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 Comics. This 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.
Island to Islandis 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 Distribution. Retail price: $45.00, ISBN: 9789866634567