Saturday, December 12, 2009

Auckland Comic Book Club/From Earth's End Xmas Drinks! UPDATED

Above: Cartoonists at the Xmas gathering (from left to right): Matthew Kelly, Simon Adams, Dylan Horrocks, Karl Wills, Darren Sheehan, unknown guest (sorry, I didn't catch his name) and Ant Sang. Not pictured: Richard Fairgray and Chris Slane.

To celebrate the end of a very successful year of the ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT Auckland Comic Book Club (and my modest blogging efforts), a group of Auckland's finest cartoonists and enthusiasts gathered at Brooklyn Bar on Thursday night to toast the year that was.

It was great to see some new faces as well as regular attendees and catch-up with some of our busier members, who's work only allows them to drop by once in a blue moon. This gathering was also a welcome chance to get an update on everyones projects, and there's some great NZ comics coming your way in the near future.

Above: The cover of the new edition of 'Hicksville' by Dylan Horrocks from Drawn & Quarterly.

It's been out of print for many years, but the new-improved edition of Dylan Horrock's local masterpiece 'Hicksville' is finally available early next year from Drawn & Quarterly. Dylan has personally re-scanned and remastered the artwork for this edition which features a brand new 13-page introduction in comics form and a illustrated glossary. It's available to pre-order now from your local comic shop, so rush out and order this with your extra Xmas cash and reward yourself in the New Year!

Making a rare appearance away from his drawing board, Ant Sang stopped by for a few drinks and to give us an update on his in-progress graphic novel epic: 'Shaolin Burning'. Due to it's truly epic scale (each page is drawn on an A2 sheet, and for a recent double-page spread he jumped up to A0(!)), an extra year is being added to the production schedule to accommodate this mammoth undertaking. The good news is it will now be longer than previously reported, clocking in closer to two hundred pages. So keep an eye out for this in early 2011.

Above: A page of 'Connie Radar' by Karl Wills from 'Hotwire Comics' Vol.3, published by Fantagraphics.

Karl Wills is keeping busy, with a new 'Connie Radar' story in the latest 'Hotwire Comics' anthology from Fantagraphics, which is available to order now and should be in comic stores early next year. He's also recently animated a version of US cartoonist Kaz's 'Underworld' into an online cartoon (check it out here!). Comics aside, Karl also convinced me that maybe 'cows in cubicles' isn't so bad after all. "Damn cows won't do a 9 to 5 working stretch for us in a cubicle, but they're happy to contribute to global warming? F%$ cows".*
* Disclaimer: May not be an actual quote, or a highly sanitized version of an actual quote. I'll let you decide, but I'm pretty sure Karl has a beef with cows (and most living things).

Above: 'Blokes, Jokes and Sheds' by Chris Slane, published by Random House NZ.

I heard Random House was out of stock of Chris Slane's resent 'Blokes, Jokes and Sheds' comics collection. So if you're looking for a copy of this for a stocking stuffer this Christmas, you may have to shop around.

You can expect to hear an update sooner rather than later regarding Richard Fairgray's 'Blastosaurus' US reprint from Jeff Katz's American Original comics imprint. There's been some changes in the rollout of this company's books, but expect Richard's to be one of the first, as he's already got a full year's worth of material ready to go. It's already been announced that current 'Astonishing X-Men' artist Phil Jimenez will be contributing covers to the US editions of 'Blastosaurus', and now I understand 'The Boys' artist Darick Robertson is also interested in being involved in some capacity. It's not widely known, but Robertson also got his start self-publishing his own animalmorphic adventure comic, 'Space Beaver'. Richard also tells me he's been exchanging friendly emails with recent Armageddon '09 guest, Bill Sienkiewicz...hmmm...let the speculation begin!

I've got a few projects of my own on the boil, one involving an upgrade of this blog into a more physical form, but we'll have to wait and see what the New Year brings. Speaking of which, it was a great year to be part of the Auckland comics community, and I can only hope that the NZ comics community continues to grow in size and awareness in the New Year.

A BIG thanks to Matthew Kelly for tirelessly organising this year's meetings, and to Tim Kidd and the Auckland City Public Library for providing us with a great space and facility for us to conduct our meetings in every month. If this sounds like something you'd be interested in being involved in, be sure to make it your New Year's resolution to attend!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Auckland Comic Book Club/From Earth's End Xmas Drinks!

