Friday, December 23, 2011

RIP Eric Resetar

Above: The Cover of Crash O'Kane: All Blacks On Mars #1 by Eric Resetar.

One of New Zealand's comics pioneers passed away this week, on Wednesday 21st of December at Auckland Hospital. Eric Resetar is believed to be one of the first self-publishing comic creators in New Zealand, starting in the 1940s while still attending high school! 

During World War II he applied to the government for paper supplies (which were rationed at the time) to print his comics on, making the argument that they would increase national moral. The government agreed, approving his application and he was on his way to producing local comics!

Above: The Cover of Crash Carson Of The Future #2 by Eric Resetar.

Inspired by Buck Rogers comics he traded with visiting US sailors, his own comics were a mix of Sci-Fi and adventure, with his own added touch of Kiwiana.
Some of the titles he produced from the 40s through to the 60s included: Crash O'Kane: All Blacks On Mars (if there's a more obvious kiwi Sci-Fi fantasy idea I've yet to hear it!), Crash Carson Of The Future, Half-Back Comics: The Space Pirates, Adventure: Thrills On The Planet Jupiter!, Treasure Comics: Black Cobra And The Red Gold, Captain Sinister, Childrens Xmas Comic and Invisible Smith.

Above: The Cover of  by Eric Resetar.Half-Back Comics #1: The Space Pirates.

His legacy lives on in the biannual Eric Awards, celebrating excellence in New Zealand Comics, named in his honour. He is survived by a cousin, his close friends, and a legion of local cartoonist who have followed in his footsteps.


Below is a brief interview excerpt featuring Eric from the excellent documentary The Comics Show by Shirley Horrocks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

EVENT: From Earth's End Xmas Drinks 2011!

To celebrate the end of yet another successful year of New Zealand Comics, From Earth's End will be hosting it's 3rd Annual Xmas drinks at Brooklyn Bar, 332 Queen Street (or 57 Lorne Street, just opposite the Central Library) in Auckland, this Thursday the 8th of December from 7pm!

This will be a great chance to talk about some of the fine New Zealand comics and graphic novels that have been released this year and generally catch-up with other Auckland cartoonists to 'talk shop' and discuss the year that was. Everyone is welcome, so if you're a casual visitor to this site now is the perfect opportunity to meet some of Auckland's local cartoonist in person and share a couple of brews to celebrate! So if comics and alcohol sound like a winning combination, then this is the Xmas event for you! You can RSVP on Facebook HERE.

See you there.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

REVIEW: The Art Of The Adventures Of Tintin by Chris Guise

Above: The cover of The Art Of The Adventures Of Tintin by Chris Guise. Copyright Paramount Pictures/HarperCollinsNZ/Weta Workshop 2011.

This latest publishing collaboration between Weta Workshop and HarperCollins gives an intriguing and immersive look into the conceptual art behind the upcoming Spielberg/Jackson film production of The Adventures Of Tintin. Weta Workshop have once again wisely chosen to give the author duties over to the film's Lead Conceptual Designer Chris Guise (following on from Greg Broardmore's Art of District 9), who's in a knowledgeable position to really draw on the best of the film's concept artwork to produce this eye-popping collection.

Guise makes it clear from the beginning that this hardback collection looks at the many paths taken in the film's design process, focusing more on the concept exploration and 'roads not taken' rather than just the finished product, a decision which makes all the difference here. With the wealth of material on offer, it's great to see the development of visual ideas with all the side-steps along the way, which really provides the most fascinating material.

Above: Steven Spielberg on set with Peter Jackson, directing Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock and Jamie Bell as Tintin in Motion Capture suits. Copyright Paramount Pictures/HarpercollinsNZ/Weta Workshop 2011.

It's no secret that the film itself is entirely CG animated, with actors providing performances via Motion Capture technology, building on Weta Digital's previous work on The Lord Of The Rings and Avatar. Because of this process, a great deal of the film's success will rest on it's concept and production artwork, providing the locations and appearance of the characters themselves, right down to the burst blood-vessels of Captain Haddock nose!

Guise presents each part of the film's production process in a largely visual layout with minimal but informative text, letting the artwork speak for itself. He also wisely utilises the artists to talk about their own work and choices, providing some fun personal observations. Probably the most enjoyable section comes early in the book, where the concept artists (clearly fans of the comic albums) are given free reign to reinterpret examples of Herge's artwork in a more realistic style as a starting point for the film's visual look. This results in some great takes on many of Herge's classic covers, and provides a hint of where things may go if the film warrants a sequel (Destination Moon looks to be a firm favourite of the art team).

