Self Made Hero logo

Authors' Spotlight: Aimée de Jongh

13 April 2024

Aimée de Jongh is an award-winning animator, comics artist and illustrator from the Netherlands. She published her first comic aged 17, before going on to study animation. She has since created work for children's books, TV shows, music videos and art installations, alongside numerous comic book series. Her animated film Aurora was screened widely in the Netherlands, and Janus, a video installation she created with the L.A.-based artist Miljohn Ruperto, was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art. The Return of the Honey Buzzard, her first graphic novel, won the Prix Saint-Michel, and her 2021 graphic novel Days of Sand was a two-time Eisner-nominee.

The 14th of April is Uppsala Comix festival, and (thanks to some generous assistance from the Dutch Foundation for Literature) we'll be there with multi-award-winning comic artist and animator Aimée de Jongh!

So, we decided to finally have a proper conversation with Aimée all about her unique journey from webcomics to daily strips to critically acclaimed graphic novels and animations.

SelfMadeHero: Before
Return of the Honey Buzzard (2014/16), which earned some major acclaim (and a film adaptation), you started out with a regular strip in the Netherlands’ Metro newspaper that ran from 2012 to 2017. Can you tell us more about it, and what it was like working on other graphic novels at the same time?

Aimée de Jongh: I've published comics online for a long time before I got into graphic novels. After I graduated from my Animation studies in Rotterdam, an editor from a Dutch newspaper had seen my comics online. I was asked to develop a daily comic series and I was lucky to have this job for the next 5 years. I wasn't only doing these strips, but also animation on the side and, a few years later, that graphic novel. I enjoyed everything. I mean, it was a lot of work and I struggled to have any free time left – but all these things gave me joy. Having that daily strip gave me a certain speed in drawing, a certain recklessness too, because you need to simply deliver a strip every day. Good or bad. I believe it really helped me further as an artist – I'm still quite quick when I draw.

SMH: Your next book after
Honey Buzzard was Blossoms in Autumn (2018/19), which was your first author-illustrator collaboration, with Belgian author Zidrou. How did you find the transition into that from a more solo-act creative process?

Aimée: I learned so much on that project. When working alone, you become such a hermit. It's you and your project against the world. But this time I had a partner and we had to make this book together. I learned to communicate my thoughts, my vision, my visual choices. He also pushed me to draw scenes that I would never have chosen. For example the supermarket scene. I HATE drawing supermarkets - all the shelves and products and all that perspective. But when Zidrou wrote that scene and explained the importance of it, I had no choice but to do it. He took me out of my comfort zone and that's never a bad thing!

SMH: We at SelfMadeHero had the pleasure of bringing both of those titles to the English-speaking monolinguals, as well as
Days of Sand in 2022 (which we’ll discuss more later). Have you been struck by any differences in how your work has been received abroad as opposed to at home?

Aimée: Interestingly, there are differences in the audiences I meet at festivals. In the Netherlands and Belgium, where I lived and studied, I hardly see young people, or women, LGBTQI readers. I miss that sometimes. When visiting other festivals around the world, it's sometimes the opposite, which is so interesting. The comics culture in each country has had different waves and origins, and I can almost see that history by just observing the crowds. The same goes for the reception of my books – they are read by different ages, genders, backgrounds. It's been a joy to discover that.

SMH: The international theme leads us into 2019’s Taxi!. What inspired this foray into the autobiographical? Was it anything to do with your previous books making their way out into the world?

Aimée: Yes, absolutely, it was inspired by the trips I made during promotional tours for my books. When doing such a tour, I would always start at a train station or airport and I'd have to take a taxi to my hotel. A few times, in Washington D.C. and Jakarta, I'd spent more than an hour in that car because of traffic. Then there's a point where you just start a conversation. And these conversations were wonderful. I know taxi drivers have a bad reputation – so with this book I wanted to share these moments, and perhaps change people's view a bit.

And from that we finally reach Days of Sand (2021/22), your first Eisner-nominated title, along with plenty of other accolades! Your works seem to have naturally expanded in terms of mediums, place, and subject matter. The research trip to America you took for this book based on an American historical figure – do you look back on it all as the height of that international motion?

Aimée: Definitely! I still think back of my research trip in Oklahoma as one of the best times in my career. I had no idea what to expect then – I had just sent out a bunch of emails to researchers in American libraries, museums and historical societies. Meeting these people there and talking about the subject of the book was incredible. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the graphic novel project. I drove from Oklahoma to California on the route that the migrants in the book would've taken. In California I was invited to a traditional "Okie BBQ" with historians, and I visited the migrant camp where John Steinbeck and Dorothea Lange wandered around, two of the biggest inspirations for the book. I thought at the time: even if nobody ever buys this book, at least I'd have the richness of that trip – and it would've been enough for me.

