Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Recommended Reading: Kiwi Rock Strips: an introduction

Above: Artwork by Barry Linton.

There's a great article by Bruce Mahalski from Audio Culture about the links between NZ comics and music (often by creators participating in both camps): covering the work of such cartoonists as Barry Linton, Chris Knox, Robert Scott, Ian Dalziel, Toby Morris, Indira Neville and more! You can read the full article HERE.

- AK!

Recommended Reading: Kiwi cartoonists on what mattered in 2018

Above: Artwork by Toby Morris.

Over at the NZ Herald, writer Greg Bruce interviews cartoonists Toby Morris, Sarah Laing, Giselle Clarkson and Rod Emmerson offer their views on the year that was: the issues that concern them, and the people who have made a difference in 2018.

You can read the full interview online HERE.

- AK!

Artwork by Giselle Clarkson.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Weekend Reading/Listening: My Ten Guitars by Barry Linton

Above: A page from My Ten Guitars by Barry Linton. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

Speaking to Jesse Mulligan on Radio NZ's Short Story Club, Dylan Horrocks pays tribute to NZ cartoonist Barry Linton, who passed away last month. You can listen to the full interview HERE.

Also as a fitting print tribute, Linton's comic, My Ten Guitars is featured in the latest volume of literary journal Sport 46, published by Victoria University Press. They have made the comic available to view online as a PDF HERE.

- AK!

Weekend Listening: Contemporary New Zealand Comics

Above: An illustration by Jem Yoshioka.

Recently Radio NZ show, Standing Room Only, featured a discussion with three cartoonists, Jem Yoshioka, Toby Morris and Sarah Laing about the state of contemporary New Zealand comics - particularly comic strips, which have largely migrated from newspapers to online platforms. All three cartoonists have created an online presence for their work: Toby Morris currently creates the non-fiction comic series The Side Eye for The Spinoff's website; Jem Yoshioka has an ongoing webcomic Circuits and Veins available on international comic platform Webtoon, and Sarah Laing produces her webcomic blog Let Me Be Frank.

You can listen in on their wide-ranging conversation on New Zealand comics and their own work HERE.

- AK!

Monday, October 15, 2018

NEW RELEASE: The Permanence of Warmth by John Carsey

Above: The cover of The Permanence of Warmth by John Carsey.

There's a new limited release available now from the folks at The Comicbook Factory: presenting The Permanence of Warmth by John Carsey. If you like gag cartoons that are as hilarious as they are grotesque, then this is the mini-comic for you! 

Above: Artwork from The Permanence of Warmth by John Carsey.  

Presented in the sharp design standards expected from The Comicbook Factory, this mini-comic is limited to 100 copies. It's 32 pages - black and white (with 6 pages of colour), written and illustrated by John Carsey for $9.95 (+ postage). You can order it HERE while stocks last.

- AK!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Remembering Barry Linton 1947-2018

Above: Barry Linton self-portrait from 2011. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

Cartoonist Barry Desmond Linton passed away on Tuesday 2nd October 2018, aged 71, at Auckland Hospital. I met Barry in the early 2000s, at one of the monthly NZ comics meet-ups - usually held at the Alleluya Bar & Cafe in St Kevins Arcade off Karangahape Road in Auckland. Barry was short in stature and softly spoken, but always inquisitive and articulate about his love of comics and meeting new cartoonists. From my first encounter with Barry, it was clear from the reaction of others in the community how influential his work was to a whole generation of cartoonists.

Above: A page from Spud Takes Root. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

He was one of the founding members of the first real home-grown comics anthology Strips released in the late 70s, where his idiosyncratic drawing style and distinctly locally set comic strips inspired young upcoming cartoonists like Dylan Horrocks. His comics of the time like Spud Takes Root perfectly captured the chaotic and jubilant atmosphere of the 70s gig scene - smoky nights out on the town at a crowded pup, followed by a sweaty summer morning hangover. Reading the strips you could almost hear someone's baby crying from the flat next door, a dog barking down the street and the noise of cars on the motorway off to work, the soundtrack of aotearoa urban suburbia. Twenty years later, young cartoonists I was meeting were still drawing inspiration from Barry's work - the youthful energy he captured on the page was as relevant today as it ever was.

