Thursday, May 21, 2009

REVIEW: Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter/Under the Hood DVD

Above: A scene from 'Tales of the Black Freighter'.

Tales of the Black Freighter
Starring the voices of Gerard Butler and Jared Harris
Screenplay by Alex Tse & Zack Snyder Directed by Daniel Delpurgatorio and Mike Smith

Under the Hood
Starring Stephen McHattie, Carla Gugino, Matt Frewer and Jeffery Dean Morgan
Screenplay by Hans Rodionoff Directed by Eric Matthies

Based on the 'Watchmen' comic series created by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

When this release was first announced, like many fans of the series 'Watchmen' I was surprised, very skeptical and ever so slightly intrigued. Frankly I was surprised they would bother to go to the effort of filming these additional narratives; both of which were interesting side stories in their own right, but really only created to comment on and enhance the central plot.

How they would stand on their own would be a completely different story.
Especially in the case of 'Tales of the Black Freighter'; told as a comic inside a comic, which captured in motion, would sort of defeat the purpose. 'Under the Hood' was a mock autobiography presented as a series of text features, fleshing out the history of this alternate world setting. Seeing this captured on film was a much more intriguing hook for me; especially since the production team had clearly invested a lot of time and effort in casting and recreating the era for the main feature's opening credits (one of the film's clear highlights).

First up, 'Tales of the Black Freighter' faithfully follows Alan Moore's story of a shipwrecked Sea Captain who must build a horrific raft to sail home ahead of the dreaded Black Freighter to raise the alarm and save his family, a decision that ultimately costs him his humanity.

In it's original context it was presented as short interludes; so to see it assembled as a whole made for an interesting, if novel viewing. Like many readers, the first time I finished Watchmen I immediately went back to try and read this story separately to see if it held up on it's own (it does, but has plenty of breathing room between panels). And in viewing this it's hard not to feel an odd sense of distraction; like the main plot of Watchmen nagging at me like a phantom limb, as if it's needed to put this into context.
With the absence of the main story it's no longer a metaphor for the fast approaching nuclear apocalypse it's just a straight forward pirate story, and as such it does seem to lose it's extra edge.

The script adaptation is pretty close, and uses almost all of Moore's script line-for-line, which offers some small delights when spoken aloud: "Adrift, my darkest imaginings welled up unchecked, spilling from brain to heart like black ink impossible to remove".

To fill out this slim piece, Ridley (one of the ship hands, mentioned briefly in the original text) is promoted to nightmare companion to the Captain on his fevered voyage. It's a pretty clear plot lift from the Tom Hank's film 'Castaway' (he even ends up with Ridley's Wilson-like head to spell it out for you), but it works well enough here.
The anime animation here is polished, perhaps too much so. It's flashy nightmare sequences seem out of place with the tone of the story, hoping to wow us with it's effects rather than service the material appropriately. It also doesn't resemble Gibbon's art, but since he was imitating Joe Orlando it can be forgiven for taking some liberties and going for a more ghoulish approach.

Overall it accomplishes what it sets out to do: tell a short nasty Pirate story; but at a slim 30 minutes, this single 'tale' is really to brief to get under your skin the way it should. It would have been more interesting if they had spent a little more and adapted some of the other pirate stories referenced in the back-matter of Chapter 5, to really make this an honest 'Tales' collection. Now that would be an event worth selling separately.

There's only one heavy handed reference to the main Watchmen movie: the Captain finds a sheet wrapped around Ridley's body to use as a sail (the bloody patch left on the sail mirroring Rorschach's ink blots). Director Zack Snyder's credit as co-writer suggests he's worked on it with an eye to disassembling it to be cut back into the longer final 'Watchmen' film edit.
I find it almost impossible to imagine this anime style working well alongside the live action footage, but he seems pretty intend on trying it anyway (the making of doco hints at footage of the newsstand sequences filmed to help integrate it). 'The Black Freighter' is an interesting novelty, but a novelty none the less.

'Under the Hood' filmed as a live action doco featuring the well cast Minutemen of the film promised to be the far more promising feature, which of coarse meant it was bound to disappoint (as too much of a good thing usually does).