Another Eisner nomination came soon after for Sixty Years in Winter (2022), and this year your new adaptation of Lord of the Flies is on its way! One book about an older woman on the move, another famously about children trapped in one place… Is there a kind of symmetry (or asymmetry) to that?

Aimée: I never thought of symmetry in my work too much, because all these books have different origins (Sixty Years in Winter was written by Ingrid Chabbert, and roughly based on her friend's life). But I think 'change' is a recurring subject in all my books. Sometimes the characters choose to change something themselves, sometimes the change is forced upon them. But without change, there is no story... For example, I ride my bike to my studio and I pass the same vegetable stall every day, where an old guy sells his greens. One day, the stall wasn't there. And immediately I started wondering what had happened. Did he die? Did he decide to retire? That's a story. And basically all it is, is change, I think.

SMH: Alongside all of this, you’ve worked in both (graphic) journalism and animation, and you’ve also taught. So, especially considering today’s world demands more multidisciplinary work than ever, what do you want budding artists to learn from your own career?

Aimée: That's a difficult one to answer. The more I teach, the more I find out that every student is different and that there isn't one single path for everyone. My career was partly driven by luck, too. Being at the right time and the right place, and so on. I believe that if I'd been 21 now, it would've certainly been harder. I hope budding artists will have confidence in their work without needing to compare it to others. We're all individuals with a story to tell. Some things only you can say, so go on and use your work to say it. We need more voices. It's the only way we'll understand other people.

If you fancy meeting us and Aimée in Uppsala (with some events in English!), email for tickets info while you still can!

And head here to read more about Aimée's life and career, and to see more of her work!

Authors' Spotlight: Ruins Q&A with Peter Kuper

29 February 2024

Samantha and George are a couple heading towards a sabbatical year in the quaint Mexican town of Oaxaca. For Samantha, it is the opportunity to revisit her past. For George, it is an unsettling step into the unknown. For both of them, it will be a collision course with political and personal events that will alter their paths and the town of Oaxaca forever. In tandem, the remarkable and arduous journey that a Monarch butterfly endures on its annual migration from Canada to Mexico is woven into Ruins. This creates a parallel picture of the challenges of survival in our ever-changing world.
Ruins explores the shadows and light of Mexico through its past and present as encountered by an array of characters. The real and surreal intermingle to paint an unforgettable portrait of life south of the Rio Grande.

After its Eisner win in 2016, Ruins returns TODAY in paperback! Click here for a preview!

We sat down with author/illustrator Peter Kuper for a chat about his history with entomology, conservation, and the past, present, and future of Ruins.

You recently described in Fictionable how moving to Oaxaca and visiting the Monarch sanctuary fulfilled a “lifelong dream” – Ruins came out years later, but how far back do its migratory themes go for you?

Peter Kuper: I was probably five years old when I'd heard about the existence of a place where Monarch butterflies would migrate, but in the western world exactly where millions of them flew remained a mystery. The image of a gathering of butterflies was lodged in my brain from then until 1976 when National Geographic magazine had a cover story on the discovery of the mountain location. I pored over those images of trees filled with Monarchs and it still took me another 30 years before I could see it for myself. It ended up more spectacular than anything I had imagined.

SMH: Entomology is also a lifelong passion for you, obviously. Did living in Oaxaca bring out your inner conservationist, or does that specific passion go back further as well?

Peter: Thanks to my parents, I had the good fortune to travel starting at a young age. My father had been a boy scout and my family camped with a tent and explored nature as long as I can remember. My father, a college professor, was always finding mushrooms to cook and foraging. We spent his sabbatical year traveling summers in a VW minivan through Europe and then lived for a year in Israel. I continued to travel as an adult – I met my wife while traveling in Spain and she and I spent years traveling around the world (Africa, Middle East, South East Asia, Central America) before moving to Oaxaca with our daughter. These travels opened my eyes to the planet and made me very aware of our limited resources and the value of basic things, like clean water.

That move to Oaxaca in 2006–2008 was with your wife and daughter, and you raised Monarchs there. In Ruins, Samantha and George take a lot of familial baggage on their Oaxacan sabbatical. Why turn a place you and your family know so well into a proving ground for characters with those anxieties?