Above: Aki in Tiko by Barry Linton. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

Barry also drew from more than just his surroundings, he had a wide ranging list of interests that he explored in his comics. His interest in ancient history and archaeology inspired comics like 20th Century B.C. and the comic series Lucky Aki. The level of research he did for his comics could be described as obsessive, in the best possible way. For Aki - a comic about seafaring in the Neolithic Age - he painstakingly created a series of model ships out of paper and cardboard to accurately depict his designs for the comic. He was also interested in space and life on other planets, resulting in radiantly colourful comics about U.F.Os, aliens and space exploration. He also dabbled in pornographic comics that brimmed with good natured sexual mischief, generally produced for his own amusement and the occasional erotic anthology.

When I began planning my anthology of New Zealand cartoonists in 2008 (which became From Earth's End: The Best of New Zealand Comics, when it was published in 2013), Barry was one of the first cartoonists I approached to take part. I was excited to have Barry on board, because more than any other cartoonists I knew, Barry's work went largely unknown to the public. This was no accident of coarse, aside from the occasional comics anthology, Barry was really only producing comics for one reader - himself. He had little interest in fame, or the constant struggle to find a publisher and deal with printers. He told me that once he finished a comic, he would print up a few copies, read it, and if it pleased him, set it aside and immediately start the next one. He was a comics industry of one, and this pure dedication and enjoyment of the comics form was a huge inspiration to me.

Above: A page from Aki in Tiko by Barry Linton. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

The following biography is based on my interviews conducted with Barry in 2012:

Barry Linton was born in Auckland in the year 5707 (Barry prefers to judge time by the ancient Sumerian Calendar of Nippur), to a naval family with a global outlook. He was educated in Christchurch and Hamilton, before attending Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts in 1967. He stayed only one year, before dropping out to travel and hitchhike his way across the country.

This ‘vision mission’ was a blur of hick towns, pubs, parties and hippie communes, that lasted till the mid-1970s. Along the way Barry discovered New Zealand’s thriving music scene, and produced a variety of related gig posters, record covers, and magazine artwork. Upon his return to Auckland, Barry deciding that his strength lay in combining words and pictures rather than music and lyrics, and set about creating experimental comic strips for the Auckland University newspaper Craccum and other alternative papers.

Inspired by the underground comix that were creeping in from America, he infusing their psychedelic graphics with the flavour of the local music scene for his own comics. His first mini comic, Spud Takes Root appeared in 1977, the same year the Strips comic anthology was formed. Barry was a founding member, contributing around 106 pages of comics during its decade long run. After Strips concluded in 1987, Barry continued to produce commercial artwork and comics for a range of publications like Landfall, Razor, the NZ Listener and The Auckland Star newspaper. In 1994 he collected all of his Strips stories into one self-published collection, Chok Chok! which quickly sold out.

Since 2000 he’s been studying ancient archaeology, which has inspired The Akia  – a series of adventures chronicling the lifetime of Aki, a seafarer from a fictionalised Neolithic land of Oceania. Starting with Lucky Aki, three volumes have so far been completed, but have yet to be widely published. The world of Aki is meticulously researched, with each volume containing detailed paper-craft models of ancient ships for the reader to cut out and assemble, as well as maps of visited islands and towns charting Aki’s exploits. Barry lived in Ponsonby, Auckland, where he slept during the day and created comics all night.

Barry is the much loved son of Robert, Dorris and Judith. Adored older brother to Greg, Diana and Brenda, and admired uncle to their families. Cherished spiritual advisor to daughter Lily. A dedicated artist and insightful member of the Ponsonby community.

Above: A model boat created by Barry Linton. Copyright the Barry Linton Estate 2018.

Above: Barry Linton at Chromacon 2017.

A memorial gathering to celebrate Barry's life and work will be taking place on Saturday 13th October, from 2pm – 4pm, at the Herne Bay Petanque Club, 19 Salisbury Street, Auckland 1011. For more information and updates you can visit the Barry Linton Communication Page on Facebook HERE. I hope to see you there.