Presented as an episode of 'The Culpeper Minute' (but it's 30mins..?), a 1980's Sixty Minutes knock-off revisiting it's 1975 interview with Hollis Mason on his auto-biography. It features Mason, Sally Jupiter, Moloch and a host of other supporting characters from the book.

For all it's disputed failings, it's hard to argue with the level of care Snyder and his team brought to the Minutemen department of the production. From the authentic archive film footage down to the props like Mason's Nite Owl statue, it's all beautifully realised here. In this respect it's great to see all that effort getting it's worthy amount of screen-time, as it's brushed over all to quickly in the main feature.

The casting is also spot on. Stephen McHattie brings a wry humanity to Hollis Mason; his performance is very natural and assured, giving the role a believable depth of character. With knowing glances and warm chuckles at his recollections, his presence is so engaging that it's almost a pity to cut away to other minor parts, as he could have easily carried most of this show on his own.

Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter also gets some much deserved extra screen-time here.
In one of the few cosmetic changes from the book, Gugino gives Silk Spectre a much more overtly sexual presence in the film; one that I felt matched her representation in the book a little better than Gibbon's depiction (more film starlet than female athlete). Her back-story with the Minutemen and her relationship with her agent Larry Schexnayder gets it's due here, supported by some great photo recreations from her crime-fighting heyday.

It's also fun to see some of the other supporting characters here who didn't get much face-time in the theatrical cut. Unfortunately all these nice touches are let down by a frustratingly uneven and probably rushed script.
Alan Moore's text pieces left more than enough material to use here, but the adaptation is oddly scatter-shot. Most of Mason's dialogue is faithfully retained, while other details are changed as if out of ignorance: Dollar Bill now works for a department store instead of a bank (his name wasn't a enough of a hint?), but the small details of his Kansas upbringing remain the same.

If those changes to the script weren't bad enough, the new additions for foreshadowing are just painfully ham-fisted. For example, after delivering a very shallow examination of the psychology behind vigilantes, Dr Malcolm Jones gazes off into the foreground to wonder aloud "...one day I'd like to psychoanalyse one of those vigilantes...that would really be something...". It's at that point I wanted to scream and throw something at the television; if you're going to add anything like foreshadowing, at least give it some dignity and spend more than five minutes writing it (did nobody learn anything from Starwars Episodes 1-3?). Just plain BAD. It's a pity because it was going so well up until that point.

The direction was also a little underwhelming. They should really have hired an actual documentary maker to film it rather than a film director pretending to be one (the constant push-ins for dramatic effect got boring real fast).
'Under the Hood' captures a lot of great B-role material, it's just a pity they couldn't spend a little more time on the really important elements (the script and direction) rather than fussing over the art direction.

So much like the main feature it's a mix of delights and frustration.
As extras to the eventual Watchmen Ultimate Edition DVD, both these short pieces make great side shows, they just don't stand-up as a main attraction on their own.

-AK!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Heroes getting bromantic...

Above: Wonder Man and Beast getting 'bromantic'.

Always looking for an angle to be hip with the times, Marvel Comics has embraced the new phrase 'bromance'.
Recently coined to describe films built around the bonding relationship between two male characters like 'Pineapple Express' and 'I Love You, Man', Marvel has jumping on the bandwagon, collecting stories of it's most well known super-buddy bromances: Wonder Man & Beast, Cable & Deadpool and urr...Power-man & Iron Fist (insert your favourite blue joke here).

Good on them for having a sense of humour I guess, but it's hard to say whether die-hard superhero fanboys will share their opinion.

Now DC Comics aren't exactly known for having much of a sense of humour (no super-baby's in microwaves on our watch!), but they REALLY have more than enough material for their own buddy companion collection.
First off, there's Batman: he may be a loner, but he's never met another guy he didn't like hanging out with eg. Robin, Nightwing, Superman or any other male hero for that matter who's 'Brave & Bold'. Superman is also equally up for a male bonding session with any guest-star who's sales need a lift. Green Arrow & Green Lantern are probably DC's biggest ongoing bromance. They could re-print that Mike Grell issue from the late 80's (GA#20) where Hel Jordan takes Oliver Queen camping; they end up sharing their feeling while beating the s#!t out of each other and making up with a big-macho hug (because that's how real men did it in the eighties!).

