Monday, September 28, 2009

Fleet FM Radio As Paper #3 Launch & Exhibition at The High Seas

Above: Tintin VS Akira by Jerome Bihan. Copyright Jerome Bihan 2009.

The ongoing comics anthology edited by Jerome Bihan launched it's third issue in style on Friday night with an exhibition at Auckland's newest comics mecca The High Seas.

The quality of this series is growing by leaps and bounds, with some top-notch pieces from it's staple of regular contributors including: Mat Tait, Tim Danko, Frank & Becky, Sophie McMillian and others. The presentation of this issue is also an improvement, with nice clean reproduction that really showcases the artwork to optimal effect without showing any production seams the occasionally distracted in the previous issues.

The pieces in this issues are nicely diverse, a view into the ongoing interests and projects of each artist.
Frank & Becky's owl infatuation continues with a historical twist, while Melbourne artist Mandy Ord contributes a nice auto-bio strip chronicling a night out after a long week working.

Above: A page from 'Operations and Passages' by Chris Cudby. Copyright Chis Cudby 2009.

A except from Chis Cudby's 'Operations and Passages' shows a lot of promise, and Jerome's Tintin VS Akira is a fun discussion of the differences between these two great works and the joys of comics discovery in general (let's hope Jerome puts more solo work out there!).

Above: Robert Walser's Choice Walk by Tim Danko. Copyright Tim Danko 2009.

Tim Danko and Mat Tait both contribute very polished pieces that are clearly part of a larger body of work.

Tim Danko has been producing some very intriguing comics mash-ups of late, combining comics with found literature to interesting effect. This piece combines extracts from Robert Walser's prose with a comic featuring a pair of ghostly ciphers with a Dada-like effect. It's off-set by a narration strip that runs along the bottom of the pages before merging with the main comic in the final panel. It's layout is well realised and invites repeat reading and multiple interpretations. For more of Danko's unique work check out his website which also features animated comics utilising a similar approach.

Above: 25/07/09 by Mat Tait. Copyright Mat Tait 2009.

Mat Tait's piece is a moody rumination on the nature of memory and regret. As always his work is clinically clean, a crisp world of inky shadows and bright whites with style to burn (and a scary, full-stop of a dog!). It's an evocative, well developed style which leaves you hoping a longer work will be forth-coming from Mat sometime soon.

Matt Hunkin's comic as interview piece 'Evil Genius', about a Wellington cartoonist Ahzan (who produces comics that can be seen at his family's Curry Takeaway) is a great watercolour comic that really isn't done justice in black and white. It has a similar feeling to some of the watercolour comics Eddie Campbell has been doing recently, and you should really check out the colour reproduction at the exhibition to really appreciate it.

Above: Karl Wills with the original artwork from 'Anal Atrocities'.

This issue also features an interview with Karl Wills by Matt Emery, focusing on Wills' mid-nineties comic-strip 'Anal Atrocities'. Wills has been keeping a fairly low profile of late, so for many of fans it's a welcome update on what Karl is working on now, and when you can expect to see more of his work in print (apparently you can expect a complete box-set of 'Jessica of the Schoolyard' from Meltdown Comics next year, along with some new comics featuring 'Connie Radar').

Above: Prints of the artwork from Radio as Paper #3 on display at The Hight Seas.

Prints of the artwork from this issue will be on display at The High Seas till the 8th of October. This is easily the best comics culture gallery space to be based in Auckland for some time and deserves your support. There are more great exhibitions on the way, so if you're interested in New Zealand comics this is a vital hub of Auckland's comics activity. Stop by to see the artwork and be sure to pick up an issue of Radio as Paper #3 for only $3!

For more information on Radio as Paper check out it's blogspot, and for updates on The High Seas take a peak at their website.


Below: Some photos from the Radio as Paper #3 launch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fleet FM Radio As Paper Issue #3 Launch

This Friday (25th of September) sees the launch of the third issue of 'Fleet FM Radio As Paper' with an exhibition at The High Seas in Auckland from 6pm.

