Wednesday, February 7, 2018

International Comic Creators attend New Zealand Festival: Writers and Readers Events!

Above: Cartoonist Sonny Liew. Photo copyright Tom White 2018.

The New Zealand Festival kicks off the literary calendar for 2018 with Writers & Readers events, running from March 8th - 11th. As per usual, they have assembled a great international and local line-up of writers, including a wealth of acclaimed cartoonists. Visiting cartoonists include: Singaporean Sonny LiewSarah Glidden and Mimi Pond from the US, who will be appearing alongside local cartoonists/writers: Sharon Murdoch, Toby Morris, Sarah Laing, Brent Williams, Jonathan King and Dylan Horrocks.

Here's a rundown of the cartoonist and comics related events:

Above: The cover of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. Copyright Sonny Liew 2018.

In 2015 Singaporean cartoonist Sonny Liew released The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, an ambitious graphic novel that charts the life and career of a fictional comic book artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. By weaving together fact, fiction, and different genres, it tells the story of the formative years of Singapore's modern history and also the multi-faceted history of the comics medium itself. It was the bestselling local fiction title of that year, and went on to win the Singapore Literature Prize, and Book of the Year at the Singapore Book Awards in 2016. The following year it was nominated for six US comics industry Eisner Awards, winning three -  Best Writer/Artist, Best US Edition of International Material - Asia, and Best Publication Design.

He talks to local comics creator Dylan Horrocks (Hicksville, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen) about the challenges of speaking truth via art.

Above: Mimi Pond. Photo Copyright Wayne White 2018.

The illustrative works of Mimi Pond, described by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast as “hilarious, terrifying, moving and compulsively readable”, have been pouring from her pen since she started at the National Lampoon magazine in the late ’70s. Since then, she has contributed to many publications such as The Village VoiceThe New York Times,  The Los Angeles Times and many more. She also notably wrote the first broadcast episode of The Simpsons, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" in 1989, which was nominated for two Emmy awards.

In her two graphic semi-memoirs, Over Easy and The Customer Is Always Wrong, she looks back at her art student days working Oakland diners in the drugs ’n’ sex-fuelled ’70s – and talks hospitality, morality, mortality and more with broadcaster Eva Radich.

Above: An image from Out of the Woods, a graphic novel by Brent Williams, illustrated by  Korkut Öztekin. Copyright Korkut Öztekin 2018.


Mimi Pond will also be appearing in conversation with Wellington writer Brent Williams. Mimi Pond recalls heady ’70s days working at a California diner in her acclaimed semi-memoirs Over Easy and The Customer is Always Wrong. Brent Williams pursued social justice at Wellington community legal aid organisations in the ’80s, hit the wall with depression then addressed his troubled family past in the graphic novel Out of the Woods, illustrated by  Korkut Öztekin.

Above: The cover of  Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden. Copyrght Sarah Glidden 2018.


Seattle-based writer and illustrator Sarah Glidden works primarily in reportage comics. Her first book, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less (2010), detailed her encounters with Israel’s internal conflict, and has since been translated into five languages. She returned to the Middle East in Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq (2016) – described as “an ambitious, nuanced and sprawling work of graphic non-fiction” (Rolling Stone).

She talks with former war correspondent and RNZ Morning Report co-host Susie Ferguson.

Above: The cover of  The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond. Copyright Mimi Pond 2018.


These two gifted American comics artists mine personal stories in graphic form. Sarah Glidden and Mimi Pond join in conversation on this panel to display and discuss the personal and political nature of their work.

Above: The cover of Mansfield and Me by Sarah Laing. Copyright Sarah Laing 2018.

This year, Katherine Mansfield fans celebrate the 120th anniversary of the famous New Zealander’s birth. Historian Redmer Yska, comics creator and illustrator Sarah Laing, and poet, novelist and critic Vincent O’Sullivan have all published on Mansfield's life and work. They discuss all things KM - particularly her singular legacy and place in Wellington’s history - with poet Kate Camp, who was the most recent Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow, in residency at the writer's former South of France home.

How do you tap into your visual imagination? What makes a great illustration? And what’s it like living with one of the most popular first names of the 1980s and ’90s? All those questions and more will be addressed by comics creator, illustrator and graphic designer Sarah Laing (Mansfield and Me); award-winning designer and hand-letterer Sarah Maxey; and award-winning illustrator Sarah Wilkins, whose work appears in the bestselling anthology Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

Chaired by Sarah Lang.

Above: Gun Lore, a cartoon by Sharon Murdoch. Copyright  Sharon Murdoch 2018.


Caricaturing, satirising and making fun of the powerful has been a popular and dangerous position since the days of the hieroglyph.

Discussing the challenges of drawing the right lines around current events are three top political cartoonists: Eisner Award–winning comics artist Sonny Liew from Singapore, and locals Sharon Murdoch (twice cartoonist of the year at the Canon Media Awards) and Toby Morris (The Side Eye); with filmmaker/cartoonist Jonathan King (Black Sheep).

Above: An illustration of the iconic D&D monsters, The Gelatinous Cube (!) by Dylan Horrocks.