My favourite recent example of superhero bonding would have to be 'New X-men' #142 by Grant Morrison: Cyclops has had enough of his girlfriend troubles and spends a whole issue trying to drink Wolverine under the table before making a mess and passing out. Now I don't have an adamantium skeleton, but that's a bromance I can relate to!

-AK!

From Marvel's August solicitation:
MARVEL BROMANCE TPB
Written by J.M. DEMATTEIS, STAN LEE, ROGER STERN, MARY JO DUFFY, CHRIS CLAREMONT, LEN WEIN, FABIAN NICIEZA, BOB LAYTON, DAVID MICHELINIE, CHRISTOPHER PRIEST & BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH
Penciled by KERRY GAMMILL, GENE COLAN, MARK BAGLEY, JOHN BOLTON, JOHN BUSCEMA, PATRICK ZIRCHER, MARK BRIGHT, SAL VELLUTO, JACK KIRBY & BARRY WINDSOR-SMITH
All New Cover by TBA
If This Be Bromance--! Marvel's greatest buddies take the spotlight in this one-of-a-kind collection, and it's male bonding like you've never seen -- as Cable and Deadpool swap stories, Wonder Man and the Beast share a plane ride, Spidey and the Human Torch battle back-to-back, Wolverine makes a bet with Nightcrawler, Black Panther and Everett Ross lay their feelings on the line...and the Warriors Three set sail for fun! Plus: Captain America and the Falcon, Iron Man and Jim Rhodes, and more! Be here as Marvel says, "I love you, man!" Collecting MARVEL TEAM-UP #121, CAPTAIN AMERICA #126, AVENGERS TWO: WONDER MAN & THE BEAST #1, POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #79, CLASSIC X-MEN #4, MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #30, CABLE & DEADPOOL #19, IRON MAN #216, BLACK PANTHER #25, TALES OF SUSPENSE #78 and MARVEL FANFARE #15
Above: Oliver Queen and Hel Jordan get a little 'Brokeback Mountain' sharing their feelings on a camping trip.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Shape of Things to Come Part 1


I have to be honest with you, I haven't brought a comic-book in seven years.

I reached a point where I just couldn't bring myself to part with more than $7 NZ for an issue without feeling that I had been had.
If you have an issue of a comic-book sitting nearby, go pick it up and have a good hard look at it. Try to see past what it represents to you as a form of entertainment and try to see it as an object. It's a stapled pamphlet of 22 pages of coloured story and 10 pages of advertising for $2.99 US (and now many titles are expected to make the jump to $3.99 US by the end of the year).

This format was created by pulp and soft-porn publishers on the streets of New York in the late 30's, who found that if they re-packaged comic-strips in a magazine format for 10c an issue, you could make a tidy profit. They sold like hot cakes and other publishers keen for a slice of this new racket jumped into the game and a new storytelling medium was born. To keep the newsstands stocked with new comics every month publishers formed production studios of writers and artist to provide a steady stream of new material (basically applying the 'sweat-shop' method of production many of these dodgy dealers had perfected in their previous experiences in the garment business before turning to publishing).

Now obviously the production and quality of comics has come along way in the last seventy years, but the basic template for the business is still surprisingly similar. The comics production team of writers, artists, colourists and letterers are still expected to turn out new issues on a monthly basis. The market is now smaller and more specialised; distribution in the US and around the world is largely handled by just one distributor. The cost of printing and production has risen over time; with higher quality paper and vast improvements in printing, leading directly to a higher cover price.

At 10c or a dime it reached a large audience in the 40's and over time that audience has dropped away as the price has risen and only the faithful fans of the medium have stuck by it. The price of production for publishers may have increased over the decades, but that doesn't mean every aspect of making comics is more expensive. The price of printing technology has dropped dramatically in recent years and has become more available than ever before. Comics are almost exclusively printed on recycled paper. The colouring and separations process can now be handled by a single person rather than a warehouse of old ladies hand-cutting colour coded separations (a process in use right up until the late 80's). All these great advancements in printing obviously hasn't stopped publishers from maintaining their sales margins (although the decreased audience available through the direct market system probably didn't help matters).

