Friday, June 17, 2016

Weekend Listening: Island To Island and Superman VS Muhammad Ali

Above: The star-studded, cameo heavy cover for Superman VS Muhammad Ali, by Neal Adams. Copyright DC Comics 2016.

This week I returned to the Radio NZ Nights show to discuss the world of comics with Bryan Crump!
First up, with the recent passing of boxing icon Muhammad Ali, I revisit The Champ's brief detour into the comics world, with the 1978 publication of Superman VS Muhammad Ali by DC ComicsThis one-off special produced by Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neil stands apart as a unique piece of 70's pop culture and Ali memorabilia, and is well worth seeking out!

Above: Island to Island: A Graphic Exchange between Taiwan and New Zealand.

Next we discuss Island to Island, a joint publishing initiative between the Publishers Association of New Zealand, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and the New Zealand Book Council, in the form of a Graphic Novelists Exchange: giving three cartoonists from New Zealand and three from Taiwan the opportunity to collaborate and produce a graphic novel together.

The project saw local cartoonists, Ant Sang, Tim Gibson and Rachel Fenton, team up with Taiwanese cartoonists 61Chi and Ahn Zhe, to create stories for each other, to be shared as cultural 'gifts'. Published by Dala Publishing, Island to Island is available in New Zealand via Upstart Distribution, and is well worth tracking down.

You can listen to the full recorded interview HERE.

- AK!

REVIEW: Island to Island: A Graphic Exchange between Taiwan & New Zealand

Island to Island is the unique product of a joint publishing initiative between the Publishers Association of New Zealand, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and the New Zealand Book Council, in the form of a Graphic Novelists Exchange: giving three cartoonists from New Zealand and three from Taiwan the opportunity to collaborate and produce a graphic novel together.

In October 2014, Taiwanese cartoonists Sean Chuang, 61Chi and Ahn Zhe traveled to New Zealand to meet and collaborate with local cartoonists Tim Gibson, Rachel Fenton and Ant Sang. The following February saw our cartoonists join their collaborators in Taiwan to continue working on the project and attend the Taipei International Book Fair 2015, at which New Zealand was a Guest of Honour.
The finished result of this cultural exchange is a graphic novel in which the six cartoonists share personal stories with each other in a series of 18 interlocking tales, which can be read separately, but read as a whole form a visual conversation between the six artists across two cultures.

It’s an ambitious undertaking to combine multiple artists on a single project of this kind – more often than not resulting in a bland amalgamation of individual voices into a single artistic statement; but here their difference in approach to art and storytelling proves to be this book’s greatest strength. Rather than forcing their styles together, the artists have instead ‘gifted’ a story to each other – sharing a memory or story as a response to their conversations and interactions during the exchange.

Despite language proving to be an initial barrier of communication for the artists, they clearly share a fluency in creativity, as their stories manage to capture revealing, and intimate reflections of one another through graphic storytelling.

For example, 61Chi’s story for Rachel observes Fenton’s life up until their meeting through the evolution of her hairstyle, while Rachel’s response looks inward – imagining a room for 61Chi and what it may tell her about her personality and view of the world outside of this dream construct. Ant Sang and Sean Chang share stories of fatherhood, and a combined love of kung-fu heroics. Elsewhere Ahn shares photographs of people from his city that he hopes Tim Gibson may find character inspiration from, and Gibson in return offers a parable about reaching for greater creative heights, while enjoying their present successes.

Above: A page from Son, by Ant Sang.

Their artistic styles couldn’t be more different, from Sang and Chi’s polished illustrative comic book styles, to Zhe’s photography and Fenton’s impressionistic visual poetry - the most visually versatile across the project – but together they form a wonderfully visual exchange of ideas that more than lives up to its title, making this inter-island cultural collaboration a rousing success.

Presented in an oversized format, lavishly designed by 61Chi as a gift book with English and Mandarin text in mind, Island to Island represents a new benchmark for cultural collaboration in the arts sector, and with a quality result like this, one hopes there will be more to follow.