- AK

Monday, September 24, 2018

EVENT: Wellington Zinefest 2018

Above:  Poster designed by AAPPA PAPPA.

Wellington Zinefest is back for 2018 and will be held on Saturday 17th November at the new creative campus, Te Auaha, at 65 Dixon street from 12pm – 4pm. 
It's where you can check out the latest small-press creations and spend a fun afternoon with the Wellington zine-making community!

Stallholder applications:
Stall holder applications will be open from the 1st of October and close on the 14th. A google form will be posted on the Wellington Zinefest Facebook page on October 1st. They have a first come first serve policy, so get in quick. In a slight change from previous years, they will only be offering one stall size (a large half table, $10 per stall) so as to accommodate more people.

Kids and newcomers tables:
We are introducing two new collective tables this year, a kids table and a newcomers table. These tables are for people who are interested in being a part of Zinefest but are not ready to have whole stall for themselves. You will be able to submit one zine to be part of a collective stall. The committee will facilitate the running of these stalls, and you are welcome to hang out and help sell your zines. Proceeds from these zines will be split equally among all the participants. The application to be a part of these stalls will also be posted here on October 1st, but will not have a cut off date.

The event will be all-ages-friendly, accessible for those with walking disabilities, and Zinefest committee members always will be on hand to help out. More specifics on accessibility will be provided closer to the time.

Wellington Zinefest is committed to being an inclusive, safe environment. They expect all participant and attendees to be mindful of their code of conduct, which you can read in full HERE.

 So register next Monday to take part in this great indie publishing festival! For more information, visit the Wellington Zinefest Facebook page HERE, and their blog HERE.

- AK!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Katie O'Neill wins 2 Eisner Awards!

Above: The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill. Copyright Katie O'Neill 2018.

This year at the 30th annual Eisner Awards (the US comic-book Oscars for those not in the know), Christchurch based cartoonist Katie O'Neill took home 2 Eisner Awards! Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12), and Best Webcomic, both for her webcomic (and subsequent print edition) of The Tea Dragon Society, published by Oni Press

At the ceremony her editor, Ari Yarwood of Oni Press accepted the awards on Katie's behalf. Congratulations to Katie for her amazing work! If you don't have a copy of The Tea Dragon Society, I suggest you rush out to your nearest comic retailer now!

Above: Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill. Copyright Katie O'Neill 2018.

And if you want more Katie O'Neill comics, the good news is she has another book on the horizon, Aquicorn Cove. Here's the official synopsis and a preview:

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After and The Tea Dragon Society comes Aquicorn Cove, a heartfelt story about learning to be a guardian to yourself and those you love. 

When Lana and her father return to their seaside hometown to help clear the debris of a big storm, Lana remembers how much she's missed the ocean-and the strong, reassuring presence of her aunt. As Lana explores the familiar beach, she discovers something incredible: a colony of Aquicorns, small magical seahorse-like creatures that live in the coral reef. 

Lana rescues an injured Aquicorn and cares for it with the help of her aunt, who may know more about these strange creatures than she's willing to admit. But when a second storm threatens to reach the town, choices made many years ago about how to coexist with the sea start to rise to the surface. Lana realizes she will need to find the strength to stand on her own, even when it means standing up to the people who she has always relied on to protect her. 

Available in Hardcover, Aquicorn Cove (ISBN:9781620105290) will be available October 17th 2018.

- AK!
Above: Pages from Aquicorn Cove by Katie O'Neill. Copyright Katie O'Neill 2018.  

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Tragicomic brings Shakespeare to Comics and Screens!

Above: From left:  Liv Scott as Isla Stevenson and Nova Moala-Knox as Hannah Moore. Photograph by Tabitha Arthur.

Tragicomic is a ground-breaking new digital media experience, debuting as both a webseries and a webcomic, inspired by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

The series is the latest project from The Candle Wasters, the SPADA New Filmmakers of the Year for 2017, a team of four young women (and a token dude) from Wellington. With help from New Zealand On Air, they make fierce, funny, feminist webseries that have so far amassed over 5 million views worldwide. 