The comic-book was once an affordable format for distributing comics, but at what point is going to become too expensive to support it's continued existence? When it hits $3.99, $4.99 US?

It has a wonderful heritage that won't be forgotten; but it's well past time we let go of the American Dream from decades past and looked to the future, to new formats and media on which we can share this unique storytelling medium with a new generation of readers.

-AK!

FIRST LOOK: The cover of the new edition of Hicksville!


Hicksville cover image by Dylan Horrocks is licensed under a Creative Commons License. To be published by Drawn & Quarterly.

Posted today on his Facebook page, Dylan Horrocks has revealed the cover of his forthcoming new edition of 'Hicksville'. This new printing has been a long time coming and will be published next year by the excellent Canadian publisher Drawn & Quarterly.

In the meantime, while you're waiting be sure to check out his new comic serials currently running at Hicksvillecomics.com: 'Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen' (previously seen in his Atlas series from D&Q) and 'The American Dream'. Both presented in gorgeous full colour!

-AK!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Wellington Report: Fleet FM Radio as Paper #2 Launch

Above: Art from 'The Devil's Handshake' by Robyn E. Kenealy, as featured in Fleet FM Radio as Pictures #2.

Hey everyone,
Here's a report on the Wellington Fleet FM Radio as Paper #2 Launch held last Friday, from my Welly correspondent in the field, the lovely and talented Robyn E. Kenealy (who is also a contributer to issue #2 so you have no excuse not to pick it up!).
So enjoy with a pinch of politics and a dash of Battlestar Galactica!
-AK!

Dear 'From Earth's End' and associates,

There’s this debate going round about New Zealand comics and neo-liberalism. Actually, the reason there is a debate is because I keep starting it. Neo-liberalism pisses me off, in case you were wondering. Seriously. If you were planning to invite me to a party with the caveat that I don’t upset your neo-liberal Grandmother, take my advice and don’t.

Anyway, I bring this up because that is mostly what we were all talking about at the Wellington Fleet FM: ‘Radio as Paper’ launch at the DAF 106 Gallery on Friday (for those of you not in the know, DAF stands for Don and Francie, the two wonderful people who run the gallery. They charge to put a show on, but not terribly much, and really, the whole gallery runs on their kindness and dedication. It is at 106 Aro Street,and you can friend them on myspace here).

So it was a small event, mostly due to the weather (which was awful) but reasonably well attended. There were a few people I didn’t even recognise. Everybody drank. Everybody was nice. Nobody got sick. Tim Bollinger even made an appearance. Personally, after a little obligatory circulating, I spent most of my night sitting around with editor Jerome Bihan, DRAW, Brent Willis, Don and M. Emery drinking wine and talking about – as I’ve said – neo-liberalism. For a while we wandered off into ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and then, I think, we talked about Segues, which are those bizarre faux scooters that you see around from time to time. But after that, I'm almost sure, it was back to the politics, and it was heated. Actually, I blame DRAW for making that conversation happen. All I did was engage the usual public argument that my husband and I have about BSG.* Oh yes, and M. Emery and I had a long bitch about the Destiny Church.

But the reason I’m bringing politics up is that Bihan, when faced with all this excitement about business imperatives and comics, has a plan.* Or, kind of a plan, in that his goals and aspirations are not at all scary or confrontational; they are simply personal and ethical, with something of a community focus, and Bihan, I found out, is a smart and remarkably unpretentious fellow, even though he called himself pretentious several times. On none of those occasions was he actually so, and I was pleased about this because recall putting myself forward for ‘Radio as Paper’ sight unseen without having met him, and it was a genuine pleasure to find out he wasn’t a creep, a jerk or a Republican (in the American sense.) At any rate, the goals of Radio As Paper, contiguous with the goals of Fleet FM, are to represent diversity of opinion and to showcase what might otherwise slip under the radar. It is a community thing, not an industry thing, done for public good rather than private gain. These are noble goals, and Bihan appeared optimistic and eerily relaxed about them as he laid them out for me. And I say eerily relaxed because I mean it. He was reclined in his chair, cigarette in hand, talking easily as if it were the most natural thing in the world. His calm demeanour could have been because he was –as he said - very tried from the Auckland launch and so didn’t have the energy to worry, but also, possibly, because he is French. That is, from the land where, as DRAW put it, ‘culture comes from.’