Island to Island: A Graphic Exchange between Taiwan & New Zealand by Ant Sang, Tim Gibson, Rachel Fenton, Sean Chuang, 61Chi and Ahn Zhe. Published by Dala Publishing, and distributed in New Zealand by Upstart Press DistributionRetail price: $45.00, ISBN: 9789866634567

- AK!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Ant Sang at TCAF!

Above: Ant Sang signing at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Photo copyright Conundrum Press 2016.

Earlier this month, Ant Sang was a guest at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival (TCAF), where he was promoting the US/Canada release of his graphic novel The Dharma Punks, published by Conundrum Press. He featured on a spotlight talk - discussing his work in comics and animation, as well as a Diversity in Comics panel, a book signing, and attended the Doug Wright Awards.

For a full report on his trip and adventures at TCAF, visit Ant's blog HERE.

Above: Ant Sang discussing his work in comics and animation at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Photo copyright Conundrum Press 2016.

- AK!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Weekend Reading: Visits by Jem Yoshioka

Above: The cover image from Visits by Jem Yoshioka.

Start your weekend off right by treating yourself to some great local comics online! 
This week Jem Yoshioka returns, with another gorgeous auto-bio comic, Visits. In Visits Yoshioka continues her series of stories that explore her heritage and identity as a Japanese-New Zealander, as previously chronicled in My Father's Face and Folding Kimono. This comic documents her three visits to Japan, and how that experience made her feel. 

Above: Page 12 from Visits by Jem Yoshioka.

It's thoughtfully articulated, with a textural layering of patterns in the artwork that makes the reading experience feel immersive and authentic. We get to experience these visits through Jem's eyes and the wealth of visual details she captures brings these memories to life in a very tactile way that you can almost touch - no easy feat for a webcomic!

You can read the full comic HERE.

- AK!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Upcoming Releases: Princess Princess: Ever After, Mr Unpronounceable, Mansfield and Me

Above: The cover of Princess Princess: Ever After by Katie O'Neill.

There's some great graphic novels coming out in the near future from some of our best NZ comic creators, making a name for themselves, both locally and on the international publishing stage.

Christchurch based cartoonist/illustrator Katie O'Neill has built an international audience for her work online via social media and blogging at her website, Strangely Katie. Her comics have featured in the Faction and High Water comics anthologies, and she’s also illustrated the series Crystal Cadets for American publisher LionForge Comics.

Above: Two pages from Princess Princess: Ever After by Katie O'Neill.

Her most popular self-published graphic novel, Princess Princess, first appeared online as a webcomic in 2014, and features two very different princesses - Amira and Sadie, who meet and decide to take their happily ever after into their own hands. A thoughtful story of love and friendship for all-ages, this graphic novel will now be published in September by American publisher Oni Press in a beautiful Hardcover edition as Princess Princess: Ever After!

Here's the official synopsis:

When the heroic princess Amira rescues the kind-hearted princess Sadie from her tower prison, neither expects to find a true friend in the bargain. Yet as they adventure across the kingdom, they discover that they bring out the very best in the other person. They'll need to join forces and use all the know-how, kindness, and bravery they have in order to defeat their greatest foe yet: a jealous sorceress, who wants to get rid of Sadie once and for all.

Join Sadie and Amira, two very different princesses with very different strengths, on their journey to figure out what "happily ever after" really means--and how they can find it with each other.

Princess Princess: Ever After will be available September 7th, 2016 in all good comic shops and bookstores, and online through Amazon, Google Play, Comixology, Nook, and iTunes.

Princess Princess: Ever After HC by Katie O'Neill
56 Pages, colour
Publisher: Oni Press
ISBN: 9781620103401
RRP: $12.99 US

Above: The cover of Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares by Tim Molloy.

Tim Molloy returns to the surreal world of Mr Unpronounceable with his third graphic novel in the series, Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares.