Above: A look at the development of visualising Tintin. Copyright Paramount Pictures/HarpercollinsNZ/Weta Workshop 2011.

The process of conceptualizing the film's characters is a fascinating study. Transforming Herge's two dimensional characters into three dimensions is key to the film's look and success, and that's particularly true of the film's reporter hero Tintin, who simplistic appearance (his head is little more than a slightly developed smiley face) is iconographic symbolism personified. The visual exploration of this tricky design task is well examined, and includes the book's most curious out-take: photos of the original test for a live-action Tintin, with prosthetic applications used to enhance the actor's features to match the comic (see the sample page above). It's a tantalising glimpse into what could have been, and while it's hard to gauge whether the prosthetics would have been more or less creepy than the realistic CG the production has decided to go with, avoiding shades of 1990's Dick Tracy is probably for the best. There's a dedication to Herge's original character designs here that is impressive, while also taking into account muscle movement and the full range of expressions needed for filming.

Above: A look at developing Tintin's apartment. Copyright Paramount Pictures/HarpercollinsNZ/Weta Workshop 2011.

The film's many locations are also well covered, from Tintin's apartment to stately Marlinspike Hall. Again, no small detail is overlooked, with the design team puzzling over unique problems like the best way to construct Tintin's apartment, which wasn't consistent over the entire run of the comic series eg. his curtains are different colours in different books!((gasp!)).

Overall, this is a very well considered 'art of' collection, with plenty of details to please the legion of Tintin fans and film enthusiasts alike. Best of all, there's an abundance of material here which will be even more pleasing to revisit after seeing the finished film itself, which is really what makes this collection shine.

The Art Of The Adventures Of Tintin by Chris Guise, published by HarperCollins NZ & Weta Workshop. 
RRP $60.00 Hardcover ISBN:9781869509309


Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome to...A Brighter Future

Above: A panel from The Brighter Future by Jonathan King. Copyright Jonathan King 2011.

Following on from last Saturday's election in New Zealand, the National Party won the night with a clear majority to govern alone, much to the dismay of lefty leaning New Zealanders and most of the NZ arts community (despite John Key claiming he did us all a favour by bending over backwards to get Warner Bros to make The Hobbit films here...with negotiation skills that The Simpsons Mayor Quimby would be proud of!).

So now we have three more years of John Key's promised 'Brighter Future' to look forward to...and what exactly will that future look like? Bright and prosperous or doom and gloom? 
Filmmaker and cartoonist Jonathan King has some ideas, and you can find them at his new website The Brighter Future HERE. You're also welcome to contribute your own visions of life in 21st Century New Zealand to the website, by contacting Jonathan at: or via Twitter: @brightr_future.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Election Day Rogues!

Above: New Zealand politicians reinterpreted as Batman's rogues gallery by Michel Mulipola. Copyright Michel Mulipola 2011.

Hi everyone, and welcome back to New Zealand's 85th most popular blog! (well according to this survey anyway...).
Apologies for the lack of content this month, I've been experiencing broadband difficulties...but now that everything is back up to speed, you can expect plenty of new updates and stories in the coming weeks!
In the meantime, it's Election Day here in NZ, and to celebrate it in comics style, local artist Michel Mulipola has reinterpreted some of our most recognised politicians as Batman villians! I'm particularly taken with Don Brash as Mr. Freeze...nicely played Michel. For a full explanation of his character choices, visit his deviantART page HERE.

Now lastly, if you're a NZ citizen, for the love of god get out there and VOTE!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Road To Armageddon 2011 Part 2: New Zealand Comic Creators

Above: The NZ Comics booth from Armageddon 2010.

It's been a landmark year for New Zealand Comics in 2011, with three original graphic novels seeing print: Shaolin Burning by Ant Sang, Nice Day For a War by Chris Slane, and Kimble Bent: Malcontent by Chris Grosz. This weekend all three authors, along with NZ Comics mainstay Dylan Horrocks, will be attending the Armageddon Expo, appearing exclusively at the New Zealand Comics booth #90.

Ant Sang has long been a pillar of the Auckland comics community, producing one the best selling NZ comics series of all time, The Dharma Punks, which was published between 2001-03. It was this series that brought him to the attention of the producers of the animated TV series Bro'Town, who hired Ant as art director and production designer for the show, winning him several awards. Earlier this year saw the release of his first original graphic novel Shaolin Burning from HarperCollins, a kung-fu infused meditation on revenge and destiny in ancient China. It was an instant hit upon release, making the top ten NZ Bestsellers fiction list four weeks running and the #1 book for it's publisher that month.

