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The launch of the Malta comic-con in 2009 is perhaps an indication of the growing popularity of comics locally. Rather than just an increase in comic fans however, we are also witnessing a rise of comic artists. Although admittedly, some of these artists are simply dilettantes, there are also individuals or groups of artists who are entirely devoted to the medium, and are striving for a greater appreciation of this art form in Malta.

The people who created Pilot are one such group. Pilot is a collection of comic stories put together by budding artists Audienne De Giorgio, Fleur Sciortino, Rebecca Portelli, Abbie Theuma, Daniela Attard (known as Iella) and Denitsa Petkova. The project will be launching during the Malta Comic Con this year which is to be held on the 26th and 27th of November. According to the girls, this is the first comic anthology of such a scale in Malta. It was purely created out of dedication and with the intention of promoting the medium locally. After coming across the Pilot project on Facebook, REDWHITEmt decided to see what it was all about by meeting two Pilot artists; Audrienne and Fleur.

At the ‘Xufi’ bar in Mosta, one could not ignore the enthusiasm that these artists have for what they are doing. Equipped with illustration books and sketchbooks, I was curious to know who are their main figures and works of interest. As it turns out a key inspiration is a comic called “Flight” and it is in fact no accident that their own anthology is called “Pilot.” Various names were thrown around and it is evident that these guys know their context; Miyazaki, Mike Mignola, Peter Chung, Disney, Avatar the last Airbender, Hellboy and French animation to name a few.

Pilot’s aim is to have a collection of stories from different artists who work with various styles each year, the theme of this year being Steampunk. Although artists of every nationality are welcome to participate, preference is given to Maltese artists, as the whole point of Pilot is indeed to generate exposure for new local comic artists who have enough potential and dedication.

Each artist is required to create 16 to 20 pages in the comic using a mixture of digital and traditional methods. Here are some teasers of the stories in this year’s Pilot project:

Hammer Fall by Audrienne Degiorgio

Nikita Jackson is the last blacksmith in her hometown, in which people work in factories and mass production has grown at large. One day the smith receives a letter from Duke Grundermann, commissioning her to produce a sword of excellent standards and quality. Recognizing this as an opportunity Nikita accepts the commission and sets out to produce the finest blade she has ever crafted which will either make or break her.

Flight of the Courier by Fleur Sciortino

A courier has to cross a vast, frozen tundra to deliver an invaluable parcel, but then gets caught in a blizzard leaving him crippled and stranded. He gets rescued by a stranger from a nearby village and together they set to rebuild a new flying machine.

A Boy Named S.U.E. – by Abbie Theuma

A pair of incompetent brothers, Barky & Sparky, botch a bank-robbery and end up saddled with a priceless experimental clockwork android. Now, with the cops -and- special agents after them, do they dump the robot to save their own skins or do they become too attached to the bundle of bolts?

Much Ado About Necromancy by Rebecca Portelli

The once renowned Boone industry, formerly a symbol of success and might, is now little more than a joke. Roland Boone attempts to rebuild the company, forcing his sister Olivia to act on a family matter to avoid prevent further embarrassment.

Prometheus by Daniella Attard, Iella:

Prometheus is a worker at a factory in which the boss is regarded as a god and holds the power of the steam machines in one little gadget. Getting sick of the tyranny, Prometheus schemes to steals the gadget… at a hefty price.

Crushed by Denitsa Petkova:

Mint is a mechanic that repairs machines in her workshop, however she is frequently disturbed by Stade the sky pirate. On a boringly normal routine, stuff goes horribly wrong down the pipeline.

The Curious Care of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde – a collaboration comic:

A steampunk adaption of the classic tale of good vs.evil.

So what’s the future of Pilot and its artists?

Like any comic enthusiast, Pilot artists dream of one day having a table at the San Diego comic-con and perhaps expanding on solo careers after generating a fan base. For now however, they have expressed that Pilot is the focus, their current goal is to spend at least five consecutive years working on Pilot. They feel that one of their biggest problems at the moment is finding local printers who are willing to print a small batch of books, or even find a printer abroad who delivers to Malta. Still, there are no financial gains from the Pilot anthology, and the artists have stated that any money made will be used for higher quality printing and production.

The Pilot project is currently being funded by the Malta Arts Fund and pre-orders are now open from Audrienne (audreytifa@gmail.com) or Fleur (fleursciortino@hotmail.com). Pre-orders also get an exclusive poster as a bonus.

Photography on this article by Eleonora. Many thanks from the RW team.

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