Wednesday, October 5, 2016

RECOMMENDED READING: "Who is Your Community?" by Ant Sang

Above: panels from Who is Your Community? by Ant Sang.

Over at The Wireless, Ant Sang (The Dharma Punks) has drawn a comic strip in which he discusses growing up feeling like a cultural outsider, and how, through creativity, he found his own community.

You can read the full comic strip HERE.

- AK!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

EVENT: Mansfield and Me Book Launch!

Above: The cover of Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing.

One of the most anticipated local graphic novels of recent years, Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir by Sarah Laing will be launching at Unity Books in Wellington next week.

Published by Victoria University Press, 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.

The book launch will be on Thursday 6th of October from 6pm at Unity Books Wellington, 57 Willis Street. All are welcome, and you can RSVP on the Facebook event page HERE.

If you can't make it, or don't happen to live in wellington - just head to your local bookstore and pre-order a copy using the publishing details below:

Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing
ISBN: 9781776560691
336 Pages
Paperback, colour
RRP: $35 NZ

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

REVIEW: Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray

This week sees the launch of Mount Maunganui artist Ross Murray's completed webcomic, Rufus MarigoldA thoughtful, and darkly funny comic about a character living and dealing with Social Anxiety Disorder. Inspired by his own personal experience battling anxiety, Murray successfully obtained funding from Creative New Zealand earlier this year to create a comic strip that would help shine a light on this rarely discussed condition.

Above: Panels from Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray. Copyright Ross Murray 2016.

When we first meet Rufus - portrayed in the artwork as a chimpanzee, visually the odd-man out - we find him struggling to deal with everyday interactions: answering the phone, running into a friend on the street; brief exchanges that are major internal challenges for Rufus to deal with on the fly. We then accompany him on more stressful situations that are relatable to many, like a new job interview. Murray's clear-line art style accompanied by flat colouring works perfectly for this subject on a number of levels. Stylistically, it recalls the artwork of safety instruction manuals: clear and easy to follow visual representation without unnecessary detail, which is fitting given its subject matter and Rufus' internal struggles (remain calm, don't panic). It gives his world an antiseptic appearance: non-threatening, but at the same time distanced and detached. The muted tones invite us into Rufus' head-space, where we get to relate and empathise with him as he experiences anxiety in work and social situations.

Above: Panels from Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray. Copyright Ross Murray 2016.

This visual detachment allows us to enjoy the bleakly funny aspects of Rufus' interactions (eg. announcing his mother's death to avoid a work presentation) as situational comedy without judging or short-changing the character. No doubt drawing on his personal experiences, Murray understands the inherent humour in these situations and uses the 'set-up/punch-line' language of the comic strip to express this with panache. 

Above: Panels from Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray. Copyright Ross Murray 2016.

Yet beneath the humour there is a very carefully calibrated emotional arc. As the strips progress Rufus' anxiety increases; he begins to drink more to manage social gatherings and interactions. Soon he reaches breaking point, when his social anxiety affects his ability to act in an emergency situation. The climax and resolution of Rufus Marigold's journey are both wordless strips which speak volumes. Creativity is what ultimately brings Rufus back from isolation and allows him to communicate and connect with others. It's a story that is probably more common than many of us are aware of, and I'm grateful to Ross Murray for creating Rufus and sharing his experiences with us.

Above: Panels from Rufus Marigold by Ross Murray. Copyright Ross Murray 2016.

You can read the full Rufus Marigold webcomic HERE. And for more information on Anxiety, you can visit the Ministry of Health website HERE and the Mental Health Foundation of NZ HERE for information and helpful links.

- AK!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Movin' House!

Hey folks, sorry to the lack of updates lately: Earth's End Central was in the process of moving house (no, not the one pictured) and dealing with all the annoying delays and costs that go with it.

But now that the new office is unpacked and set up, you can expect new reviews and event updates this week!

- AK!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

EVENT: Auckland Zinefest 2016

Above: Auckland Zinefest 2016 poster, designed by Chippy.

