Friday, April 22, 2016

REVIEW: Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix

Above: The wraparound cover of Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix, by Ben Clancy & Kieran Horner.

When it comes to art and culture, Hamilton has received (rather unfairly) a poor reputation. Or is it simply a case of low self-esteem? When a local radio station came up with the ironic label 'Hamiltron: City of the Future' in the late 90s, it caught on and Hamiltonians adopted this self-deprecating new label like a badge of honor - proving they at least had a health sense of humour.

It was this catchphrase that inspired Hamilton cartoonist Dean Ballinger to develop this new comics anthology. As Dean explains, "I thought the phrase would make a good basis for a local anthology in terms of allowing different creators to come up with their own interpretations of it in the form of short stories. I also wanted to do a comic with an explicitly parochial theme as a means of contributing to Hamilton culture. Hamilton always gets something of a bum rap culture-wise, although there are a lot of talented creative people living here. Making cultural artifacts that tell a stories about a place or reflect it on some level is important in terms of imaginative 'mythologising' that place within the wider culture of a country (eg. paintings/music/novels). As there hasn't been a lot of this done to Hamilton, producing this comic was a way of making a small contribution to this process."

With funding from Creative Waikato and sponsorship from Hamilton comic shop, Mark One Comics, Ballinger has more than delivered on this goal, with a lively and varied collections of comics from past and present residents of the 'Tron. 

Above: A page from Hampants by Indira Neville.

While its historical cultural contributions may be somewhat overlooked, Hamilton has a strong tradition of comics making, most notably from the Oats Collective in the 90s - well represented here with strips from Indira Neville and Clayton Noone & Stefan Neville. Other contributors include: Matt Emery of Pikitia Press, Raewyn Alexander, Alex John, Aaron Christiansen, Oliver Stewart, Wairehu Grant, Dawn Tuffery, Stephanie Christie & Paul Bradley, Priscilla McIntosh, and Ballinger.

Above: A page from Poor Justice by Aaron Christiansen.

There is a mixture of stories and styles here, ranging from narrative poems to farcical takes on the 'City of the Future'. Some of the highlights for me were Raewyn Alexander's reflective graphic poem My Revenge at Last - the memoir of a Hamiltonian exodus; Aaron Christiansen's hilarious satire of a Hollywood production's visit to the 'Tron; and a welcome change of pace auto-bio tale from Matt Emery. All the stories in this anthology are well worth your time, making this a fine addition to Hamilton's publishing landscape (speaking of which, mark you calenders for the upcoming Hamilton Zinefest next month - May 14th, more details HERE).

Above: A page from My Revenge at Last by Raewyn Alexander.

You can purchase a copy of Hamiltron, City of the Future: an Anthology of Hamilton Comix, in Hamilton from Mark One Comics (from their shop or online HERE), local bookshop Browsers, and selected cafes for $15. For more information about future issues you can visit the Hamiltron: City of the Future blog HERE, and join their Facebook group HERE.


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