Before his best-selling graphic novel Shaolin Burning, cartoonist Ant Sang was known for his highly ambitious comic series The Dharma Punks. A graphic novel published in eight chapters from 2001 - 2003, the story follows Chopstick, a punk from Auckland who becomes embroiled in an anarchist plot to blow up Bobo's, a multinational fast food restaurant. Unable to move on from the recent death of his friend, and struggling to reconcile his spiritual path with his political actions, Chopstick's journey is a meditation on life, love, friendship, and blowing things up!
At almost 400 pages, it was an epic undertaking that struck a chord with local comics readers, becoming one of the highest selling local comic books of all time; it was available from most retailers, and in some comics stores it even out sold such chart topping comics as Uncanny X-Men and Amazing Spider-Man. The comic series helped launch Ant's career as a go-to creative, leading to his award-winning design work on the animated TV series Bro' Town.
At a special event held at the Auckland Central Library, 44-46 Lorne St, Auckland Central, on Thursday May 1st, I'll be hosting a conversation with Ant Sang, looking back at this landmark comic series: discussing its origins, Ant's creative process: from scripting to final art work, marketing, distributing the series and more! If you are an aspiring comic artist or designer, this will be a great chance to go behind the scenes into the mechanics of creating a graphic novel.
The talk is a FREE event held at Auckland Central Library, Level 3, from 6pm - 8pm on Thursday, May 1st. There will be refreshments available from 5.30pm before the talk starts. You can find more details at the Auckland Libraries events page HERE.
And there will also be an exciting NZ comics publishing announcement on the night - trust me, you won't want to miss this!
I'll be discussing the history of New Zealand comics and their creators; covering our early comics pioneers like Noel Cook and Eric Resetar, examining the forgotten rise and fall of the local comics industry in the 1950s, through to the contemporary cartoonists of today. And as an added bonus, I've arranged for three pieces of artist Noel Cook's original artwork to be displayed at the talk. Part of the Auckland Art Gallery collection, these pieces have not been viewed in public since 1979 - so this is a great opportunity to see rare examples of one of our greatest cartoonists artwork up close!
Above Left: an early Noel Cook sci-fi comic Adrift in Space (1940/50s). Right: Cook outside the Auckland Art Gallery, 1979. Copyright the Noel Cook Estate 2014.
For more information on Noel Cook's career and the turbulent history of comics in New Zealand, you can find From Earth's End: The Best of New Zealand Comics in stores now! (or purchase online HERE). Here's a brief sample of some of the great press its picked up since its release in November:
'From Earth's End: The Best of New Zealand Comics is Kinnaird's lavish survey of local comics past and present, bringing back the lost world and showcasing the one that grew, and is still growing...' - NZ Listener
'...an achievement of great beauty – a satisfyingly weighty paperback filled with colour and a breadth of imagery and concept that is truly breathtaking. This book belongs on a coffee table where it can be stumbled across and dipped into, with new discoveries waiting to be made on every page.' - Metro Magazine
'...the history of comics, and New Zealand comics in particular, remain a mystery to most, and From Earth's End goes some way towards rectifying that, while still remaining incredibly entertaining. It's essential for anybody who has had a passing interest in local comics, and a beautiful book in its own right.' - The New Zealand Herald
'This is a fantastic book, and I use that word in its comic book ‘sense’ and in my own. The level of research, the full prints of stories or sequences, and the respect Kinnaird clearly has for his topic and the artists who work in the genre is very clear. He knows his stuff and it shows.' - Booksellers NZ
'The purpose of this book is to help New Zealanders rediscover their comics legacy, to join Kinnaird "at Earth's end and celebrate one of our nation's best kept secrets". The secret is out now and is one every New Zealander should let themselves in on.' - New Zealand Books Quarterly Review
Tickets: Earlybird $20 (before Weds 14th May), standard $25, Patron $15, student $12.50. You can purchase tickets online HERE, or in person at the Aotea Centre Box Office or any Ticketmaster outlet, or phone (09) 970 9700 or 0800 111 999 (note that service fees may apply).
Above: The Etherington Brothers. Artwork copyright the Etherington Brothers 2014.
If you're interested in comics, cartoons and illustration, here are some other Writers Festival sessions that might appeal:
UK cartooning brothers Robin (the writer) & Lorenzo Etherington (the artist) produce all-ages comics, including the graphic novels Monkey Nuts and Baggage, as well as a host of licensed comics including: Transformers, Star Wars, The Terminator, Kung Fu Panda and many more. They will be sharing their adventures in words and pictures in front of a live audience, great for ages 5-10, so bring the kids along for some infectious cartooning fun!
There will be a morning and afternoon session, on Sunday May 18th, 10 - 10.30pm & 1 - 1.30pm. These are FREE family events, but tickets will need to be collected for space allocation, order them HERE.
Above: A cartoon by Michael Leunig. Copyright Michael Leunig 2014.
Tickets: Earlybird $20 (before Weds 14th May), standard $25, Patron $15, student $12.50. available HERE.
