Comics and Graphic Novels

Avenida Marginal Project: ten years promoting Comics and Illustration

This article aims to present the Avenida Marginal Project and its contribution to activate a creative network on Comics and Illustration within Portuguese-speaking countries. The project intends to promote Portuguese-speaking authors, to encourage training in Comics and Illustration, to promote visual literacy in a dynamic of cultural decentralization through a comics contest, fanzines, exhibitions, and workshops.

I founded the Avenida Marginal Project, which was born of the intrinsic will to experiment and create, focused on Comics and Illustration, with the help of an Azorean newspaper and the Polytechnic Institute of Beja, where I worked as a teacher (2007-2015). The project involves three essential components:

1) An international comics contest [01] directed to all Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Portugal, Saint Thomas and Prince, and East Timor), a triennial characterized by only accepting short stories told in one-page;

2) An illustration and comics fanzine (printed and digital) that publishes known authors, new artists, and students;

3) The organization of exhibitions to promote the authors that participate in the contest, and workshops to promote the art of comics.

The contest was born in Horta, a city in Faial island that belongs to the Portuguese archipelago of Azores. Avenida Marginal  [02] was the title of the cultural newspaper that, with the support of the Polytechnic Institute of Beja, allowed me to organize the first edition in 2009. The fanzine expert and comics ‘connoisseur’ Geraldes Lino once said that the newspaper Avenida Marginal, directed by Heitor H. Silva, was the only newspaper in Portugal to organize a comics contest. The winners of the contest were published on the central page of the Avenida Marginal newspaper.

Main sponsors of the four editions of the comics contest

The first edition, in 2009, was only aimed at Portuguese artists. The short story (one-page) rule allowed the candidates to be more experimental visually and narratively. Geraldes Lino, Marco Fraga da Silva, Paulo Monteiro, and Susa Monteiro composed the jury and the first exhibition was organized in Faial that same year, choosing the best works from near 90 pages. In 2010 an exhibition was made for the International Comics Festival of Beja [03].

The second edition, in 2012, becomes international but maintains the one-page rule, cementing the characteristic of being a comics contest for short stories. The awards were presented at the exhibition at the Cypress Palace – Marquês de Pombal Foundation [04], in Oeiras. A second exhibition was organized in Beja at the Casa da Cultura, with the support of the Comics Library of Beja and its director Paulo Monteiro. In Beja, that same year, a few stories from the two editions of the contest were chosen to participate in an exhibition for a cultural event organized by the Polytechnic Institute of Beja.

The jury of the second edition was the same except for the substitution of myself by Maristela Garcia, the director of the Comics Library of Curitiba [05], in Brazil. The jurors chose the best works from 150 pages, demonstrating that the online campaign and the internationalization was a good bet.

The third edition of the triennial in 2015 became available to all countries of the Community of Portuguese-spoken Countries and was organized by the Bode Expiatório company [06], with the support of the Lusophone University of Lisbon [07], the Comics Library of Beja, the Comics Library of Curitiba, and the Bordalo Pinheiro Museum [08]. Other entities gave support such as the Concurso de Ilustração Portuguesa Contemporânea [09], the Central Comics [10], the blog Divulgando BD [11], the Facebook page of Tertúlia BD de Lisboa [12], the blog Uma Bedeteca Anónima [13], among others.

The poster was not designed by me as the previous two were. The illustrator was Susa Monteiro who also was a member of the jury, along with other elements: Bruno Rafael [14], Marco Fraga da Silva and Paulo Monteiro. This edition had 74 participants from three continents (Africa, America, and Europe).

In this edition, four exhibitions were organized: the first at the International Comics Festival of Beja, in 2016, the second, in 2017, in Brazil at the Comics Library of Curitiba, the third, that same year, in Lisbon. The last, in 2018, was organized at the Public Library of Dom Dinis, in Odivelas. The exhibition in Lisbon, in the cultural bar Com Calma [15], was accompanied by a workshop – introduction to Comics – developed by me, and a master class on fanzines by Geraldes Lino.

The fourth edition, in 2018, was organized by the Tentacle Association [16], the new house of the Avenida Marginal Project. Vasco Mariano [17] was the designer of the poster and a member of the jury, among other members: Ana Velhinho, Bruno Rafael, Marco Fraga da Silva, Paulo Monteiro, Sérgio Santos, and Susa Monteiro. With the support of the Tentacle Association, the Azorean Secretary of Culture and Education, and the NOS Açores [18] it was possible to reward the best project with 500 euros, along with one year of paid school fees in arts courses (BA or MA) at the Lusophone University of Lisbon. This allowed substantial growth: 197 participants from five different countries (Angola, Brazil, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Portugal).

Chronogram Avenida Marginal Project 2009 – 2020

In 2019, at the invitation of Sérgio Santos, the director of the H-alt comics zine [19], a public presentation was done in Fnac Chiado (Lisbon) to promote the contest. With the support of the Azores Regional Government and the Faial Public Library [20], a retrospective of the four editions of the contest is to be organized in 2020 (17 April – 13 June). The tenth year anniversary will be commemorated with a big exhibition and a workshop on Faial island, the place where it all started.

Another important component of the Avenida Marginal Project is the editorial one which has two published fanzines of comics and illustration. The multi-author publication settles on the fruitful dialogue between works of known authors, young talents, and students. The first issue, with 64 pages and 31 authors, published in 2013, was publicly presented at the International Comics Festival of Beja. The cover of the fanzines was designed by Ana Lopes and produced by António Inverno in silkscreen, making it a collector’s item. This fanzine was nominated for the category for best Portuguese fanzine at the 24th Amadora International Comics Festival [21].

The success of the first experimental issue motivated the organization – Ana Lopes, Ana Velhinho, and Marco Fraga da Silva – to publish a second issue in 2014 with more pages and authors. That year the zine won the award for best Portuguese fanzine at the 25th Amadora International Comics Festival.

The two black and white issues had a print run of 120 numbered copies with silkscreen colored cover. This limited-edition collector’s item has also a digital version [22] that allows everyone to have access to its content. The main goal is to consolidate partnerships with authors and illustrators and divulge what lusophone authors are doing. The fanzine is dormant for now but next year, in 2021, when the fifth edition of the comics contest is launched, there will be another issue. Another goal is to organize more exhibitions in Portugal and other countries for the next three years.
























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