Would you rather face chaotic evil or lawful evil? How high is your charisma? And what’s with those weird-looking dice? If you have the answers, you’ve probably rolled up your own characters and stories in role-playing games.

Join games maker Morgan Davie and comics creator and Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast Dylan Horrocks as they discuss player-generated games and their potential for great storytelling with novelist Danyl Mclauchlan.

Above: Bad Ape, one of the digitally created characters from the film, War for the Planet of the Apes. Copyright Weta Digital.

While this isn't strictly comics related, I imagine this event will also be of interest to pop culture fans. In this behind-the-scenes session, Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Lemmon shows and tells how rapid advancements in visual effects by Weta Digital allowed the creation of a large cast of digital apes displaying unprecedented and convincingly dramatic emotion and intelligence.

Dan will return to Wellington from attending the Oscars in Los Angeles, where War for the Planet of the Apes is nominated for Visual Effects, to show and tell how Weta Digital's cutting-edge technology now gives filmmakers the ability to tell stories limited only by their imagination.

With all these events happening over three days it's going to be a very busy weekend for comics fans in Wellington! For more information and to secure your tickets, visit the New Zealand Festival: Writers & Readers website HERE.

- AK!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Kickstarter: The Adventures of Jack Scratch by Craig Phillips

Above: Artwork from The Adventures of Jack Scratch by Craig Phillips. Copyright 2018 Craig Phillips.

Last year I reviewed the folk-tale comics collection, Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts by Taupo based cartoonist, Craig Phillips. That book featured fun retellings of famous international folk tales and myths, all presented in Phillips' robust artwork, with plenty of style and humourous flourishes. Craig is back this year with the first in a new children's graphic novel series, The Adventures of Jack Scratch!

Above: Artwork from The Adventures of Jack Scratch by Craig Phillips. Copyright 2018 Craig Phillips.

Several years ago Craig’s daughter asked him to make a book just for her. When he asked her what she’d like it to be about she said “cats!”, then “pirates!” and then, “pirate-cats!” and so Jack Scratch was born. The Adventures of Jack Scratch was developed over many meal times, and deep discussions, about all the types of things pirate cats might get up to. The resulting book follows the adventures of Jack Scratch -  pint size hero, swashbuckler, adventurer and singer of pirate ditties! Together with Cap’n Catnip - the world’s greatest mariner - and his Uncle Silver, Jack is about to embark on a quest to find the fabled treasure of the HISS- PANIOLA! 

The book is set to be published in March by ME Publishing, but to make that happen they have launched a Kickstarter campaign so you can be one of the first to receive a copy! There's lots of great rewards and goodies available for pledges, including pre-ordering a copy for only $25! The Adventures of Jack Scratch: The Quest for the Hiss-paniola is 52 full-colour pages in A4 (210x297mm), bound in hardcover with a cloth covered spine.

Visit The Adventures of Jack Scratch Kickstarter page HERE for more details and to pre-order your copy, and the Facebook page HERE for further updates!

- AK!

Announcing Funtime Comics Junior!

"Comics aren't just for kids anymore!", was a catch-cry of the 1980s, as comics sought to capture a more mature readership. As the average age of comics readers has increased, we've seen a reduction in titles specifically aimed at children, along with an overall decrease in comics sales and circulation in general. 

Not that there haven't been recent success stories in comics and graphic novels made for kids: there's the perennial favourite Bone series by Jeff Smith, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, and the multi-million selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. And locally, we have such titles as Terry Teo by Bob Kerr and Stephen Ballantyne, Moa by James Davidson, and the upcoming The Adventures of Jack Scratch  by Craig Phillips (more on this title soon).

Funtime editor Jason Lennie is looking to potentially grow this list of NZ comics for kids, by floating the idea of a new Funtime anthology specifically aimed at younger readers. Are you a cartoonist and interested in producing some kick-ass comics for kids? Then drop Jason a line. "We are looking for comic submissions aimed at school age kids 5-12 yrs old. Kids love comics and we really want to create something different featuring NZ comics artists. There is no deadline as we are wanting to see what interest there is from the comic community". You can email your submissions to:

And be sure to visit the Funtime website HERE and the Funtime Facebook page HERE for further updates.

- AK!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Summer Reading: Extra Ordinary Comics 500!

Above: Extra Ordinary Comics 500: The Tombs of Black Paw by Li Chen. Copyright Li Chen 2018.

The Christmas rush is over, so I'm starting the New Year off by sharing some of the great local comic reads I've been catching up on over the summer. 

First up, I can't recommend enough the 500th webcomic from Li Chen's Extra Ordinary Comics! It dropped last month, and it's a doozy : Li, and her cat Shoelace, discover a map to the treasure of the infamous pirate cat, Black Paw. Following the map leads them on a wild and humourous journey, with branching options for the reader - there are different paths you can choose, taking you on a unique reading experience with multiple plot twists, puzzles and endings! With all its branching options this comic rewards repeat reading, so see if you can discover all the story options in the great interactive adventure!

You can read it on Li Chen's website, Extra Ordinary Comics HERE, (as well as the other 499, obviously). You can also support Li Chen's creation of Extra Ordinary Comics on Patreon HERE.

- AK!