The Candle Wasters are: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Robbie Nicol & Sally Bollinger. Their production name is derived from a Much Ado About Nothing quote which refers to people who stay up late at night wasting candles. Claris, Elsie, Minnie, and Sally met at Western Springs College in Auckland. They began making webseries when the youngest of the group was just 17. Robbie Nicol, of the popular political satire White Man Behind a Desk, joined the writing team in 2016.

Above: Nova Moala-Knox as Hannah Moore. Photograph by Tabitha Arthur.

Tragicomic follows Hannah Moore, a world weary 15yr old, she’s an aspiring cartoonist searching for the truth about her missing dad. Tragicomic invites you to revisit Hamlet and high school through the eyes of a teenage girl. Lovesick, isolated, and venting her feelings through her comics, Hannah is on a quest to discover what really happened to her absent father. All the while uncovering a secret from her family's past that will follow her for the rest of her life. Tragicomic is a ten part webseries and twenty part webcomic, created to be read and viewed together.

Tragicomic breaks new ground by inviting the audience to scroll through both film and cartoon components of the story. We see the protagonist, Hannah, upload her comics to the internet, and you can scroll down to see what she has created. The majority of comics are drawn by Sally Bollinger (who also co-directs the webseries).
Above: Tragicomic artwork from the comic version by Sally Bollinger.

Bollinger's comics have been published in The Millennial, and NZ woman's comics anthology Three Words, and the recent children’s Annual. In 2015 she received a mentorship from the Society of Authors to work on a graphic novel. Her mentor was cartoonist Dylan Horrocks, who also makes a Stan Lee-like cameo in Tragicomic, providing guidance and encouragement to Hannah as she develops her comics. Like one of Hamlet’s soliloquies, each comic gives the audience an insight into our hero’s mind. The webcomics grow increasingly dark as the fairytale characters grow to represent Hannah’s increasingly paranoid view of the people in her life.

You can watch part one of Tragicomic when it is released on YouTube and RNZ this Friday, 3rd of August. You can check out The Candle Wasters website HERE, and subscribe to their youtube channel HERE, so you don't miss any upcoming episodes!

- AK!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

INTERVIEW: Ant Sang on Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas!

Above:  Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang (left) and writer Michael Bennett (right).

In an exclusive interview for The Sapling (a great website dedicated to discussing children's literature), I talked to Ant Sang about his new graphic novel, Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas: working for writer Michael Bennett, his art process and rushing to meet those deadlines!

You can read the complete interview HERE.

Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett is published by Penguin Random House NZ, and is available in bookstores now.
RRP:$30.00 ISBN: 9780143771241

- AK!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

EVENT: Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas Book Launch!

The new graphic novel Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas launches at Auckland comic-book store Heroes For Sale this Thursday night at 6.30pm!

Written by author/film maker Michael Bennett (In Dark Places) and illustrated by Ant Sang (Shaolin Burning),  Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is a mind-bending sci-fi adventure.

An unsuspecting Helen is kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas and thrust into the year 2355 — a ruined future with roving gangs and ‘Peace Balls’, giant humming devices that enslave and control people’s minds. The Go-Go Ninjas have one goal: to destroy the Peace Balls. They believe that Helen knows how. Can Helen use her knowledge of the past to help them save the future?

Published by Penguin Random House NZ, it will be available at bookstores everywhere on July 2nd. But if you come to the event on Thursday 28th of June, you can get an advance copy signed by the author and artist! The event kicks off at 6.30pm at Heroes For Sale, 582 Karangahape Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland.

For more information on  Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas, you can visit the publisher's website HERE. And for more information on the event, visit the Heroes For Sale website HERE.

- AK!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

FIRST LOOK: Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett

Above:  The cover for Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett

Coming this July, Penguin Random House NZ presents a new graphic novel,  Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas from award-winning authors Ant Sang & Michael Bennett. And I've got an exclusive first look at some of the artwork!

