Friday, October 29, 2010

The Auckland Armageddon Expo 2010 Report

Above: The New Zealand Comics booth, manned from the left by Aimee Cairns and Kelly & Darren Sheehan. photo by Karl Wills.

The Armageddon Expo returned to the Auckland ASB Showgrounds this year for another successful Labour Weekend celebration of all things pop culture related, with an estimated 45,000 punters through the door! The global credit crunch and recent tax increases clearly didn't stop fans from turning out in their droves to enjoy a weekend of sci-fi overload; with two Doctors Who in the house, a variety of web and comic guests, the voices of Goofy and Bender, and because no Expo would be complete without a pseudo-celebrity, that washed up kidult from Married With Children.

This year New Zealand Comics had it's strongest showing yet, with a large 'new and improved' NZ Comics booth, the Blastosaurus booth, Drake's Ninjet booth, Coal Powered Press, Drawfest and a variety of solo artist booths.

Above: The cover of Gridley Stones #1, by James & Aimee Cairns. Copyright James & Aimee Cairns 2010.

At the New Zealand Comics booth there was a wide variety of great books on sale for the weekend: including two new novellas from the Sheehan Bros, Into the Dark Woods and Frozen; part two of The Impostor by Lee Yan Marquez, Connie Radar PH D by Karl Wills, the latest issues of NZ comic anthologies Funtime #25 and Bristle #7, the debut issue of Gridley Stones by James & Aimee Cairns, and a great selection of back issue favourites.

Above: A signed sketch from Living with the Dead by artist Ben Stenbeck.

There were also some booth exclusives: the Dylan Horrocks and Emily Perkins collaboration, All Hail Elle: Destroyer of Worlds!, previously only available at the Orcon Great Blends event; and signed and sketched copies of Witchfinder and Living with the Dead by local superstar artist Ben Stenbeck.

Local comics guests appearing at the booth over the weekend included: the Sheehan Bros, Lee Yan Marquez, Karl Wills, James & Aimee Cairns, Isaac Freeman, Brent Willis, Marc Streeter and Jianran Pan.

Above: Kelly Sheehan attracting punters at the NZ Comics booth. Photos by Karl Wills.

Above: Funtime editor Isaac Freeman at the NZ Comics booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above: Lee Yan Marquez drawing at the NZ Comics booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above from left: Richard Fairgray and Drake drop by with a note....Brent Willis hiding out on the right. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above from left: James Cairns & Lee Yan Marquez still smiling on Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: Bristle editor Brent Willis on the right, Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: ActionMan Adam webcomic cartoonist Marc Streeter drawing on Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: More photos of the NZ Comics team from Day #2. Photos by Gijs Priegel.

Above: Richard Fairgray at the Blastosaurus booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Meanwhile, over at the Blastosaurus booth Richard Fairgray had a large amount of new material on offer, which virtually sold-out after the first two days. This included a new Blastosaurus Halloween Special, a DVD collection of Chewing Zombies, new volumes of I Fight Crime, and Clip Show a collection of his earlier high school stories.

Above: Drake manning his Ninjet booth.

Drake did brisk business over the weekend at his Ninjet booth, with a new issue of his ninja-cat series to promote.

In pavilion #1 around the corner from the NZ Comics booth, Coal Powered Press made their convention debut, with an impressive line-up of New Zealand web-comics, which you can check out right HERE.

Above: The cover of White Cloud Worlds. Copyright Paul Tobin/Harpercollins 2010.

The Weta Workshop booth provided a hidden treat, with a Expo preview of the new fantasy art anthology collection White Cloud Worlds, featuring among others, fantasy and comic artists Ben Stenbeck and Greg Broadmore, edited by artist Paul Tobin. It will be available at all good booksellers from the 1st of November, and you can also check out the official website HERE.

It was a great convention for NZ Comics, with a noticeable increase in sales across the board. There was a competitive nature in the air after Day #1, which led me to proclaim the NZ Comics booth as the best in show on Facbook, which lead to an ominous note, left at the booth for me on Sunday morning:

Unfortunately I had the day off, so any retaliation, or a Star Trek inspired death duel would have to wait till Monday.