Chris Slane is an award-winning cartoonist whose work has appeared in countless magazines and newspapers including: The Listener, The New Zealand Herald, Metro and many more. His editorial cartoons have won him the prestigious Qantas Cartoonist Of The Year award three times and the Qantas Editorial Graphics Artist Award twice. This year saw the release of his second graphic novel Nice Day For a War: Adventures of a Soldier in World War 1, co-authored with Matt Elliott from HarperCollins.

Chris Grosz has worked in a variety of creative mediums over the years, as an illustrator, political cartoonist, art director, teacher and animator in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. A collection of his political cartoons with writer Shane Maloney called Australian Encounters, for Australian magazine The Monthly, was published in December 2010. His first graphic novel, Kimble Bent: Malcontent was released this year from Random House.

Dylan Horrocks is the author of the seminal graphic novel Hicksville. Universally praised by the international comics community upon it's release in 1998, it has only recently been published locally for the first time last year by Victoria University PressHe also spent several years of the last decade writing for DC Comics, putting the speech bubbles in the mouths of such well recognised characters as Batman, Batgirl, Supergirl, John Constantine, Tim Hunter and more. After his corporate comics experience he was happy to return to creating his own comics, which he currently publishes weekly through his website These include the two serials Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen and The American Dream.

All four authors will be signing and selling their graphic novels and comics Saturday and Sunday at the New Zealand Comics booth #90, so make sure you stop by for the best of homegrown comics! There will also be a special panel on New Zealand Graphic Novels, held Sunday October 31st at noon on Stage Two. This panel will give you an exclusive look inside the creative process of creating a graphic novel, from concept to script and finished artwork. If you're an aspiring cartoonist or have an interest in finding out more about New Zealand Comics in general, you won't want to miss this! It was one of the most popular panels at this year's Writers & Readers Festival and is available this weekend at Armageddon FREE of charge! So make sure you get in early for a good seat.

Above: The Inhabitants comic series by the Sheehan Bros. Copyright Sheehan Bros 2011.

The NZ Comics booth will also be showcasing a wide variety of NZ Comics from across the country, from DIY zines through to indie favourites, like The Inhabitants comic series by the Sheehan Bros.

Above: The cover of The Official Authorised Blastosaurus Super Happy Awesome Time Rainy Day Activity and Indoor Excitement Booklet ((whew!)). Copyright Richard Fairgray 2011.

Blastosaurus creator Richard Fairgray will once again be attending with a wide range of new titles, including: The Blastosaurus Hallowe'en Special,  The Official Authorised Blastosaurus Super Happy Awesome...etc (see above!), the Blastosaurus: A Wee Bit Special: A collected edition of the first four convention specials from 2009-2011, I Fight Crime Volumes 12-14, and finally, Richard and Terry's Animation Compilation: Special Burglary Edition DVD (!).

Yes, you read that right. Here's Richard to explain: 'Recently the Blastosaurus offices were robbed. The thieves took all our computers and all our back up drives and now the insurance company won't cover all the replacement costs. The only files we were left with (on a thumb drive in Richard's pocket) were our animations (though some had to be downloaded from Youtube to complete the set). As a fundraiser we are selling a DVD that contains all 62 episodes of Chewing Zombies, Stavros The Contractor and Jake's Never The One To Go Crazy for $10. Also on the set are a bunch of special features such as Audio Commentaries from Terry and I on all the shows, a second rap by Rapscallion, a Behind The Scenes look at Chewing Zombies, an animated Documentary about Richard and Terry, the trailer for Blastosaurus and a hidden Easter Egg.'

Blastosaurus is booth #38, so stop by and show your support by buying some comics and DVDs (I'm sure the DVD is worth it for the Rapscallion rap alone: you've been warned! And who knows what's on the hidden Easter Egg...).

Richard Fairgray will also be appearing next door at the Beyond Reality Media booth #39 to promote his webcomic The Inspiration Duncans with co-creator and BRM/Armageddon head-honcho William Geradts. The BRM booth will showcase their current range of webcomics on viewing tablets. Their current titles include: The Inspiration Duncans, Attica, Warden, The Red Star and Robert Rankin's EmpiresYou can read these titles for free right now over at the BRM website HERE. And as a bonus, here's a look at their first motion-comic for Warden:

As you can see, there's a ton of great locally produced comics available at the Expo this Friday to Monday, so make sure you come down and check it out! Armageddon Expo: October 28th-31st at the ASB Showgrounds. Friday Preview only $10 a ticket, Saturday to Monday- Adults $20, Student $17 (with ID), Child (5-12) $10 or FREE with full paying adult. For more details visit the Armageddon Expo website HERE.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Road To Armageddon 2011 Part 1: International Comic Creators

Above: The Mighty Avengers as drawn by Frank Cho. Copyright Marvel Comics 2011.