Here's the official synopsis:

As reality itself dissolves in the tears of the Sect Of the Bleeding Eye, Mr Unpronounceable sets off on a multiverse-spanning quest to retrieve the Sacred Godstone from its shrine on a distant planetoid. Meanwhile, The Synthetic Sorcerer has designs of his own, shadowing our hapless hero’s delirious journey across an increasingly warped spacetime continuum. Join Mr Unpronounceable, wandering Necromancer, in this third volume of his insane adventures from cult author, Tim Molloy.

If you would like a taste of what to expect, you can read some short segments over at Tim Molloy's art Tumblr HERE.

Above: A page from Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares by Tim Molloy.

Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares will be released June 25th 2016 by Milk Shadow Books (distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Madman Entertainment).

Mr Unpronounceable and the Infinity of Nightmares
190 pages
Black & White, paperback
RRP: 23.86 AUS (available for pre-order HERE).

Above: Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing.

2016's a busy time for Sarah Laing: earlier this year she co-edited the well received NZ woman's comics anthology 3 Words, and in October Victoria University Press will publish her first complete graphic novel, Mansfield and Me. Coming in at 336 pages this will no doubt be the biggest local comics release of the year. I've had the privilege of seeing some of the original artwork for this in progress, and if you're a fan of Katherine Mansfield or Sarah's previous novels or comics - you're in for a treat!

Here's the official synopsis:

Katherine Mansfield is a literary giant in New Zealand - but she had to leave the country to become one. She wrote, 'Oh to be a writer, a real writer'. And a real writer she was, until she died at age 34 of tuberculosis. The only writer Virginia Woolf was jealous of, Mansfield hung out with the modernists, lost her brother in World War I, dabbled in Alistair Crowley's druggy occult gatherings and spent her last days in a Fontainebleu commune with Olgivanna, Frank Lloyd Wright's future wife. She was as famous for her letters and diaries as for her short stories. Sarah Laing wanted to be a real writer, too. A writer as famous as Katherine Mansfield, but not as tortured. 

Mansfield and Me charts her journey towards publication and parenthood against Mansfield's dramatic story, set in London, Paris, New York and New Zealand. Part memoir, part biography, part fantasy, it examines how our lives connect to those of our personal heroes.

Mansfield and Me will be released by Victoria University Press in October 2016, and available in all good bookstore. For more details visit the VUP website HERE.

Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing
ISBN: 9781776560691
336 Pages
Paperback, colour
RRP: $25 NZ

So mark these dates on your calendar, and prepare to increase the shelf space for your New Zealand Comics collection!

- AK!

Friday, April 22, 2016

REVIEW: Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix

Above: The wraparound cover of Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix, by Ben Clancy & Kieran Horner.

When it comes to art and culture, Hamilton has received (rather unfairly) a poor reputation. Or is it simply a case of low self-esteem? When a local radio station came up with the ironic label 'Hamiltron: City of the Future' in the late 90s, it caught on and Hamiltonians adopted this self-deprecating new label like a badge of honor - proving they at least had a health sense of humour.

It was this catchphrase that inspired Hamilton cartoonist Dean Ballinger to develop this new comics anthology. As Dean explains, "I thought the phrase would make a good basis for a local anthology in terms of allowing different creators to come up with their own interpretations of it in the form of short stories. I also wanted to do a comic with an explicitly parochial theme as a means of contributing to Hamilton culture. Hamilton always gets something of a bum rap culture-wise, although there are a lot of talented creative people living here. Making cultural artifacts that tell a stories about a place or reflect it on some level is important in terms of imaginative 'mythologising' that place within the wider culture of a country (eg. paintings/music/novels). As there hasn't been a lot of this done to Hamilton, producing this comic was a way of making a small contribution to this process."

With funding from Creative Waikato and sponsorship from Hamilton comic shop, Mark One Comics, Ballinger has more than delivered on this goal, with a lively and varied collections of comics from past and present residents of the 'Tron. 

