Comics is producing an unfeasible amount of good to superb work currently, the volume of which makes it impossible for even the most ardent appreciator of the medium to keep up with. From the shelves in the store to navigating online, it can be an arduous and time-consuming task to sift through everything—the dross, the gems, the indifferent—which often leads to a lot of great work being missed. So, in celebration of International Women’s Day, this compilation spotlights the work of 10 artists and cartoonists who you may not necessarily have heard of, but are producing an exciting and diverse—in both style and content—range of work of the highest quality.
1. Seo Kim
Getting humor right in any medium is incredibly tricky, and perhaps one of the most unappreciated talents. As subjective as it is, rare is the person who doesn’t find Seo Kim’s comics relatable and amusing on some level, ranging from the knowing snicker to the downright hilarious. Her sketchy, expressive cartooning is key in capturing the minute nuances of expression that tip the story over the edge, even as her unassumingly light color palette lulls you into a false tone of brevity. Many of Kim’s comics also feature Jimmy, her cat, who’s quite the arch personality himself, and the interactions between the two are golden, making for much grandstanding and face-offs (most of which Jimmy wins). Jimmy is so beloved and undeniable that Kim’s collection of strips, Cat Person (Koyama Press), is named after him, complete with a resplendent cover depicting each carrying the other.
2. Tula Lotay
British artist Tula Lotay has made big strides in mainstream comics over the past year, most significantly working with Warren Ellis on Image series Supreme: Blue Rose, in addition to creating gorgeous covers such as her recent attitude-laden effort for Curb Stomp. Lotay’s beautiful art is instantly distinctive via its mixture of abstract background washes, textures, and strokes, combined with painted realism. It’s traditionally rendered illustration with a thoroughly sharp and modern approach. Her poster for Dario Argento’s Suspiria is an amazing rendition and her art books are a sight to inspire and behold.
3. Tiffany Ford
Currently working on the Steven Universe show at Cartoon Network, Tiffany Ford is the originator of the color blocks project, the idea of which was to “create a graphic description of the colors and shapes that you choose for yourself everyday,” a concept that has taken off, resulting in many artists sharing pared down, simplified versions of what they wear day to day. There’s never enough fashion in comics for some reason, so Ford (she’s still the one who does it best—replacing her head with hamburgers, roses, gems, incorporating pattern, and generally making it all look very easy) is an inspiration on more than one creative level. Her comics are easily identified by the purple-colored pen she uses, and range from observational to auto-biographical to the absurd fictional (with lots of musings on food), and her lines are wonderfully expressive, while retaining control. The buildup and punchline to this rapping turtle comic is perfect.
4. Lala Albert
Lala Albert’s alien ladies and exploration of the strangeness of self, identity, submersion, and connectivity are recurring themes in her work, which manifest in various and intriguing ways. unsettling and thought provoking. From her sublime large newsprint monograph, In The Up Part Of The Wave, to Paranoid Apartment and the masterful Janus, published at the end of last year by Breakdown Press, Albert’s work is always genuinely different, the kind that gets under the reader’s skin and lingers, pushing for greater thought and engagement. The spindly, looping lines and angles of her figures have a mesmerising, haunting allure—visions of a new psychedelia 2.0, minus the dizzying colors and packed sights, but with all of the evocative emotional state.
A board artist at Cartoon Network, Maddie Sharafian’s comics are guaranteed to put you in a good mood; they brim with joy, fun, and verve, while also sometimes dealing with the darker stuff in life, too: “While on our way to pick up Solbi from the airport, I accidentally… thought about DEATH (a rookie mistake).” The undisputed highlight of Sharafian’s portfolio are her excellent recipe/cooking comics—here’s one for pork and cabbage over rice—that are interwoven with narratives. They’re are easy to follow, funny, and appealing, and will instantly make you want to reach for something to eat. She imbues her cute, cartoon style with dynamism and interest without straying into the saccharine.
Italian cartoonist and illustrator Bianca Bagnarelli is founder of publishing imprint Delebile, home of the acclaimed Mother anthologies. She’s contributed to Latvian comic compendium s! as well as the Eisner-nominated flagship Nobrow title, and last month won the Society Of Illustrators gold medal for short-form comic for Fish (Nobrow), about a young boy dealing with grief over the death of his parents. Her work is quietly stunning, composed with a eye for cohesive visual effect, and carries emotion in a very understated but emphatic manner that makes for greater impact. It’s lovely to look at, too: Her use of color and shape is intuitive, her lines clean—all of which make for some excellent comics.
7. Joy Ang
The term “deceptively simple” was probably invented for Joy Ang’s work. She keeps her cartooning almost minimal, but boy, does it pack some punches (see the delightfully creepy comic above). In fact, doing overly dramatically ominous is one of her talents. Those comics work so well thanks to Ang’s affinity with pacing and beats (the timing of which often provides the humor), as evidenced once again here as she slowly rises up, horror-film like, behind the cat. As with any good artist, she can adapt her style to the material, and it only takes a look at her hourly comics from February this year to gauge her quality: It’s a rare artist who can make not doing very much engrossing. Her illustration work is pretty nice, too.
8. Hwei Lim
Malaysian artist Hwei Lim’s gorgeous watercolors are instantly recognizable and nothing short of imperiously majestic; you may know her work from several comics which have gone viral, most notably her sumptuous 25 Lives poem. The clarity and rainbow of shades she’s able to tease from her watercolors is astonishing; Lim’s art appears so delicate and yet it has a liveliness that allows it to take on any almost any characteristic. See, for example, these fierce illustrations prompted by Jacques Derrida’s The Beast And The Sovereign, and then the philosophical, lyrical tilt of this installment of her webcomic, Hero. This summer she’ll be working with Emma Rios on Mirror, a miniseries under Brandon Graham’s 8House line, on which she and Rios will switch between writing and art duties from issue to issue.
Google artist Sophia Foster-Dimino has been creating comics for a few years, but 2014 saw her leave that job to pursue cartooning and illustration full-time. And it’s reaping dividends, especially for readers. Her style is semi-formalist, with lots of precise circles and lines, semi reminiscent of European clear line styles, each aspect of it carefully thought out, composed and placed. She recently completed a terrific Barbarella triptych, and her series of Sex Fantasy comics are a must-read, exploring the human psyche through the spectrum of intimacy, relationships, emotions and more are a class apart. Her ability to change things up from witchsonas, to magical girls, to Game Of Thrones art, is another of her many assets.