting a photo of a hand holding the iPhone within the book itself is an innovation I enjoyed. It places the fleeting digital poetry firmly into a lasting print format that will never change or disappear.
Frontier #14 is permeated with the idea of motion. We move from Rebecca’s early sketchbook idea for a cartoon called “Margo in Bed” that will never be seen in animated form. We witness the raw drawings of a young artist exploring her style, her interests and we see it evolve over time into something much more complex, more refined. As we move towards the end of the comic, we begin to recognize her style in the illustrations and see the similarities with her other work, Steven Universe. It shows the development of her style from beginning to today. There’s also a beautiful acknowledgment of Sugar’s interest in movement and dance that comes from her mother. Her grandmother is also referenced in the dedication at the start of the book. Movement was an integral part of her family life and something that became part of her style. “Whenever I feel lost, I draw dancers” she explains, as drawing dancers is a way to anchor herself, to sooth herself. The final part of the book is filled with ever more expertly drawn dancers in movement, which culminates in a series of drawings inching ever closer to her current visual style.
It’s interesting that 2016 brought us two issues of Frontier deeply tied to parenthood. Richie Pope’s Frontier #13 was about imperfect and absent fathers and now Frontier #14 is deeply tied to the relationship between art and family. Publisher Ryan Sands announced that they are taking a short break of the quarterly publication in early 2017 because they are welcoming their first child in January. Frontier has always been a comic that showcases artists and gives them free reign over the content as long as it fits in the format of the book. It’s surprising that two issues dealt with parental sensibilities, and while both issues were different, they were engaging. I’m wishing Sands and his wife best wishes, and am looking forward to the return of Frontier in the Spring of 2017. There’s enough in this issue for the reader to unpack in the meantime.
Youth In Decline
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.