The Armageddon Expo returns to Auckland this week, taking a week's grace to avoid competing with the Rugby World Cup final. But now that that's out of the way, you can expect the usual masses of pop culture fanatics to descend on the ASB Showgrounds this October 28th-31st. Yes, you read that right: it's four days of none-stop geek overloading to make up for missing Labour Weekend (so now would be the time to fill out those annual leave forms, or start planning for a sick-day!).

The Expo is jam-packed with guests this year, so let's take a look at what's on offer for comic fans. Making up the guest list of international cartoonist are: Fred Van Lente, Frank Cho and Rob Guillory.

Above: Action Philosophers! by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey. Copyright Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey 2011.

Fred Van Lente is currently one of Marvel's most prolific writers. He came to the attention of The House of Ideas with his self-published comic series Action Philosophers!, which won an American Library Association Award. His writing credits include: Marvel Zombies, Incredible Hercules (with Greg Pak), Odd Is On Our Side (with Dean R. Koontz), Taskmaster, X-Men Noir, Amazing Spider-Man, Alpha Flight (also with Pak) and Comic Book Comics with artist Ryan Dunlavey. He was also one of the writers for the Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel, which inspired the recent movie starring Daniel Craig. There will be a special writing panel with Fred Van Lente on Saturday 29th at noon.

Above: Liberty Meadows by Frank Cho. Copyright Frank Cho 2011.

Frank Cho is responsible for drawing some of the most attractive women in comics this side of Dave Stevens (check out his website if you don't believe me, va-va-voom!). He started drawing a comic strip called University2 while studying Nursing, before graduating to producing the syndicated comedy strip Liberty Meadows. Since then he has gone on to draw for Marvel on such titles as: Marvel Knights Spider-man, Shanna the She-Devil, Mighty AvengersHulk and Ultimate Comics New Ultimates. He's also written/drawn Jungle Girl and Savage Red Sonja for Dynamite Entertainment. His next creator owned project is Guns & Dinos from Image Comics.

Above: Chew, drawn by Rob Guillory and written by John Layman. Copyright John Layman and Rob Guillory 2011.

Rob Guillory began his comic art career during a four-year stint as cartoonist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. From there, Guillory went on to work on several indie comic anthology projects, such as Teddy Scares from Ape Entertainment and Image Comics' Popgun Anthology.

In 2008, Guillory began working on his first major comics work, the New York Times Best-selling Chew, written by John Layman and published by Image Comics. The book has gone on to achieve much success, being nominated for two Harvey Awards (including Best New Talent for Guillory), two Eagle Awards and winning an Eisner Award for Best New Series in 2010. There will be a comics panel with Rob 
Guillory on Sunday at 1pm.

Check back tomorrow for a look at the local comic creators attending.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Return Of Blastosaurus And The Fall Of American Original

Above: The new Blastosaurus series by Richard Fairgray & Terry Jones. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2011.

Back in 2008, local comics creator Richard Fairgray talked his way into the deal of a lifetime: one of his ideas for a comic-book series was to be picked up for American publication by rising media mogul/movie producer Jeff Katz.

Above: Richard Fairgray, with his Blastosaurus comics.

Katz and Fairgray met by chance through a mutual friend during the filming of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Sydney, which Katz was over-seeing as a production executive for Twentieth Century Fox. Sharing a 'gift for the gab' they immediately hit it off, and Katz was impressed enough by Richard's diverse output of comics to offer him a development deal with his soon to be announced media company, the ironically titled American Original.

Above: Jeff Katz, head of American Original.

Katz had left his position at Fox to capitalise on what he saw as an opportunity to licence new characters and properties across a range of multi-media platforms: including comics, movies, animation and games. Fairgray's Blastosaurus - a high concept of a gun-toting mutant dinosaur, was a perfect fit for this business plan, with the promise of potential Ninja Turtles level licencing deals down the line. No stranger to marketing hype, Katz also had an angle on how to sell Fairgray's personal story too (referring to his legal blindness - Richard has 5% vision in one eye). As Katz told The NZ Herald in September 2008: 

"Once people get to know Richard, his talent and his back-story - and that's an incredible human interest story - they'll find out just how unique he is. I'm just thrilled to hear he's getting some recognition. I've got plans for him, I'm going to take his work and grow them across a wide spectrum of media. You know, I told him a month ago that my goal was to make him into a local New Zealand hero, that'll really be fun to watch."

