Alexander Taylor‘s coming-of-age queer thriller Bone Broth was named the 2023 winner of the UK’s First Graphic Novel Award at a December 11 ceremony in London’s Piccadilly Waterstones bookstore. He receives a £500 cash prize from literary management company The bks Agency and a publishing contract with SelfMadeHero for the finished book, expected to hit shelves around 2025.

First Graphic Novel Award
SelfMadeHero publishing director Emma Hayley congratulating Alexander Taylor (background: judges Alex Fitch, Sabba Khan, Ayoola Solarin, Mark Wallinger, Steve Marchant) —- ©Dean Simons

The synopsis of the proposed book:

“A coming-of-age queer thriller, following Ash, a young transmasculine queer person, starting his first job in a ramen shop. As he begins to learn the process of making bone broth ramen, he suddenly finds himself caught up in how to cover up the death of his boss after a staff party.”

Speaking about Bone Broth, judge and SelfMadeHero director Emma Hayley said:

“Alex Taylor’s fun and colourful art style belies the intricate plot lines of this coming-of-age queer thriller. Crafted with vigour and spirit, we’re taken on a somewhat crazy yet wonderful journey that is tasty from beginning to end. While the story benefits from Alex’s real experience of working in a ramen shop, his imagination leads us on an engaging adventure. Fellow judges called Bone Broth: ‘intriguing’, ‘compelling’, ‘quirky’, ‘zany’, ‘dense-but-light-at-the-same-time’, ‘fun’, ‘great page layout, wonderful artwork’. And those are just some of the compliments that this brilliant entry received.”

Adding a personal note, Emma said:

“It really brightened up my day the first time I read it. What appealed to me most was its mix of immediately engaging characters, hilarious but fresh-looking artwork; and it is a combination that’s truly original. It stood out as having the potential to push the boundaries of graphic novel storytelling. It was really a pleasure to read.”

Alexander Taylor and his 2023 First Graphic Novel Award winning entry ‘Bone Broth’

Taylor said during the evening that “comics have always been a part of my life for as long as I can remember”. He grew up in France – where comics (bande dessinée) are ubiquitous – and only on moving to the UK did he discover manga (both of whose influences can be keenly detected in the sample work). For his day-job he works as a chef in a Japanese restaurant and said that the title dish of the book, bone broth, is considered a “labour of love” that takes upwards of five hours to make. His previous experience with comics production has seldom been work longer than five pages. 

The first recipient of the new format for the British award – previously called the First Graphic Novel Competition – following a three year hiatus, Taylor joins the ranks of esteemed winners and shortlisters who have successfully been published to acclaim in the UK comics scene. Illustrious names include Gareth Brookes (The Black Project; 2012), Jade Sarson (For The Love of God, Marie!; 2014), Jenny Robins (Biscuits; 2018), Veronika Muchitsch (Cyberman; 2022), Hannah Eaton (Naming Monsters; 2013), Zara Slattery (Coma; 2021), and Sabba Khan (The Roles We Play/What Is Home, Mum?; 2021/2022).

The returning competition, previously run every two years from 2012 to 2019, saw a glut of demand (over a 50% jump!). Entrants were required to send an extract of no more than thirty pages as well as a synopsis of the work by September 2023.  Judges had to plough through over 170 entries to draw a longlist of 30 – which they initially did over an entire weekend – with subsequent meetings deciding the shortlisted seven and winner. 

The judges for the award this year included editors Ayoola Solarin and Corinne Pearlman, artist Mark Wallinger, SelfMadeHero Founder/Publishing Director Emma Hayley, the London Cartoon Museum’s Learning & Outreach Officer Steve Marchant, comics journalist and academic Alex Fitch, and graphic novelist – one of the competition’s successfully published shortlisted authors – Sabba Khan.

You can check out a preview of Bone Broth here:

The full shortlist: 

  • WINNER: Alexander Taylor (@azbtart), Bone Broth
    “A coming-of-age queer thriller, following Ash, a young transmasculine queer person, starting his first job in a ramen shop. As he begins to learn the process of making bone broth ramen, he suddenly finds himself caught up in how to cover up the death of his boss after a staff party.”
  • Cathy Brett (@gingerdoodles), Mrs Thorwald
    “What really happened to Mrs Thorwald, the ‘nagging New York housewife’, who apparently murdered and dismembered by her adulterous husband? Here’s the story the neighbours couldn’t see, a 3D illustration picture book inspired by Hitchcock’s Rear Window’”
  • Gareth Cowlin (@garethcowlin), The Hiraeth Cub
    “Gerald Preston works at Wattersons Booksellers, and lives with a hole in his chest, a physical manifestation of ‘hiraeth’, a Welsh word for irretrievable loss. Sister Jenny died some 20 years ago, and Gerald recruits customers and colleagues to explore that hole in his life.”
  • Mereida Fajardo (@m.ereida), Zayani Zam 
    “A silent graphic novel about loneliness and connection on the Mongolian coal road. It follows a day in the life of a female truck driver who spends every day driving coal from the mines at Tavan Tolgoi to the Chinese border, yearning for the freedom of a nomadic life that no longer exists.”
  • Anna Trench (@anna_trench), Florrie
    “A queer, historical graphic novel about love and women’s football. When Florrie’s great-great-niece discovers her aunt was a footballer in the early 20th century, she unearths a secret history both on and off the pitch. In 1921, the FA banned women’s matches.”
  • Myfanwy Tristram (@mockduck), The Noisy Valley
    “True stories of protest from the Rhondda Valley in South Wales. A response to current-day politics and the erosion of our rights to protest, the author interviews local people and shares their stories – and bears witness to a rich culture of those who don’t take things lying down.”
  • Corban Wilkin (@corbanwilkin_illustration), The Infinite Benefits of Shame
    “Most people living with gender incongruence don’t transition. Not medically, and not socially. Many never talk to anyone about how they feel, and repress it forever.’ A contemporary graphic novel about the relationship between a young man and his gender-non-conforming lover.”

[Note: To view samples of everyone’s entries, check out the First Graphic Novel Award website and select the images.]