Wellington City Libraries and GRAPHIC comic store joined forces to celebrate International Free Comic Book Day. Workshops and Panel Discussions with leading artists, costume competitions, and free comic giveaways.
Supported by New Zealand Book Council, Dittybox, Unity Books, White Cloud Worlds and Wellington City Council.
Ant Sang (Creator of Shaolin Burning, designer for bro’Town), Grant Buist (Fishhead Magazine’s Jiteratti, animator and playwright) and Robyn Keneally (webcomic artist) discuss their work, their influences and the comic scene of Wellington and New Zealand.
Supported by New Zealand Book Council.
ComicFest starts today at the Central Library. First up is a Comics 101 Workshop with Ant Sang (Creator of Shaolin Burning, designer for bro’Town) from 4:30-6pm, closely followed by a panel discussion with Ant Sang, Grant Buist (Fishhead Magazine’s Jiteratti, animator and playwright) and Robyn Keneally (webcomic artist) as they discuss their work, their influences and the comic scene of Wellington and New Zealand.
We also have one final addition to the programme, the Grant Buist Graphic Novel Advice Dispensary (or the ‘GBGNAD’ for short) from 6pm. This drop-in session at Central’s Graphic Novel collection will help you make sense of and explore what we have on offer.
We’re quite excited (see picture below), and we hope you are too! ComicFest is on today (Friday 2nd May) and tomorrow (Saturday 3rd May) at the Central Library.
Hey! ComicFest starts this Friday the 2nd of May at the Central library, and in preperation we’ve been promoting the fun to come at various parts of the Central library.
Below are some photos from our front window display put together by design-guru librarians Cathy and Helen, our Dr Grordbort display items provided by Weta Cave and Greg Broadmore and all the comics we have from our various panelists – enjoy!
Jitterati Cartoonist Grant Buist has written his own concise profile below, which we’re extremely thankful for and has also offered his time in preperation for ComicFest in a one-off exchange of comic ideas. Grant has been reviewing the graphic novels from our collection expertly for years on his ‘Grant Buist Cartoonist,’ blog.
As such, he has an extensive knowledge of genres, authors and subjects accumulated from hundreds of initimate graphic novel reads. Here’s where you and Grant can meet to discuss graphic novels in person:
Come to the Central library at 6pm this Friday, before the author panel with Ant Sang and Robyn Keneally at 7pm and Grant will help you explore Wellington City Libraries’ graphic novel collection!
Be prepared to discuss your reading preferences and personal tastes and Grant will suggest suitable graphic novels from the thousands of titles available.
Of course, Grant will be involved in the panel to follow at 7pm, and now, onto the profile!
“Grant Buist is a Wellington cautionary tale who has rusticated himself to Otaki Beach after a decade of drawing Brunswick for Salient and another decade drawing Jitterati for City Voice, Capital Times and now Fish Head.
He was inducted into the NZ Cartoon Archive in 2008 and his musical Fitz Bunny: Lust for Glory has been revived twice after premiering at BATS.
He has published 15 books and is currently working on a lengthy graphic novel without interruption from anyone except for Jehovah’s Witnesses and the occasional cow.”
If there’s one graphic novel that has been credited with changing the idea of what super hero comics, and comics as sophisticated works of fiction, could be it is Alan Moore’s Watchmen. Derived from old Charlton comic characters, Watchmen became one of the first self-contained series to re-imagine super hero myths and tropes, reflecting a modern and cynical distrust and suspicion of authority, that has continued through to the dark preoccupations of similar graphic novel authors to follow in Garth Ennis, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and more recently, Mark Millar. No super hero comic of modern times has been more influential.
Released last year, the new Before Watchmen series peer back into the murky pasts of eight seminal Watchmen related characters in Rorschach, Doctor Manhattan, Comedian, Nite Owl, Crimson Corsair, Silk Spectre, Ozymandias and the Minutemen.
Each examines their character minutely and deftly, and despite Alan Moore’s reluctance to endorse the project, the results are generally faithful and illustrated and written by current comic faves like Darwyn Cooke, Brian Azzarello and Swamp Thing creator Len Wein.
Len Wein acted as original editor on the Watchmen and worked intimately with Alan Moore. He writes the pivotal Ozymandias story for Before Watchman and in the podcast below from the Nerdist.com website, he discusses his involvement, personal connection to the project and the influence Watchmen has had.
It’s a fascinating discussion with two other comic writers and well worth a listen – Link here!
Let’s not forget the frankly fantastic film of the same name from from 2009 – perfectly acted and gorgeously shot and few comic-film adaptions are so well made.
Taken together, this multi-media snapshot of the Watchmen phenomenom should inspire some debate and mildly serious consideration hopefully but as the candid Dr Manhattan once said ,’All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.’
The same might be said of 27 year old comic books…
The Unity Books team, one of our generous ComicFest sponsors, and our Wellington City Librarians have collaborated what they think are the best Comics/Graphic Novels. This list was phenomenal so we’ve broken it up. Below is just part three of many posts to come over the next week.