The exhibition features work by an all-star lineup of artists included in the new issue and previous contributors to the series: Mat Tait, Chris Cudby, Vincent Shields, Frank and Becky, Tim Danko, Mandy Ord, Cornelius Stone, Nik Smythe, Sophie McMillan, Karl Wills, Tim Molloy, Toby Morris, MF Joyce, Timothy Kidd, Elliot Stewart and Radio As Paper editor Jerome Bihan himself!
Refreshments will be provided by Co-Pilot Wines.

So come Friday night, be sure you're at The High Seas to indulge in some great art, wine and comics (always a winning combination in my books;). I'll have a full report of the exhibition and issue #3 this weekend, but in the meantime you can catch-up by reading my previous review of issue #2.

For more information and updates check out the
Radio As Paper blog and The High Seas website.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Road to Armageddon '09: New Ground #12

Above: An exclusive look at the cover of New Ground #12 by Jared Lane. Copyright Jared Lane 2009.

With the Armageddon '09 Pulp Culture Convention just over a month away, I'm going to be spotlighting the new local comics making their debut at this year's convention.

First up, I've got the exclusive announcement of the talent line-up for New Ground #12:

Jared Lane - 'For God. For King. For Country!
Steve Saville - 'Follow the Grief Lines'
Stevie & Kelly Marie - 'Snow Day'
Neala - 'Punkid'
Rex and Miguel - 'Adventures of Rex & Miguel'
Matt Kelly - 'Kiwiman: Crossover of the Finite Island 3'
James Davidson - 'Groundsman: Falling Leaves'
Aruneshwar Singh - 'The Circle'

All this under a cover by Jared Jane (as seen above).

Be sure to stop by the Gotham/DMC Comics booth at the convention to pick up a copy and meet some of the talent. Also, if you'd like to submit material for a feature issue, Armageddon's a great chance to meet DMC Comics publisher Jeremy Bishop in person and show off your art samples! So get drawing and we'll see you at the show.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Random News Round-up: Wheels & Bullets

Above: The Batmobile circa 1989, designed by Anton Furst.

If you're in Auckland this weekend and you've ever wondered what it would be like to get behind the wheel of a Batmobile, you're in luck! The 1989 Batmobile created for Tim Burton's Batman films is on loan from Warner Bros Movie World to appear at this weekend's Speedshow '09 at the ASB Showgrounds.

Designed by the film's award-winning production designer Anton Furst, it's a provocative combination of sleek gothic chic and phallic symbolism on wheels (thanks to it's jet turbine engine). It could go from 0 - 60km/h in 3.7 seconds, but it's maximum speed of 530kn/h (with booster) was never reached, as it would quickly zap through the two blocks they had on set in less than a minute. Over at the Speedshow website they've listed the car's impressive features: mounted machine guns, grappling hooks etc. Although I doubt this model's ability to turn into a Batmissile or deploy full-cover shields without the use of CGI, you're more than welcome to put on your best Batman grunt of "shields" for it's voice activation system!

In DVD news, the sequel/reboot 'Punisher: War Zone' made it's unannounced debut straight-to-DVD and Blu-ray here in New Zealand this month, after bombing in the US (mainly thanks to Lionsgate's unfortunate December release date, 'cause nothing says Christmas like an ultra-violent vigilante mowing down gang bangers). It's a pity, because this is easily the best screen version of the character to date. Directed by Lexi Alexander, from a script by Nick Santora and Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (Ironman) stays much closer to Garth Ennis' MAX comics than the previous film effort, and is all the better for it.

