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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.

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. 


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 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.


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.

A Rising Star from the Rising Sun: Aru’s Debut @ CA

8 Jul

Before we begin, let me introduce you to Aru.
Aru is the newest addition tothe Comic Addicts family, currently residing in the land of the Kiwi and is the owner / operator for Rising Sun Comics, based in New Zealand. OK, no more interruption, stage is all yours Aru. Shoot!

The Comic Creators and Their Trials
                                                     by Aru
Much has been written on the trials and tribulations of the Comic Book Writer or Artists, but it doesn’t make the issues we face any lighter or smaller. From day to day we are continually faced with the same thoughts that any artist who is passionate about their work face; is what we are doing making any difference? Will the readers accept my work? Will I ever make it? Will I ever make a living from my work?
Sadly none of these questions have any easy answers. Either wise we would either give up. A fellow Kiwi (New Zealander) Dylan Hyrocks has spent 20 yrs. trying to make it into the big times and he has after a while but he would be the first to say how hard it is. Similar, Richard Fairgray, another or of the hard workers in the comic book medium is now getting a greater recognition for his passion.

Aru’s tools of the trade… Errr… Except the Boba Fetts helmet and the Elmo doll, of course! 😀
Click on the image to view full size

I mention these two because they stand out amongst the many who daily wile away at on their sketch pads, and some like myself on the Wacom pad. Its real tough being in a art/literature form that to the outside is known widely as ‘the funny papers’. And so we are not taken seriously. 
But, is it because we want to be famous and rich that we create our art?
But, we need money to survive and notoriety to get our work out there. And so, we do our day jobs, or study for a better income and use every spare minute to work on our art. Its nothing new, but it still doesn’t make it easier. What we must keep in mind is that we do it for the art. We create because if we don’t we might as well stop breathing.
Artists walk a thin line between depression and anxiety. But we are at peace best when we are creating. So, create. Ignore that voice, which says you what you are doing, is just for kids. Remember those kids stuff is worth millions now and someone had to come up with the drawings and write the stories and they weren’t children. 
Russell Peters says it best, ‘Be a Man!’ and for the females who are finding it harder than the males in our medium, ‘Be a Woman!’ We are who are.

About Aru:
Aruneshwar A Singh or Aru as everyone calls him, has just finished his Bachelor’s 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 Institutionalized Slavery of Indians in Fiji from 1885 -1915. 

He is a prolific script writer and writes in all sorts of comic book genres which include several graphic novels for his own company,Rising Sun Comics.