In 1999, Michael Leunig was declared an Australian Living Treasure. A cartoonist, poet and cultural commentator, his drawings and philosophies have delighted and inspired generations – and been stuck on countless fridges. In conversation with writer Kate De Goldi, he talks about his work, his life and his latest titlesHoly FoolandThe Essential Leunig: Cartoons From A Winding Path. This session will also feature live on-stage drawing!
So book now for some great comics related events! For more information on the Auckland Writers Festival, May 14-18th 2014, check out the official website HERE.
Above: Incomplete Works by Dylan Horrocks. Copyright Dylan Horrocks 2014.
Here at Earth's End, the work of Dylan Horrocks hardly needs an introduction: celebrated author of Hicksville, Eisner Award winner, New Zealand comics ambassador extraordinaire. And yet, outside of a copy of Hicksville, gathering a sizable collection of his comics is tough going - tracking down early issues of Pickle, a few mini-comics here and there, or clippings from decade old back issues of the NZ Listener. So this collection comes as a great relief to local readers and collectors everywhere. Thanks to the arm-twisting from VUP publisher Fergus Barrowman, we now have a handsome collection of some of Horrocks' rarest work to add to the growing bookshelf of classic New Zealand graphic novels, and it's a fine addition.
Above: A page from 'Little Death' (1986) by Dylan Horrocks. Copyright Dylan Horrocks 2014.
This collection of stories spans Dylan's comics career, from early efforts in 1986, to recent diary comics in 2012. Together these stories form a visual diary of sorts, or a 'stealth autobiography', as the events of Dylan's own life are never far from the surface. The earliest entry, 'Little Death' reflects on Auckland's cafe/bar scene from 1986, in which our protagonist spies a woman across the room, much like Dylan did while drawing this strip, where he met his future wife Terry (there are echoes of this meeting in other strips, like 'Summoning').
The thin line weaved between Dylan's fiction and personal life has always been a real strength in his work, and I feel it's that layer of truth behind the fiction that strikes a chord with readers. 'Captain Cook's Comic Cuts' (1994) may well convince you that Cook had a sideline in cartooning because Horrocks' essay feels so genuine, acting as a sort of prelude to Hicksville it takes you on a detour to a world where comics played a more important part in our national history - and why not?
Above: A page from 'The Last Fox Story' (1990) by Dylan Horrocks. Copyright Dylan Horrocks 2014.
Other stories are more openly autobiographical, as 'The Last Fox Story' (1990) takes us inside one of Dylan's biggest turning points, as he struggles to reconcile his relationship to comics while living in England. The reproduction of the mini-comic format (two small spreads a page) feels both intimate and appropriately claustrophobic, as Dylan works through a phobia of comics and rediscovers his own creative voice as a cartoonist. This mini comic became the first issue of Pickle, which in turn lead to the comic series that gave birth to Hicksville. In a very real way his current career is built on the catharsis of this story, and anyone who has gone through a creative or personal crisis can appreciate just how special this story is.
We also get see his cartooning style mature and grow throughout the collection, into the assured creative voice we know today, currently hard at work on his forth-coming second graphic novel, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen - due out later this year, but serialized weekly over at his website HERE.
Above: A page from 'A Cartoonist's Diary' (2012) by Dylan Horrocks. Copyright Dylan Horrocks 2014.
As it's published locally by VUP, Incomplete Works is also a particularly kiwi collection, featuring strips like The State of Things and Maungarei, with points of reference that would probably be lost on foreign readers. There are also helpful author notes at the back of the book to put these stories into context. It's a minor quibble, but I'd have liked to have seen these formatted with the stories to avoid flipping back to read them after each entry - but this would take away from the diary feel of the reading experience, so it's a forgivable trade-off.
This collection is a great road map of Horrocks' comics career to date, and I'm sure I'll be adding plenty more of his works to my bookshelf in the future.
As an added bonus, you can also listen to my audio review of the book on National Radio's Nights show.
If you are in Auckland, there will be a launch event for the book this Tuesday evening at the Auckland Central City Library, 44-46 Lorne St, Auckland Central, from 6pm-7pm. Dylan will be discussing the collection with cartoonist and author Sarah Laing. So come along to purchase a signed copy and enjoy drinks and nibbles! For more details you can join the Facebook event page HERE.
Above: Family Portraits promo image. Copyright Sam Orchard 2014.
Sam Orchard has been a stand-out talent in the local comics scene for some years, producing the much loved webcomic Rooster Tails- an autobiographical series about his life and relationship as a queer transgender guy. He has regularly appeared at Zinefest events and contributed to various local and international anthologies, as well as a number of human rights education and advocacy campaigns.
Produced as a part of his Master of Creative Writing degree in 2011, his auto-bio comic series Family Portraits interweaves Sam's own story as a queer-identified transgender man with vignettes of other queer individuals living in New Zealand. It explores and celebrates how age, history, gender, and ethnicity shape our experiences of ourselves, and how we live in the world. How the stories of others can reflect and affirm our own stories, either through connections or differences.
Above: the covers of Family Portraits #1-2 by Sam Orchard. Copyright Sam Orchard 2014.
As the series was produced in full-colour, high printing and shipping costs have prevented Sam from making his comic available in print, so he has turned to crowd sourcing platform Kickstarter to make this happen!