Above: Ray Stevenson as Frank Castle/Punisher. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

The plot is fairly straight forward: the Punisher (a perfectly cast Ray Stevenson) takes down the Russoti crime family in a bloody no-nonsense opening, before tracking down the one that got away, Billy Rossoti (the Wire's Dominic West) and throwing him in a glass recycler (goodbye pretty boy, hello Jigsaw).
In the altercation with Billy's gang the Punisher guns down an undercover FBI agent, which sets him in the sights of agent Paul Budiansky, leading him to team-up with the one man Punisher task force: detective Martin Soap.
Guilt ridden by the accidental casualty, Castle is prepared to quit (possibly kill himself?) when Billy resurfaces as 'Jigsaw' and plans to take out his revenge on the widow of the undercover agent. With the police and Jigsaw gunning for him, Castle sets out to protect the widow and her daughter from the mobster's retribution and dispatch every last gangster extra the movie can afford (and there's plenty of 'em!).

Unlike the last film effort, this one pulls no punches to get a lower M rating, and piles up the bodies for a gory hard R, which is really what you want from a Punisher movie, right?(and interestingly, Marvel title it as 'Marvel Knights' in the credits). Taking it's cue from Ennis, the violence is sharp, straight to the point and occasionally outrageous.
Ray Stevenson is perfectly cast as Frank Castle, he's simmering with equal parts anger and haunted regret. He has no qualms about violently dispensing the bad guys at the drop of a hat, but also looks like he would welcome his own demise without any complaints. He doesn't speak unless he has to, but his actions speak volumes and that's really the way it should be.

Above: Dominic West as Billy Russoti/Jigsaw. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

Dominic West clearly enjoys himself as Jigsaw. He doesn't have a huge amount to play with here, but injects his performance with enough humanity to keep the character grounded and avoid the campy acting usually associated with these kind of roles.
If you familiar with ennis' Punisher comic (well, any of his comics really) there's always an 'annoying, little bastard' henchmen character, and he's it's 'Looney Bin Jim', played by Doug Hutchison (probably best remembered as 'Tooms' from 'The X-Files', basically he has a masters in playing nutcases!). It's an amalgam of Ennis' crazy bastards and gets to indulge in some of the more extreme carnage in the movie. But at 5' 8 even with kung-fu moves thrown in, his slight frame never really convinces as someone who could take down Castle (but that doesn't stop him taking a bite out of him!).

Above: The Punisher taking down the mob. Copyright Marvel/Lionsgate 2009.

Tonally the movie only wobbles a couple of time, mainly due to the fact that so much of it taken from Ennis' work, whose combination of pathos and gallows humor is difficult to mimic, and doesn't lend itself well to a dramatic movie without undercutting it's intentions (Ennis' comics usually pock as much fun at the conventions of action movies as it steals).
So until Marvel/Disney give Ennis the chance to write a Punisher movie himself, this is probably the best you can hope for. Given that this is the second Punisher feature to under-preform it's unlikely to make a return to the big-screen any time soon, but it makes for good weekend viewing.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Abstract Comics featuring Draw

Fantagraphics recently released a handsome hardcover collection dedicated to the fairly new, emerging genre of abstract comics. Edited by Andrei Molotiu, 'Abstract Comics' features examples from an eclectic mix of comics creators including: Robert Crumb, Gary Panter, Patrick McDonnell, Lewis Trondheim, Mark Badger, J.R. Williams and many more.
Above: 'Abstract Expressionist Ultra Super Modernistic Comics' by R. Crumb. Copyright R. Crumb 2009.
Above: 'Momentum' by J.R. Williams. Copyright J.R. Williams 2009.
Above: 'Un Caligramme' by Warren Craghead III. Copyright Warren Craghead III 2009.

Refreshingly, the collection also represents an international pool of comics talent, with contributors from France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Australia, and here in New Zealand.
Above: From 'Abstract Series #1, #4', by Draw. Copyright Draw 2009.

Wellington cartoonist Draw has been prolifically self-publishing comics for 10 years, including the series 'Style Crime', 'Clutter', 'Delve' and the anthologies 'Pictozine 2' and more recently 'Bristle'. Last year he began experimenting with abstract comics for his excellent website Drawing Silence.

To find out more about abstract comics, and more importantly, what inspires them, I tracked down Draw for some answers:

AK: How did you become involved in the project?

