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Review: HABIBI by CRAIG THOMPSON

11 Oct
Who says you can’t write a Graphic Novel about Islam? 


 There have been a lot of issues for anyone trying to depict Allah or his Prophet Muhammed. 
Cartoons, like that which was published in Jyllands-Posten, a Dutch newspaper caused controversy which ended up with the cartoonist having a Fatwa (holy kill order, assassination) placed on him. The offending cartoon can be found below. 
And that was from a Dutch cartoonist. 



Recently, a very important and interesting graphic novel was written by Child Psychologist Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a Kuwaiti. The 99 series is based around the 99 names of god in Islam. 

A documentary about the controversy surrounding this graphic novel series is going to be broadcast on October 13th. If you aren’t able to see – which I am sure will be a large portion of us – lets hope some nice people will place it on YouTube as the documentary is made by American PBS TV station, called, Wham! Bam! Islam! 

Award-winning NZ Cartoonist, Mark Winter

For over a century and more, cartoonists have expressed the populace’ thoughts against the governing body. Sometimes these have have ended up with the cartoonist losing their life at the hangman’s noose or the guillotine. 

The offending artwork!!

Religion and Art have a very close love/hate association. Christianity has also been target with South Park’s “Bloody Mary” episode. I was amazed by this, and since it came about while I was at Film School, I decided to research the place of cartoons in the world and also, the main issue with the episode, which was the bleeding (virgin) Mary statue. I interviewed a well known New Zealand cartoonist, 

Sadly, YouTube which is owned by Viacom, who own Comedy Central, decided that I had breached their copyright by placing a Student Documentary on YouTube. They removed trailer part 1, but part 2 is still up as you can see and its the one about the cartoons. 

Okay, I think that’s enough of a background on cartoons, religion and popular medium. I have included a fair amount of recent controversial cartoon history because its important to know what came before, before entering the whole grail of graphic novels that is HABIBI

HABIBI, is a just as big in perspective as was Craig Thompson’s previous hit, BLANKETS. That graphic novel was written from a personal experience on Christianity and has won many Comic Industry Awards, as well as being translated into 20 different languages. That’s a huge achievement for a Slice of Life/Drama genre book. BLANKETS, was controversial and HABIBI, is no less controversial. 
Blankets page 444

Sadly I haven’t read, BLANKETS, yet. So, I don’t have any reference point with what Thompson is bringing to this new opus of his. The book is over 600 pages long and it has taken Chris 6 years to finish. One look at above page answers the question, ‘Why so long?’. 


HABIBI is a formidable piece of work from start to finish. Each page (Black/White interior) is a testament to this amazing artist and writer. There is a huge amount of research having gone into this book. I am sure by its sheer existence, it has broken many records. 



Chris Thompson is definitely going to ruffle some feathers with this book. We are going to see both the Christians and Islamist upset due to the nature of the content and the way Islam is portrayed.


What makes the work so amazing and interesting as a story is the vast amount of resource material, topics and characters that it encompasses. At it’s center is the love between Habibi, the black child and his adopted mother, Dodola, an Arab. And the bond that pulls and tears at the love over the years from child to adulthood. Its a bitter sweat story and yet it infuriates with the terrible and sometimes arrogant look at the culture of the people thats portrayed. 

Central to the story is the religion of Islam and the discourse of the various aspects of the belief system, from the rich king and his harem to the poor fisherman drinking water from a polluted river to he children who beat up the old man for bread and the eunuchs who serve the palace. There are moments of sheer joy and pleasure in the graphic novel. But that is drowned out by the misery of the main characters and the minors ones. 

The book is sure to win a vast number of awards. It is a brilliant masterpiece and will go down as one of the greatest graphic novel ever written. A must read.
I am still reeling from the affects the book has had on me as a writer and an artist.  
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 BA in Digital Media- Digital Filmmaking and is the CEO and Owner of New Zealand’s only Online Comic Store, Comic TradeFacebook

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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, Pozible.com 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 myebooks.com, 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.

The Inhabitants by the Sheehan Bros.

1 Aug
The Inhabitants, a graphic novel in four parts by the Sheehan Bros – Kelly on script and Darren on art – is an overwhelming escape into a nightmarish dream-scape of strange creatures and wondrous characters. The story opens with us being introduced to a young man named Tom who happens to suddenly gain the ability to fly, or float, depending on what your thoughts are about whether Tom is in a dream or has walked into another world – much like Dorothy or Alice. It is important that you keep in mind these two characters of lore as the story is very visual, much like Oz, and Wonderland.
I bought the four issues as a set because I wanted to make sure I had the entire collection to read in one sitting as I am of the mind that its better to have the whole story to read rather than an issue at a time, but we all know that sometimes that is not possible. But I was glad that the Sheehan’s had the singles and sets for sale. The cost for this amazing work of escapism and graphic story-telling was NZ$18.00 for all four. Of course if you just want to read it, it is available on their blogsite.


