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Illustration of a hand sketching out the title of a graphic novel, reading: 'GRAPHIC ANTHOLOGY PROGRAMME'

SelfMadeHero's Graphic Anthology Programme

If you are a UK-based budding comic-book artist from a Black, Asian, Arab, mixed-race, Romani/Traveller or non-white Latinx background, and you’d like to be part of a mentoring programme that culminates in your work being published by SelfMadeHero, then look no further than our Graphic Anthology Programme.

Working in partnership with writer development agency Spread the Word, SelfMadeHero will identify eight exceptional emerging comic-book artists and give them the tools to become publishable creators. Beginning this May, participants will embark on a free 12-week online mentoring programme led by four established graphic novelists: Asia Alfasi, Catherine Anyango Grünewald, Sonia Leong and Woodrow Phoenix. With the mentors’ support, each participant will create a graphic short story, which will then be included in an anthology to be published by SelfMadeHero in October 2021.

During the 12-week programme, participants will work to improve every aspect of their creative practice, from plotting and pacing to language and layout. They will learn how to successfully plan a project, work to deadlines and develop the resilience and skills that a career in graphic novels requires.

Alongside weekly mentoring sessions, the programme will provide participants with an introduction to the comic-book industry, eight masterclasses from industry professionals and first-hand experience of working with a publisher. The core publishing, editorial and design/production team is made up of Emma Hayley, Txabi Jones and Ayoola Solarin. Spread the Word, London’s writer development agency, is an advisor to the programme and will support participants’ writing development. At the end of the programme, participants’ graphic short stories will be published in an anthology by SelfMadeHero that will be launched at the 2021 Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF).

Promoting diversity in comics publishing
Free 12-week mentoring programme
For budding comic-book artists

The mentors

Each mentor is highly experienced in their field, delivering mentoring, feedback and masterclasses to help participants create a graphic short story over the 12-week programme.

Photo of Catherine Anyango Grunewald.Jpg

“Stories have the power to affect the way we view the world; stories in the form of text and image have a special power to address our emotional sensibilities by delivering a multilayered experience. It is important to support the telling of stories in all formats, and by all voices. The more we learn about various experiences through narrative, the more empathetic towards those experiences we become. I hope that the Graphic Anthology Programme platform can empower its readers to enrich and expand their worldview, and empower the artists involved to trust in the importance of their stories and the beauty of their expression.” – Catherine Anyango Grünewald


Catherine Anyango Grünewald, a published graphic novelist and teacher, taught at the Royal College of Art in London for 10 years and is now a Senior Lecturer in Illustration at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. She illustrated a graphic novel adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness for SelfMadeHero in 2010, and in 2019 was awarded the Navigator Art on Paper Prize, the biggest award for work-on-paper in the world. She is currently working on a graphic novel adaptation of Sister Helen Prejean’s Dead Man Walking (Random House, forthcoming). In 2021, Phaidon’s Vitamin D3 included her among the 100 best practitioners of contemporary drawing.

“You cannot place the responsibility for your own representation on others. No one else can express your reality like you.” – Asia Alfasi


Asia Alfasi has won several national and international manga awards for her short stories, earning her a position in London’s acclaimed 2014 “Comics Unmasked” exhibition at the British Library. She is currently working on a graphic novel based on her own childhood in Libya; a series based on a character from Islamic folklore, Juha: The Tales of Sheikh Nasruddin; and Native Narratives, a collection of Libyan folk tales – with the ultimate aim of harnessing the medium as a tool for cross-cultural dialogue.

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“The lack of professional provision and access for non-white comics creators is very real. It’s great to see a very necessary correction from SMH with this new initiative.” – Woodrow Phoenix


Woodrow Phoenix is a writer, artist and graphic designer based in London and Cambridge. His work has appeared in national UK newspapers including The Guardian, The Independent and the London Evening Standard, in magazines and comics collections across Europe, the US and Japan and in television projects for Walt Disney and Cartoon Network. His books include Plastic Culture, the critically acclaimed Rumble Strip, the award-winning anthology Nelson and the experimental She Lives, a gallery installation that is also a graphic novel. Woodrow is a Visiting Lecturer teaching the MA in Graphic Novels and Children’s Books at Middlesex University. His most recent book is Crash Course (2020).

“Having delivered many Manga and comic-book workshops in schools across the UK, I know how much representation matters to the young people I speak to. Seeing an outspoken woman of Chinese descent achieve success in the UK comic-book industry surprises and inspires them in equal measure. I regularly receive letters from past students who’ve gone on to pursue careers in art, illustration, writing and publishing. I’m honoured to be part of this initiative to highlight and nurture talented artists of colour.”
– Sonia Leong


Sonia Leong is a comics/manga illustrator and author of many drawing guides, including Draw Manga: Complete Skills (Search Press). Her debut graphic novel was the Manga Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (SelfMadeHero), and her most recent book was Great Lives: Marie Curie (B.E.S. Publishing). She also illustrates for children’s books, fashion, advertising, film and television. She is the Director of Sweatdrop Studios, an independent comic publisher based in the United Kingdom.

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The core publishing team

SelfMadeHero’s production team for the Graphic Anthology Programme will include editor Ayoola Solarin, graphic designer Txabi Jones and publisher Emma Hayley. All have a high level of expertise in creating graphic novels.

“There is a vast array of talent in UK comics, but, like many other creative sectors, it has a long way to go in acknowledging and showcasing the contribution of artists of colour to the industry. My hope is that the launch of SelfMadeHero’s Graphic Anthology Programme will go a little way towards dissolving the gatekeeping that still permeates the UK comics scene, while giving space for new, innovative voices to be heard.” – Ayoola Solarin


Ayoola Solarin is a comics editor, critic and arts writer. She has worked with numerous award-winning creators, and her byline features include The Guardian, Dazed, Vulture, i-D and Hyperallergic, among other publications. She is currently working in production on Netflix’s DEADENDIA television series.

