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.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FIRST LOOK: Karl Urban as Judge Dredd!

Above: Karl Urban in uniform as Judge Dredd. Copyright 2000ad/DNA Films 2010.

Via the 2000ad forums, comics and movie concept artist Jock has released the first image of local action-hero Karl Urban suited up as Mega City One's top cop in the upcoming comic adaptation simply titled Dredd.

Above: Judge Anderson of Psi Division (as illustrated by Arthur Ranson) and played by Olivia Thirlby.

Currently filming in South Africa under the watchful eye of director Pete Travis (Vantage Point), Dredd is scripted by novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine) and is expected to follow the brutal lawman on an average day on the beat in Mega City One, as he breaks in his new partner, Judge Anderson played by Olivia Thirlby (Juno).

Dredd will be presented in 3D, and is expected to hit cinema screens in 2012.


Monday, November 22, 2010

EVENT: DUD: The Dunedin Comic Collective Revue #1

Above: The cover of DUD: The Dunedin Comic Revue #1.

Proving that the NZ comics revolution isn't just restricted to the major city centers, a Dunedin comics collective have being busily working away on this very promising showcase: a new 40 page comics/CD package!

Above: A page by Dunedin cartoonist/musician Tim Cornelius. Copyright Tim Cornelius 2010.

DUD: The Dunedin Comic Revue #1 features comics by locals and some special out-of-towners including: Spencer Hall, Tim Cornelius, Fane Flaws, Chris Knox, Tony Renouf, Dylan Horrocks, Glenn Ross, Sian Hannagan, Ben Carroll, Danny Brisbane, Tom Garden, SJ Orchard, Daniel Blackball Alexander and more. The accompanying CD features tracks from: Black Yoghurt, The Communist Rainbow Relationship, Deidre Newall, God Bows to Math, The Living Hamsters, Mountaineater, Old Psychiatrist Club, Operation Rolling Thunder, Sewage, TFF and Tim Cornelius.
Above: A contribution from Dylan Horrocks.

There's a grand book launch this coming Thursday, 25th of November at the Dunedin Public Library from 5.30 - 8.30pm. You'll be able to purchase this great package for only $15 on the day, with live performances from some of the featured bands and a motion comic on show for good measure! If you're like me, geographically unable to attend, you can mail order it directly from the Dunedin Comics Collective Blog HERE for only $20 including postage! ($25 for foreigners).

For more information on the book launch, future updates and art previews, check out the Dunedin Comics Collective blog HERE.


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Auckland Armageddon Expo 2010 Report

Above: The New Zealand Comics booth, manned from the left by Aimee Cairns and Kelly & Darren Sheehan. photo by Karl Wills.

The Armageddon Expo returned to the Auckland ASB Showgrounds this year for another successful Labour Weekend celebration of all things pop culture related, with an estimated 45,000 punters through the door! The global credit crunch and recent tax increases clearly didn't stop fans from turning out in their droves to enjoy a weekend of sci-fi overload; with two Doctors Who in the house, a variety of web and comic guests, the voices of Goofy and Bender, and because no Expo would be complete without a pseudo-celebrity, that washed up kidult from Married With Children.

This year New Zealand Comics had it's strongest showing yet, with a large 'new and improved' NZ Comics booth, the Blastosaurus booth, Drake's Ninjet booth, Coal Powered Press, Drawfest and a variety of solo artist booths.

Above: The cover of Gridley Stones #1, by James & Aimee Cairns. Copyright James & Aimee Cairns 2010.

At the New Zealand Comics booth there was a wide variety of great books on sale for the weekend: including two new novellas from the Sheehan Bros, Into the Dark Woods and Frozen; part two of The Impostor by Lee Yan Marquez, Connie Radar PH D by Karl Wills, the latest issues of NZ comic anthologies Funtime #25 and Bristle #7, the debut issue of Gridley Stones by James & Aimee Cairns, and a great selection of back issue favourites.

Above: A signed sketch from Living with the Dead by artist Ben Stenbeck.

There were also some booth exclusives: the Dylan Horrocks and Emily Perkins collaboration, All Hail Elle: Destroyer of Worlds!, previously only available at the Orcon Great Blends event; and signed and sketched copies of Witchfinder and Living with the Dead by local superstar artist Ben Stenbeck.