Now back to the story. Tom’s sudden new-found skill has him run into some new friends who like himself are very skilled, such as Jimmy Dynamite who has the ability to make fire with his fingers. Jimmy himself is a caricature of a 1960s Afro-maned hippie. Tom is welcomed into the group of familiars and shown the ropes, so to speak, regarding his skill, where he is and what is happening.


Much like Tom, I felt none the wiser as to what was unfolding before me – like Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere or even Clive Barker’s Weaveworld. The vast landscape in which the story is set is amazing. I loved the representation of landmarks, like the Auckland City Library which was so easy to recognize having myself spent many months in 2007 reading all the graphic novels the Library had on the shelf and some, like Alan Moore’s The Girls, hidden in the back. The landscape is also reminiscent of Gaiman’s London from the aforementioned Neverwhere.

The Inhabitants is very much like walking through a dream as you try to work out who the characters are and what is happening. Which of course is not easy to do when you are reading a graphic novel these days as there is always so much publicity about it you already know what you are in for before you even start. But reading the The Inhabitants for me was like breathing fresh air, while at the same time trying to wade through the story and figure out – much like a puzzle – what was happening and how everything fit together. 

The illustrations dominate the book much more than the story itself, becoming the visual descriptors for the minimalist foray into the graphic. Each page is filled with new and interesting cityscapes and streets with buildings from the two different worlds. Being privy to seeing the artist draw for future works, I loved seeing the pencil and line work on the pages. No sign of a digital tool is found in the panels as each illustration is finely hand drawn and set out in a very simple yet powerful way. No tone is used in the black and white graphic novel.

As mentioned already, the story is told more through the art than the words itself which for me – though a very visual person – as a writer I found hard, as I wanted to be told what was happening at the turn of every new page. But I was forced to focus on the artwork for new information, which is what sets graphic novels apart from contemporary literature such as novels.
You can find out more about the Bros. and also on the graphic novel on their website which has some amazing webcomics, as well as Flash based motion comics, The Longman and Go Gorillas.

For story and art I give this a 4/5 Stars as its very rewarding to read, but still I found it a little lacking in originality and felt more needed to be explained. But thats me – I would suggest you give it a go yourself and decide.




(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 weekly webcomic Zero©can be found here.

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. 
-Aru


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

   


Auckland Zinefest 2011 part 2

20 Jul



So, as I mentioned the other day, I was quiet sick and wasn’t feeling too good having spent the previous day locked up in my hotel room with the blanket over my head coughing and blowing my nose every ten minutes. But I made it up to the event after being dropped off by my father who had driven me down.


I was really interested to see what the turn out for this event would be like, since it was my first ever Zinefest. All day there was an even amount of people flowing through the tables, looking and buying books and items on display. I bought a ton of items myself.


But being my first Zinefest, I wasn’t aware of the difference between a comic book and a zine. So, I sat in on a panel, which was being held below the event at an adjacent room to a wine bar.

A ‘Zine’ is dissimilar to a comic book, although toons and comic books have been used as part of the Zine Culture to get their message across, whatever the message maybe. Unlike comic book creators, those who create Zines are more interested about the environment, conserving and politics. Of course comic book creators also use these themes in their work, but lets just say that we are not as overt about such things. To us we are more about writing it into a story, than it being the story.


Amongst the Zine tables there were a few comic book creators, a couple I recognised and some I had met before. Amongst them, who I knew would be attending was Richard Fairgray through the facebook New Zealand Comics site.


Richard Fairgray has worked in comics for nearly 20yrs and has done some work overseas as well. He has always been on the go and at the moment is working on a collaboration with William Geradts of Beyond Reality Media, on a online serial, called The Inspiration Duncans as well as on his own site blastosaurus.com on a daily toon serial called ‘I Fight Crime‘ written by his wife, Mary Ann-Cotton. 

At the Fest Richard had the I fight Crime books as well as a couple different other comics he has worked on. But I think the I fight Crime books really stood out as not many folk do print forms of toons and especially if they are already online.  


Marc, -whose surname I didn’t catch- also had his  print form version of his ActionManAdam, webcomic, ‘a weekly comic about a young Canadian trying to find love in Christchurch, New Zealand’. The comic book unlike the website version is in black and white. But, the stand out points about Marc’s comic is that he had virtual hand drawn the background to every cover for the new set he brought. And only having gotten them back from the printer the day before he had each issue sealed up with stickers and a pin.

More on other comics and creators from the ZineFest soon.


Aru







Auckland Zinefest 2011 (Saturday pics)

18 Jul

I was pretty sick leading up to the Fest and also during the Fest on Saturday. The article about the day will be up on Thursday, while I wait for the anti-biotics to clean out my system,  but in the meantime here are some pics.


Sorry about no captions. More pics with all juicy details to be added soon… Stay tuned.