Share your thoughts and additions for this list in the comments section below or flick us both a tweet at @wcl_library and @unitybooks
Matt Bialostocki, Unity Books:
RASL – Jeff Smith
The author of Bone writes a story about a time travelling art thief who comes across the revolutionary journals of Nicola Tesla and attempts to change his world. Hunted by a lizard-faced man and unsure of which parallel universe is really home, he keep fighting to find his way back to peace. Re-coloured for the collected print edition.
Peter Pan – Régis Loisel
A psychoanalytic look at the life of Peter Pan before he became the boy we know from Barrie’s novel. What horrors of London forced a child to forget everything he knew? Who was hook before he was hook? Where did those lost boys come from? Beautifully illustrated in a cartoonish style that doesn’t shy away from the dark side of Neverland. [Not currently available at WCL].
The Boys – Garth Ennis
If there is one person who isn’t afraid to tackle the idea of superheroes head on it’s Garth Ennis. A CIA-funded black ops group reforms to keep an eye on the Seven, fostered superheroes monopolised by a global corporation and wreaking havoc on the lives of innocents. Billy Butcher and a team of mad hatters are no longer content to stand by.
Ottilie, Wellington City Libraries:
The Perfect Planet & other stories – James Kochalka
This little trilogy is hilarious, tragic and plain weird all rolled into one easy-to-carry, read in one sitting book. James Kochalka’s iconic avatar ‘magic boy’ drawn in his simple yet very expressive drawing style, as well as a dark sense of humor make book great for an introspective chuckle on a cloudy afternoon.
Sandman (DC. all 1-12) – Neil Gaiman
Originally printed between 1989-1996, the Sandman comics serve as cold hard proof of Neil Gaiman’s literary genius. A huge range of stories, mostly dark, usually poetic and consistently amusing have kept me re-reserving copies of this series for months – the stories just keep returning to me, calling me back so that I have to look at them again, to see what I missed (an endless amount of details). My favourite collection is number 2, The Doll’s House, featuring a chilling “cereal” convention (of serial killers) in “Collectors”, and a strangely inspiring mortal man who refuses to die in “Men of Good Fortune”. Book 6 Fables and Reflections ends with the inconceivably aethetically pleasing “Ramadan”, a story told, illustrated and lettered in the Arabic tradition, where Caliph Harun Al-Rashid of Baghdad troubles over his perfect city’s inevitable decline. A+ art, A+ stories, A+ otherworldy creations and historical/mythological references. Will read again.
Iron, Or the War After – S M Vidaurri
I first picked this book up because of its cover. I know, I know, librarian sacriledge.. But when the book is a comic or graphic novel, I think one can be forgiven to a certain extent, for passing said judgement. In this case, I’m really glad I did! A tragic tale of espionage set in a sparse, snow-covered landscape, played out, i think more poignantly than it would have with humans, by anthropomorphized European animals. If I’d read the blurb of this on the back of a novel I would’ve been inclined to put it straight back down. I think that, too, is part of the beauty of graphic novels – they help you explore subject matter you’re more interested in seeing than reading about. In any case, I’d certainly recommend this to anybody interested in mystery/spies, the colour grey, watercolour paints, woodland creatures, or all of the above!
Hicksville – Dylan Horrocks
I met Dylan Horrocks after going to ‘Comicsville’, a writers week event in Wellington this year, we had a short chat (about my unusual name of all things) and he signed my copy of Incomplete Works (also highly recommended), “to the mighty, fearless Ottilie”. Needless to say I had to go and sit down in a cafe afterwards, and while I did I realised that I was a terrible fangirl, because I hadn’t ever actually finished reading Hicksville. I sourced it (in the libraries of course) and devoured it over a weekend. I didn’t get much done that weekend, but I did pick up my pencil, pens and a sketchbook, and have been drawing pretty much every day since. Hicksville doesn’t really need recommending at this stage, being one of the most well-known NZ graphic novels, written by arguably NZ’s favourite comic artist. All I can say is, read it. Then read Incomplete Works (a collection of Horrocks’s earlier works). Then pick up a pencil. You’ll wonder what you did with your life before then.
Shinji, Wellington City Libraries:
The Walking Man – Jiro Taniguchi
It’s a low-keyed magic. Jiro Taniguchi has gradually established his name in his native Japan and is now acclaimed worldwide, particularly in Europe. His masterpiece The Walking Man (1991) is concerned with nothing but a man who walks. The salary-man, who appears to be about 40 years old, simply takes strolls around his town where he and his wife have just moved in. While he walks he encounters a variety of people, such as a birdwatcher and an elderly lady; he climbs a tree to get a paper plane for kids, gets caught in the rain and so on. Without much narrative but with meticulous artwork, Tniguchi captures a subtle, everyday life marvellously, and plenty of meanings may emerge from this simple plot. It offers a timeless, less-is-more world, and leaves you with pleasant tenderness. Other of Taniguchi’s works also have similar profound effects and are recommended.