Local comics guests appearing at the booth over the weekend included: the Sheehan Bros, Lee Yan Marquez, Karl Wills, James & Aimee Cairns, Isaac Freeman, Brent Willis, Marc Streeter and Jianran Pan.

Above: Kelly Sheehan attracting punters at the NZ Comics booth. Photos by Karl Wills.

Above: Funtime editor Isaac Freeman at the NZ Comics booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above: Lee Yan Marquez drawing at the NZ Comics booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above from left: Richard Fairgray and Drake drop by with a note....Brent Willis hiding out on the right. Photo by Karl Wills.

Above from left: James Cairns & Lee Yan Marquez still smiling on Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: Bristle editor Brent Willis on the right, Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: ActionMan Adam webcomic cartoonist Marc Streeter drawing on Day #2. Photo by Gijs Priegel.

Above: More photos of the NZ Comics team from Day #2. Photos by Gijs Priegel.

Above: Richard Fairgray at the Blastosaurus booth. Photo by Karl Wills.

Meanwhile, over at the Blastosaurus booth Richard Fairgray had a large amount of new material on offer, which virtually sold-out after the first two days. This included a new Blastosaurus Halloween Special, a DVD collection of Chewing Zombies, new volumes of I Fight Crime, and Clip Show a collection of his earlier high school stories.

Above: Drake manning his Ninjet booth.

Drake did brisk business over the weekend at his Ninjet booth, with a new issue of his ninja-cat series to promote.

In pavilion #1 around the corner from the NZ Comics booth, Coal Powered Press made their convention debut, with an impressive line-up of New Zealand web-comics, which you can check out right HERE.

Above: The cover of White Cloud Worlds. Copyright Paul Tobin/Harpercollins 2010.

The Weta Workshop booth provided a hidden treat, with a Expo preview of the new fantasy art anthology collection White Cloud Worlds, featuring among others, fantasy and comic artists Ben Stenbeck and Greg Broadmore, edited by artist Paul Tobin. It will be available at all good booksellers from the 1st of November, and you can also check out the official website HERE.

It was a great convention for NZ Comics, with a noticeable increase in sales across the board. There was a competitive nature in the air after Day #1, which led me to proclaim the NZ Comics booth as the best in show on Facbook, which lead to an ominous note, left at the booth for me on Sunday morning:

Unfortunately I had the day off, so any retaliation, or a Star Trek inspired death duel would have to wait till Monday.

While attendance was healthy with punters ready to part with their cash, retailer and promotional spending appeared to be down, with less 'wow' factor than previous years. The usually elaborate video-game and console area seemed noticeably smaller, with fewer screens and less advertising. In general there seemed to be more blind-spots than usual inside the pavilions, as if the Expo was stretched thin to fill the entire complex to capacity. Unsurprisingly, major sponsor Warner Bros were a late no-show (possibly to avoid public backlash from the ongoing Hobbit controversy?), leaving a gap in pavilion #1 which was quickly filled by an extra artists alley. The presence of a fairly large NZ Army/Navy recruitment stand was a little alarming if you ask me, but I suppose it places them in slightly more interesting company than the usual career expos.

Another cause for concern was the amount of repetitive stores. There were at least six booths selling the same imported novelty T-shirts, caps and other nick-knacks. This lead to a repeated feeling of 'sameness' when walking through the Expo as a whole, making it feel more like Victoria Park Markets than a special event you payed $20 to attend. I think some decisive 'culling of the herd' next year could well improve the Expo's image and make way for some fresh stands and new exhibitors. One big improvement though, was the speedy entry point with multiple ticket booths, which prevented any timely delays, like last year's killer two hour entry line!

Overall, it was a pleasant weekend spend with friends: talking comics, tripping over R2-D2 and watching kids over-dose on mini donuts and candy-floss, while the monolithic Burning Man watched on.

Above: R2-D2 and friends. Photo by Karl Wills.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Road To Armageddon Auckland 2010: NZ Comic Creators

Above: The Imposter by Lee-Yan Marquez. Copyright Lee-Yan Marquez 2010.