Peter:  I had done a good amount of autobiography in my career and wanted to explore beyond that. Creating fictional characters allowed me to put them in the center of things we had experienced from the sidelines. Many aspects were based on people I knew from our time there and I used that as a jumping off point. I had some idea about what would happen when I started, but as I wrote and drew it, the characters seemed to come alive and behave in ways I hadn't anticipated. I felt like I set certain things in motion, but the characters seemed to dictate some unexpected directions. I didn’t begin knowing exactly how the story would turn out, it was a process of discovery that expanded my work.

SMH: Colour is a powerful tool in Ruins. For years people have been poking fun at depictions of Mexico in film and television, where colours are often yellowed and muted. Conversely, you show colours brightening and diversifying as the characters travel south. Was this choice made with any motive beyond capturing the country’s vibrancy?

Peter: During the two years we lived here, I drew in my sketchbook constantly – that became an entire book published before Ruins called Diario de Oaxaca. I had time to take in the environment and all the colours and that poured into Ruins.
I really like the idea of playing with style and used that as a way to separate both chapters and locations. So in the beginning when my characters are in NYC the more rigid and linear environment of the city is in pen and ink with digital colouring. When they reach Oaxaca it changes and becomes more like my sketchbook drawings with coloured pencils and watercolour. I wanted to give the readers the same feeling I had arriving in Mexico – the wonderful foreignness, so much more organic than New York. Every other chapter is taken by the Monarch's migration from Canada and I did that in monochrome blues for the background so the butterfly would pop and your eye would land on the Monarch. Those chapters are also wordless which is another switch in tone to put readers in a different state of mind.

The cast of Ruins all have very specific perspectives. There are also great differences in terms of what means of seeing they use and what aspects of the world they tend to notice. Even the eponymous ruins play into the characters’ ways of seeing. Where did that particular throughline come from?

Peter: I tried to make the characters as real as the people I knew and so they naturally saw the world from different perspectives. The environment is an important character as well – there's so much history here on every street, the ghosts of the past abound. Living here gave me a strong sense of that – the visual contrast of someone on a cell phone walking past crumbling remnants of vanished empires inspired many visions. The journey the Monarch takes was a natural way to show contrasts and the struggle nature faces confronted by our modern world.

SMH:  Has anything changed since Ruins’ original release in terms of what you hope readers learn from it, or even what it means to you as part of your body of work? Have things like your INterSECTS exhibition changed how you look back on Ruins?

Peter: I am deeply pleased to have Ruins come out at this moment, it's still fresh for me and I hope readers will find that too.
The plight of the Monarch has increased and their numbers are dwindling, so that's a horrifying direction that has only increased since Ruins was first published. The exhibition I had in 2022 at the New York Public Library reminded me how much Ruins informed where my work was heading. I had a fellowship at the Library in 2020-21 working on a graphic novel I proposed about the history of insects and the people who study them. Showing work from Ruins was one of the reasons they gave me the fellowship. I'm now finishing the final chapter of that book, INSECTOPOLIS, that takes what I started in Ruins following one Monarch and expands it into the story of dozens of insects. Ruins was a project that reminded me how interested I am in entomology and it links up as a bridge to my very current project. The fact that I'm writing these answers sitting in Oaxaca, where I've returned once again, closes the circle.

SMH: Ending on a lighter note, please tell us one of your favourite facts about the Monarch butterfly.

Peter: We still don't know exactly how Monarchs know how to find the very same forest in Mexico – one they have to fly thousands of miles to reach. Earth's electromagnetic field? The smell of fallen ancestors? A butterfly God whispers in their ear? We live in a world that is full of beautiful, unsolved mysteries.

Ruins returns in paperback TODAY in the UK, and migrates stateside on March 5th!

Amazon UK - Amazon US - - Hive - Waterstones - Barnes & Noble

The SelfMadeHero team

SelfMadeHero New Season Spring 2024

19 January 2024

Dear SelfMadeHero readers, 

We hope you had a great holiday season! To take the edge off January, how about some info on our upcoming Spring titles? Coming soon we have:

Ruins by Peter Kuper, returning in paperback.
The Last Queen by Snowpiercer creator Jean-Marc Rochette.*
The Anxiety Club, written by Dr Frédéric Fanget and Catherine Meyer, illustrated by Pauline Aubry.*
George Sand by Séverine Vidal and Kim Consigny.*
                                                             *Translated by Edward Gauvin.

Peter Kuper’s Ruins won the 2016 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album, and this year we’re thrilled to say that it’s returning in paperback!

