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5 QUESTIONS with Graphic Novelist Dylan Horrocks

27 Sep

5 QUESTIONS is were I ask 5 questions of New Zealand Comic Book Creators, Writers and Artists. 

This week I asked DYLAN HORROCKS the questions. DYLAN lives 
 and works in Auckland, NZ. He teaches Art at Auckland University of Technology and advises on Comic Writing at Auckland University. His ‘10 issues of his comic book Pickle were published by Black Eye (1992-97) and his graphic novel Hicksville was published in 1998, also by Black Eye.  Hicksville has since been reprinted by Drawn & Quarterly and has been translated into French, Italian and Spanish’. Hicksville was Nominated for two Ignatz Awards (best graphic novel and best art) and one Harvey Award (best reprint collection). Winner of two Goodies Awards (best graphic novel and best writer).  Named a Comics Journal ‘book of the year.’  

COMIC ADDICTS: Who is Dylan Horrocks?
DYLAN: He’s a character in some of my comics.
CA: What made you want to write comic books? 
DYLAN: Growing up reading Tintin, among other things. My Dad is into comics, so the house always had a good supply of great things to read.

CA: Among your webcomics and printed works is ‘Hicksville’ is an award winning graphic novel about a comic creator and the comic industry. What made you decide to create a comic about the artist and art form itself?
DYLAN: Well, they do say “write what you know…” Seriously, though (I hate that phrase and consider it very poor advice), Hicksville was initially just a private daydream, built from my love of comics and my homesickness for New Zealand (when I was living in Britain for a few years). I made up a place where everyone was obsessed with comics because that’s the kind of place I dreamed of hanging 
out. From there the story grew organically, and I used it to explore stuff I was thinking about at the time – not just comics, but art, commerce, betrayal, community, love and loss – all the usual things…
Preview Hicksville here.

CA: As mentioned you create web-comics as well, what is it about creating webcomics that you think seems so attractive to comic book creators like yourself?
DYLAN: For me, the main attraction is the ability to put stuff out there regularly. It takes me a long time to finish a book, and it can get pretty lonely working alone like that. Serialising it on the web means I can show it to people one page a time. It’s a bit more like working in a shared studio, where you can pass pages around and chat about how it’s going.
CA: Is there a new work you are working on that we may be seeing on the book shelves soon?
DYLAN: Well, I’ve nearly finished ‘The Magic Pen’ volume 1 (two chapters to go), and hope to have that out next year. I should also put together a collection of my short comics stories soon. And there are a couple of other things in the works, too, which I’m doing in collaboration with other people. So hopefully the next year or two should be full of new books by me…

All Toons Copyright, 2011. Dylan Horrocks.

Aru (Aruneshwar Singh, is a writer and graphic novelist who has several unpublished works currently being worked on as well as working with other Illustrators and Artists he also illustrates his own comics. His webcomic Zero can be viewed here. Aru has a Bachelors Degree in Digital Media- Digital Filmmaking and is the CEO and Owner of New Zealand’s only Online Comic Store, Comic Trade. Facebook

5IVE QUESTIONS with Graphic Novelist & Illustrator ANT SANG

20 Sep

This new segment dear readers, is where I ask five questions of New Zealand Comic Book Creators, Writers and Artists to find what makes them tick.

This week I asked ANT SANG the questions. Ant lives and works in Auckland, NZ, He is an award-winning cartoonist and amongst his comic works is a series called, Dharma Punks and recently had his graphic novel, Shaolin Burning published ny HarperCollins New Zealand. Ant is well known in the New Zealand comic scene. And due to his creative work on the Bro’town TV Series, he has stamped his place in NZ Moving Images scene as well. 

COMIC ADDICTS: When did you decide creating comics was what you wanted to do?