In this exciting sci-fi adventure, Helen is kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas and thrust into the year 2355 — a ruined future with roving gangs and ‘Peace Balls’, giant humming devices that enslave and control people’s minds. The Go-Go Ninjas have one goal: to destroy the Peace Balls. They believe that Helen knows how. Can Helen use her knowledge of the past to help them save the future?

Above: Preview pages from Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett. Copyright  Ant Sang & Michael Bennett 2018. 

Ant Sang is one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed cartoonists and graphic novelists. His books have been published in New Zealand, North America, the United Kingdom, France and Taiwan. His bestselling graphic novel Shaolin Burning won an Honour Award at the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards, and was in the Top Ten of the Nielsen BookScan charts for ten weeks. His cult comic series The Dharma Punks was released in 2014 as a graphic novel after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, hitting its target goal after five days. Ant has also been a featured speaker at Taipei International Book Exhibition, and his work has featured in exhibitions. One of the original key creatives of the acclaimed television series Bro'Town, Ant won Achievement in Production Design awards for his work on the show.

Above: Preview pages from Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett. Copyright  Ant Sang & Michael Bennett 2018. 

Michael Bennett (Ngati Pikiao, Ngati Whakaue) is an award-winning New Zealand screenwriter and author whose films have been selected for numerous festivals including Cannes, Berlin, Toronto and New York. In 2008 Michael was the inaugural recipient of the Writers Award from the New Zealand Film Commission, and in 2005 he was awarded the British Council/New Zealand Writers Foundation Award. In 2011 Michael’s feature film Matariki won Best Feature Film Screenplay at the New Zealand Screenwriting Awards, and in 2013 he was awarded Best Documentary Screenplay for his documentary on the Teina Pora case, The Confessions of Prisoner T. He went on to publish In Dark Places in 2016, which won Best Non-Fiction Book at the Ngaio Marsh Awards and Best Biography/History at the Nga Kupu Ora Awards 2017.

Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas will be released in bookstores everywhere on July 2nd, he's the product information:

Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas 
Ant Sang & Michael Bennett 
ISBN: 9780143771241

- AK!

Above: Preview pages from Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas by Ant Sang & Michael Bennett. Copyright  Ant Sang & Michael Bennett 2018.

Road to Armageddon: Tauranga and Christchurch 2018

The Armageddon Expo machine rolls on, with pop-culture events coming to Tauranga this weekend and Christchurch over Queens Birthday Weekend! 

The events will feature a star-studded line-up of TV and film guests, including: a dynasty of Luthors: John Shea (Lex Luthor from Lois & Clark) and Katie McGarth (Lena Luthor from Supergirl); as well a healthy guest list from the Arrowverse of DC Comics shows: Katrina Law, Paul Blackthorne, Echo Kellum, David Nykl (Arrow), Keiynan Lonsdale (The Flash) and Mehcad Brooks (Supergirl). Other TV guests include: Garrett Wang (Star Trek: Voyager), Lauren German and Lesley-Ann Brandt (Lucifer), Daniel Portman (Game of Thrones), animation guests Christy Carlson Romano (Kim Possible), Brad Swaile (Death Note), WWE wrestler "Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, and international Cosplayer Ashlynne Dae.

Above: Comics guest Sloane Leong.

On the comics side of things, the international comics guest is Sloane Leong. Sloane is a self-taught cartoonist, artist and writer of Hawaiian, Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Choctaw, Welsh and German ancestries. She explores themes of survival, displacement, relationships, spirituality, identity and mental illness through literary vehicles like science fiction, horror, adventure and slice-of-life genres.

Her work focuses on exploring silenced narratives from marginalized communities and people of color, to connect personally with individuals through storytelling, with an aim to cultivate a kinder, more understanding future. She has been self-publishing her own comics since she was 16 and has done various work for companies like Image Comics, Top Cow, Cartoon Network, DC, Dark Horse, Boom! and many more. Her current projects include: A Map to the Sun, to be published by First Second in 2019, and Prism Stalker from Image Comics.