Adrian has already reviewed the magazine here, as you likely well know, and I can’t say I really have a lot to add to his description, because this seems about right. Besides, I am in the magazine (mine is the strip where the two gay guys talk about wanking) and so it feels a bit funny to start picking it apart or puffing it up. However, I had a lovely time at the launch. I really did. I think you should buy the magazine if only because I am in it – and, honestly, M. Emery’s strip is splendid. I’m so impressed by his new work. It is smart and weirdly cute at the same time – and, of course, to reward Jerome for being awesome. Neo-liberalism aside, it’s only $2. Cheapness, I wonder, possibly resolves some of the debate.

Fond regards,
Robyn E. Kenealy

*My husband and I had the same public argument we always have, because, as it turns out, we are geeks. “Put him out the airlock!” my husband inevitably says, referring to Dr. Gaius Baltar, upon whom I have a fictional crush. “They should have put him out the airlock at the beginning. It’s the only way to maintain order.”
“You leave Dr. Baltar alone,” I will then say “he clearly had a hard time growing up on the planet of North Yorkshire. And besides, he has mother issues.”
“Cry me a river,” my husband will reply. “Cry me a fucking river.” And so it goes. People come and go around us, but the argument remains the same. My husband has too much respect for Admiral Adama to suffer a traitor aboard the Galactica. My conjecture is this: you say what you like about cylon collaboration. Baltar makes out like Charlie Sheen.

*like the cylons!! But no, not like that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Preview Colin Wilson's Star Wars: Invasion

Above: Art from 'Star Wars: Invasion' by Colin Wilson. Copyright & TM Lucasfilms.

One of New Zealand's finest comics exports, Colin Wilson (currently based in Australia) has been very busy of late.
Last week saw the release of 'The Example', a comics adaptation of the award-winning play by australian playwright Tom Taylor with art by Wilson, published by Gestalt Comics based in Perth. I saw a copy of this floating around at the Fleet launch last week and it's a stunning piece of work (I understand it may be available through Diamond so keep an eye out for it). There's a great interview with them both about the project for 'The Australian' here.

They are also collaborating on a five issue arc for the new series 'Starwars: Invasion' from Dark Horse Comics in July. You can view a special 8 page prequel at Starwars.com now, with another preview next month leading up to the series launch.
According to Colin's great blog he also has a new 30 page Judge Dredd story for JD: The Magazine out by the time you read this (now that's just spoiling us!).

-AK!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Free Comic Book Day 2009

This is slightly delayed coverage given that Free Comic Book was last weekend on the 2nd, but there was such a great response at Onehunga's Gotham Comics (one of NZ best comic shops) that I felt the results were worth sharing. For those not familiar with the event, Free Comic Book Day was started in 2002 with the aim of growing the audience and general public awareness of the medium.

On Saturday Gotham Comics saw a turnout of around 800 people (nearly double last year's number) and gave away a massive 3000 comics! Store manager Jeremy Bishop was also taking gold coin donations for extra books, raising around $500 for the Onehunga Primary School to help fund it's library. This community connection saw a good increase in turnout for younger readers (which comics desperately needs these days) and parents looking to encourage their kids to read. As Jeremy observed, "it also allows the parents to go back to their childhood as well, so allowing a connection between the parents and kids".

The store also had a clown on hand for entertainment, performing tricks and making balloon animals (which means it's probably safe for clowns to show their painted faces in public again after 'The Dark Knight' gave them a bad rep!).