ANT: I’ve drawn all my life, but it wasn’t until the mid-nineties when a friend of mine introduced me to independent comics (Chester Brown, Dan Clowes, Julie Doucett etc) that I got inspired to start writing comics ‘seriously’. The rawness and honesty in these comics really struck a nerve with me in a way that most mainstream comics couldn’t. And the underground/D.I.Y ethic was one which really inspired people to just go out and start making comics…

CA: Apart from print media you were involved with designing ‘Bro’Town‘, the animated TV series. It’s a series I must say I adore as something that really speaks to me as a Pacific Islander as well a Kiwi, living amongst one of the most diverse cultural melting pots, which is Auckland City. How did you get involved with the shows inception?

ANT: Awesome, glad you enjoyed Bro’Town! The show’s producer, Elizabeth Mitchell, contacted me when she heard about Dharma Punks when I was first starting to do the media rounds to promote that comic series. I tried out designing some of the characters and a few years later it was all on!

CA: Are there any plans for something similar to Bro’Town in the future?

ANT: A Bro’Town movie is in the pipeline, but apart from that, nope.

CA: Having a recognizable name and a resume as extensive as yours, have more offers come in because of the TV Series?

ANT: Every now and then someone approaches me about projects but I’ve really got the itch to do as much of my own projects as I can at the moment.

CA: I recently reviewed Shaolin Burning for the column, can you tell me how you were able to get HarperCollins to publish the graphic novel, since most publishers seem to stay away from comic books in NZ?
ANT: I heard that HarperCollins were looking for a local graphic novel project, so I pitched a few ideas to them and they were really keen. Since Shaolin Burning they’ve published Nice Day For a War, and another graphic novel (Kimble Bent, Malcontent) from Random House is due to hit the shelves very soon… so it’s an amazing year for NZ graphic novels!

(All Toons Copyright, 2011. Ant Sang.)

(ARU), Aruneshwar has just finished his Bachelors Degree in Digital Media -Digital Film-making. He took a semester of Multimedia earlier this year which kind of set him up for, a New Zealand  online comic store. On the creative side Aru,is writing and illustrating a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery ofIndians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. He is a prolific script writer and writes in all comicbook genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,Rising Sun Comics.

Review: SHAOLIN BURNING graphic novel by Ant Sang

13 Sep

ANT SANG lives and works in Auckland, NZ. He is an award-winning cartoonist and amongst his comic works is a series called Dharma Punks and he recently had his graphic novel, Shaolin Burning, published by HarperCollins, New Zealand. Ant is well known in the New Zealand comic scene. And due to his creative work on the Bro’town TV Series, he has stamped his place in the NZ Moving Images scene as well. 

With the sudden interest in graphic novels and comic books in general off-late, although the basis for this has been building for well over two decades, even our (New Zealand) homegrown publishers are looking to our local talents for work to publish. HarperCollins New Zealand has just released another graphic novel this past week 

(Click to enlarge)
   The New Zealand comic community is excited and over the moon about this sudden local interest. They are after all publishing what some in the local publishing world it seems, regard as low art and therefore not to be taken as seriously as a regular novel. Not to mention the fact that it usually takes around a year to two to complete a decent graphic novel. But, …it’s an amazing year for NZ graphic novels!” as Ant put it, when I asked him this week about how he ended up getting his graphic novel published. 

(Click to enlarge)
Ant, although I have never met him in person, has a real playful nature to him, as well as that certain “Asian serenity”. I mention this because his replies to my questions were warm, at least I felt they were. Being a person who works through about 80-90% of his waking life, I tend to pay attention to what people write. Most of my weeks conversations are done through email, chat and Facebook messages as I’m sure a fair amount of yours do as well.
   Now back to Ant. Shaolin Burning is a tale based on myth, legend and Chinese history. And as those who are familiar with Kung-Fu films will know it (shaolin) is the most important school of the martial arts in Chinese history. I am no expert, so I will leave explaining it there.
   The graphic novel is a beautiful piece of work mixing serene action sequences and visual drama with character that I instantly fell in love with. This is tragic story and one with lost heroes trying to make a mark in their world. Its a tale of revenge with sweet moments of forgiveness and yet filled with horrifying and  brutal sword fighting scenes as heads are decapitated and body parts are hacked to pieces. All this and yet the ending leaves you with wanting to read more. 