In Ruins, Samantha and George are about to launch into a sabbatical year in the quaint Mexican town of Oaxaca. For Samantha, their journey to this historic town is about fulfilling a life-long dream; for George, it is an unsettling step into the unknown.

Publishers Weekly called Ruins “magnificent… a beautiful, epic roman à clef about the importance of seeking the new and questioning the old.” 


Jean-Marc Rochette, co-creator of Snowpiercer and the Eisner-nominated Altitude, returns with The Last Queen, a multi-award-winning celebration of the subjects most dear to him: the mountains, and the balance between man and nature.

Édouard Roux, once an outcast youth feared as a child of bears and witches, is left disfigured and alone in the aftermath of the Great War. But when the animal sculptor Jeanne Sauvage grants Édouard the face of Hercules, life begins anew.

The Guardian wrote of Altitude: “Propelled by bravado and undercut by the very real risk of death, Jean-Marc’s story carries serious emotional clout, while its colourful panels capture the stark geometry of cliff faces and dangling ropes.”


The Anxiety Club introduces three characters, each with a different form of anxiety. We follow their stories, and follow them into the therapy room where they discover the behavioural, cognitive and emotional tools to help free themselves from anxious thinking.

Created by psychiatrist and leading anxiety expert Dr. Frédéric Fanget, veteran psychology writer/editor Catherine Meyer, and seasoned artist Pauline Aubry, this accessible, YA-friendly graphic self-help handbook helps the reader to identify, understand and manage anxiety. 


The latest in SelfMadeHero’s acclaimed series of graphic biographies, George Sand dutifully explores the life of one of the great pioneering figures of 19th-century French literature. 
Born in 1804 – at a time when women were deprived of their civil rights (along with minors, criminals, and the insane) – Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (later known as George Sand) grew up to defy those norms, both in her life and her forty-year career as a novelist and playwright. 


We have big plans for this season, these exciting titles, and the year as a whole! So, thank you for reading, and watch this space…

The SelfMadeHero Team

2023 Christmas Wrap-Up

23 December 2023

Monarchs, painters, runners, starmen! And not to mention some stars newly rising as we speak…Thank you all for joining us for this holiday wrap-up of 2023! And without further ado:
Created by Francisco de la Mora and endorsed by the Frida Kahlo Museum, this year’s first new title was Frida Kahlo: Her Life, Her Work, Her Home.

2023 also saw another Kleist crack at a musical icon with STARMAN: Bowie’s Stardust Years. Gosh! Comics even hosted this amazing launch event!

April was a regal month, with Teresa Tobertson and Leo Schulz bringing us The Comical Eye’s British Monarchy. (This would later make it to the US in time for the finale of The Crown…)

We went into the next month Armed with Madness thanks to Bryan and Mary Talbot’s surreal portrait of Leonora Carrington. Special thanks to the Cartoon Museum and Gosh! (again) for helping us share that madness with the world.

The Cartoon Museum had us back soon after, with a flood of curious souls coming to see Jurga Vilé discuss Siberian Haiku with LDComics’ Rachael Ball.

Who better to tell an oft-forgotten artist’s story than an award-winning legend like Oscar Zarate? Thomas Girtin: The Forgotten Painter was launched  in June with a colourful splash at Camden Image Gallery.

Ironically, things really heated up in September, starting with SPX! We got to show off Zarate and Kleist, and also debut Mylo Choy’s Middle Distance!

Soon after, we started on one of the highlights of the year. The First Graphic Novel Award brought in 170 entrants, twice more than the last competition… And then on to LICAF (after wrangling Oscar, the Talbots, and the Rickards into coming)!

There, on International Translation Day, Michele Hutchison scored her own accolade: the inaugural Sophie Castille Awards for Comics in Translation, earned through her work on The Philosopher, the Dog and the Wedding.

As November rolled in, we celebrated Middle Distance arriving in the US with a talk and a signing at P&T Knitwear!

Meanwhile, back in October the FGN judges had managed to whittle 170 entries down to a healthy longlist of 30. When Thought Bubblerolled around the FGN wheels kept turning with the 7-strong shortlistbeing announced live and in person!

Then we returned to Sophie’s World with the second volume of Vincent Zabus and Nicoby’s graphic adaptation of Jostein Gaarder’s groundbreaking classic!

The capstone on our 2023 was the First Graphic Novel award ceremony at Waterstones Piccadilly! Seven shortlisters, seven judges, a sold-out crowd, and one winner: Alexander Taylor’s Bone Broth!

Everyone involved in FGN is still reeling from all the enthusiasm and support we’ve found at every step – not to mention the amazing coverage, like the live on-air announcement from Radio 4!