The NZCC (New Zealand Comic Creators) will have a presence at both conventions, featuring a great selection of locally published comics titles from NZ cartoonists. I'll be attending the Tauranga convention with cartoonist/artist Ross Murray (Rufus Marigold), and the Funtime Comics team will be on hand for the Christchurch event. Local comics publisher Beyond Reality Media will also have a booth with their latest graphic novel releases!

Armageddon Tauranga will be held on May 26-27th, at the ASB Baypark Arena (81 Truman Lane, Mount Maunganui) from 10am to 5pm both days (Early Access from 9am available Sat 26th only). Tickets are available now through iTicket HERE, and at the gate on the day.

Christchurch Armageddon will be held on June 2-4th 2018, at the Horncastle Arena, Queen's Birthday Weekend. Open from 9am to 5pm all three days. Tickets are available now through Ticketek HERE, and at the gate on the day.

For more information on these events, visit the Armageddon Expo website HERE.

- AK!

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

REVIEW: Out of the Woods by Brent Williams

Above: The cover of Out of the Woods by Brent Williams, illustrated by Korkut Öztekin.

In 2009 Brent Williams was a successful lawyer based in Wellington. He had build a career working in community law, creating services and resources to help vulnerable people - particularly children, and victims of domestic violence. After completing two major projects - the implementation of the Care of Children Act and the Parenting Through Separation Programme for the Family Court, he became unwell and was unable to continue working as a lawyer.

The graphic novel opens with a atmospheric scene of Brent returning home on a stormy night, the darkness of his kitchen enveloping him, growing into a claustrophobic forest of unease. He forces himself to 'snap out of it', he'll find his own solution to this situation - take a test, find the cure to this unseen force robbing him of his life and career. After exploring a variety of medical options, it's suggested that his symptoms point to the cause of his illness as depression. His first response is denial - "you can't be right, I'm a strong person!". He continues to try to work though it on his own, alienating himself form friends and family in the process. But after an anxiety attack, Brent finally acknowledges his illness and seeks help through counseling, to begins the journey of recovery - finding a path through the dark woods of depression back to the light.

Above: A page from Out of the Woods by Brent Williams, illustrated by Korkut Öztekin.

Williams' story is well told, and uses the visual medium of comics to its full potential, communicating a difficult subject in a clear fashion that is both relatable and dynamic. He does a great job of relating the world through his perspective during his illness - the colour is literally drained out of him and his surroundings, the artwork become blurry or jagged as anxiety and hallucinations set in. We also get to witness the quiet serenity of his good days, when the joy of simply living and enjoying music or a bike ride keeps depression at bay.

He's found a great collaborator in this project with Turkish illustrator, Korkut Öztekin. Previously known for his work on horror comics like Clive Barker's Hellraiser,  Öztekin is a master of atmosphere; communicating the inner turmoil and dread of depression, while still keeping the story grounded in reality. There's some great visual metaphors weaved into the storytelling, the hanging branches of a tree as a stand-in for the lungs is a nice example of using the visuals to reinforce the text. The spectre of death haunts several scenes at the story's darkest moments without feeling melodramatic; making plain just how high the stakes can be in the depths of depression.

Above: A page from Out of the Woods by Brent Williams, illustrated by Korkut Öztekin.

During his counselling, Williams revisits some of his childhood memories, particularly the overbearing presence of his father, well known property developer and philanthropist Sir Arthur Williams. Publicly, Sir Arthur was a respected leader of NZ society, but behind the doors of Williams' Karori home, domestic violence was a daily occurrence. Williams is bravely candid in sharing these revelations which help unlock his depression and sets him on the path to recovery, and will no doubt help inspire others to overcome their own feelings of self-doubt and anxiety about seeking help for depression.

Above: A page from Out of the Woods by Brent Williams, illustrated by Korkut Öztekin.

Out of the Woods has already found international acclaim, recently winning a silver medal at the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Awards. As graphic novels continue to branch out into previously unexplored areas of storytelling, Out of the Woods is a fine example of a graphic novel that uses the medium to tackle a difficult subject, and make a real difference.

