Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Moving Pictures: Comics and Animation Picks from the NZIFF

Above: A scene from the film, My Friend Dahmer.

The New Zealand International Film Festival has just launched its film line-up for 2017, and there's plenty of gems in there if you're a fan of comics and animation!

Leading the pack is My Friend Dahmerbased on the graphic novel memoir by John 'Derf' Backderf. Directed and adapted for the screen by Marc Meyers, My Friend Dahmer focuses on Dahmer's High School years as witnessed by his friend John Backderf, and the events that lead up to Dahmer's eventual serial killing spree of 17 young men and boys. The film stars Ross Lynch as Dahmer, Anne Heche and Alex Wolff. For more information on My Friend Dahmer, check out the NZIFF page HERE.

Above: A scene from the film, Blade of the Immortal.

Next up is Blade of the Immortalan adaptation of the classic manga series by Samura Hiroaki. Directed by Miike Takashi, Blade of the Immortal stars Kimura Takuya as Manji, whose sister is viciously killed by bounty hunters. After dispatching the killers, a mysterious nun uses blood worms to heal his wounds, granting him the ability to regenerate. Years later he is hired as a bodyguard for Rin (Sugisaki Hana), whose kendo-master father and pupils were slaughtered by the swordsmen of Itto-ryu. Together Manji and Rin set out to avenge the death of her family. For more information on Blade of the Immortalcheck out the NZIFF page HERE.

Above: A scene from Ethel & Ernest.

Ethel & Ernest is an adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ award-winning graphic memoir of his parents’ lives, gorgeous rendered in hand-drawn animation that perfectly captures Briggs’ art style. Adapted and directed by Roger Mainwood, The story is a progression through the lives of Briggs' parents, from their courtship in the late 1920s to their deaths a few months apart in 1971. A lifelong milkman with few complaints, Ernest keeps a close eye on world events – the rise of Hitler, the arrival of the fridge, the phone and the television, and the actions of successive governments. While Ethel, a former lady’s maid, would rather sleep than watch the moon landing on TV and bristles at any suggestion that their little household in Wimbledon might be considered working class. Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn provide the lead voices, with a soundtrack marking out the periods of time featuring original contributions from Carl Davis and Paul McCartney. For more information on Ethel & Ernestcheck out the NZIFF page HERE.

Above: A scene from Ancien and the Magic Tablet.

Steampunk dreams intersect with corporate reality in this imaginative anime set just days before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. High school senior Morikawa Kokone can fall asleep anytime, anywhere. In a series of strange dreams while napping, she travels to Heartland and becomes Ancien – a brave princess with a magic computer tablet, a feisty sidekick and an appetite for adventure. Her waking life is equally full of daring escapades. Her mechanic father Momotaro, a man of very few words, finds himself in unexpected trouble, and it’s up to Kokone to come to his rescue. When events in Heartland begin to parallel her waking world, Kokone realises that unravelling the mystery of her dreams may reveal the key to her challenges in the real world. Directed by Kamiyama Kenji (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex), Ancien and the Magic Tablet features the voices of 
Takahata Mitsuki, Mitsushima Shinnosuke and Maeno Tomoya. The film is in Japanese with English subtitles. For more information on Ancien and the Magic Tabletcheck out the NZIFF page HERE.

Above: A scene from My Life As a Courgette.

My Life As a Courgette is an Oscar nominated stop-motion animated film by Swiss director Claude Barras. Based on the YA novel by Gilles Paris, the film follows a nine year old orphan who prefers to be called Courgette, who's sent to a group home after the accidental death of his alcoholic mother. Courgette befriends a local cop named Raymond, and a new girl at the orphanage, Camille, who, like Courgette, was orphaned by violent circumstances. Despite the very adult situations that have burdened the lives of Courgette and his friends as the orphanage, My Life As a Courgette illustrates the resilience of children, and the ability to build new relationships and create a life out of the chaos that surrounds them. The film will be available in both a subtitled and dubbed version. For more information on My Life As a Courgettecheck out the NZIFF page HERE.

Above: A scene from the short film, Red Riding Hood Redux by Danijel Žeželj.

As always, there is a health amount of animation short films featured in the Animation Now! section of the festival. A new addition this year is the Animation Now! Black and White screening. Of note to comic fans should be the 12 minute short from this screening, Red Riding Hood Redux. The film is directed by Croatian cartoonist Danijel Žeželj, the atmospheric artist from Luna Park, Hellblazer, Loveless and many more. For more information on the Animation Now! showcases, visit the NZIFF page HERE.