   The story is of a 15 year old orphaned girl, Deadly Plum Blossom, who having been rescued from drowning by her father and thrust upon her adopted mother (which actually is something that happened all too often to female babies back then) She has grown up being taught a new form of Kung Fu by her mother, who teaches the art within a year rather than the normal six needed to be a master.
   There is a really humorous piece of dialogue and it just reminds me so much of Bro’Town, which Ant had a part in helping create. 
(Click to enlarge)

“Grow some nuts, lil’ boys!” Tong fighter to gathered fighting gangs, challenging them to a fight and no one wants to fight, due to the fact the Tongs kill for a living. “You guys have been fighting girls too long!”  
Deadly Plum Blossom to her friend Mouse, “I reckon I can take him on…”
“Blossom! Forget it. You got nothin’ to prove to ’em!” Mouse replies back.
I am serious these pigs need to be taught a lesson,” Deadly Plum Blossom.  

And this is the playful nature of Ants writing that I feel comes out in this book so well. The book is filled at times with great amounts of violence and then suddenly you see these little moments of backyard peer pressure. 
   When I got near to the last 15 or so pages I wondered how it could be tied up in a nice little conclusion given that there were only so many pages left. But wallah! loose ends were all gathered together. 

(Click to enlarge)

I haven’ read much Manga and the ones I have are written by old masters of the art, such as Blade of the Immortal. The English language versions and the restructuring of the panels to be able to be understood by a non-Manga reader has done a world of good to attract more western readers. Shaolin Burning is written with English readers in mind, there are no multi-direction panel structures reminiscent of standard Manga. 

Having read Shaolin Burning the only thing I am unhappy about is the cover. Its seems that the person who designed the cover has no idea what a graphic novel cover should look like. Its a horrible if no terrible look for a book so colorful and full of action. To be blatantly honest, I would have rather gone with the back cover as the front. Its almost like the designer wanted people to be put off by the cover. I know I was at first. But I was won over by Ant’s Bro’Town work. 

Do not be put off by the cover. 

Purchase here.

(ARU), Aruneshwar has just finished his Bachelors Degree in Digital Media -Digital Film-making. He took a semester of Multimedia earlier this year which kind of set him up for, a New Zealand  online comic store. On the creative side Aru,is writing and illustrating a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery ofIndians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. He is a prolific script writer and writes in all comicbook genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,Rising Sun Comics.

Crowdfunding: The Circle Graphic Novel

16 Aug

Crowdfunding is when a whole bunch of people you know and most likely don’t know, have an opportunity to support your project. Whatever the project might be. From a short film to a tuition fee to get you to a special course to further your skills, to getting a new computer application off the ground.

Recently there has been a huge variety of websites across the West doing really great things for Creators and Artists as well as for amateurs.  So, I decided to give it a go to see if I could get support to get my graphic novel printed.

(Click on here for my project on Pozible.)

Having tried to get onto the US Kickstarter website, after the initial acceptance of my project, I found out I had to live in the United States or have a US bank account to qualify. So, when I heard about the Australian site, which is a bit closer to myself here, in New Zealand, I decided to have a go.

As a creator, we spend a vast amount of time creating and refining our project/s and if you are anything like me, you just want to move onto the next project. Most of you who have been following my weekly post here or  my Facebook page, know I like to work on several projects at the same time. I haven’t figured out whether this is because I like the idea of working on different projects at the same time or whether I don’t like finishing projects. Despite that, I did however finish one project, The Circle.

