This holiday season I had another installment of Frontier, from small press publisher Youth in Decline to look forward to, a press who have conscientiously kept up with me despite my geographical wanderings. With the Frontier series, you never know quite what to expect, since they feature a new theme and artist each time, and this one, #14, was equally unique.
It's a collection of materials by Rebecca Sugar, an animator and composer, also known as the creator of the groundbreaking animated series Steven Universe and a writer and storyboarder for Adventure Time. This book provides an alluring look at some of her earlier, unfinished work, and features comics and process sketches. Collectively, these materials says a lot about the way we dream and think about the comics medium as well as storytelling. The materials suggest ways in which the creators are a part of the story before the story can be part of the reader, too.
Rebecca Sugar created a comic featuring a "self-insert" character from high school called Margo, a dancer, and Rad Rover, a character based on 90's cartoons, her Prince Charming. The comic was meant to be about "an adult woman revisiting a childhood crush" on the cartoon character. She never completed it, but the sketched comic pages remain. With added notes and reframed thoughts, these pages make up Frontier #14.
Rebecca Sugar's pencil lines are mesmerizing–the almost renaissance sketchbook feel of the heavily lined process pages make for an intriguing reading experience as you piece together your own narrative. It contains layers of life, layers of fantasy, obsession, and a cooler eye from her modern perspective, particularly on the subject of relationships.
Sugar revisits childhood and the impact of animation through art and through the earlier layer of an unfinished work on the subject. But deep down, the book is a lot about dancing. About the movement of animation, perhaps and how to convey that love of animation in still form.
The movement of the characters seems to strain off the page and challenge the limitations of line drawing–containing a tremendous energy. Sugar captures her proto-work in a new net for herself and for readers of Frontier #14.
Youth in Decline are planning three publications in 2017, announcing them in March. You can check out their other publications and their subscription services here. You can also contact them at: youthindecline@