Out of the Woods:  A Journey Through Depression and Anxiety
Brent Williams with Korkut Öztekin
ISBN: 9780473390068
$39.99 NZ

Brent Williams will be appearing this weekend at the Auckland Writers Festival, for a free event, Speaker's Corner: Into the Woods. For more information, you can visit the Auckland Writers Festival website HERE.

For more information on Out of the Woods, you can visit the book's website HERE.

If you suffer from depression or feel you are in crisis and need to talk to someone, please consider calling one of the following help lines:
Lifeline New Zealand: 0800 543 354 (Help anyone - 24/7)
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (Help anyone - 24/7)
Youthline: 0800 376 633 (Help young people & their families - 24/7)
Find a list of specialist NZ helplines here 
The Lowdown – Help young New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety
Depression.org – Help New Zealanders recognise and understand depression or anxiety

- AK!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

NZ Graphic Novel Picks for Best International Comics of 2017!

Above: Dream's of Here: Far from Home by Alex Cara. Copyright Alex Cara 2018.

Every year I contribute some New Zealand graphic novel picks for Paul Gravett's 'Best Comics of 2017: An international Perspective', highlighting some of the standout graphic novel from around the world published in 2017. There's some great international reads on this list from such countries as: Argentina, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland and the Philippines. 

Presented below are my New Zealand picks, along with links to their authors and respective websites where you can purchase your own copy!  I'll also be looking to review some of these in more detail in future reviews.

Out of the Woods by Brent Williams and Korkut Öztekin. Copyright Brent Williams 2018.

Out of the Woods
Brent Williams with Korkut Öztekin

In 2009 Brent Williams was a successful lawyer in Wellington, New Zealand, when he became unwell. He didn't know why he could no longer bring himself to work, see friends, or connect with family members. It was like he had fallen into a deep pit, from which there was no return. That pit was depression and anxiety. Brent's father, well known property developer and philanthropist Sir Arthur Williams had been a ruthless, overbearing force in his life. Publicly, Sir Arthur was a respected leader of NZ society, but behind the doors of Williams' Karori home, domestic violence was a daily occurrence.

Fast forward 40 years, Brent's past has caught up with him and held him in a vice-like grip. Denial, shame and a misguided belief he had to fight these illnesses on his own made his situation worse. Not until he acknowledged that he was ill and accepted help could his recovery begin. Out of the Woods is Brent's story of realization and recovery, told entirely through the watercolour illustrations of Turkish artist Korkut Öztekin. A highly original graphic memoir, it aim is to help people understand and overcome depression and anxiety.

Above: Moa by James Davidson. Copyright James Davidson 2018.


When a sacred Maori treasure is stolen by the dastardly Otto, it's up to the Moa Rangers, Kiwi Pukupuku and Possum Von Tempsky, to return the taonga and save the day! Ride along with Kiwi and Possum on their side-splitting adventures battling mythical creatures and dangerous hunters in colonial New Zealand!

The latest release from Earth's End Publishing is a collection of James Davidson's acclaimed children's comic book series, Moa. Set in colonial New Zealand, Moa chronicles the wild adventures of the Moa Rangers, Kiwi Pukupuku and Possum Von Tempsky, defenders of our native forests. Moa combines the fun and humour of classic Disney comic books with New Zealand's historical past and Maori mythology to create a classic adventure series sure to delight and entertain readers of all ages. This deluxe treasury collection contains the complete Moa story in a hardback edition.

Author James Davidson is also an educator, serving as the Head of the Arts Faculty at Opunake High School in New Zealand. Moa has been a way for him to explore the layered history and mythology of New Zealand through the medium of comics, and to create stories that can entertain and educate kiwi kids about the land they live in.

Above: Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People: Diary Comics by Bryce Galloway. Copyright Bryce Galloway 2018.

Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People: Diary Comics

Bryce Galloway second zine-derived book, Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People: Diary Comics pulls together nine years of Galloway's diary comics, first published in his zine of the same name. Within these entries you'll witness Bryce's ongoing sprint to catch the morning bus, see his children grow, watch Bryce deal with back pain and diarrhoea, meet his 'DW' (de facto wife) who halfway through this book becomes his wife. Actually, if you read closely you'll find lots of personal growth taking place on the page, from getting a cellphone to a promotion to Senior Lecturer at Massey University.