So this wraps up 2023 for us here at SelfMadeHero. For now, thank you for an amazing year, we wish you all the happiest holidays, and watch this space to see what 2024 might bring!

- The SelfMadeHero Team

FIRST GRAPHIC NOVEL: Meet the Winner! (And a Q&A)

12 December 2023

A coming-of-age queer thriller, following Ash, a young transmasculine queer person, starting his first job in a ramen shop. As he begins to learn the process of making bone broth ramen, he suddenly finds himself caught up in how to cover up the death of his boss after a staff party.

Yesterday in Waterstones Piccadilly, from 170 total entries, a longlist of 30, and a final shortlist of 7 creators, the winner of the 2023 First Graphic Novel Award was announced: Alexander Taylor with Bone Broth!
As the winner, Taylor has secured a publication contract from SelfMadeHero and a £500 cash prize (sponsored by The bks Agency).

Over the last month, we presented the shortlisted creators with a few questions. Here are Alexander's answers.

SelfMadeHero: What's a key experience with the comics medium that led you to where you are now?

Alexander Taylor: When I was around eleven years old, for my mum’s birthday I wrote her a comic called Bill. I remember working really hard on it, staying up late, wracking my brain for good ideas with no real experience or understanding of how to write a comic. I remember just the tidal wave of pride I felt wash over me when I finished it and could hold this thing I’d made in my hands, it wasn’t something I was used to experiencing much. I remember how happy my mum was to receive and read it, and how happy that made me, and it solidified in my mind a theory that had been building for a while up to that point – comics are the coolest things ever.

SMH: How did you learn about the First Graphic Novel Award? Were you aware of it before submissions opened this year?

I learned about the First Graphic Novel Award while tabling at South London Comic and Zine Fair earlier this year. I got to meet so many talented and creative artists, who all had a profound impact on how I view the breadth and diversity of the comic scene in the UK, and discovered the work of Ed Firth a Myriad competition 2020 finalist, and in looking for more of his work online I stumbled upon the First Graphic Novel Award.

SMH: Has entering this competition helped you learn anything about the comics world that you didn’t know before? Could be something about the scene, the behind-the-scenes, or even your own creative process.

Alexander: I grew up in France for the first half of my childhood, where the accessibility of Franco-Belgian comics was truly a blessing. Bandes dessinées are completely mainstream, and being a cartoonist seemed like a legit career. When we moved back to England, I completely lost sight of the possibility of creating comics for a long time. But through this competition, seeing the skill in the shortlisted and longlisted entries, the overwhelming energy at Thought Bubble Festival, seeing the generously positive response people have shown my work, I feel like my eyes have been properly opened to the comics scene we have here and it is dazzling. The calibre and range of the work that exists is enough to feed the ever-hungry fire in the belly of any storyteller.

SMH: In a nutshell, what aspect of your work are you most excited for people to experience? This could be anything – visual, narrative, thematic?

Alexander: I hope people can just have fun reading Bone Broth. Of course, I want people to enjoy the ingredients like the whimsical storytelling and style, or all of my characters with their ridiculous names, or the spookier moments in the story and the framing around them. But more than anything the story was born from many tedious hours spent daydreaming at the restaurant I chef in, counting down the minutes till I could run home and weave some fun and friendship into it all. I hope people can feel the same way reading Bone Broth as they would enjoying a delicious balmy bowl of it, and put it down feeling warmer and full, at least for a little while.
SMH: The comics scene is always evolving, but are there any current changes or developments that you find interesting or encouraging? If so, what are they, and what do they mean to you?

Alexander: Transgender Comics!

SMH: Winner or not, where would you like your experience with the First Graphic Novel Award to take you in the future?

Alexander: I think the First Graphic Novel Award has just built up so much momentum in me. Before, I felt very unsure about whether there was any room for my comics out there, and about my own abilities. I didn’t know how to even begin navigating the world of comics. Plus, comics are a real labour of love. I wasn't sure I could invest all the time I knew this story needed to be great with no promise of return. And all of these arguments are still to a smaller extent true.
But here’s the thing, I learned to draw in the first place because my two older sisters were awesome at it. That injustice filled me with a glorious rage, propelling me into drawing in every second of free time I had for years. In my experience with the First Graphic Novel Award, seeing the quality of the work of both longlisted and the other shortlisted applicants, I am once again filled with a rage that will push me to create comics for the rest of my life. This is a gift greater than any award, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone involved, artists and organisers alike, for this whole experience.