The Auckland Armageddon Expo 2010 is once again crashing down upon us; like a tidal wave of pop culture madness, overloading the senses and emptying our pockets! The Expo will be taking place over Labour Weekend, October 23rd-25th at the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane. It features a wide variety of popular culture guests and attractions from the latest videogame releases, to film, animation and comic guests.
As well as international comics guests (which you can read about HERE), the Expo will also be feature some of NZ's finest cartoonist, signing at the New Zealand Comic Creators Booth (booth 86, Pavilion #1).

Above: A spread from Into the Dark Woods a new graphic novella by the Sheehan Bros. Copyright Sheehan Bros 2010.

So let's have an exclusive look at some of the new local comics releases on offer at this year's Expo:

First up, the Sheehan Brothers have two new graphic novellas debuting at the show: Into the Dark Woods and Frozen. Hot off their Eric Award winning series The Inhabitants, these dark fantasy offerings are the first two chapters of an interconnected series of short stories, which will form a future boxed collection. It marks a return to the more lyrical nature of their first collaboration The Longman, which is where an earlier version of Frozen originated (as an insert in Longman #5).

Above: A spread from Into the Dark Woods a new graphic novella by the Sheehan Bros. Copyright Sheehan Bros 2010.

Darren Sheehan's artwork continues to evolve in both detail and atmosphere, reaching an Aubrey Beardsley level of mastery in the dark art of inking. If you drop by the booth may get to see some of the original artwork, which is even more stunning up close. Both writer Kelly and artist Darren Sheehan will be appearing during the weekend.

Above: The cover of Dr. Connie Radar PH.D Daily Funnies by Karl Wills. Copyright The ComicBook Factory 2010.

After an extended leave in advertising, the twisted comic strips of Karl Wills, creator of Jessica of the Schoolyard, returns with Dr. Connie Radar PH.D. Collecting his online daily strips from The ComicBook Factory website, it features the scientific adventures of space babe Connie Radar and her brainy robot sidekick, Julius.

Available in the same Tijuana Bible format as Jessica, your collection won't be complete without it. It's a limited edition run, so make sure you get in quick! Karl will also have some very affordable original artwork for sale, so stop by the booth to pick up some great artwork, from one of NZ's most polished cartoonists.

Above: The cover of Funtime #25. Copyright Funtime Comics Collective 2010.

The latest issue from New Zealand's longest running Comics Collective is out in time for the convention season! The Christchurch based Funtime gang, have produced what looks like another winner with this literally earth-shattering cover (what...too soon for bad puns?). Featuring a variety of creators and stories for all tastes, Funtime never fails to entertain, and issue #25 looks like it won't be any exception. Funtime editor Isaac Freeman will be on hand all three day of the Expo, to regale you with stories of cartooning from NZ's earthquake central, and get you to participate in what's sure to be another classic round of Jam Comics! (who could forget Welly Armageddon's Dr. Cheetah?).

Above: The cover of Bristle #7 by Brent Willis. Copyright Brent Willis 2010.

This Wellington based anthology continues to go from strength to strength, as Brent Willis heads up a team of talented contributors in Bristle #7, including: Chris Cudby, David Piper, Matt Kelly, Ari Freeman, Renee Lyons and others. At $5 this is a steal, and since it takes a pot-shot at Paul Henry on the cover, you just know this is going to move fast! Editor Brent Willis will also be on hand for all three days of the Expo, no doubt bringing with him a wide variety of his solo efforts including a selection of 'blue' comics which are always a hit with our mature readers (perhaps a reprint of the rare 'double blue' rated Man Hole? can only dream...).

Above: The Imposter by Lee-Yan Marquez. Copyright Lee-Yan Marquez 2010.

Lee-Yan Marquez made a splash last year with part one of her mystery/psychological thriller series The Imposter, and issue #2 will be making it's debut at this convention.

Set in the totalitarian state of New Haven, social worker Lucy is rescued from a robbery by a mysterious stranger know only as 'K'. Their brief meeting lingers with Lucy, who has her own secrets that continue to haunt her waking world. Does she have more in common with this vigilante than she'll willing to admit, or will her attraction to 'K' lead her closer to danger instead of answers? Issue #2 ratchets up the tension as Lucy is drawn further into 'K's world. If you want to find out what happens next, as Jack Kirby would say, "don't ask, just buy it!".