Auckland Zinefest is back for 2016, and bigger and better than ever! With over 50 exhibitors, covering everything from zines to comics, journals, independent media and much more, the event will be taking place this Sunday 24th of July, at the Auckland Art Gallery.

This new venue is a great opportunity to introduce a wider audience to the D.I.Y wonders of the local self-publishing community, and take Zinefest to the new level of public awareness. The event will be open from 11am - 4pm, so make sure you're in early for the best purchases and a chance to chat with stall holders, as it's likely to be a very busy day of selling!

For a full list of exhibitors and related Auckland Zinefest events, visit the website HERE, and the Facebook event page HERE for further updates!

Event Details: 
Auckland Zinefest 2016
Date: Sunday 24th of July
Time: 11am-4pm
Location: Auckland Art Gallery, North Atrium
Corner of Kitchener and Wellesley Streets, Auckland CBD

- AK!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Terry Teo Returns to the Small Screen!

Above: The cast of the new Terry Teo TV series. From right: Kahn West as Terry Teo, Drew Brice Ford as Caleb, Hanna Tevita as Polly, and Manon Blackman as Penelope Butterworth. Copyright Semi-Professional Pictures 2016.

This week sees the release of the new Terry Teo TV series on TVNZ Ondemand, a modern interpretation of the classic NZ graphic novel Terry Teo and the Gunrunners by Bob Kerr & Stephen Ballantyne, and the fondly remembered 1980s TV series starring Adrian Bell, Billy T James and Sir Robert Muldoon.

With his skateboarding skills and crime-solving street smarts, Terry become an unlikely kiwi icon - joining Footrot Flats as one of our best known local comic book characters. When Housebound filmmaker Gerard Johnstone was looking for his next project, the idea of rebooting Terry Teo was an appealing opportunity. "Which has never really been done before with a local property," explains Johnstone. "He's the only character we've got that I can think of that was a comic and had broad recognition with the public. In New Zealand the only chance we may get to make our own version of a Batman or Spider-Man, is probably Terry Teo."

The new TV series updates the material for a modern audience, recasting Terry as a petty criminal and gang prospect, who turns his life around when he learns that his policeman father has been killed in action. This leads Terry to investigate his father's murder and take on Auckland's criminal underworld - beginning with crime boss, Ray Vagas.

In maintaining the balance of action and humour that made the source material so appealing, the creators of the new show drew criticism from broadcaster TVNZ, who expressed concern when episodes of the show were classified PG instead of the preferred family friendly G rating. 

Johnstone and producer Luke Sharpe were quick to defend their take on the comic book character. "We've got shootouts, car chases, kung-fu fights, it's very full on", Johnstone explained. "And you don't want to talk down to kids. My favourite shows from when I was a kid were The A-Team and MacGyver, which weren't made for children. So the idea was to do something that had that same kind of appeal. I really don't think of this as a kids' show - it should have something for everyone".

Above: Terry Teo Co-Creator and artist, Bob Kerr. Photo copyright Nick Reed.

The graphic novel's co-author and artist Bob Kerr appreciated that certain changes would be made in bringing the character up to date for the small screen. In an interview with the NZ Herald this week, Kerr commented on the new interpretation, "it's darker and sharper. Terry's now 17 and he drives a car and he's got a cellphone. It's a hang of a lot of fun but it's a wildly different world to the romantic era we depicted".

Looking back on Terry's legacy, Kerr reflects, "we weren't thinking about any of this when we started. We were probably a bit naive. We just wanted to create a story featuring some local kids having a ripping adventure with heaps of laughs along the way, and somehow that connected with readers. Steve [Ballantyne] and I are delighted that Terry has been remembered and that 30 odd years later he is having another outing both in print and on the telly".

Terry Teo and the Gunrunners by Bob Kerr & Stephen Ballantyne is available now from bookstores and online at

Terry Teo is now streaming on TVNZ Ondemand HERE.

- AK!

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!