The Circle has been like pulling teeth from the beginning. I know most people say how excited they are about working on their art and creating a masterpiece. But, this one was a killer. Imagine sitting there for hundreds of hours in front of your CRT screen with a mouse and PhotoShop, just clicking away for 2 days a week and other time I could spare, after getting home tired from work in a very busy retail environment, having the pressure of selling thirty five thousand dollars of product a week, only to get home and hope that what I was doing would end up printed and in someone’s hands.

Well, after 2 yrs of working on it, and a year of promotion on, I am now ready to get the book printed.

I spent the past 4 weeks, back and forth on emails trying to get quotes.  Trying to find the best option in page numbers and print size wasn’t the easiest job. There are many options if you have the money. But, if you don’t? Well, you know the rest.

Deciding that since this book was my first and hopefully not my last, I placed a promo on Pozible. So, now its up to folks on Pozible to see what they think of my graphic novel and whether they believe its worth getting printed up. Fingers crossed. You can, but try after all.

Check out the website and see whether your project meets the guidelines and who knows you may get that masterpiece funded too.

Catch up next week, Aru

Aru (Aruneshwar Singh) has a Bachelor of Arts in Digital Media -Digital Film-making. 
Always writing and illustrating and currently working on a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery of Indians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. 
He also has a weekly graphic serial on Facebook called
Zero© and also on his blogsite.

Adventures of the Kite Family

11 Aug
Adventures of the Kite Family written by Dan Brader with the first issue illustrated by New Zealand artists, Yi Lang Chen & Csaba Mester.

Dan and I have been FB friends since I first was contacted by him a few months back, when he asked me to check out the first issue of Kite Family. Because the series is a Real Life genre book, the issues and situations in it, felt like it was speaking to me personally as an adult male. I felt at one with the character, even though there isn’t much revelation about why Donnie is back from where ever he was. The story allowed me to put myself in Donnie’s place and think about the shit, for lack of a better adjective, that I had/have been going through after my own split and returning to my parents home to recoup for a while before I decided it was time to stand up.

I wanted to know more about the series, so I sent Dan, Five Questions to find out a bit about him as well as how the series came about. 

ARU: Tell us about yourself?

DAN: I’m a 29 year old who suffers from mild depression who spends my life on Facebook… Has a mass of debts I’ll never pay off… An ex-girlfriend who has all of my books, DVDs, records and comics and will never give them back…And I was living with my parents for the bulk of 2010…You could also say I’m a stand-up comedian and writer with a lot of promise who will get there eventually….And by “there” I mean make enough money from “art” to pay rent and bills….That’d make me happy.

ARU: How did you, as a Comedian end up deciding to write graphic novels?

DAN: Basically what happened was… I broke up with my girlfriend and because I’d spent so much time doing comedy shows and so little time working a day job and saving money (you know like normal people…) I had no choice but to come back home and live with my parents for a bit until I sorted shit out….Staying with them reminded me how much I liked writing about them (I wrote a play about them back at University) and because I was isolated in Wanaka I had no chance to do comedy routines about them…So I started writing scripts again and then it occured to me I could maybe turn them into comics if I could find an artist… I got lucky with Yi Lang Chen who very much captured the comical but realistic style I was looking for.

ARU Whats it been like working with the artist on the first issue?

DAN: Yi is a very talented artist and is very easy to work with…He seems to ‘get’ the tone of the work. I was very lucky to find him as I have been through a few artists prior to him and they’ve either been unreliable or just didn’t get the vibe of the piece. I also had Csaba Mester, a talented Hungarian artist, do a short piece with the Kites and we’re working on a comic about Tom Waits now but will probably do some Kite family stuff together too. So now I have two great artists to work with!