While attendance was healthy with punters ready to part with their cash, retailer and promotional spending appeared to be down, with less 'wow' factor than previous years. The usually elaborate video-game and console area seemed noticeably smaller, with fewer screens and less advertising. In general there seemed to be more blind-spots than usual inside the pavilions, as if the Expo was stretched thin to fill the entire complex to capacity. Unsurprisingly, major sponsor Warner Bros were a late no-show (possibly to avoid public backlash from the ongoing Hobbit controversy?), leaving a gap in pavilion #1 which was quickly filled by an extra artists alley. The presence of a fairly large NZ Army/Navy recruitment stand was a little alarming if you ask me, but I suppose it places them in slightly more interesting company than the usual career expos.

Another cause for concern was the amount of repetitive stores. There were at least six booths selling the same imported novelty T-shirts, caps and other nick-knacks. This lead to a repeated feeling of 'sameness' when walking through the Expo as a whole, making it feel more like Victoria Park Markets than a special event you payed $20 to attend. I think some decisive 'culling of the herd' next year could well improve the Expo's image and make way for some fresh stands and new exhibitors. One big improvement though, was the speedy entry point with multiple ticket booths, which prevented any timely delays, like last year's killer two hour entry line!

Overall, it was a pleasant weekend spend with friends: talking comics, tripping over R2-D2 and watching kids over-dose on mini donuts and candy-floss, while the monolithic Burning Man watched on.

Above: R2-D2 and friends. Photo by Karl Wills.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Road To Armageddon Auckland 2010: NZ Comic Creators

Above: The Imposter by Lee-Yan Marquez. Copyright Lee-Yan Marquez 2010.

The Auckland Armageddon Expo 2010 is once again crashing down upon us; like a tidal wave of pop culture madness, overloading the senses and emptying our pockets! The Expo will be taking place over Labour Weekend, October 23rd-25th at the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane. It features a wide variety of popular culture guests and attractions from the latest videogame releases, to film, animation and comic guests.
As well as international comics guests (which you can read about HERE), the Expo will also be feature some of NZ's finest cartoonist, signing at the New Zealand Comic Creators Booth (booth 86, Pavilion #1).

Above: A spread from Into the Dark Woods a new graphic novella by the Sheehan Bros. Copyright Sheehan Bros 2010.

So let's have an exclusive look at some of the new local comics releases on offer at this year's Expo:

First up, the Sheehan Brothers have two new graphic novellas debuting at the show: Into the Dark Woods and Frozen. Hot off their Eric Award winning series The Inhabitants, these dark fantasy offerings are the first two chapters of an interconnected series of short stories, which will form a future boxed collection. It marks a return to the more lyrical nature of their first collaboration The Longman, which is where an earlier version of Frozen originated (as an insert in Longman #5).

Above: A spread from Into the Dark Woods a new graphic novella by the Sheehan Bros. Copyright Sheehan Bros 2010.

Darren Sheehan's artwork continues to evolve in both detail and atmosphere, reaching an Aubrey Beardsley level of mastery in the dark art of inking. If you drop by the booth may get to see some of the original artwork, which is even more stunning up close. Both writer Kelly and artist Darren Sheehan will be appearing during the weekend.

Above: The cover of Dr. Connie Radar PH.D Daily Funnies by Karl Wills. Copyright The ComicBook Factory 2010.

After an extended leave in advertising, the twisted comic strips of Karl Wills, creator of Jessica of the Schoolyard, returns with Dr. Connie Radar PH.D. Collecting his online daily strips from The ComicBook Factory website, it features the scientific adventures of space babe Connie Radar and her brainy robot sidekick, Julius.

Available in the same Tijuana Bible format as Jessica, your collection won't be complete without it. It's a limited edition run, so make sure you get in quick! Karl will also have some very affordable original artwork for sale, so stop by the booth to pick up some great artwork, from one of NZ's most polished cartoonists.

Above: The cover of Funtime #25. Copyright Funtime Comics Collective 2010.

The latest issue from New Zealand's longest running Comics Collective is out in time for the convention season! The Christchurch based Funtime gang, have produced what looks like another winner with this literally earth-shattering cover (what...too soon for bad puns?). Featuring a variety of creators and stories for all tastes, Funtime never fails to entertain, and issue #25 looks like it won't be any exception. Funtime editor Isaac Freeman will be on hand all three day of the Expo, to regale you with stories of cartooning from NZ's earthquake central, and get you to participate in what's sure to be another classic round of Jam Comics! (who could forget Welly Armageddon's Dr. Cheetah?).

Above: The cover of Bristle #7 by Brent Willis. Copyright Brent Willis 2010.