The free comics themselves were also in fine form this year. DC Comics launched it's 'Blackest Night' event with a zero issue which was in hot demand while Marvel offered an Avengers story by Brian Bendis with Jim Cheung teaming both the 'new' and 'dark' Avengers teams for a smackdown with a frost giant, promising 'terrifying consequences for the Marvel Universe!" (are there any other kind?).
The real treats however would have to be the independent offerings. Personally I was completely charmed by Drawn & Quarterly's Melvin Monster/Nancy comic, previewing stories from their forthcoming John Stanley collections. Reprinted on thick newsprint that perfectly imitates the original presentation it was a joy to behold in all it's dot coloured glory! Top Shelf put out an Owly issue featuring James Kochalka; Fantagraphics provided a Love & Rockets Sampler (featuring a keen Kirby influenced story by Jamie Hernandez) and Mirage Studio's reprinted the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for it's 25th anniversary (suddenly I feel ancient..).
Local cartoonist Richard Fairgrey also got in on the act with a free colour preview of his Blastosaurus series.
The most popular titles at Gotham Comics according to Jeremy were: Simpsons, Wolverine and the DC Kids Sampler.

So congratulations to Gotham Comics and be sure to mark the date on the calendar for next year and hopefully your local comic shop will experience this kind of success and community involvement.

-AK!

Free comic Book Day at Gotham Comics: featuring a clown (the non-Heath Ledger variety).

Drawn & Quartery's 'John Stanley Library featuring Melvin Monster & Nancy' (covers by Seth).

REVIEW: X-men Origins: Wolverine (...& Friends)

Above: Hugh Jackman busting up a small piece of Otago.

Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston, Taylor Kitsch and Ryan Reynolds
Screenplay by David Benioff and Skip Woods
Directed by Gavin Hood

There's a good reason why some mysteries are best left to the imagination; the eventual reveal is almost always a disappointment.

Wolverine's comicbook origin was till recently, left purposely vague. He was Marvel's answer to The Man With No Name: he let's his actions speak for him; where he comes from isn't as important as why he's here and what he's going to do with those claws next (and that's just the way the fans liked it). When the first X-men movie became a surprise hit in 2000, much like the comic Wolverine stole the show (and was placed front and centre for the rest of the series). Soon afterwards Marvel gave in to temptation and put out the 'Origin' mini-series to tell his backstory themselves before Hollywood bet them to the punch.

They shouldn't have worried if this effort is anything to go by.
It's more an advert for shameless merchandising than any kind of character exploration. In fact the character's origin is rudely shoved aside in the first five minutes to make way for endless action sequences and every other mutant who didn't make it into the previous films. It appears FOX learnt nothing from the missed opportunity of X-3 and have even perfected their formula for pandering to their target audience (brain dead teens?). It's everything that scores highly with test audiences combined into one convoluted film: more characters, more action sequences and fan hints and references. What little 'story' is left is either fortune cookie dialogue (used as clumsily foreshadowing) or watered down exposition which would be ropey in a comic book.

Hugh Jackman is an appealing enough lead, but here he has little to build on that we haven't seen before and probably spent most of the time watching his stunt double. Liev Schreiber is the only actor here who leaves an impression. As the blood thirsty Victor Creed it's a nice change of pace for him from the mild-mannered nice guy roles he usually inhabits and he clearly enjoys himself. Most of the supporting characters/action figures barely register with so little screen time between them. Taylor Kitsch is a perfect fit for Gambit and does a good job, it's just a pity there's no burning reason for him to be involved here at all. Much has been made of Ryan Reynolds been cast as Deadpool, but the character has so little in common with his comic counterpart you wonder why they bothered. Reynolds doesn't make much of an effort either and delivers an uninspired line reading in his ten minutes of screen time (but since he's just here to pitch a spin-off, mission accomplished).

The sheer amount of action scenes is almost tiring; at one point they even interrupt one action sequence to give way to another!(Wolvey VS Sabretooth VS Gambit VS logic). This reaches literally crazy heights by the movie's climax as Wolvey and Sabretooh take on Deadpool in a sequence clearly designed with a tie-in videogame in mind.

For everything they blow up (including a farm house in Otago, in one of the film more engaging action set-pieces) it's difficult to care when there's nothing to be gained from all the chaos. You don't really learn anything you didn't already know about the character and he certainly doesn't evolve in any noticeable way. He gets beaten about by external forces who have nothing to do with shaping his back-story or personality in any meaningful way, which renders the whole movie a giant waste of time and potential.