ARU: The ‘Kite Family‘ seems to feel very claustrophobic and seems like it has a lot of personal feelings placed into it from experience. Is this something you wanted to do with it from the start?
DAN: The comic is very close to my life. I’ve changed the odd thing here and there and exagerrated certain things but basically this is what it was like for me when I first returned home. I’ve tried to keep it punchy and comical as well so it doesn’t just seem like me having a big whinge. I’d liked it to be a very long series (I’ve written a whole stack of scripts already..) that’s divided between regular issues like this and issues that are a bunch of short pieces similar to how Pekar did early issues of “American Splendour

In my mind and heart I believe the book is a winner and needs to given the 4-6 issue graphic novel drive and let me be the first to say I dibs the copy after your family gets theres.
You can read the first issue, hereThere is also a  with tons of extras fan page
(ARU), Aruneshwar Singh has just finished his Bachelors Degree in Digital Media -Digital Film-making.
Having decided to become a teacher so he can see the world, he has just begun a
Diploma in Digital Media -Multimedia. On the creative side Aru,
is writing and illustrating a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery of
Indians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. He is a prolific script writer and writes in all comic
book genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,
Rising Sun Comics.

Will the real Captain America please stand up?

30 Jul

Jack Kirby (& heirs) Vs. Marvel Comics

Yes, I am going there. But for all the right reasons. For a little while now, a court case has been under way to get back the rights or at least get royalties from Marvel Comics for the late Jack ‘King’ Kirby and his heirs from the 100s of millions made from creations which without Kirby would not exist, such as Hulk, Fantastic Four, and oh, that money spinner, X-Men. Every comic fan/reader must know about Kirby for it goes without saying, that he is as important to American/Western comics as Leonardo Da Vinci is to modern art and as Anant Pai was to Indian comics.

 As you may or may not be aware of, this past week saw the final verdict given on the decades long struggle between the estate of Jack Kirby and Marvel Comics -which is owned by Disney.  The court ruled ‘legally’ in favor of Marvel Comics. And therefore all rights to Kirby’s work will remain in the hands of Marvel to do as they see fit and as with any powerhouse they have every right to. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool has been so cool as to place the entire ruling up for all fans and interested parties to read for themselves. So, I am not gonna try and explain the legal fine print here in this column, but do have a read for yourselves. It will give you a good understanding of how far things have come.

Capt. America #1

For years, to all of us who have/had been Marvel Comics fans due to the great ensemble of superhero and mutant books put out by the stable. The company for years helped various artists and writers to break into the medium in the USA. Having grown into a pop culture icon, Stan Lee has taken the characters Jack created in a whole new universe. Just look at the movies, toys and over the top branding of the recent Thor and now Captain America, both were also co-created by Kirby.
Loyalist and those who believe a person should get recognition for his creations and royalties paid, especially in this age of multi-million dollar lawsuits, and brands which could easily buy some countries around the globe, should at least step aside from the legal decision now that its over,  and look to rectify to the Kirby Heirs and to us, as consumers who indirectly allow an injustice to continue by allowing a man like Jack Kirby to continue (even after his passing), to be treated as a Coolie, carrying the bags of Marvel Comics while others reap of his work, slaving for a company, he felt, had for years mistreated him.

‘King’ Kirby

As both a writer and artist, not trying to say I am anything of any import among these giants, when I hear about someone who is unfairly treated by companies, I get angry, for lack of a better description. As part of my Bachelors Degree in Digital Filmmaking we discussed at length over ownership rights and work for hire and creations made and or, written whilst in the employ of a company, as the legals issues seem not to allow for creator rights in certain situations, (make sure you read the fine print). You see the law is always clear cut when it comes to who owns what, when and also how long for. But what it sometimes seems to ignore is the emotions, creative passions and angst which comes with trying to bring about something out of thin air.
In this case Marvel Comics have won, and also we must remember as has Disney. The losers are of course, Jack Kirby, who just doesn’t seem to catch a break and his heirs.

   Now I am not saying that the fault lies with Marvel Comics or the Kirby Heirs here, but its a done deal. A loser and a winner. But, I as a comic fan and creator feel something needs to be done here for Jack. Its time to let the world know that without him American Comics would not be the rich green pasture it is today and that those comic characters would not have the same appeal they did for fans before us and those who will follow.  But it would behove, Stan Lee to at least set the record straight and put the matter to rest as to who did what and when, now that the gavel has fallen. Lets have a clean slate. Jack Kirby will always be King.