That same year at San Diego Comic Con, Katz made his presence known, announcing a comics publishing partnership with Marc Silvestri's Top Cow Comics (ever the calculating deal-maker, this was no doubt a payback for Katz securing Silvestri an executive producer credit on Fox's A-Team movie). While a raft of upcoming comics and film deals were announced at that convention for American Original's production slate, a year later product had yet to materialised. For his part however, Fairgray had never stopped producing. While Katz's other hollywood partners dragged their feet on producing their promised comics, Fairgray was grinding out Blastosaurus monthly in New Zealand for over two years, while also prepping the promised American comic edition. 

Above: The American Original logo.

Back in 2009 I gave my own impression of how I saw the American Original deal playing out (you can read the full report HERE). Given Richard's indie approach and all-ages tone, I felt Blastosaurus would be an ill-fit at Top Cow, a company built primarily on comics featuring large breasted woman. Ultimately this was Katz's business plan, and Richard appeared to accommodate these strange bed-fellows as best he could: turning down a potentially lucrative first issue cover by Silvestri in favour of a more appropriate one by Transmetropolitan artist Darick Robertson (who Richard recruited himself). As for Katz, I made the following observation: '...I don't foresee him having the patience to nurture a comics line for the years it takes to successfully gather a loyal readership to create the 'pre-awareness' he values without giving into the temptation to develop the properties straight out the gate. I expect the recession and the continuing market shrinkage will cop the blame for the company's failure (to produce)..'.

Sure enough, in a video interview with Comic Book Resources from last September's Comic Con, Katz admits that the recession has temporarily delayed his publishing plans: 

"..the economics of the business (has changed) entirely. I am not made of money ultimately, fundamentally. I've got a pretty finite amount that I can spend, and so you have to be able to pivot at a point in time to where I could go and spend all my money and publish, and let's be very honest, based on the economics..not get any of it back, and be out of business in a year.." He goes on to say: "At the end of the day, if you can spend the same amount of money on a four issue comic or a Facebook App game that has downloadable content, one is all 'out money', (and) one is money that you get back..". 

You can view the full interview HERE, where Katz's talks about the delays of the American Original comics and Blastosaurus around the 7 minute mark. Blastosaurus finally made it's American debut at that same convention, but was ham-strung but printing issues, with the books arriving late to the convention and in limited quantities.

One year later, Richard has continued to produce seasonal Blastosaurus specials in New Zealand, while American Original's publishing progress continues to languish in 'development hell'. Speculation about the future of the American Blastosaurus material and rights was finally resolved this week, with Richard making the following announcement: 

'The version of Blastosaurus released in New Zealand was never intended as a final version for worldwide release, the first issue was produced at ridiculous speed in order to secure copyright and ownership of key story elements just in case anything went wrong for me in the future.
Unfortunately what I didn't count on was that people would actually like the issue (most people felt the same way I did about it but some did really latch onto the underlying concept, I'm grateful for this because I think it is a strong concept despite the end result), forcing me to quickly rush out follow up issues that were not to the standard of writing or art that I would aspire had I had more than 6 days to complete each issue.
This new version is the version that was intended for release at SDCC last year. While the launch did sort of take place it was hamstrung by printing problems and delays beyond my personal control. While it's taken me a while to get things back in order I think the time has done the comic good and I think this version shows exactly what I always intended the story to look and feel like. While I'd still like to see the comic find a home in print (because printed comics are what I love, despite what the market is doing) I am more interested in having people read and (I hope) enjoy it.
My parting with American Original was not ideal but by no means was it nasty. Jeff and I have different approaches and I think both work for different reasons and I think we will hear more from him both in terms of comics and other works.'

You can visit the newly minted website HERE. I've had an advance look at the revised material, now in full-colour provided by Tara Black, and if you were a fan of Laird and Eastman's original TMNT stories, I think you'll get a kick out of this. Obviously if you're a fan of the original Blastosaurus, this will be well worth the wait. Here's a video preview:

Richard may have been offered the opportunity of a lifetime, but it's his perseverance and dedication to his work which has allowed him to make a living from comics, rather than gambling on the ultimately empty promises of American dreams. They may not be making him rich, but at least they exist to be read and enjoyed. After all, isn't that the point of creating comics?

