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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

Seven exceptional UK-based budding comic-book artists from diverse backgrounds have been chosen to be part of SelfMadeHero’s Graphic Anthology Programme (GAP).

Following a huge response to the February call-out for SelfMadeHero’s Graphic Anthology Programme (GAP), with over 60 applications, the GAP judges officially selected the following seven participants: Charlotte Bailey, Jason Chuang, Dominique Duong, Shuning Ji, Pris Lemons, Calico N.M. and Tyrell Osborne. All participants are UK-based, and none has had a full-length comic published by a traditional print publisher.

Designed to find, develop, publish, and promote emerging comic-book artists from diverse backgrounds from across the UK, the GAP has begun its 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 gain the skills to become publishable creators, and create a graphic short story, which will be included in the anthology titled Catalyst to be published by SelfMadeHero.

Sonia Leong says: “It was illuminating and encouraging to see the high standard of entries to this programme. The artists we selected have great energy in their work, with a real ‘wow’ factor and strikingly different styles that make you want more, more, more! I'm very excited to be working with them to bring their work to a wider audience because they deserve to be seen.”

Woodrow Phoenix says: “We were thrilled with the high quality of the top 20 applicants for this programme, which proved there was a need for something like this. Ultimately, the seven that got through were chosen as much for their ability to think conceptually as for their drawing skills. We hope that will come through in brilliant stories for Catalyst.”

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

Alongside weekly mentoring sessions, the programme will provide participants with an introduction to the comic-book industry, eight craft and four career 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.

Catalyst will be launched on 16 October 2021 at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF).

The participants

Photo of Charlotte Bailey
Charlotte Bailey

Charlotte Bailey is a Birmingham-based cartoonist, who explores Black British heritage and potential futures through her work. She has published, edited and collaborated on a number of zines and journals, including the graphic essays “From Stigma Power to Black Power” with sociologist professor Imogen Tyler, “Code-switching” for Afroflux, and “Afrofuturism” for How We Get to Next, and wrote episode two of Planet DIVOC-91, an allegorical sci-fi webcomic about the pandemic. Charlotte has also been on the team behind the international graphic novel forum LDComics and has hosted workshops with Afrofutures UK. Her work has been exhibited at the Angoulême International Comics Festival, the Sunny Bank Mills Panel Show Exhibition in Leeds, the Jewish Museum London, and The Cartoon Museum in London, and was published in the widely celebrated anthology The Inking Woman: 250 Years of British Women Cartoon and Comic Artists.

Photo of Jason Chuang
Jason Chuang

Born and raised in Taiwan, Jason Chuang moved to the UK when he was 15 and subsequently pursued an illustration degree at Falmouth University, and is currently finishing up his Master’s degree at RCA’s Visual Communication course. He is interested in the exploration of human emotions through the creation of symbolic imagery coated with elements of the absurd and the poetic. Passionate about narrative, Jason often ponders on impossible situations, projecting himself into endless alternate universes and constantly searching for new ways to tell stories. His work aims to offer the audience an alternative world that is distinctly different from reality, but somehow closer to the truth.

Photo of Dominique Duong
Dominique Duong

Dominique Duong is an illustrator and comics artist living and working in London. Her work has been published by Imagine FX, The Covent Gardener, The Psychologist, and AppBox Media, and she was one of Broken Frontier’s “Six Small Press Creators to Watch” in 2020. Fascinated by the macabre, the surreal, and the magical, and influenced by mythology, fairy tales, nature, and folklore, Dominique creates diverse, queer fantasy and horror stories. She also runs art workshops on bookbinding, drawing and inking.

Photo of Shuning Ji
Shuning Ji

Shuning Ji studied illustration as a postgraduate at The University of Edinburgh. She is a comic-book artist and character designer, and is currently working on a comic about Chinese slang, which will be published in July 2021. Born in China, Shuning now lives and works in Edinburgh.

Photo of Pris Lemons
Pris Lemons

Pris Lemons is a queer artist from the Cayman Islands, who now lives in Scotland. Their work is autobiographical and focuses primarily on gender and sexuality through character design and comics. Colour, symbolism, and humour are key elements of their process, as is demonstrating sensitivity and vulnerability when exploring difficult narratives drawn from their own queer experience. Taking inspiration from film, animation, and real life, Pris highlights the feeling of living between worlds, redefining the internal contradictions in their culture and upbringing by making them tangible and beautiful.

Photo of Calico N.M.
Calico N.M.

Calico N.M. is a comics artist, illustrator, and animator, and is currently studying at Kingston University London. Born in Egypt and now living in the UK, they have created a number of small, self-published zines and webcomics, as well as being featured in community-based illustration anthologies under the pen name Neomints.

Photo of Tyrell Osborne
Tyrell Osborne

Since graduating with a BA in illustration from Middlesex University in 2020, Tyrell Osborne has continued to add to his skill sets, both digital and traditional, incorporating pen and ink, printmaking, life drawing, and visual storytelling. He is interested in exploring both personal and commercial projects, and has previously created protest posters for recent political and global events, a graphic novel, an illustrated biography, film posters, intimate family portraits, and a panoramic narrative. Tyrell lives and works in London.

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.

Photo of Asia Alfasi.Png
Photo of Woodrow Phoenix.Jpg

“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.

Photo of Sonia Leong.Jpg

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 were 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

Key dates

Call for participants: 19 February to 26 March 2021.

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

Mentoring programme: 19 May to 11 August 2021 (3 hours a week + 8 craft masterclasses).

Launch of graphic anthology: 16 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, The Lakes International Comic Art Festival and The Society of Authors. 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.

The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers.