Saturday, December 18, 2010

Earth's End Presents: The Uncanny X-Mas Gift Guide!

Historically, comics fans aren't the easiest bunch to buy for. Just ask my parents; when I was growing up they had to search high and low for a comics related gift, you couldn't just find something at your local bookstore. They often had to brave the rare local comic shop filled with weird looking teenagers, or at worst a secondhand book exchange that sold comics right next to skin mags (it was the late 80's after all).

Two decades later, things are a little different now. Comics for better or worse, have become so ingrained in our popular culture they have gone from a marginal interest to mainstream acceptance: the basis of blockbuster movies, high rating TV shows and major merchandising empires. Comics related gifts are now everywhere, from hardcover collections at bookstores to t-shirts, fridge magnets and everything in between.

With Christmas a only a week away, I thought I'd take a look at some of the latest comics related gifts on the market for this Xmas season.
Above: A copy of White Cloud Worlds, edited by Paul Tobin.

Recently published by HarperCollins, this anthology edited by artist Paul Tobin contains artwork from 27 of New Zealand's best fantasy talents. From cartoonists Ben Stenbeck and Simon Morse, through to Weta concept artists Greg Broadmore, Warren Mahy and many more. It's a beautifully designed package, certainly one of the best local art books of the year. A great gift for the young aspiring artist in the family, and certainly a book worth supporting, as this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to New Zealand's legion of talented illustrators. Lets hope this is the first of many volumes to come. White Cloud Worlds retails for around $79.99NZ, and it's also available from selected specialty stores in a limited edition hardcover with a signed artist print for $150NZ. For more information check out the book's official website HERE.

Above: The Art of District 9, by Daniel Falconer.

Taking a firm foot-hold in the fantasy art market this year, HarperCollins have also teamed up with Weta Workshop to produce The Art of District 9, based on the concept artwork produced for Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 sleeper-hit movie. Veteran Weta artist/designer Daniel Falconer (yes, that's one cool-ass last name) does the writing chores here, guiding us through the film's creative development. It's an engrossing tour through the film's various art departments, from initial sketches to finished concept art. In many ways it gives you a much greater appreciation for the film's carefully crafted and considered world, details of which flash by all to quickly on screen. One of the highlights would have to be Greg Broadmore's lead concept designs for the Mech Combat Suits. A true achievement of what must have been a dream job finally bringing to life concepts he had been drawing on only eight years before, in one of his earliest local comics Killer Robots Will Smash The World! The Art of District 9 retails for $69.99NZ, and you can find out more about this book over at the Weta Workshop website HERE.

Above: One of my personal favourites from The DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book.

To celebrate 75 years of publishing, DC Comics is putting there best foot forward by coming up with this great concept for a company retrospective: reproductions of 100 classic comics covers ready-to-frame A3 prints. The covers are accompanied by commentary from Robert Schnakenberg, but who cares about that, 'cause we're really just here for the artwork right?

Speaking of which, full credit to DC for digging through their vault for the interesting mix of covers on offer here; ranging from the superhero classics (Action #1, Detective #27, natch!), right through to the odd-ball 50s Sci-Fi adventures, and the often ironic but visually slick romance comics covers. DC also pokes some fun at itself by including some of the more bizarre covers from it's back catalogue: the company's obsession with putting gorillas on covers to spike sales in the 60s, Batman's ill-conceived rainbow costume, and Superboy getting bent over a school Principal's knee for a good 'o spanking(!).

The book isn't without some minor drawbacks however; the selection of some of the more recent covers are less than classic, and do they really have to include all the sales and barcode information? (surely in this digital age there were 'clean' files of the artwork available, right?). Clearly some of the older covers were scanned from original copies of the comics, but the reproduction isn't always spotless and better quality printing and paper stock would have gone a long way to improving the overall production. That said, at just under $1 a page for an A3 print it's certainly value for money and a great gift for the die-hard DC fan. The DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book is published by Quirk Books and retails for around $98.99NZ.

Above: a DC Superhero Crisis blows up in my face (pop-up style!).

For the younger DC fan, you can't really go past DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book by Matthew Reinhart. There have been a rash of comics related Pop-Up books in recent years, all of varying quality, but this is easily the most impressive. It's close to nine inches thick, with only six spreads, but is jam-packed with every possible pop-up trick the author can throw at it (hell, there are actually several pop-ups WITHIN pop-ups!). It covers the icons: Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman (complete with light-up Bat Signal!), as well as the JLA, the Green Lantern Corp and a fun homage to Jack Kirby's New Gods, featuring Darksaid's stony mug starring out at you. As you can see from the picture above it's pretty immaculate and fairly delicate, so it's not exactly for grabby under five crowd to read themselves, but it should make a killer bed-time story! DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book is published by Little Brown and costs around $39.99NZ.

Above: Tintin by Hergé, a tried and true classic.

The upcoming film production between our own Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg is still a year away, but now's as good a time as any to revisit these classics. They are all engrossing reads, but if you're curious about what to brush up on first, the film is said to be a combination of the storylines from The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Tintin by Hergé is available in all good bookstores in paperback for around $24.99NZ.

Above: Me and Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks.

Now if you don't already own a copy of Dylan Horrocks' Hicksville, I strongly urge you do your patriotic duty this holiday season and buy yourself and all your friends a copy! It was finally reprinted this year locally by Victoria University Press, so you have absolutely no excuses. Remember, supporting local graphic novels will go a long way to helping establish a market for them here and making it possible for NZ cartoonist to do what they love and make a modest living from it. So spread the holiday cheer! Hicksville retails for $38.00NZ. And of coarse check out Dylan's website HERE for his latest news, views and comics!

So this will probably be my last post for the year; thanks to everyone who came out the other night for a drink in Auckland, it sounds like next year is shaping up to be water-shed year in local comics publishing, so be sure to check in next year for more exclusive coverage.

I'd like to also think everyone who's supported this site with links and visits this year, it's much appreciated. I apologise for disappointing some of my loyal readers with the lack of stories the last few months, I'm busy day-jobbing towards the end of the year so unfortunately it cuts into my writing and free time. But I have plenty of new stories and reviews in the works for 2011, so I'll see you back here in the second week of January with some brand new material.

In the meantime, Marry Xmas everyone and have a great holiday season!

-AK! (off to read Jack Kirby's Forth World Omnibus' at Ohope beach).

Above: Yes, that's Ohope beach, but no I wouldn't take an Omnibus into the water! (ironically, it's actually a copy of Kirby's Super Powers #1).

Monday, December 13, 2010

From Earth's End Xmas Drinks 2010!

To celebrate the end of another successful year of New Zealand Comics (and my modest blogging efforts), we'll be having Xmas drinks at Brooklyn Bar (just opposite the Central Library) this Thursday the 16th of December from 7pm!

This will be a great chance to talk about some of the fine New Zealand Comics that have been released this year and generally catch-up with other cartoonists to 'talk shop' and discuss the year that was. Everyone is welcome; there haven't been that many Auckland based get-togethers this year since the Auckland Comic Club dissolved, so this is the perfect opportunity to touch base with the local comics scene and find out what everyone has been up. If you're a social media darling, you can RSVP for the event on Facebook HERE.

So if comics and alcohol sound like a winning combination, then this is the Xmas event for you!

I'll see you there.