Linda, Wellington City Libraries
Anything by Guy Delisle, particularly his biographical works, such as Pyongyang: A journey in North Korea. This was a brilliant insight into life in that country. Also Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City. Again so insightful, there was so much I did not now about both these countries. He also wrote Shenzhen: A travelogue from China, and Burma Chronicles, both along the same lines. He is a terrific artist also.
Also I just love Chris Onstad’s Achewood series.
Beginning with The great outdoor fight (2008 ), Worst song, played on ugliest guitar (2009), and A home for scared people (2010). Odd, very witty characters, and authors commentary thoughout. Just great.
For a bit of blood lust, The Milkman Murders by Joe Casey, with terrific art work by Steve Parkhouse and one old favourite was Sunset City: For active senior living (2005) – this one actually hooked me onto graphic novel reading.
There are many more, just one cutesy, Fanny & Romeo by Yves Pelletier. Delightful.
The Unity Books team, one of our generous ComicFest sponsors, and our Wellington City Librarians have collaborated what they think are the best Comics/Graphic Novels. This list was phenomenal so we’ve broken it up. Below is just part two of many posts to come over the next week.
Share your thoughts and additions for this list in the comments section below or flick us both a tweet at @wcl_library and @unitybooks
John Douglas, Unity Books:
Drinking at the Movies – Julia Wertz
“On the day I turned 25 I came to consciousness at 3am in a 24hr Laundromat in Brooklyn, NY, eating Cracker Jacks in my pyjamas”. Drinking at the Movies tells the story of Julia Wertz’s move from SF-NYC. It’s a story filled with family dramas, horrible apartments, getting fired, lots of weed and laziness, all told through an apathetic alcoholic haze. The artwork is basic, and the themes are depressing, yet it’s all told with such an absurdly black sense of humour that it’s not only thoroughly enjoyable but oddly uplifting.
High Soft Lisp – Gilbert Hernandez
Gilbert Hernandez started publishing Love & Rockets with his brother Jaime over 30 years ago and it’s still going strong. High Soft Lisp features Love & Rockets character Rosalba ‘Fritz’ Martinez – psychiatrist/ex punk/z movie star/ sexpot/gun fetishist and her motivational speaker (ex)husband Mark Herrera. As always the characters are twisted and the line work is impeccable. There’s a lot of sex.
Green Eggs and Maakies – Tony Millionaire
The Maakies strips have been going for years, there must be thousands of them by now and they’re always a joy. The stories of Drinky Crow and Sock Monkey are deranged, sick, twisted, drunken, violent… everything a comic should be. They’re obviously drawn very quickly but the art is incredible and Millionaire’s attention to detail is astonishing. I’m sure I’ll never tire of Drinky Crow shooting himself in the head.
My New York Diary – Julie Doucet
This intensely personal book tells the story of the author’s move from Montreal to NYC and the time she spent there until she moved to Seattle a year later. The scene is set with 17 year old Julie losing her virginity and it’s a wild ride of poor mental health, drinking too much, and making bad life choices from there on in, all told with a wry and self-depreciating sense of humour.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes – Lisa Hanawalt
Although not a story or any kind of continuous strip My Dirty Dumb Eyes is a riotously entertaining book. Made up of sketches, dreams, true life stories (the trip to the toy expo is great fun) and whatever she feels like. Her movie reviews are Hilarious (Drive, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes) as are her mutated portraits of celebrities.
Paying for It – Chester Brown
With Chester Brown’s deadpan narrative style in full force, Paying for It chronicles his exploits as a john. His return trips, His trying to explain to his friends, and his claims of not needing love. The strange lack of emotion and his bare honesty make this a compelling read. Despite there being a fair amount of sex in the book there’s nothing even approaching erotic, just his every day neuroses.
John, Wellington City Libraries:
Kafka – David Zane Mairowitz
This work takes a highly creative approach to this influential author, depicting his life story via scenes from his books, for example, at one stage we see Kafka depicted as a giant cockroach – taken from his classic ‘Metamorphosis’. This graphic novel works on every level, being a great work of graphic art, an excellent introduction to a profound writer, and a loving homage to everyone’s favourite dark soul.
The Beats: A Graphic History – Harvey Pekar
Grandaddy of comic illustration, Harvey Pekar – star of the excellent biographical film ‘American Splendour’ – presents a well told history of the prime shakers of the US hipster movement of the fifties that influenced an entire generation and laid the groundwork for the social revolutions of the sixties.
City of Glass – Paul Auster – Adapted by Paul Karasik
Paul Auster’s early novels are intriguing contemporary existential works that challenge notions of reason and traditional plot. Here, his excellent ‘City of Glass’ is given a great graphic treatment that maintains the intrigue and mystery of the novel.
xkcd : volume 0 – Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe is a cartoonist that runs a very popular website, and understandably so, as he is probably the most well informed satirist of technology around. This is the first collection of those online postings. Readers need a certain amount of awareness of technology to understand all of the jokes but the ones you get are very on the mark and very, very funny.
