Independent publisher HUIA, who specialise in stories told from a Maori and Pacific Island perspective, have been quietly producing some top flight graphic novels in the last few years, which have been turning heads and winning awards. In 2009 they published Hautipua Rererangi, a Te Reo Maori graphic novel collaboration between writer/actor Julian Arahanga and artist Andrew Burdan, retelling the war-time adventures of Porokoru Patapu (John) Pohe, the first Māori pilot in the RNZAF.
Above: A page from Hautipua Rererangi, art by Andrew Burdan. Copyright Huia Publishers/Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga 2012.
It was translated and remastered for an English language edition, which was released in April this year as Born To Fly. Burdan's crisp illustrations recall the great tradition of black & white war comics like Commando, with an eye for effective design layouts.
Above: Ngarimu: Te Tohu Toa or Victory at Point 209, illustrated by Andrew Burdan and retold by Kawata Teepa. Copyright Huia Publishers/Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga 2012.
This was followed up in 2010 with the Te Reo Maori release of Ngarimu: Te Tohu Toa by Andrew Burdan with Kawata Teepa. This adventure tells the story of how Second Lieutenant Te Moana-nuia-Kiwa Ngarimu of 28 Māori Battalion won the VC during World War Two.
On 26 March 1943, two weeks before his 24th birthday, Ngarimu led an attack on Point 209, a vital hill at Tebaga Gap in Tunisia. Under intense mortar and machine gun-fire, he led the assault up the hill, personally destroying two German machine-gun posts on a crest of the hill. Despite being wounded twice during the night, he and his men defended their position from several counter-attacks. The following morning during a particularly strong counter-attack, Ngarimu was killed. Later the same day, the Germans still on Point 209 surrendered.
Last year it was the first graphic novel to win the Te Kura Pounamu (Te Reo Maori) award at the LIANZA Children's Book Awards, and also received a 'Secondary Education Highly Commended' award at the CLL (Copyright Licensing Ltd) Educational Publishing Awards 2011.
It was re-released last month in a new Te Reo Maori and English edition Victory at Point 209. Its 40 pages and retails for $25 NZ, and is in stores now! You can check out a nifty trailer the publisher created to promote the book below, and view some preview pages of Andrew Burdan's artwork HERE.