This Wellington based anthology continues to go from strength to strength, as Brent Willis heads up a team of talented contributors in Bristle #7, including: Chris Cudby, David Piper, Matt Kelly, Ari Freeman, Renee Lyons and others. At $5 this is a steal, and since it takes a pot-shot at Paul Henry on the cover, you just know this is going to move fast! Editor Brent Willis will also be on hand for all three days of the Expo, no doubt bringing with him a wide variety of his solo efforts including a selection of 'blue' comics which are always a hit with our mature readers (perhaps a reprint of the rare 'double blue' rated Man Hole? can only dream...).

Above: The Imposter by Lee-Yan Marquez. Copyright Lee-Yan Marquez 2010.

Lee-Yan Marquez made a splash last year with part one of her mystery/psychological thriller series The Imposter, and issue #2 will be making it's debut at this convention.

Set in the totalitarian state of New Haven, social worker Lucy is rescued from a robbery by a mysterious stranger know only as 'K'. Their brief meeting lingers with Lucy, who has her own secrets that continue to haunt her waking world. Does she have more in common with this vigilante than she'll willing to admit, or will her attraction to 'K' lead her closer to danger instead of answers? Issue #2 ratchets up the tension as Lucy is drawn further into 'K's world. If you want to find out what happens next, as Jack Kirby would say, "don't ask, just buy it!".

Above: The Cover of Clip Show, a collection of Richard Fairgray's early uncollected cartoons. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2010.

And an Armageddon Expo would be complete without a round-up of Blastosaurus creator Richard Fairgray's latest offerings. Never one to rest on his laurels (...or sleep for that matter), Richard has a wide variety of new products on offer at this year's convention. So rather than rattle off the list, I'll turn things over to Richard to expertly showcase his wares:
Above: A page from Blastosaurus Halloween Special 2. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2010.

Blastosaurus Halloween Special 2: The four kids get trapped in an abandoned amusement park ride with an escaped monster and a child murderer with a foot fetish and only blastosaurus might save them. It's like a really fucked up Scooby Doo story...and has a board game on the back cover.

I Fight Crime: Three new books of I Fight Crime (plus the 2 that came out at the Wellington show but haven't been seen in Auckland yet). This takes us to strip #450 of the web series.

Clip Show: An anthology of my early work, some that was published in New Ground, some that has been out of print for a number of years and some stuff that has never been seen before. Every year I get a number of people asking for stuff of mine that I did years and years ago that they've seen in friends' collections or...I don't know...dumpsters or
something so I figured I might as well release what I still had access to. The whole thing is tied together by a new story that links all the separate pieces and is in fact about Terry and I and our adventures as comic writers...yeah, it's THAT self indulgent.

Yellow Girl: This is a webcomic that made it to #30 on before the site stopped existing. Now, forthe first time we have collected all 90 of the completed strips. It's about a brother and sister who fall through a mirror into a world of ravenous mutant lemmings, incest jokes and creepy troll things.

We'll also have the first season of Chewing Zombies on DVD which includes 4 bonus episodes of Stavros the Contractor and a 1 minute animated documentary about Terry and I and the creation of Blastosaurus.

We've also reprinted the final 4 issues of the NZ run of Blastosaurus because they were my favourites and haven't been available for quite awhile. We'll also have the usual duck throwing game and (the new and exciting feature) dinosaur candy!

-Richard Fairgray

There you have it. If you haven't checked out Richard's web-cartoon, Chewing Zombies, it's well worth a look! (and it's a surprising accurate primer on what to expect from a comic convention if you're a newbie...but we're preaching to the converted here, right?;)

Above: The cover of the new edition of Hicksville, by Dylan Horrocks.

And of coarse no NZ Comics booth would be complete without copies of the perennial favourite, Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks. Unfortunately Dylan won't be in attendance this year, as he'll be in Toronto for the International Festival of Authors (rubbing shoulders with indie comics royalty: Charles Burns and Seth, no less!). But to make up for this we'll be selling his exclusive mini-comic collaboration with Emily Perkins, All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds! (previously only available at the Orcon Great Blends event). This will be a rare item, and is Emily's first stab at creating comics, so seek out a copy, it's a steal at only $5!

Above: The Cover of All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds!, by Emily Perkins & Dylan Horrocks.

Above: ActionMan Adam by Marc Streeter. Copyright Mark Streeter 2010.

Marc Streeter, author of the always appealing webcomic ActionMan Adam will be appearing at the booth on Sunday, be sure to stop by to check out his artwork and related ActionMan Adam merchandise!

Above: An Anime inspired print by Jianran Pan. Copyright Jianran Pan 2010.

