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Recent College Grads Started Their Own Press to Foster Diversity in Comics

Paloma Hernando and Sunmi are the co-founders of Dandelion Wine Collective, a comic publisher focusing on underrepresented artists.

Giaco Furino

Giaco Furino

Sunmi and Paloma Hernando. Photo courtesy of MICA Up/Start Venture Competition

The conversation around diversity in comic books gains more and more steam each month, as major publishers simultaneously creep towards more inclusiveness, yet stumble and get it wrong in their messaging and approach along the way. But in the world of indie comics, unbound to boards of directors and impossible sales figures, things can move quicker and more efficiently.

Dandelion Wine Collective, a small indie publishing group made up of recent Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) alumni, brings the work of diverse and underrepresented voices to the page with charming artwork, heartfelt stories, and careful curation. Recently the recipient of $25,000 in seed funding from MICA's Up/Start Venture Competition, Dandelion Wine Collective aims to broaden their reach and impact.

Cover to Add Value/Add Time illustrated by Binglin Hu. Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective

Created by Paloma Hernando and Sunmi, Dandelion Wine Collective (named after the novel Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury) focuses on uplifting marginalized voices, fair pay, supporting the careers of diverse creators, and telling honest stories. Hernando describes the collective as "a small press that's trying to encapsulate the heart and the quality of work coming out of the indie comics industry and put it more to a mainstream audience. That's kind of the lofty goal, but really we just want to put out good comics." Sunmi adds, "We want to push their visions and their voices forward; that's a big part of our thing with Dandelion Wine."

The secret to Dandelion Wine Collective's success. Illustrated by Sunmi. Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective

So how did this bright upstart come together? From a niche indie game. "It started small," Sunmi explains, "a collaboration between me and Paloma on a Twine Game, which is a choose-your-own-adventure style game, a really niche side of indie gaming where it's just like making a story… after that we just kept collaborating on projects, and talking to other students and professors, and realized we should make an anthology of MICA comics. So we started organizing those and running the tables and representing MICA at comics conventions and festivals."

Page selection from Add Value/Add Time. Illustrated by Cynthia Cheng . Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective

"We both really loved indie comics," Hernando says. "Sunmi was already way ahead of me in getting involved in the world of indie comics, but there was also a lot of activity in our illustration department really going towards comics. We could feel these things that could happen if someone stepped up." From that initial impetus to support and publish the stories of their classmates comes a company that now publishes everything from experimental zines to anthologies about public transportation.

Page from The Sun and the Wayward Wind. Illustrated by Alexandra Glenn-Collins . Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective

"We both like a lot of fantasy and sci-fi," says Sunmi. "We both like a lot of character and relationship focused slices of life too. A lot of it is just thinking about relationships and people and building really good stories based on those things." One important caveat from Hernando, as she explains, "I really don't like superhero stories [laughs]."

Cover to 3 AM: A Comics Anthology , illustrated by Elemai a collection of comics that all take place at 3 AM. Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective
Page from The Sun and the Wayward Wind. Illustrated by Ashanti Fortson . Photo courtesy Dandelion Wine Collective

Keep an eye on the works of Dandelion Wine Collective as they ramp up their slate of comics over the summer and fall. To learn more about the company and the projects they're working on, visit their official site and blog.

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