Something for Jeff Katz and his hollywood friends to think about while they broker movie deals and celebrity endorsements for comics they have still yet to create, or making a single dime from.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

EXHIBITION: Oranges At Halftime: Rugby and the Kiwi Experience

Above: A room recreation featuring Rugby memorabilia, including a rare Eric Resetar comic (pictured bottom left).

So unless you've been living under a rock lately (god know I've tried), there's a Rugby World Cup going on in these parts!

To coincide with the Rugby World Cup, there's a roadshow currently touring the country, Oranges At Halftime: Rugby and the Kiwi Experience celebrating the history of grassroots Rugby in New Zealand. The roadshow contains rare memorabilia from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Included in this treasure trove is a rare look at one on New Zealand's first comics, Crash O'Kane: All Blacks On Mars by Eric Resetar self-published in the 1950s.

Eric Resetar is believed to be one of the first self-publishing comic creators in New Zealand, starting in the 1940s while still attending high school! Crash O'Kane: All Blacks On Mars is one of his many comics blending the sci-fi genre tropes of the comics and pulps he was trading with visiting US sailors with his own touch of kiwiana (All Blacks playing on Mars was clearly a winning idea!). His legacy lives on (as does the man himself, currently residing in Auckland) in the biannual Eric Awards, celebrating excellence in New Zealand Comics, named in his honour.

If you would like to take a closer look at this rare artifact, and others from the locker-rooms of Rugby history, the Oranges At Halftime roadshow will be in Auckland this month at the following locations: Mitre10 Mega carpark, Lincoln Road, Henderson, Oct 4-6th; Bairds Road carpark, Otara, Oct 7-9th; Queens Wharf, Oct 10-14th; and Town Centre Drive, Botany, Oct 15-16th.

For more information on the roadshow and it's other stops across the country, visit the website HERE.


Monday, October 3, 2011

EXHIBITION: Monkey Shrine: New Works by Tim Molloy

Above: The exhibition poster by Tim Molloy. Copyright Tim Molloy 2011.

If you're currently in Melbourne, Australia, tomorrow night you should make sure you're at this gallery opening! Featuring new artworks from Tim Molloy, creator of Mr. Unpronounceable and other mind-bending comics goodness! The exhibition opens at 6pm and is located upstairs at The Old Bar, 74-76 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

If you're geographically challenged and can't make it, you can see more of Tim's artwork at his blog HERE.


Friday, September 23, 2011

COMIC STRIP: A Life With Comics #2: Into The Woods

Above: A Life With Comics #2: Into The Woods (CLICK ON THE ART TO ENLARGE).
Copyright Adrian Kinnaird 2011.

Welcome back for the latest chapter of my new comic strip, exploring my earliest experiences with comics!

This one is really my 'first contact' with the medium of comics and it's unique reading experience. It's interesting to note the similarities to Dylan Horrock's first comics experience as depicted in the introduction to the new edition of Hicksville

It was a very personal experience for me, so it's nice to know I'm not the only one who had that kind of reaction. Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison has often talked at length (most recently in his excellent superhero exploration/memoir Supergods) about his relationship with comics been likened to visiting another dimension or plane of existence, and while that might sound a little far fetched, I think there's some truth to that.

There really is something very hypnotic (and almost seductive) about the juxtaposition of panels in comics, that's far more immersing than other forms of entertainment. Perhaps it's that feeling that you're engaging in an exchange with the media: it provides the information through words and images, but it's up to you as the reader to add the extra dimension of time and space, bringing the reading experience to life.

But this was just my first taste, a gentle primer in the language of comics. My next comic-book would grab me by the collar and throw me head-first into a world of imagination beyond the laws of physics and science. Anything would be possible...and it was all taking place on the other side of those four-colour windows.


Monday, September 5, 2011

NEW NZ Graphic Novel: Kimble Bent: Malcontent

Above: The cover of Kimble Bent: Malcontent by Chris Grosz. Copyright Chris Grosz/Random House 2011.

This week sees the release of the third locally published graphic novel this year, Kimble Bent: Malcontent by Chris Grosz.

An acclaimed editorial cartoonist and artist, Chris Grosz has created a striking 72 page graphic novel retelling of James Cohan's original 1911 biography The Adventures Of Kimble Bent. Following the life of Bent, an american who through a series of miss-adventures washes up on New Zealand shores in the 1860s as part of the British Army, before defecting to live among the Maori. 