And to showcase a slightly different side of NZ Comics, illustrator and concept artist Jianran Pan will be selling prints of his highly polished manga/anime inspired artwork. It caught my eye earlier this year at Auckland's Doujin Overload Anime Convention, and I think you'll agree it's pretty top notch stuff.

I'll also be at the NZCC Booth on Saturday and Monday reporting on the event; so stop by and say hi, and I may even share with you some NZ Comics gossip, and hints about what's coming up in the new year (new projects and plans for a NZ Comics Convention!).

There's a massive amount of local talent at the Auckland Armageddon Expo this year, so make sure that after you've fought your way through a wall of stormtroopers and goth vampires, you take the time to come down to Booth #86 in Pavilion #1 for some of the best NZ Comics on offer this year! For more information visit the official Armageddon Expo website HERE.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rare Comics for Auction: Investing in Four-Color Dreams

Above: The Adventures of Buck Rogers #1 (1936), the first Buck Rogers comic published in Australasia.

This coming Labour Weekend a rare collection of comics will be going under the hammer at Webbs Auction House.

'The Tom Mackie Collection' represents one man's life-time of comics collecting, with a focus on Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and the art of it's creator, Alex Raymond. Growing up in New Zealand in the 1940s, Mackie was interested in comics from a young age, and has amassed an impressive variety of comic books from early examples of Australasian editions of Buck Rogers, through to golden age issues of Famous Funnies and Ace Comics.

This is a very timely auction, coming hot on the heels of several high profile comic book auctions earlier this year, which saw the first appearances of iconic comic characters Superman and Batman sell for over a million dollars a piece. With the effects of the global recession still been felt in many investment markets and the rise in GST, investing in rare commodities like fine art and comics certainly isn't a bad idea.

Above: An early Australian reprint of Buck Rogers, which may not be as valuable as it looks.

But before you part with your hard earned cash, let me give you some quick comic investing tips!

First, I would suggest separating the treasures from fool's gold. While the early issues of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon on display in this collection may look like ancient artifacts, don't let first impressions cloud your judgement. They ARE early examples of Australian comics which might fetch between $50-$100NZ, but they are reprints of their original American counterparts, which is where the real money is.

Condition is also paramount in getting top dollar for rare comic books. Due to poor printing and the general lack of care taken with early comic books, very few MINT condition (perfectly preserved as new, with no printing errors) issues of key golden age comics (from the late 30s and early 40s) still exist, and are therefore highly valuable. So it may LOOK like lost treasure, but unlike a rare jewel, it's very difficult to bring the shine back to a comic book once it's lost it's luster.

The publishing dates are also very important for obviously reasons. Don't let vintage images trick you into thinking you're discovering a rare comic for the first time. Mickey Mouse and other Disney comic books have been reprinted many times, including 1980s editions by Goldstone Publishing which are represented in this collection. So check the small print first!

Above: King Comics #45, whose value is estimated at $410US in NM condition.

Now that we've dealt with the various pitfalls, let's focus on the potential investments.
There are a good selection of golden age comics here, which in good condition could be worth up $1000NZ.

Above: Famous Funnies #41, valued at $102US in NM condition.

Famous Funnies is well represented here; as one of the first ongoing comic books in the early 30s (pre-dating Superman), it's key issues are worth thousands of American dollars in Mint condition. The issues available in this auction: #41-108 & #110-218 could well be worth your time and money. A key issue like #102 featuring 'Chief Wahoo VS Hitler' is valued at $850US N/M according to the Overstreet Price Guide. Each issue in good condition could start at $200NZ a piece and go into the hundreds.

Above: Ace Comics #33, is valued $325US in NM condition.

Other early issues on offer here that could yield good investment results include: Ace Comics, King Comics, All-American Comics, Magic Comics, Comics on Parade, Popular Comics and more.

Above: A rare NZ Comic, Radio Retrol (undated, value unknown).

Now for the curious NZ comics collector, there may be one item of interest from an historical perspective, Lot 282: Radio Petrol (printed in Wellington by NZ Transfer Co, undated). It's the first time I've heard of it, and it may warrant further investigation...

So if you'd like to invest your money in something a little more exciting than boring gold, this is well worth checking out. You can bid at the online site HERE and view the collection at these times over Labour Weekend: 22nd of October from 9am-5.30pm and October 23rd-24th from 11am-3pm. For more details and information visit the Webbs Auction Website HERE.

Above: Yankee Comics #4, valued at $130US in NM condition.