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I got to know Ryan Sands almost 10 years ago, when he was publishing the strangest manga I had ever seen on his blog Same Hat! Since then, I’ve watched him follow his enthusiasm for innovative comics as the publisher of the Electric Ant zine, the translator of Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island for Last Gasp and now, as he explained to Chris Mautner in August, the creator of his own small press, Youth in Decline.
His flagship publication is Frontier, an anthology series in which each issue is a complete comic by a single creator. Frontier ended 2014 strong with comics by Emily Carroll and Sam Alden, and this year’s lineup looks equally good, with Jillian Tamaki, Anna Deflorian, Becca Tobin and Michael DeForge on the roster.
Sands has signed up some of the most interesting up-and-coming creators in the indie comics scene and has presented their works in interesting and sophisticated ways, so I asked him to talk to me in depth about his work on Frontier.
Brigid Alverson: The Frontier anthology seems to be evolving into a place for side stories or experimental work by creators who are already working on other, longer projects. Do you think these comics would be published if not for Frontier?
Ryan Sands: The goal for the Frontier series is to spotlight each individual artist and a distinct story or collection of work. I tried to set out the goal pretty explicitly on our site when starting Frontier, saying we’d focus on three types of books: up-and-coming talent in the North American indie scene, introducing the work of international artists I like, and presenting “uncommon dispatches” from more-established creators. The first year of Frontier was mostly focused on the first two goals, but with Sam Alden and Emily Carroll’s books — and now with Jillian Tamaki and Michael DeForge creating issues for 2015—I’m hoping to mix in some of these interesting stories from established creators.
Comics are art, never forget that. And while epic storytelling has been the staple of serialized comics for decades, it’s the art that makes these comics … well, comics. And a long-time devotee of the more esoteric and outsider veins of comic art is now putting it under one roof with a new publishing house called Youth in Decline.
Described on its Twitter page as “a publisher of lovely and strange comics & zines,” Youth in Decline is a new boutique publisher headed by Ryan Sands of the blog Same Hat, a proponent of comics zine culture and underground manga. Sands worked behind the scenes in comics for years, editing and translating manga for Last Gasp as well publishing zines like Electric Ant, the anthology Thickness and Prison For Bitches with Michael DeForge. The first publication coming from Sands’ Youth in Decline is an ongoing anthology series titled Frontier, with each issue devoted to a single artist.