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.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen nominated for an Eisner Award!

Above: The cover of Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks.

Congratulations are in order for Dylan Horrocks, as his most recent graphic novel, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen has been nominated for 'Best New Graphic Album' at the 2016 Eisner Awards.

The Esiner Awards are America's most prestigious comics industry awards, and take their name from famed US cartoonist Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit comic strip and the landmark graphic novel, A Contract with God. Horrocks previous won his first Eisner Award in 2002 for 'Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition', which elevated his profile and work, particularly the graphic novel Hicksville, to an international audience.

The winners of the 28th Eisner Awards will be announced at a ceremony on the evening of Friday, July 22 at Comic-Con International. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is published locally by Victoria University Press, and in the US by Fantagraphics.

- AK!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Weekend Reading: Oneiric, Let Me Be Frank and The Pencilsword

Above: A page from Oneiric by Sarah Lund. Copyright 2016 Sarah Lund.

Here's some local comics to catch-up on this weekend while kicking back with your digital reader or laptop: 
Oneiric is a new webcomic by Sarah Lund, it is about a girl named Daisy who is about to celebrate her 15th birthday by having a shared dream party with her friends. Lund's drawing style is uniquely her own, with a vivid, changing colour palette that adds a sense of warmth and intimacy - that perfectly suits it's subject of a close-knit group of friends. There's 16 pages of story so far, which you can read HERE.

Above: A page from Believing by Sarah Laing.

Sarah Laing's blog, Let Me Be Frank has been a hive of activity lately, with a several great and insightful new comic strips. There's Believing, a strip in which Laing contemplates the value of creating art in a world that seems to place little worth in it - a sentiment that any published writer or working artist can surely relate to. You can read the full strip HERE.

In Complicated, Laing considers the recent conversations surrounding begging bylaws in the inner city areas of Auckland and Wellington, and her own responses to being confronted with begging: is giving someone money the right thing to do? Like the title says, it's complicated. You can read the full strip HERE.

And most recently, One Morning in Karori, in which Sarah's daughter Violet awaits a visit from the Tooth Fairy. You can read the full strip HERE.

Above: A scene from The Pencilsword #25: Shifty Business. Copyright Toby Morris 2016.

In Pencilsword #25, Toby Morris looks at the shifty business of tax evasion by multi-nationals. You can read the full strip HERE.

- AK!

Friday, April 8, 2016

New Release: Island to Island

The new graphic novel, Island to Island, is the unique product of a joint initiative between the Publishers Association of New Zealand, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation and the New Zealand Book Council in the form of a Graphic Novelists Exchange: which gave three cartoonists from New Zealand and three cartoonists from Taiwan the opportunity to collaborate and produce a graphic novel together.

In October 2014, Taiwanese cartoonists Sean Chuang (The Window), 61Chi (Room) and Ahn Zhe (The Dream Under the Bed) came to New Zealand to meet and collaborate with local cartoonists Tim Gibson (Moth City), Rachel Fenton (Three Words) and Ant Sang (The Dharma Punks). The following February saw the NZ cartoonists join their collaborators in  Taiwan to continue working on the project and attend the Taipei International Book Fair 2015, at which New Zealand was a Guest of Honour.

The finished result of this cultural exchange is Island to Island, a large format graphic novel in which the six cartoonists share stories with each other in a series of 18 interlocking tales, that can be read separately, but read as a whole form a unique visual conversation between six artists across two cultures.

Island to Island is available to order now from Upstart Press Distribution, by emailing:

Island to Island
200 pages, 297x210
RRP: 45.00NZ
ISBN: 9789866634567

- AK!

Weekend Listening: Batman v Superman

Above: The cover of World's Finest Comics #3 (1941) by Fred Ray. Copyright DC Comics 2015.

This week on Radio NZ Nights I talked to Bryan Crump about Batman vs Superman, Captain America vs Iron Man: why do comics readers love to see their heroes clash? How can Batman even hold his own against Superman? We talk about the character's shared histories, from their goofy 1950s adventures to their gritty showdown in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. It's all discussed in a fun 18 minute discussion you can listen in on HERE.
Above: Splash page from World's Finest Comics #153 (1965), written by Edmond Hamilton, art by Curt Swan & George Klein. Copyright DC Comics 2015.

And for more on Batman and Superman's bizarre 1950s adventures (and other odd-ball comics), check out Jon Morris' great comics blog, Gone & Forgotten HERE.

- AK!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Kickstarting Echoes From the Drift

Above: Echoes From the Drift by Craig Petersen.

Echoes From the Drift is a new comic book series that expat NZ comics creator Craig Petersen is hoping to launch via a currently underway Kickstarter campaign. Petersen was a prominent local comics creator in the 1990s, producing the fondly remembered superhero series, Southern Tribe (1995-98), and more recently the horror/comedy strip, Close To Midnight (2008-09), for Rip It Up magazine.