Above: A page from Hampants by Indira Neville.

While its historical cultural contributions may be somewhat overlooked, Hamilton has a strong tradition of comics making, most notably from the Oats Collective in the 90s - well represented here with strips from Indira Neville and Clayton Noone & Stefan Neville. Other contributors include: Matt Emery of Pikitia Press, Raewyn Alexander, Alex John, Aaron Christiansen, Oliver Stewart, Wairehu Grant, Dawn Tuffery, Stephanie Christie & Paul Bradley, Priscilla McIntosh, and Ballinger.

Above: A page from Poor Justice by Aaron Christiansen.

There is a mixture of stories and styles here, ranging from narrative poems to farcical takes on the 'City of the Future'. Some of the highlights for me were Raewyn Alexander's reflective graphic poem My Revenge at Last - the memoir of a Hamiltonian exodus; Aaron Christiansen's hilarious satire of a Hollywood production's visit to the 'Tron; and a welcome change of pace auto-bio tale from Matt Emery. All the stories in this anthology are well worth your time, making this a fine addition to Hamilton's publishing landscape (speaking of which, mark you calenders for the upcoming Hamilton Zinefest next month - May 14th, more details HERE).

Above: A page from My Revenge at Last by Raewyn Alexander.

You can purchase a copy of Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix, in Hamilton from Mark One Comics (from their shop or online HERE), local bookshop Browsers, and selected cafes for $15. For more information about future issues you can visit the Hamiltron: City of the Future blog HERE, and join their Facebook group HERE.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen nominated for an Eisner Award!

Above: The cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks.

Congratulations are in order for Dylan Horrocks, as his most recent graphic novel, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen has been nominated for 'Best New Graphic Album' at the 2016 Eisner Awards.

The Esiner Awards are America's most prestigious comics industry awards, and take their name from famed US cartoonist Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit comic strip and the landmark graphic novel, A Contract with God. Horrocks previous won his first Eisner Award in 2002 for 'Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition', which elevated his profile and work, particularly the graphic novel Hicksville, to an international audience.

The winners of the 28th Eisner Awards will be announced at a ceremony on the evening of Friday, July 22 at Comic-Con International. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is published locally by Victoria University Press, and in the US by Fantagraphics.

- AK!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Weekend Reading: Oneiric, Let Me Be Frank and The Pencilsword

Above: A page from Oneiric by Sarah Lund. Copyright 2016 Sarah Lund.

Here's some local comics to catch-up on this weekend while kicking back with your digital reader or laptop: 
Oneiric is a new webcomic by Sarah Lund, it is about a girl named Daisy who is about to celebrate her 15th birthday by having a shared dream party with her friends. Lund's drawing style is uniquely her own, with a vivid, changing colour palette that adds a sense of warmth and intimacy - that perfectly suits it's subject of a close-knit group of friends. There's 16 pages of story so far, which you can read HERE.

Above: A page from Believing by Sarah Laing.

Sarah Laing's blog, Let Me Be Frank has been a hive of activity lately, with a several great and insightful new comic strips. There's Believing, a strip in which Laing contemplates the value of creating art in a world that seems to place little worth in it - a sentiment that any published writer or working artist can surely relate to. You can read the full strip HERE.

In Complicated, Laing considers the recent conversations surrounding begging bylaws in the inner city areas of Auckland and Wellington, and her own responses to being confronted with begging: is giving someone money the right thing to do? Like the title says, it's complicated. You can read the full strip HERE.

And most recently, One Morning in Karori, in which Sarah's daughter Violet awaits a visit from the Tooth Fairy. You can read the full strip HERE.

Above: A scene from The Pencilsword #25: Shifty Business. Copyright Toby Morris 2016.

In Pencilsword #25, Toby Morris looks at the shifty business of tax evasion by multi-nationals. You can read the full strip HERE.

- AK!