As one of the few Pakeha to be accepted into Maori tribal society during this period, he joined the Hauhau tribe and took part in key battles during the infamous Taranaki Land Wars. Bent's story of adapting to tribal life is equally fascinating and hair-raising, as he walks a thin line between acceptance and mistrust, with the threat of a scalping and cannibalism ever present. His reputation as the 'Pakeha Maori' and outlaw grew over time, with a price placed on his head by rival tribes and the Crown itself.

Above: A page from Kimble Bent: Malcontent by Chris Grosz. Copyright Chris Grosz/Random House 2011.

Remarkably, the entire book is illustrated using scraperboard, a technique involving removing a top layer of black ink to reveal white china clay underneath, giving the illustrations a stark rugged contrast, perfectly capturing the feel of colonial New Zealand and highlighting the tensions of the story.

It's available now from all major booksellers now for RRP $24.99, published by Random House (ISBN: 9781869795160).

Look for my review later in the week, in the meantime you can watch this Monty Python-like trailer for the book:


Friday, August 26, 2011

COMIC STRIP: From Earth's End: A Life With Comics #1

Above: My Life With Comics #1: Origins (CLICK ON THE ART TO ENLARGE).
Copyright Adrian Kinnaird 2011.

Hi everyone, welcome to my new regular comic-strip feature! Some of you may not have been aware, but long before I was a blogger, I was first and foremost a cartoonist. I've continued to work on graphic novel projects alongside my blogging for the last few years, but due to the long-form nature of those projects and the ins-and-outs of publishing, I've shown very little of that work publicly. Now for a while I've had people needling me to put something new out there, and I've been keen to do that, but it was just a matter of finding the right project and format...

I've never done a full autobiographical comic before, so that idea was really appealing to me. Comics have always been a part of my life, both as an interest and a form of expression, informing my view of the world around me in quite unexpected but profound ways. The more I thought about it, framing my formative years growing up in New Zealand alongside my experiences relating to comics quickly gave way to an avalanche of story material. From the amusing stories of backyard superheroics to the teen years of DIY comics creation, it will all be covered here. After a week working on this project I've already uncovered surprising memories of the unexpected effects comics have had on my life and development as a person that I haven't seen covered elsewhere, so it should make for an interesting journey.

I chose the Sunday Comic Strip format as it seemed like a good fit for short chapters and allowed me to publish it in a regular fashion (and one day soon print it in a cool large newspaper format!).

Above: My script/Rough for A Life With Comics#1. Copyright Adrian Kinnaird 2011.

Now for some behind the scenes extras: above is my script/rough for chapter #1.
Usually if I'm writing for a comic or graphic novel I write a full script, but for comic strips I find the space is so limited it's best to start by sketching out the room you have to work with first (in this case, I went with an A4 page space of two tiers). This way you can sketch in the panels you know you'll need to tell the story, and figure out how best to use the remaining space to fill in the blanks. The same goes with the dialogue, the space is limited so if you can't fit it on the page in the sketch you've probably over-written.

Since this strip is charting my way through comics history, I had considered drawing it in different styles depending on the content eg. drawing this first 'origin story' in the style of Superman artist Joe Shuster etc. I ultimately decided against it, as I feel it will be more interesting to capture my likeness growing up over time, rather than adjusting to the style of different comic artists. But I will try to capture the feel of those comics in pacing and style; in this one I looked to early issues of Action and Detective Comics for the description boxes, flat colours and balloon tails, so keep your eyes peeled for subtle references!

Above: Some reference photos of me from the early 80s (yes kids, that's what telephones used to look like!).

And of course reference photos from the time period were also helpful to recapture the memories as close as possible to the way I remember them (and having them on the drawing board generally helps put me in the right head-space).

Ok, well I hope you enjoy this first one, and come back for more soon!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Roger Langridge cleans up at the 2011 Harvey Awards!

Above: The Muppets have a reason to celebrate, as drawn by Roger Langridge. Copyright Disney/The Jim Henson Studio 2011.

Last night saw the winners announced for the 2011 Harvey Awards, with two awards going to New Zealand cartoonist Roger Langridge. He came away with Best Writer for his work on Marvel's acclaimed all-ages series Thor: The Mighty Avenger, and the Special Award For Humour In Comics for his groundbreaking comics adaptation of The Muppet Show from Boom Studios.
Above: A tender moment from Thor: The Mighty Avenger, as written by Roger Langridge with art by Chris Samnee. Copyright Marvel 2011.