Above: Jenni and Zayf, from Echoes From the Drift by Craig Petersen.

His proposed new series, Echoes From the Drift, follows two young adventurers - Jenni and Zayf, as they explore parallel worlds. Jenni is an impulsive, adventure-seeker from the 1980s. She totally loves using '80s slang and uses way too much hairspray. But when the chips are down, Jenni has one of the best hearts around and will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you in a fight. Zayf is from a far-flung future. He's driven and determined but has a habit of flying by the seat of his pants. However, Zayf has a strong sense of what's right and what's not and will act upon those feelings. In Echoes #1 you’ll discover how they first met and follow them on their adventures through the dimensions. 

Inspired by his love of TV shows from the late 1970s and 80s, Petersen hopes to infuse this comic series with the same spirit of fun and adventure, with a health dash of drama and tragedy on the side!

With this Kickstarter, Petersen is planning to create the first 22-page issue of a five issue story arc. As an added bonus, he'll be including the 10-page In Ruins prequel to the first issue.

The main goal of this Kickstarter campaign is to create a digital copy of the first issue, with exclusive artwork and prints as Rewards. If the first Stretch Goal is hit, then additional behind-the-scenes content will be added to the digital comics. If the second Stretch Goal is hit, then print copies of the comic will be created for 'Visionary Backers' (€20) and above.

To get an idea of what to expect, you can check out the 10-page prequel comic, In Ruins HERE.

Above: He's a breakdown of how the Kickstarter funding will be used.

There are some great rewards for this Kickstarter - including original pages of artwork from the completed comic! You can visit and support this Kickstarter HERE. It's almost halfway to its goal after one week, so support this project and grab an awesome page of artwork while you can!

- AK!

Friday, March 18, 2016

EVENT: A Change Comic Launch

Above: The cover for A Change, artwork by Ant Sang.

Launching this Tuesday at Graphic Comics, A Change is a comics collaboration between a group of young people from BGI (Wellington Boys' and Girls' Institute), the Victoria University's Youth Wellbeing Study and cartoonist Ant Sang (The Dharma Punks).

A Change tells the story of Ash, a young person who struggles with self-injury. Ash navigates through the experience of being misunderstood, judged and stereotyped, and the barriers created around seeking help - all common themes for those who self-injure. This graphic novel has been written by youth for youth, and illustrated by Ant Sang to promote awareness and conversation around this topic. The comic will be free for everyone.

The launch is taking place on Tuesday 22nd of March, at Graphic Comics, 106 Cuba Mall, Wellington, at 3.30pm. Come along to pick up a free copy and get it signed by the creators! For more information on the event, visit the Facebook event page HERE. You can also read/download a PDF version of the comic online HERE.

If you or anyone you know needs support or information relating to self-harm, please visit the Mental Health Foundation website HERE for information and links to support groups and help lines.

- AK!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Review: The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi by Paul Martin

Above: The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi by Paul Martin.

It seems like an obvious go-to for local comics, but there have been few examples of comic books or graphic novels starring our furry national icon - the Kiwi - as the main protagonist. One of the most recent and notable is The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi (2013), the first graphic novel by Paul Martin. A former Rugby player for Waikato and the Chiefs, Martin has always been an avid cartoonist, and developed the idea for his graphic novel while on a Rugby sabbatical in France. 

Above: A page from The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi by Paul Martin.

The story opens in Whale Bay, where Kory the Kiwi and his friend Bert the Gecko enjoy spending their afternoons surfing and basking in the sunshine. Meanwhile, a world away in the Swiss Alps, a game hunting wolf named Gregor is seeking new and exotic prey to hunt, and set his sites on the brown kiwis of New Zealand. Armed with a ship manned by a motley crew of dogs and stouts, Gregor sets sail for New Zealand, and in short order kidnaps Kory's family and returns to Europe where they await a gruesome fate unless Kory and Bert can use their 'kiwi ingenuity' to save them.

Above: A page from The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi by Paul Martin.

Taking inspiration from other 'album style' graphic novels like Tintin or more locally, Kerr and Ballantyne's Terry Teo and the Gunrunners, this is a fairly straightforward adventure yarn, with plenty of colourful characters and a snowboarding finale in the Swiss Alps which will surely entertain the younger target audience. With the added experience of having lived in France, Martin is able to add enough authentic details in the story to make the shift in locations from New Zealand to Europe feel natural, and enrich proceedings. Older readers may find the flow of the dialogue a little stilted in places, but younger readers tackling this on their own shouldn't have any problems following this upbeat adventure.

Handsomely presented in full-colour hardback, this is a fun read for younger readers who are just discovering graphic novels and looking for something set closer to home.

The Adventures of Kory: Flight of the Kiwi HC
Paul Martin
ISBN: 9780473265113

For more information and to order a copy, you can visit the book's official website HERE.

- AK!