DRAW: Well I started posting Abstract Comics on my website during May of last year and In August I got an email from the editor Andrei Molotiu asking if I would like my work published in an anthology he was putting together. Obviously I said yes!

AK: What inspired you to create abstract comics?

DRAW: Emotions. In reading comics I was always struck how difficult it seemed to depict what people where feeling in representational narrative comics. Whether its European comics or Manga or US indie comics I always felt like they never where able to depict the complex and shifting emotional experiences of real life. So I turned to abstract comics to try and express these feelings. Clutter One, Four and Five where responses to this.

AK: Were there particular visual ideas or effects you were interested in exploring with the comics form?

DRAW: To start with, my investigations into Abstract comics where about exploring representations of emotions then I moved into investigating the formal aspects of the comics medium and how we as readers draw the various elements of the comics form together and create an artistic experience out of that.
Above: 'Series #1, #1' of Draw's abstract comics. Copyright Draw 2009.

AK: Panel frames appear to be a recurring theme for exploration in your abstract comics series, with some very arresting results. Comics panels traditionally control both focus (by framing the narrative into sections) and time (length of time it takes to read the panels in sequence), as a result I find their presence adds a great deal of conceptual baggage for you to experiment with. Was the traditional mechanics of the comics panels something you had in mind during the creation of Series #1?

Above: 'Series #1, #7a' of Draw's abstract comics. Copyright Draw 2009.

DRAW: For the first five Abstract comics I didn't. I was working only within the panels, it wasn't till abstract 6 and 7 sets that I started thinking about role the panel has in comics. From there I started to work through that idea.

AK: You've also experimented with having content inside and outside of a panel grid, for example, Series 1 Abstract 8 set 'They are coming'. Did you find one effect more interesting than the other, or was it more about exploring the contrast between to two effects?
Above: 'Series #1, #8c: They are coming', by Draw. Copyright Draw 2009.

DRAW: I had an epiphany. The gutter is where all the action in a comic takes place, its where the reader creates the comic reading experience. The Abstract Seven set from series One is the first experiments I did looking into this. I wasn't trying to create effects, I was trying to create a visual representation of what happens in the gutter of a comic.

Above: 'Series #3: 'Lines', #8', by Draw. Copyright Draw 2009.

DRAW: So for series 3 the question became what kind of abstract comics experience will the reader have if the content is situated within different parts of the comic form, the gutter or the panel. This is why I tried several versions of each work.
Above: 'Silver #2, page 3', by Draw. Copyright Draw 2009.

AK: You've also experimented with photography in the 'Silver series' and in Abstract series 2. Could you talk a little about that choice and does it have any link to the panels from 'Series #1'.

DRAW: Its interesting that you have mentioned silver along with Abstract comics, since when I conceived of it I didn't think of it as a abstract comic, most of the images are representational if a bit fuzzy. I was exploring history, stories, nostalgia, fantasy and reality using found images. Silvers in time.

Above: 'Series #2: 'Found Images', #3', by Draw. Copyright Draw 2009.

With Abstract two I was Initially thinking about how and what the gutter in a comic is. The gutter in a comic hides and reveals the story as you read it, you don't see everything in a comic. You have these tiny fragments of the image with much of it obscured. By applying this idea to a found image you create a different experience of the image, it changes. So to start with I covered a found image with paint (the gutter) and then removed the gutter to create the comic panels. From that I moved onto painting the gutter onto found images to create panels.

AK: Having been involved with the Abstract Comics collection and blog and seeing the work of other creators involved, has that provided you with some different perspectives and ideas for areas of abstract comics to explore next?

DRAW: Yes it has. see what new directions (and forms) Draw's abstract comics will take, be sure to check out his website. There's also the Abstract Comics Blog: a collective featuring new work from the artists featured in the collection.

Abstract Comics, edited by Andrei Molotiu is out now from Fantagraphics.
$39.99US much more in NZ dollars (but worth your cash!) ISBN:978-1-60699-157-2