Unlike James Kochalka or John Porcellino's more conventionally styled diary comics, Galloway does away with panel boarders and (most) speech balloons to capture the notable moments of each day in an organic free-flowing style. The line-work is confidant and loose, capturing the energy and feeling of his memory of events rather than a more detailed rendering. Although this comes with its own unintended side effects: at one point DW calls him out on his depictions of her (which at times looks like a maniacal zombie).

And that's one of many enjoyable layers of this book, watching Galloway share his utterly fearless depiction of his daily life through his diary comics, while also having to consider his family's involvement and participation. Should he focus more on the 'sweeter moments'? He could, but as any reader will tell you, suffering makes for far more interesting art. Warts and all, this is a hugely enjoyable read. You'll come away feeling like you know a great deal about Galloway's day-to-day life, and perhaps be inspired to create a diary of you're own...if only we could all be this brave.

Above: Dream's of Here: Far from Home by Alex Cara. Copyright Alex Cara 2018.
Dreams of Here, Far from Home

'O! Fortunate reader; you will find within these pages nine settler narratives, fun for 'New Chums' and 'Gone Natives' alike, and rendered in extravagant colour. Thrill to the fears and fancies of these exotic intruders, with their night-terrors and naiveties, and dreams of here, far from home.'

With Dreams of Here, Far from Home, cartoonist Alex Cara has created a collection of early New Zealand colonial cartoons - appearing here as Settler Comics - that perfectly homage the newspaper cartoons and illustration plates of that bygone time, while infusing it with her own distinctive style and sly sense of humour. 

For an artist still in her twenties this is a remarkable book; building on the confidence of her first published work on the graphic novel, Nothing Fits (with writer Nate Tamblyn) from 2014, this publication announces the arrival of a fully fledged cartoonist destined for great things. If you like the historical and stylistic remixing of Moore and O'Neill's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, you'll love  Dreams of Here, Far from Home. Right now it is only available directly from the author on her website, but this deserves a wider audience - so seek it out, you won't be disappointed.

Above: Crow of Whareatua: A New Zealand War Story by Sid Marsh. Copyright Sid Marsh 2018.

Crow of Whareatua: A New Zealand War Story
Sid Marsh
Lasavia Publishing

Set in 1869, Te Kooti Arikirangi te Turuki is the founder of the Ringatū religion and commander of the deadliest Māori guerrilla force of the nineteenth century. Te Urewera is the battleground: a wilderness of forest, bird, mountain and waterway. Crow of Whareatua brings to life a one-month period of a brutal war, one which was to shape New Zealand’s destiny.

Originally self-published in 1999, Marsh's comics adaptation of Te Kooti's clashes with colonial forces in the New Zealand Land Wars was something of an oddity. At the time graphic novels were still looked down on in literary circles, and comics were on a downward spiral following the collecting bust of the 90's. There was no audience looking for an historical NZ graphic novel, told in stark black and white artwork reminiscent in its layout of the British war comics like Commando. Which is why it's great to now see Marsh's overlooked graphic novel getting a second life from Lasavia Publishing.

Crow of Whareatua is well researched and unconventional - Marsh's artwork is raw, sparse and uncluttered, which might turn off some traditional comics readers, but it rewards a closer reading. Marsh's passion for his subject is undeniable, making this a welcome addition to any respectable NZ graphic novel bookshelf.

Above: The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill. Copyright Katie O'Neill 2018.

The Tea Dragon Society
Katie O'Neill
Oni Press

Christchurch based cartoonist Katie O'Neill has quickly become one of our most successful cartoonists on the world stage. Having gained fans and recognition for her award-winning graphic novel, Princess Princess: Ever After, and locally for her contributions to Faction and High Water comics anthologies. Having concluded her webcomic series, The Tea Dragon Society was published last October as a large format hardcover from US publisher Oni Press.

The Tea Dragon Society is a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons. After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives--and eventually her own.

You can check out the full list of international recommendations at Paul's excellent website and hub for all things comics HERE.

- AK!