Bluesman : a twelve-bar graphic novel – Rob Vollmar
I have been listening to and reading about blues for years, yet this graphic novel was what really brought home to me just how it must have been for those early homeless musicians. A great and moving depiction of a key phase in modern musical history.
The Book of Genesis –Robert Crumb
Yes – it is the real and actual Book of Genesis from the Bible! Legendary cartoonist Robert Crumb of the sixties Zap Comics fame, who is now recognized as a key modern American artist, here applies his outstanding talent to a classic work. This graphic novel polarized Christians, who were either deeply offended or who applauded his modern adaptation. Crumb himself states in the intro that he originally intended a satire, but after looking over the material decided that the material was so strange that he would offer a faithful interpretation.
Gonzo : a graphic biography of Hunter S. Thompson – Will Bingley
The life story of outsider reporter, political commentator and legendary drug fiend Hunter S. Thompson, who invented the term ‘gonzo journalism’, is lovingly told here.
The main focus is on the writer’s early career when he is fired by publisher after publisher, runs for sheriff and binges on drink and drugs, with just a few pages covering the remaining years of his decline. This is a good introduction to a wild life and an impressive, if inconsistent, writer.
Alisha, Wellington City Libraries:
Sandman (5) A Game of You – Neil Gaiman
The best in the series I reckon.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
This is just excellent. Really excellent. If you want to convert someone to the graphic novel genre throw this at them and watch them change. This comic is a coming of age story about a teenage boy who is trying to shed the faith of his family and discover something he is comfortable to call his own. The main character is aided in this process through falling in love with a girl at a Christian camp. Craig Thompson’s illustrations slide in and out of the physical experiences that the main character is having, and the philosophical debates he is working through, seamlessly. Not only is Craig a talented artist but his writing is well formed to boot. And don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a story of faith – this comic tells the story without shoving any belief (or any lack of belief) down your throat. It’s simply a story of standing on your own two feet.
Click here for Part One of our comic pick series.
The Unity Books team, one of our generous ComicFest sponsors, and our Wellington City Librarians have collaborated what they think are the best Comics/Graphic Novels. This list was phenomenal so we’ve broken it up. Below is just part one of many posts to come over the next week.
Share your thoughts and additions for this list in the comments section below or flick us both a tweet at @wcl_library and @unitybooks
Dylan Sherwood, Unity Books:
Tain’t The Meat… It’s The Humanity – Jack Davis
This is an essential volume in the continuing EC Library series published by Fantagraphics.
Jack Davis and his partners in crime at EC were hugely influential on the Zap comic artists of the ‘60’s who in turn did their best to shock and awe their peers. Let your host in howls, the Crypt Keeper, tell you terrifying tales that have stood the test of time. Even when the characters are dead, these panels are alive and kicking.
Also recommended: Corpse On The Imjin! and other stories – Harvey Kurtzman
Cruisin With The Hound – Spain Rodriguez
Spain’s “Trashman” character makes sense when you read the wild and unruly autobiographical yarns collected here. Misspent youth in biker gangs and all manner of sex, drugs, rock’n’roll and violence make for fascinating glimpses of a genuinely rebellious life. The interview with the author by Gary Groth is just the file in the cake. !Viva Spain!
Also recommended: Che: A Graphic Biography – Spain Rodriguez
Skin Deep – Charles Burns
Three twisted tales from 1988-1992, rendered in stunning black and white by a horror comic maestro. “Dog Days” follows the trials and tribulations of a man living with a transplanted dog heart. “Burn Again” recalls the tortured life of a child faith healer turned televangelist as he prepares his Doomsday cult for Armageddon. “A Marriage Made In Hell” is a 50’s style love comic with a plot that could have been written by Ed Wood Jr and directed by Pedro Almodovar.
Favourite Charles Burns comic? Black Hole.
West Coast Blues & Like A Sniper Lining Up His Shot – Jacques Tardi
If the downward spiral trajectory of film noir and the moodiness of Jean-Pierre Melville’s hard boiled characters strike a chord, look no further. Tardi’s masterful adaptations of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s brutal novels are perfect reading material for a rainy winter night.
Also recommended: New York Mon Amour – Jacques Tardi
Hip Hop Family Tree #1: 1970’s -1981 – Ed Piskor
It’s a treat to read Piskor’s history of Hip Hop in book form after checking out the Boing Boing online serial. The paper and format are well chosen and the vignettes of victors and villains who contributed to the birth of a new form of music are rivetting. I’m looking forward to the next volume.
Also recommended: The Beats: A Graphic History text by Harvey Pekar et al., art by Ed Piskor et al., edited by Paul Buhle.
No Man’s Land – Blexbolex
An infernal detective story full of black humour that unfolds at a relentless, insane pitch with the unfortunate narrator careening from one strange episode to the next. This book employs a unique spot colour print process that gives it a handmade, screen printed look that, combined with a beautiful palette, is very easy on the eye.