Photo of Ayoola Solarin
Photo of Emma Hayley

“The UK comics scene is young, vibrant and culturally progressive, yet there remains a lack of ethnic diversity among published artists and writers. The launch of our Graphic Anthology Programme marks an important step in acknowledging, addressing and reducing this disparity.” – Emma Hayley


Emma Hayley launched SelfMadeHero in 2007, after spotting a gap in the market for high quality graphic novels. Her background in publishing, following a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism at City University, London, has seen her work as a journalist, as a film publicist and as an Editorial Director for several small publishers. Since launching her own company, her focus has shifted to the entrepreneurial face of book publishing, while remaining hands-on in commissioning new titles.

“SelfMadeHero’s Graphic Anthology Programme will give ethnically diverse artists a long-needed, powerful tool to creatively tell their stories and to inspire the UK comics scene… and hopefully beyond.”
– Txabi Jones


Txabi Jones is a freelance graphic designer from Bilbao who has been living in London and working for corporate and not-for-profit organisations for over 20 years. He has been with the SelfMadeHero team since October 2015. Txabi loves books and typography, and wishes he could play any musical instrument. Instead, he enjoys going to music events.

Photo of Txabi Jones


The criteria for this development opportunity are as follows:

• You are an artist from a Black, Asian, Arab, mixed-race, Romani/Traveller or non-white Latinx background.

• You have not had a full-length graphic novel published by a traditional print publisher. However, you are still eligible if you have had a short story published by a traditional print publisher or if you have self-published comics.

• You do not have a literary agent representing you for graphic novels.
• You are 18+.
• You are a UK resident.


Submissions will be assessed by the mentoring and publishing team.

Photo of Catherine Anyango Grünewald

Catherine Anyango Grünewald

Photo of Asia Alfasi

Asia Alfasi

Photo of Woodrow Phoenix

Woodrow Phoenix

Photo of Sonia Leong

Sonia Leong

Photo of Ayoola Solarin

Ayoola Solarin

Photo of Emma Hayley

Emma Hayley

Photo of Txabi Jones

Txabi Jones

How to apply

The Graphic Anthology Programme launches with an open call for submissions on Friday, 19 February 2021. You will be asked why you want to participate in the programme, what interests you about it and how you think you’ll benefit. You will also be asked to tell us a bit about your background – your previous experience in comics, whether you have ever self-published anything, any relevant courses or university degrees (not essential) and why you think you’re a suitable candidate for this programme. We won’t expect an essay here, just a few sentences. Finally, and most importantly, you will be asked to submit some examples of your work: between 4 (minimum) and 10 (maximum) pages of sequential comics art.

Deadline for submissions is 26 March 2021.

You can apply in various ways. Please choose ONE of the following:

• Online through our Submittable page: submit
Please note that you will need a Submittable account to make your application and submit your artwork. Sign-up is free.
• Using a paper form downloadable here and posted (together with your artwork) to: SelfMadeHero (GAP), 139 Pancras Road, London, NW1 1UN. Please note that we will not be able to return physical copies of artwork.
• As an audio or video file submitted (together with your artwork) through our Submittable page. If you have access requirements and need further assistance to apply, please email: [email protected].

FAQ | Eligibility Criteria | Terms & Conditions

Key dates

Call for participants: 19 February to 26 March 2021.

Successful applicants will be notified the week commencing 19 April 2021.

Mentoring programme: 18 May to 11 August 2021 (3 hours a week + 8 masterclasses).

Launch of graphic anthology: 15 October 2021.

The mentoring programme is provided free of charge to participants. This was only made possible thanks to public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, and additional support from SelfMadeHero, Abrams & Chronicle Books, Oiffy and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. The programme is run in partnership with Spread the Word.

Read more

Spread the Word is a charity and a National Portfolio client of Arts Council England. It is funded to help London’s writers make their mark on the page, on the screen and in the world, and to build strategic partnerships to foster a literature ecology that reflects the cultural diversity of contemporary Britain. Spread the Word has a national and international reputation for initiating change-making research and developing programmes for writers that have equity and social justice at their heart. In 2020, it launched Rethinking ‘Diversity’ in Publishing by Dr Anamik Saha and Dr Sandra van Lente, Goldsmiths, University of London, in partnership with The Bookseller and Words of Colour. Spread the Word’s programmes include: the Young People’s Laureate for London, the London Writers Awards and the national Life Writing Prize.

Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. They have set out their strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 they want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high quality cultural experiences. They invest public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.

Abrams & Chronicle Books distribute a wide range of award-winning books, gift products and stationery. Based in London, Abrams & Chronicle Books is the European arm of two acclaimed US publishing houses, ABRAMS, based in New York, and Chronicle Books, based in San Francisco. Their illustrious lists include best-selling and globally renowned authors, illustrators, designers, artists, chefs and photographers.

Oiffy is a production company established in 2011 by directors/writers Jörg Tittel and Alex Helfrecht and producer Philip Munger. They make films, TV, theatre, games and comic books. Alex is currently directing the painted animated feature A Winter’s Journey, which she adapted from Franz Schubert’s masterpiece. The film will star John Malkovich and Martina Gedeck. Jörg is writing and directing a game for VR and next-gen consoles with art by Mick McMahon. An animated feature based on his graphic novel Ricky Rouse Has a Gun is also in the works.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival, often referred to as LICAF, is an annual comics art festival held in Kendal, a market town on the edge of the English Lake District in the UK. Established in 2013, the not-for-profit festival takes place over a weekend in October each year, as the culmination of a year-round programme of education, commissioning and international work.