Roger's artistic collaborator on Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Chris Samnee, was also awarded Most Promising New Talent.
This series was well received by critics and fans alike, but only lasted eight issues. Following the early adventures of Thor the god of thunder, it managed a fine balance of adventure, humour, and a beautifully handled romance. Basically this book has a hell of a lot of heart, and puts most of it's fellow 'mature' superhero comics to shame. It's available in two very affordable volumes now, so make sure you pick them up today and find out what all the fuss is about!

Also available now is the first issue of Roger's new comic series Snarked! #0, from Boom Studios. This zero issue only $1US, which given the strength of our NZ dollar at the moment makes it next to nothing, so grab a copy while it's cheap! For more in-depth information on the world of Snarked!, you can now visit the new website Snark Island for character information, preview art and lots of other goodies HERE.

So congratulations to Roger on some well deserved awards!

PS: If you're listening Marvel: now would be a good time to announce that complete Thor: The Mighty Avenger oversized hardcover;)

PPS: Word to the wise: If you don't already have a copy of The Muppet Show in paperpack, it's currently 60% OFF on Amazon HERE!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

REVIEW: Baltimore: The Plague Ships

Above: A page from Baltimore: The Plague Ships by Ben Stenbeck. Copyright Mike Mignola/Dark Horse Comics.

Lord Baltimore is the latest victorian horror hero to emerge from the mind of comics master Mike Mignola and his collaborators Christopher Golden and New Zealand artist Ben Stenbeck.

The first installment in what will no doubt be an ongoing adventure, The Plague Ships introduces us to World War 1 veteran Lord Henry Baltimore, a soldier turned peg-legged vampire hunter cutting a bloody path across plague infested Europe in pursuit of a vampire leader known as Haigus.

After exterminating a nest of vampires on the coast of France, Baltimore finds temporary sanctuary with an elderly witch and her granddaughter Vanessa. They assist him in escaping the village locals, who are less than grateful for the presence of this suspicious looking stranger. The only catch is, Vanessa insists on accompanying Baltimore on his voyage to Livorno, so she can leave her death ridden village behind her.

During the voyage, Baltimore recounts to Venessa his harrowing encounter with vampire bats amongst the corpses of the dead on the battlefields of World War 1, which may have provided the catalyst for the original plague outbreak. Soon their trip takes a treacherous turn, as a vicious storm sinks their ship leaving them stranded on a deserted island, inhabited only by the wreckage of plague ships, victorian submarines and the corpses of the infected. Whether they'll stay dead long enough for Baltimore and his companion to survive the night is another matter entirely...

This is another solid entry into Mignola's growing library of victorian styled horror comics. The writing takes its cue from the likes of classic horror novelists like Bram Stoker, opting for slow-burn reveals and atmosphere rather than shock images, and is all the better for it.

Above: A page from Baltimore: The Plague Ships by Ben Stenbeck. Copyright Mike Mignola/Dark Horse Comics.

An equal amount of credit has to go to Stenbeck, who's carefully paced artwork expertly tells the story, keeping it atmospheric and grounded at all times. At first glance it would be easy to call Ben's artwork here a close approximation of Mignola's own, as they share a very similar stylistic approach (and it certainly doesn't hurt); but a careful study reveals Ben is bringing just as much of his own great touches to the series.

Stenbeck's artwork has a layer of vintage detail and texture that brings a lived in reality to the story and it's historical setting. It's subtile, but an essential element necessary to reinforces this story, one which I think would have been lost in the abstraction if Mignola had illustrated it himself. Ben's artwork doesn't contradict the visual language of Mignola's world, but expertly adds to it when called for, the sign of a true collaborator. The hardback also contains a bonus sketchbook of Ben's development drawings and sketches as well as brand new pin-ups!

Above: Baltimore: The Plague Ships cover by Mike Mignola. Copyright Mike Mignola/Dark Horse Comics.

This hardback collection has already landed on the prestigious New York Time Bestseller List, with a sequel mini-series Baltimore: The Curse Bells, beginning with issue #1 shipping August 10th from Dark Horse Comics.

If you're a fan of classic suspenseful horror from when vampires were vampires (and not socially awkward tweens) then this is essential reading! It's available from Dark Horse Comics and your local book store now, for $24.99US.

For more of Ben's artwork, check out his website HERE, and you may want to revisit this Studio Visit I conducted with Ben a few years ago for a look inside his working process HERE.