Also recommended: Ballad – Blexbolex
Prison Pit Book One – Johnny Ryan
Raw, brutal, rough and bloody, this is the perfect antidote to tweeness. Our hero, Cannibal F*ckface, must fight to live on a barren and extremely hostile planet where rules are made to be devoured and excreted and the only winner is humour.
Further trauma can be found here: Prison Pit Book Four – Johnny Ryan
Dungeon Quest Book One, Dungeon Quest Book Two & Dungeon Quest Book Three – Joe Daly
You don’t have to be familiar with role playing games to find this series hilarious. This satire of sword and sorcery tropes is captivating, great artwork and funny dialogue spouted by ridiculous, brave characters on a silly and savage quest.
Also recommended: The Red Monkey Double Happiness Book – Joe Daly
Congress Of The Animals & Fran – Jim Woodring
The first and second graphic novels to feature Woodring’s character, Frank, who dwells in an incomparable world unto itself. Dali and Disney could have dreamt this up together. The ink vibrates on the page and tickles your subconscious so whether or not the stories make sense to you at the end, these trips are well worth taking.
Also recommended: Weathercraft – Jim Woodring
Frith, Wellington City Libraries:
Relish, by Lucy Knisley
I love this book. Being a mix of colourful, appealing comic strips, memoir, and love letter to food WITH RECIPES, it’s got what I’d call a broad appeal base. The recipes are amazing, and reading Lucy’s stories of growing up with two foodie parents, gathering food wild, working in restaurant kitchens, holding stalls at country markets, and selling cheese to some very picky customers is like warm, delicious nostalgia for the childhood food experiences you wish you’d had. Perfect winter reading.
Darth Vader and Son AND Vader’s Little Princess
These are hilarious, one-shot or one-page cartoons depicting scenes that didn’t make it to the movies, but you know must have happened. Like when Luke gives Vader a terrible tie, and he has to wear it to the Imperial council. Horrifying.
A Taste of Chlorine
I said I hated this once. But once I got over feeling all bitter about relationships I appreciated it. The art is so lovely and it paces the story really, really well, with swimming sequences (the story takes place in and around a pool complex) being a page of turquoise panels and stroking arms, putting you firmly in the protagonist’s point of view (he doesn’t particularly relish the repetition, either). It’s also a slice of life ending – the reader is left to draw what resolution they can from the final panels of the book, or conclude that such a resultion may be impossible, or out of reach (ooh, spoiler!). Definitely one for the post-modernists among us.
First of all this is kind of R16 for pretty explicit nudity/ sex scenes, abuse of all kinds, and torture. Habibi puts the ‘graphic’ into graphic novel, that’s for sure. But the story is beautiful, a love story about growing up, finding a place to be, and against the odds, to be with the one you love. Habibi follows the lives of its two main protagonists from childhood to adult life in a fictionalised version of Islamic culture, and touches on themes of identity, social roles, survival, environmental degradation, power and faith. The main characters’ religious ideals – and the overarching narrative of Islamic creation and myth – are woven into the story and play a large part in the climactic scenes. The look and art of the book is inflected by this too, with ideas around writing and sacred words a large part of the design of the gorgeous, black and white illustrations. At over 600 pages this is a loooong comic book, but very worth a read.
Graphic novels as protest journalism. Zahra’s Paradise tells not ‘the’ story, but ‘a’ story of the Iranian 2009 revolution, and so presents an on-the-ground and tragic view of disappearance and extra-judicial brutality after the 2009 elections. It is lightly fictionalised and written under a pseudonym for the authors’ safety, and the story of his missing brother, and their mother’s tenacious search for him or his remains, is moving and informative.
Hark, A Vagrant!
Kate Beaton makes jokes about history (and the Great Gatsby!) in comic book form. What could be better?
An examination, in comic panels, of the global economic system from the ground up. Straight-up and straightforward, with the author’s comic-self guiding you through tricky concepts and time periods, it’s a useful and fun (NOT a word I ever thought of applying to economics before) introduction to one of the systems that run the world. Perfect if you’ve forgotten all your high school economics, or just want to get an overview.
Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep, Vols. I-VI / Phillip K. Dick
Phillip K. Dick’s tale of despair and humanity in a ruined urban wasteland future is the story that became ‘Blade Runner’, and is known and renowned round the world. The grim, but flashy details of the futuristic world and android struggles translate better in comic book format than they ever did as a novel, in my not-very-humble opinion.
The Night Bookmobile / Audrey Niffenegger
Every person has, shadowing them through their life, their personalised bookmobile, filled with everything they’ve ever read, comforting them in low times and inspiring them for high. The book is a story of the protagonist’s brief encounter with the mobile library and her quest to re-discover it, no matter the cost. One for the librarians from the author of the Time-Traveller’s Wife.
