Thursday, February 17, 2011

REVIEW TWO-IN-ONE: A Town Called Calamity/Fresh

Above: The cover of A Town Called Calamity by Steve Saville. Copyright Steve Saville 2011.

This double header review is courtesy of prolific Auckland cartoonist and all around nice guy, Steve Saville.
Steve has previously appeared in issues of DMC's New Ground anthology, and produced his own title Follow the Grief Lines.

First up, A Town Called Calamity, which is more of a illustrated prose story than a comic, with illustrations by Saville to compliment and interweave between the words. The story follows a young alienated child on an Alice in Wonderland like journey into the strange town of Calamity populated by mysterious characters, equally sinister and intriguing.
Above: A page from A Town Called Calamity by Steve Saville. Copyright Steve Saville 2011.

Written in the first person, Steve's writing captures the voice and worldview of a pre-teen comfortably, making the story an engaging read with a gentle wry humour that keeps events grounded while allowing for some necessary flights of fantasy. Much like Alice in Wonderland, the curious characters the child encounters in Calamity highlight unseen strengths in his own character, combating his fear of not belonging. While the theme of developing self-confidence and a sense of self is a well worn subject for teen fiction, Saville's story is nicely understated, delivering a fun read with something for younger readers to ponder long after their visit to Calamity. Well worth checking out.

Above: The cover of Fresh, by Rebecca Tan. Contents copyright DMC and the respective artists 2011.

Moving on to the second title, Fresh is an anthology of new comics edited by Saville and produced by the students of Alfriston Collage. The students produced the comics over a two year period as part of a comics creation module, and in their own free time. Teaming up with local comics publisher DMC, they have had the great opportunity to see their artwork in the professional context of print, as a finished product. As Saville points out in his introduction, it's a great way for these young people to express themselves and their views of the world through creative means.

Above: Art from Nostalgia, by Kimleng Cheav. Copyright Kimleng Cheav 2011.

The influence of manga on the next generation of cartoonists can't be overstated enough, and that's certainly evident in this collection. Almost all of the artwork in this collection uses the visual vocabulary of manga, and it's not hard to understand why. Unlike the comics of western societies, the language of manga comics allows for an emotional shorthand in it's visuals, which is ideal for younger artists grappling with ways to express complex emotions through their artwork in the simplest, most direct way possible.

Above: Dorothy by Ahmed Rajeh. Copyright Ahmed Rajeh 2011.

It's great to see some raw talent developing on these pages, but the next challenge will be combining their art talents with a narrative. There are some examples like Dorothy by Ahmed Rajeh that takes a health stab at a full narrative story, while others struggle to give their artwork more than a brief context. A variety of entries use song lyrics as a narrative for their stories, with some interesting results (possibly combining this art class assignment with an English assignment might be an idea?). Overall, it's a good start for some talented young students, and full credit once again goes to Steve Saville and DMC for helping foster these future talents!

Copies of A Town Called Calamity can be purchased from Steve Saville directly for $7 + $1.50 for postage.
Just write to: Steve Saville, 166 Sedden St, Pukekohe. Or email him at:

Fresh is available from Gotham Comics, 264 The Mall, Onehunga, Auckland. Ph/Fax: +64 9 6344399. Or visit:


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