A final scene after the end credits teases a sequel based on the Claremont/Miller Japanese Samurai storyline, but as long as FOX can make money hand over fist on merchandising don't expect them to take the muzzle off this beast anytime soon.

-AK!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fleet FM Radio As Paper Issue #2 Launch

FLEET FM RADIO AS PAPER ISSUE #2
Price: $2

Edited by Jerome Bihan

Featuring comics by: Cornelius Stone, Vincent Shield, Elliott Stewart, M+S Emery, Robyn E. Kenealy, Jerome Bihan, Tim Kidd, Frank & Becky, Thom Burton and M.F. Joyce.

As the future of slick print comics becomes more uncertain it's refreshing to see a local anthology printed on cheap folded A3 newsprint proving that as a disposable medium for exchanging artwork and ideas, print ain't dead just yet.

Equal parts comic and zine; Radio on Paper features a mix of short comic pieces (one or two pages for each cartoonist) and articles (interviews, comics appreciations and music talk from the FLEET crew). Like any good zine made especially to distribute amongst friends it's a fun print reunion for cartoonist's who's work hasn't been seen in print nearly enough recently.
In the case of Cornelius Stone it's the first work of his I've seen in sometime; while some new names to me were a welcome surprise (Vincent Shield's 'The Mysterious World of Arthur C Clarke' has a nice Eddie Campbell feel to it).

Other creator's featured here like Robyn E. Kenealy, Tim Kidd, and Frank & Becky are well represented online at their respective websites, but it's a pleasure to see there work back on newsprint where it really sings.
Tim Kidd's two page story 'Bernard Can't Sleep' is a real treat to behold (especially after rationing myself on each new single strip at his website!). Given room to breath here there's a lot to like; from the confident pacing to the playful word balloons. And the floating heads flashback on page two is masterful in it's simplicity.

The only criticism I can level at the book as a whole is it feels a little slapped together in places, like some on the articles were quickly re-typed to fit the format before finding it's way to the office photocopier. But that's kind of missing the point; the enthusiasm and sheer effort of Jerome and his contributors to put this out more than makes up for what it lacks in production value. Besides, not all comics are made to last forever. At an extremely affordable $2, Radio on Paper is perfect to pick up and see what your local cartoonists are up to. Read it, share it, love it, recycle it. It's only newsprint after all.

I attended the Auckland launch party at Cross Street Studios on Monday night and if you're down in Wellington there's a launch party happening there at Mighty Mighty this Friday, May 8th (see above Gig poster). I'll hopefully have a report on that from one of my Welly corespondents.

If you're in Auckland and looking to get hold of a copy, I'd recommend getting in touch with Fleet FM at: +64 9 307078 to enquire after copies of issue #2 and #1. If you're interested in contributing to future issues you can contact: Jerome@fleetfm.co.nz.

-AK!


Monday, May 4, 2009

Auckland Comic Book Club


If you live in the Auckland area and have a keen interest in comics and graphic novels, then this is the club for you!
Come along and meet some of Auckland's finest comics talent who meet once a month to show new work in progress, exchange ideas, talk shop and everything else under the sun that is comics related. Every month there is a guest speaker: this month it's Lawrence from Head Comics to discuss approaching retailers to sell your self-published comics (a must for anyone looking to get their stuff out there and into reader's hands!).

-AK!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Drawing a line in the sand..

Hi everyone, welcome to my comics and general popular culture blog.
After spending the last couple of years ranting and raving on the BRD Yahoo Group (the online of community for New Zealand comic creators, please check it out) it felt like it was about time I established my own personal online home (read: soapbox) to post all my comics related thoughts and musings.
Aside from reviews and essays, I'll also be reporting on the New Zealand Comics community: news, upcoming releases, events and creator interviews.

It's going to take me a few days to get some content up; so in the meantime, here's some of the reference photos that were taken to create the banner art: comics at the beach (..and yes, for bonus geek points: that is a Flash t-shirt).
-AK!