And of course the inestimable Calvin and Hobbes. I loved this when I was a kid, and of course I paid most attention to Calvin, even though I thought him a brat and sympathised more with Susie, the (would-be) victim of Calvin’s many pranks. Now reading it as an adult, I get the jokes. And they’re great jokes.
Illustrator and graphic designer, Gavin Mouldey is the man responsible for the amazing ComicFest 2014 posters, fliers and webpage art being used to promote ComicFest and he’s also running a comics workshop on Saturday the 3rd of May as part of Comic Book Free Day at the Central library between 11 and 1.30.
He operates the Dittybox store situated in the heart of Island Bay. Gavin provided answers to our questions below and we’ve added a selection of his images for visual enhancement – enjoy!
Your Dittybox facebook page says that you’re a painter and graphic designer, but I know you’ve worked as an animation artist as well – is there one kind of art process that you enjoy the most?
What I enjoy the most in my process (whether digital or hands on), is the rush of motivation that comes after deciding how to tackle a brief. The first stage when a job comes in tends to be staring at a blank screen or page, completely befuddled. This is often followed by searching for inspiration, finding reference material, or outright procrastination (coffee, a pie, crossword, having a shower, watching a cartoon, etc).
Eventually I’ll start doodling, and something will click. Then a job which seemed like a chore suddenly becomes exciting, and I lose all sense of time. It’s like being hypnotised.
Sometimes my wife leaves the house in the morning and I think “I’ll do the dishes and hang the washing out and pick some flowers and make dinner before she gets home”, then she returns 8 hours later and my head hasn’t turned away from the page. I’ll be still in my boxer shorts, empty tummy, dry mouth… Like a nerd zombie.
You’ve spent some time employed as a production designer in Australia on the TV show ‘Dogstar’ – how did this rate as a professional experience?
My experience in animation has mostly involved creating backgrounds and character/prop designs. Pretty similar to my role as an illustrator. The only real difference is how I get paid, and in the case of Dogstar, the pace of turnaround. The job was great, and I met a lot of future collaborators, but I don’t think I was built for big cities. I like the pace of Wellington, or specifically Island Bay.
You’ve made the image for our very cool ComicFest posters which we’re very thankful for! What are some stand-out projects you have worked on as a freelance artist? Is this satisfying work?
Posters are always fun, as they offer a lot more creative freedom than other briefs. It just has to catch the viewer’s attention. Most of my past work has been for children’s books, educational resources, and magazine publications. I’m not often happy with a finished illustration by the time it comes out in print, as it’s too fresh in my mind.
Work I did for Tearaway magazine as a teenager, 20 years ago, is the most fun to look back on as it seems like someone else’s work. North & South magazine gave me a lot of freedom to create full page illustrations, much like posters, and some of those are still my favourites.
Lately I’ve been painting murals for varied clients. They’re definitely the most rewarding to see finished, and have the most lasting exposure.
I love your Wellington apocalypse series. Where did the inspiration for these incredibly imagined pieces come from?
Initially I planned to have 12 of them for a 2012 “It’s My Apocalypse And I’ll Cry If I Want To” calendar. They were all ludicrous depictions of end-of-the-world scenarios in Wellington settings, making fun of the apocalyptic fever that films/television/Mayans were infecting everyone with at the time.
In the end (not the end end), the project was downsized to a large wall-planner, and two limited edition prints. There’s still some left at my gallery if anyone has a soft spot for the apocalypse.
Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always wanted to draw for a living. The term artist gets over used. It’s becoming so vague, and pretentious.
I think of my job as a trade, like carpentry or gardening. Art is a whole set of industries, and basically anyone can call themselves an artist without any formal education or practice.
Considering that, it’s odd that creating “Art” is treated by some cliques as an intellectual and cultural virtue. Willie Saunders, one of my all-time favourite comic artists who seems to have disappeared, once used the term “cerebral vomit”. That’s probably out of context, but I think it represents a lot of what artists do (myself begrudgingly included). I’m more proud when my illustrations fulfill a set function, than when they just seem like my soul self-indulgently spilt on a canvas.
Gavin also provided a list of some of his favourite comics – many of them by New Zealanders – and you can reserve some of them right now!
Super F*ckers by James Kochalka
Scooters Of The Apocalypse by Alister Kitchen (Kiwi)
Ripple – a predilection for Tina by Dave Cooper
Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan
The Muppet Show Comic Book by Roger Langridge (Kiwi)
Ojingogo by Matthew Forsyth
Wonton Soup by James Stokoe
Lone Racer by Nicolas Mahler
Schlipp Comics by Willie Saunders (Kiwi)
Comicbook Factory Funnies by Karl Wills (Kiwi)
Victory by Greg Broadmore (Kiwi)
Famed NZ cartoonist and bro’Town designer, Ant Sang is attending ComicFest all the way from Auckland with the wise and generous assistance of the NZ Book Council!