Above: The Cover of Clip Show, a collection of Richard Fairgray's early uncollected cartoons. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2010.

And an Armageddon Expo would be complete without a round-up of Blastosaurus creator Richard Fairgray's latest offerings. Never one to rest on his laurels (...or sleep for that matter), Richard has a wide variety of new products on offer at this year's convention. So rather than rattle off the list, I'll turn things over to Richard to expertly showcase his wares:
Above: A page from Blastosaurus Halloween Special 2. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2010.

Blastosaurus Halloween Special 2: The four kids get trapped in an abandoned amusement park ride with an escaped monster and a child murderer with a foot fetish and only blastosaurus might save them. It's like a really fucked up Scooby Doo story...and has a board game on the back cover.

I Fight Crime: Three new books of I Fight Crime (plus the 2 that came out at the Wellington show but haven't been seen in Auckland yet). This takes us to strip #450 of the web series.

Clip Show: An anthology of my early work, some that was published in New Ground, some that has been out of print for a number of years and some stuff that has never been seen before. Every year I get a number of people asking for stuff of mine that I did years and years ago that they've seen in friends' collections or...I don't know...dumpsters or
something so I figured I might as well release what I still had access to. The whole thing is tied together by a new story that links all the separate pieces and is in fact about Terry and I and our adventures as comic writers...yeah, it's THAT self indulgent.

Yellow Girl: This is a webcomic that made it to #30 on before the site stopped existing. Now, forthe first time we have collected all 90 of the completed strips. It's about a brother and sister who fall through a mirror into a world of ravenous mutant lemmings, incest jokes and creepy troll things.

We'll also have the first season of Chewing Zombies on DVD which includes 4 bonus episodes of Stavros the Contractor and a 1 minute animated documentary about Terry and I and the creation of Blastosaurus.

We've also reprinted the final 4 issues of the NZ run of Blastosaurus because they were my favourites and haven't been available for quite awhile. We'll also have the usual duck throwing game and (the new and exciting feature) dinosaur candy!

-Richard Fairgray

There you have it. If you haven't checked out Richard's web-cartoon, Chewing Zombies, it's well worth a look! (and it's a surprising accurate primer on what to expect from a comic convention if you're a newbie...but we're preaching to the converted here, right?;)

Above: The cover of the new edition of Hicksville, by Dylan Horrocks.

And of coarse no NZ Comics booth would be complete without copies of the perennial favourite, Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks. Unfortunately Dylan won't be in attendance this year, as he'll be in Toronto for the International Festival of Authors (rubbing shoulders with indie comics royalty: Charles Burns and Seth, no less!). But to make up for this we'll be selling his exclusive mini-comic collaboration with Emily Perkins, All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds! (previously only available at the Orcon Great Blends event). This will be a rare item, and is Emily's first stab at creating comics, so seek out a copy, it's a steal at only $5!

Above: The Cover of All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds!, by Emily Perkins & Dylan Horrocks.

Above: ActionMan Adam by Marc Streeter. Copyright Mark Streeter 2010.

Marc Streeter, author of the always appealing webcomic ActionMan Adam will be appearing at the booth on Sunday, be sure to stop by to check out his artwork and related ActionMan Adam merchandise!

Above: An Anime inspired print by Jianran Pan. Copyright Jianran Pan 2010.

And to showcase a slightly different side of NZ Comics, illustrator and concept artist Jianran Pan will be selling prints of his highly polished manga/anime inspired artwork. It caught my eye earlier this year at Auckland's Doujin Overload Anime Convention, and I think you'll agree it's pretty top notch stuff.

I'll also be at the NZCC Booth on Saturday and Monday reporting on the event; so stop by and say hi, and I may even share with you some NZ Comics gossip, and hints about what's coming up in the new year (new projects and plans for a NZ Comics Convention!).

There's a massive amount of local talent at the Auckland Armageddon Expo this year, so make sure that after you've fought your way through a wall of stormtroopers and goth vampires, you take the time to come down to Booth #86 in Pavilion #1 for some of the best NZ Comics on offer this year! For more information visit the official Armageddon Expo website HERE.