Sam is looking looking to raise $6300 which will pay for the printing of the first two issues of the series (60 pages of full-colour comics in each issue!) and fund a limited tour of the US - where he can connect with his dedicated US reader-base and attend some small press/comic conventions.
So without further ado, he's Sam to talk about the campaign in his own words:
You can pledge and support the Kickstarter project HERE. There are some great rewards available, so please throw your support behind this very worthy cause!
Above: Actress Rose Mclver and artwork from the comic series iZombie by Mike Allred.
From Earth's End's media watch, The Hollywood Reporter has announced that local actress Rose Mclver has been cast as the lead for the TV show adaptation of the Vertigo/DC Comics series iZombie.
Created by writer Chris Roberson and artist Michael Allred, iZombie follows the adventures of Gwen Dylan, a gravedigger in an eco-friendly cemetery…who also happens to be a zombie detective. Once a month, she has to eat a human brain – both to keep from becoming a zombie herself, and to keep her own memories intact. As a result, Gwen's mind is crowded with the dead person's thoughts. And lately, she feels compelled to fulfill their final requests.
The TV adaptation for the CW network will be produced by Rob Thomas (creator of the cult TV series Veronica Mars) and Diane Ruggiero. At this stage it is just a pilot commitment, and depending on how it is received it may go to series.
Rose Mclver's breakout role came in the Peter Jackson film The Lovely Bones and has been keeping busy lately with appearances on TV shows Masters of Sex and as Tinkerbell in Once Upon a Time.
If you missed seeing her at the NZ Festival Writers Week, you're in luck - as Alison Bechdel will be making one Auckland appearance, brought to you by the Auckland Women's Centre in association with the NZ Festival Writers Week. Bechdel is best known for the comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For and her two acclaimed memoirs Fun Home and Are You My Mother?
Taking place on Sunday, 16th of March at 7pm at the Freeman's Bay Community Centre, Bechdel will be in conversation with Carole Beu, giving insight into her work and discussing the issues surrounding gender and sexual identity that are explored prominently throughout her books.
Tickets are $25, available fromThe Women's Bookshop (09 376 4399) 105 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, and the Auckland Women's Centre (09 3763227), 4 Warnock Street, Grey Lynn. They are selling fast, so make sure secure your tickets now!
The New Zealand Festival is currently underway in Wellington, with the Writers Week section kicking off tomorrow.
Above: Let Me Be Frank #1, by Sarah Laing. Copyright Sarah Laing 2014.
This year's event features a variety of comics related panels, starting on Saturday 8th of March with 'Reading For Writers' at 9.30am. This two hour panel features Linley Boniface, Beattie’s Book Blog author Graham Beattie and Commonwealth Short Story Prize winner Emma Martin discussing their reading habits, and Let Me Be Frank cartoonist/writer Sarah Laing provides a confidence-boosting briefing on how best to absorb a comic!
Tickets are $45, and you can find more information on the talk HERE.
Above: The cover of Incomplete Stories by Dylan Horrocks. Copyright Dylan Horrocks 2014.
Later that evening, Dylan Horrocks will be celebrating the launch of his new comics collection, Incomplete Stories, with a release party - along with fellow Victoria University Press author Caoilinn Hughes' new poetry collection, Gathering Evidence. This is a FREE event, taking place Saturday, 8th of March at the Exchange Atrium, 24 Blair St, Wellington Central, from 7.30pm. See the event page HERE for more details.
There are also plans for a Incomplete Stories launch in Auckland later in March, so keep an eye out for that.
Above: American cartoonist Allison Bechdel.
The Festival will also be hosting acclaimed US cartoonist, Allison Bechdel. Creator of the widely published comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, she has also produced two bestselling graphic memoirs, Fun Home (2006) - which chronicles her childhood memories and her difficult relationship with her father, and Are You My Mother? (2012) - an exploration of her relationship with her mother and her time spent in therapy. Bechdel will be discussing her work and more, with community art space director Moira Clunie. The panel will be taking place on Sunday, 9th of March at 1.45pm at the Embassy Theatre.
Tickets are $18, check out the Festival page HERE for more details.
Above: The 'Comicsville' line-up: (from left) Adrian Kinnaird, Robyn E. Kenealy, Dylan Horrocks and Jonathan King.
Next up, From Earth's End: The Best of New Zealand Comics will be spotlighted in the 'Comicsville' panel, on Monday, March 10th at 10.45am at the Hannah Playhouse (formally Downstage Theatre). I'll be joined on stage with three of the featured cartoonists from the book: Dylan Horrocks - author of Hicksville; Robyn E. Kenealy - author of Roddy's Film Companion and the webcomic American Captain; and cartoonist/film director Jonathan King - author of Threat Level. We'll be discussing the exciting developments and growth of the New Zealand comics scene of the last few years, including the publication of From Earth's End and Dylan Horrocks' latest collection, Incomplete Stories.
Tickets are $18, check out the Festival page HERE for more details.
Online ticket sales are available now through the Writers Week events page HERE or Ticketek HERE. Some events are selling fast, so book you tickets now!