He’ll be running a workshop for aspiring cartoonists and comics creators on Friday the 2nd of May between 4.30 and 6 o’clock at the Central library. That same night we’ll be having an authors panel discussion with Ant, and fellow cartoonists Robyn Kenealy and Grant Buist from 7 till 8 o’clock.
Ant Sang, who lives and works in Auckland, is an award-winning cartoonist.
Author and illustrator of the celebrated The Dharma Punks comic book series, he has a cult following among graphic novel fans and comic art aficionados.
Shaolin Burning (HarperCollins 2011) is his latest graphic novel and spent ten weeks in the top ten of the NZ Booksellers Bookchart.
He was one of the original creatives on the successful bro’Town animated TV series, and won two Film & Television awards for his design work on the show.
This is an excellent chance to watch and work with one of New Zealand’s best cartoonists and a great opportunity to work on those latent comic abilities and fuel your appetite for comic related talk and impressive illustration!
It’s free and it’s at the Central library on Friday the 2nd of May – good on ya ComicFest!
To get us into the spirit of the upcoming ComicFest, I thought I would share some of my favourite things from the wider comic book universe. Ranging from adult to young adult – graphic novel, comic, and manga – alchemy, superpowers, science, wizardry or just plain bad-assedness, there’s a whole range of stuff here.
Girl genius  : Agatha Heterodyne & the Beetleburg Clank : a gaslamp fantasy with adventure, romance & mad science / story by Phil & Kaja Foglio ; pencils by Phil Foglio ; inks by Brian Snoddy.
“The Heterodyne family, who “travelled the globe negotiating peace, stopping monsters, and shutting down doomsday devices,” are heroes among those with the Spark, the ability to play with the laws of physics, until their disappearance. Now, student lab assistant Agatha Clay works for Dr. Beetle at Transylvania Polygnostic University. After soldiers of fortune steal the locket her uncle gave her years before, she is cast out of the university and left alone while her anxious foster parents go to retrieve it.” (Abridged from School Library Journal)
Black butler. 1 / Yana Toboso ; [translation: Tomo Kimura].
“When a fire claims his parents, Ciel Phantomhive must step up as the head of his father’s company and as Earl Phantomhive. It would be a lot for the young boy to handle were it not for his faithful butler, Sebastian. He’s almost too good to be true – or at least, too good to be human.” (Syndetics summary)
FreakAngels. Volume one / story, Warren Ellis ; artwork, Paul Duffield.
“Twenty-three years ago, twelve strange children were born in England at exactly the same moment. Six years ago, the world ended. Today, eleven strange 23-year-olds live in and defend Whitechapel, maybe the last real settlement in flooded London. When a dazed, gun-toting girl appears on the outskirts with a deadly grudge against the self-proclaimed Freakangels, the kids realize that an old enemy is still alive beyond the safety of their borders… a twelfth psychic child, evil and exiled, who can program human minds to hate, and send his private, pirate armies into Whitechapel for revenge. The first chapter in award-winning author Warren Ellis’ post-apocalyptic web comic series!” (Syndetics summary)
Fullmetal alchemist. Vol. 1 / story and art by Hiromu Arakawa.
“Alchemy: the mystical power to alter the natural world, somewhere between magic, art, and science. When two brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, dabble in these powers to grant their dearest wish, they become slaves of the military-alchemical complex.” (Syndetics summary)
The Dresden Files : welcome to the jungle / written by Jim Butcher ; pencils by Ardian Syaf ; inks by Nick Nix…[et al.]
“When the supernatural world spins out of control, when the police can’t handle what goes bump in the night, when monsters come screaming out of nightmares and into the mean streets, there’s just one man to call: Harry Dresden, the only professional wizard in the Chicago phone book. A police consultant and private investigator, Dresden has to walk the dangerous line between the world of night and the light of day.
Now Harry Dresden is investigating a brutal mauling at the Lincoln Park Zoo that has left a security guard dead and many questions unanswered. As an investigator of the supernatural, he senses that there’s more to this case than a simple animal attack, and as Dresden searches for clues to figure out who is really behind the crime, he finds himself next on the victim list, and being hunted by creatures that won’t leave much more than a stain if they catch him.” (Publisher’s description)
Fruits basket. Volume 1 / Natsuki Takaya.
“Nothing can dampen the optimistic spirit of orphaned high school girl Tohru Honda – not even being forced to live alone in a tent. One morning, she discovers a nearby house, where her popular classmate Yuki Sohma and his older cousin Shigure live by themselves. They invite her to stay with them as their (desperately needed) housekeeper, and she soon learns of the family curse: when the Sohmas are embraced by members of the opposite sex, they turn into animals of the Chinese zodiac. Tohru also meets Kyo, the 13th member of the cursed family, who turns into a cat, an animal ostracized by the zodiac members in an ancient legend. As Tohru brightens their lives, they give her something she thought she had lost: a family.” (Abridged from Library Journal)
Hawkeye : my life as a weapon / Matt Fraction, writer ; David Aja, artist, #1-3 ; Javier Pulido, artist, #4-5. “Collects Hawkeye #1-5 & Young Avengers Presents #6. The breakout star of this summer’s blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton – aka the self-made hero Hawkeye – fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he’s out to prove himself as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence – before he becomes the most wanted man in the world.” (Publisher’s description)
Gunnerkrigg Court. Volume 1, Orientation / by Tom Siddell.