For more information on the films and screenings coming to a city near you, visit the New Zealand International Film Festival website HERE.

- AK!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Is This New Zealand's Smallest Comic Book?

Above: Jessica of the Schoolyard: Jessica's Lunchtime Special published by The Comicbook Factory. Copyright The Comicbook Factory 2016.

The Comicbook Factory has a new Jessica of the Schoolyard matchbox sized micro-comic debuting in July; at only 3cm x 4.5cm it might be the smallest full-colour comic book published in New Zealand! It has 16 full-colour pages and comes in its own matchbox sized case. Retailing at $4.95 from The Comicbook Factory website HERE, it's another fine addition to any NZ comics collection.

Matchbox Comic #1: Jessica of the Schoolyard: Jessica's Lunchtime Special 

Synopsis: It's lunchtime and with a little assistance from Jessica, Alice and Wendy, Ethel manages a three course meal she won't soon forget...

Publication details:
English - 16 pages - Full colour - 45mm x 30mm
Stored in small box 53mm x 15mm x 36mm
AVAILABLE: 1st July 2017

- AK!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

REVIEW: Echoes From The Drift by Craig Petersen

Above: Promotional artwork for Echoes From The Drift by Craig Petersen. Copyright Craig Petersen 2017.

In the mid-90s I discovered Southern Tribe, a sci-fi comic book series produced locally by writer/artist Craig Petersen. At the time, when I wasn't attending high school, I was hard at work practicing writing and drawing my own comic books. It was a big inspirational boost to see that someone else was out there publishing comics in NZ, and essentially living the dream! Towards the end of that decade I moved to Auckland to attend university, and got to meet Craig in person at Armageddon Expo. Along with Zak Waipara, Craig was one of my first mentors, who helped welcome me into the DIY world of the NZ comics community.

Flash forward 20 years later: Craig now lives in Europe, and last year launched a successful Kickstarter campaign for his new sci-fi comic series, Echoes From the Drift. The series follows two young adventurers - Jenni and Zayf, as they explore parallel worlds. Thanks to this funding, issue #1 of the series is now available and can be ordered HERE.

Above: Character designs for Jenni and Zayf. Copyright Craig Petersen 2017.

The first issue opens in 1987, we meet Jenni, a punk styled twenty-something coming home after a long day working at a video store. Her flatmate, Rhonda, is on her way out the door for a hot date, leaving Jenni to indulge in an evening watching tapes of her favourite sitcom, One Knight Stand. Her viewing party is soon interrupted by the opening of an inter-dimensional rift, which drops an alien beast into her living room, followed by drift traveller, Zayf. Jenni and Zayf manage to force the beast back into the rift (and in the process destroy her apartment), at which point Zayf prepares to make a hasty exit...except Jenni - a huge sci-fi fan - wants to come with him. After a quick discussion, Zayf agrees to bring her along and they jump into the next dimensional rift. On the other side they find a dystopian wasteland, and seek refuge at an outpost known as 'Respite'. Inside Jenni notices some familiar faces: her friend Rhonda runs a robot repair shop, and isn't that her building's cleaning guy? Zayf warns her that they should move on, he wasn't expecting to see 'echoes' so soon...

Echoes From The Drift has a great sci-fi set-up, with plenty of opportunity for world building and fun character interplay. The dimension jumping sub-genre of sci-fi is fairly well traveled at this point (Fringe, Sliders, Quantum Leap etc), but Craig has remodelled it with a retro 80's skin that feels fresh and fun. The opening of the comic riffs on Cameron's original Terminator, with nods to anime cartoons, 80s sitcoms and Mad Max sprinkled throughout. Craig's artwork has improved greatly since the 90s, with confident storytelling and a rugged texture to the inking and colouring which suits both the 80s punk vibe of the first half of the story and the dystopian locations of the closing. If there's any draw back to the first issue, it's that it ends on a cliffhanger. But there's also an 8-page prologue story included, Ruins, which fills in the back story of the dimension they now find themselves in, so it's hard to complain.

I highly recommend checking out Echoes From The Drift #1. You can purchase it directly from Craig's website HERE. While you're there, you can also download a FREE PDF version of the prologue story Ruins to get a taste of what the series has to offer.

- AK!