(ARU), Aruneshwar has just finished his Bachelors Degree in Digital Media -Digital Film-making.
Having decided to become a teacher so he can see the world, he has just begun a
Diploma in Digital Media -Multimedia. On the creative side Aru,
is writing and illustrating a graphic novel about the 30yrs of Institutionalised Slavery of
Indians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. He is a prolific script writer and writes in all comic
book genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,
Rising Sun Comics.

A Hell(Blazer) of a week.

22 Jul

I have been reading comics as mentioned the other week for close to 30yrs. And a small portion of that time I have spent a small fortune buying, selling and re-collecting, after my first collection was burnt in a fire. Amongst those were the Uncanny X-men run from #180-295. Some of the greatest X-Men stories told were written during those years. But I am digressing. Anyway, I restarting collecting 10yrs ago and haven’t stopped since. As well as you know writing and creating my own. 

Hellblazer Pandemonium Jami Delano is a Must Read.

One of my top 3 fave non-super-powered is John Constantine, Hellblazer from Vertigo, (Batman and Punisher are the other two). John was created by Alan Moore back in issue #37 in Saga of the Swamp Thing. That character has is the longest running non-hero comic book. I had a couple opportunities over the past few years to get my hands on #37, but due to lack of funds or having already committed myself to other books, I missed out.

Hellblazer: Rare Cuts is a good starting point.

   The character of Constantine is so rich with lore and mysticism that there is so much that you can do with him with ruining the history as long as you stick to the archetype. John is the Trickster, the Court Jester and The Magi all in one.  It was this that after setting myself to reading from Hellblazer #1 to the lastest that was available in October last year that led me to write Black Waters, my own take on John Constantine,

Intro to Black Waters©, by Aru Singh. 2011

 Writing a 148+ page Hellblazer standalone graphic novel based in the Fiji was not something I gave much thought to. I was waiting for my plane ride back to Auckland from Nadi Airport, after a stressful trip back from my ex’s father’s funeral and I guess I needed to clear my head and so I just started writing. It was messy but after some rewriting it came together. I have no idea what I am going to do with it. I did have a guy consider working on it, to see if we can get DC Vertigo to look at it, but after discussing it I thought to let it rest for a bit. And who knows, I might illustrate it myself after I get Zero completed.

Thats the background to how much I like the John Constantine Archetype. The following is 3 amazing events which took place in the last 6 days.

Event 1.
  Last weekend while at Zinefest I stopped by a comic shop and bought the DC Direct Collectible Figure of John in his Hellblazer set-up. It wasn’t in the store but they would have it the following week. This  was an out-of-the-blue purchase.

Event 2.
  Having gotten home and still feeling unwell I had stayed up and was browsing comic on an online auction site and came across Saga of Swamp Thing #37 from June 1985. It was on Buy Now for $5 + $3 for Delivery. I actually have my comic shop guy, Jeremy at Gotham Comics here in New Zealand looking out for one. I better tell him I got a copy now. This comic goes for around US$30+ and around US$90 on milehighcomics So, I was quite excited about this. 

Event 2.
   If you look in the letters section of this months Hellblazer #281 you will see at top right hand side my very own letter. I have never written a letter, that I can remember to a comic company about one of their comics, so when I heard talk that they might be bringing Hellblazer in to the main DC Universe with Superman and Batman etc. I thought I better send a message. So, I can’t remember when but a couple weeks back I got on the Vertigo site and left a message. 

Hellblazer #281

Now, you are probably wondering why I shared this with you guys? Well, I thought you guys might like to share in my hell of a week. 

Further info John Constantine, Also, Straight to Hell. Both sites were helpful when I was writing the graphic novel.