“Antimony Carver is a precocious and preternaturally self-possessed young girl starting her first year of school at gloomy Gunnerkrigg Court, a very British boarding school that has robots running around alongside body-snatching demons, forest gods, and the odd mythical creature. The opening volume in the series follows Antimony through her orientation year: the people she meets, the strange things that happen, and the things she causes to happen as she and her new friend, Kat, unravel the mysteries of the Court and deal with the everyday adventures of growing up. Tom Siddell’s popular and award-winning webcomic (www.gunnerkrigg.com) is here collected in print for the first time.” (Syndetics summary)
The Boys. Volume one, The name of the game / written by Garth Ennis ; illustrated by Darick Robertson.
“THIS IS GOING TO HURT! In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone’s got to make sure the “supes” don’t get out of line. And someone will. Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman and The Female are The Boys: a CIA backed team of very dangerous people, each one dedicated to the struggle against the most dangerous force on Earth – superpower. Some superheores have to be watched. Some have to be controlled. And some of them – sometimes – need to be taken out of the picture. That’s when you call in THE BOYS.” (Syndetics summary)
Comics and pop music have always had a close relationship. In the late 60’s and early 70’s underground comics by authors like Robert Crumb directly referenced music of all sorts and comic artists have worked on albums by a number of musicians from that period like Iggy Pop and The Grateful Dead. Sometimes, music is more directly referenced in comics and that’s where this ComicFest playlist starts – from comics based on one song, to songs based on single comics, to comics recounting a whole period in music history, or even comics revisiting single songs one by one each by a separate creator. The permutations are limitless, and the titles below only a personal selection, but hope you enjoy them and the accompanying Spotify playlist.
Hip Hop family tree
Fully realised early history of Hip Hop in the U.S, complete as a deluxe out-size edition, with crisp thick paper and retro print 70’s colour finish – a thing of beauty and a genuinely studious slice of rappin’ DJ life from Wizzywig’s Ed Piskor. Grandmaster Flash and the furious five played their part and ‘The Message’ may be their best known song.
Put the book back on the shelf: A Belle and Sebastian anthology
A tribute comic by multiple creators that takes as starting point and inspiration, Belle and Sebastian’s well-loved songs, but to be honest, the pieces are variable in quality. A thoughtful attempt with some outstanding successes. ‘Asleep on a sun beam,’ is a sweet girl/guy vocal Belle and Sebastian song that pulls you in without trying, is melodic and oh so sweet.
Sometimes, comics influence musicians too, and maybe none more so than ‘Ghost World,’ by Aimee Mann, a direct tribute to Daniel Clowes ground-breaking graphic novel. Paul MacCartney, Pop will eat itself, the Ramones and XTC have all recorded songs about comics.
Johnny Cash: I see a darkness
I See a darkness is a very well imagined and illustrated graphic biography of some of Johnny Cash’s darkest years and the song version of the same name from his late career ‘American’ recordings, features songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy on tender backing vocals.
Punk rock and Trailer parks
Punk rock and trailer parks features an absolute original in the optimistic, surprisingly verbose Punk rock fan Otto. Set in Ohio, the fictional Otto happens upon one influential punk band after another, and music lies at the heart of every gently humorous episode. A comic that gains momentum slowly as it progresses, eventually affecting real emotional heft and surprise. The Ramones blast ‘Teenage Labotamy’ on our playlist.
The sweeter side of Robert Crumb
The famous Robert Crumb has been a fan of classic Blues and early Jazz and an underground comic genius – of sorts – for years. His extensive contribution to the cover and liner art of Blues and pop music reissues and original releases are often respectfully and sympathetically illustrated. Crumb illustrated the cover for Blind Boy Fuller’s album Truckin’ my blues away in the late 70’s.
Neil Young’s Greendale
Neil Young’s live recording of Grandpa’s interview, from the Greendale album, is so strong in narrative and deft story-telling, that it wasn’t too much of a surprise when this reverent, capable comic version of Greendale was released in 2010.
Soundtrack: short stories
American cartoonist Jessica Abel’s early short work depicts indie music reverently and personally but also in a journalistic closeness. Is it surprising that counter culture comics authors identify and continue to value underground or indie music? In a very short story called Soundtrack she thanks The Beastie Boys, Pavement, Jesus Lizard and Arrested Development.
There’s a whole lot more adult graphic novels that reference or are influenced by indie rock especially in our collection by phenomenal comic geniuses like Brian Lee O’Malley, Peter Bagge, Jamie Hernandez and Terry Moore. Comics and music, music and comics – it’s a deep and transcendent relationship.