To celebrate the end of a very successful year of the ALL-NEW ALL-DIFFERENT Auckland Comic Book Club (and my modest blogging efforts), we'll be having Xmas drinks at Brooklyn Bar (just opposite the Central Library) this Thursday the 10th of December from 6pm!

This will be a great chance to talk about some of the fine New Zealand Comics that have been released this year and generally catch-up with other cartoonists to 'talk shop' and discuss the year that was. Everyone is welcome, so if comics and alcohol sound like a winning combination, this is the Xmas event for you!
See you there.


PS: If you can't make it, don't worry, I'll be capturing all the shenanigans on camera!

Friday, December 4, 2009

International Comics: Pran's comics of India

Above: Pran Kumar Sharma.

Pran Kumar Sharma, a beloved cartoonist from India (or as his curious Stan Lee inspired byline from his comics states: 'the heart throb of millions of comic strip lovers!') and creator of the popular 'Chacha Chaudhary' character, was in Auckland recently, making a public appearance at the Auckland City Library to talk about his unique perspective and experiences in the comics industry in India.

Above: A page from a 'Chacha Chaudhary' comics digest #20, featuring Pran's biography. Copyright Pran's Features 2009.

Pran began by discussing the start of his comics career, creating his own local comic-strip as a response to the imported American comic-strips that were popular at the time. As Pran explains, 'when I started my career in 1960, India was importing all it's comics from America, like the Phantom, Batman, Blondie, Dennis the Menace, Superman etc. I thought why not create our own indigenous comics? So with that in mind I created a short, little old man named Chacha Chaudhary. Chacha means 'uncle' and Chaudhary is a community name. He solves problems with his sharp brain and common sense'.

Once he had created his own local comic-strip, marketing and distributing it was Pran's next challenge. 'Creating a comic is quite easy, but how do you sell them? At that time there was no syndication in my country, so I had to distribute my own comics myself. Initially, three newspapers agreed to subscribe to the comic, but I had to keep the price of my comics very low to compete with the American syndicated comics that were available. As the time passed, from three to five, five to eight, eight to fifteen, the number of newspapers who subscribed to my comics feature increased. Now after 45 years we have 35 newspapers who regularly subscribe to my features'.

Pran firmly believes that the popularity of his characters is due to the fact their lives and interests reflect those of his core audience of readers: the middle class. 'In my comics I do not believe in showing unnatural things, strange things; like a man flying in the sky or walking up the walls. My subject matter is taken from the common life of the middle class. And as you know, the middle class is the backbone of society. You can sell anything which belongs to the middle class'.

Above: A page of stickers featuring a selection of Pran's characters. Copyright Pran's Features 2009.

It's no accident that his cast of characters and comics are built around the atomic family structure. As mentioned earlier, his most popular character Chacha Chaudhary directly translates to 'Uncle from Chaudhary' in Hindi. Here are some other examples of Pran's comics based around other members of the family dynamic:
'Raman': Follows the misadventures of an office worker who hates his boss and daydreams of taking over his company.
Shrimatiji'- which translates to 'House Wife' : About a middle-class house wife who's stories revolve around balancing the finances and the daily challenges of her limited income family.
'Billoo': About a teenager, who doesn't like going to school and is obsessed with cricket.
'Pinki': Following the great comics tradition of annoying kids, Pinki is a 5yr old girl who gets up to mischief in her neighbourhood, often bothering her elderly neighbour (possibly made to put a local spin on one of those American imports, perhaps?).

After twenty years of success with his comic-strips, In 1980 he was approached by a local comics publisher, 'Diamond Comics' to compile the comic strips into a digest comic format, similar to Archie comics from the US (interestingly, Diamond Comics also publishes 'Comics World', a monthly comics digest featuring Chacha Chaudhary sharing the title with other international licenced characters including Archie, Masters of the Universe and Disney characters).

As well as providing entertainment, Pran believes that the humourous nature of comic-strips can play a vital part in relieving tensions in the daily lives of readers from countries caught up in civil unrest and terrorism.

As Pran explains, 'The kinds of stories the newspapers now publish are of war in Afghanistan, bomb blasts by terrorist groups in different parts of the world killing innocent people or tsunami's killing and displacing hundreds of people. They also cover stories of the ups and downs of life on the streets. These types of stories raise tensions in the brain of the reader. Light and humourous comics provide relief, thus acting as a safety release to relieve the tensions (on the reader's mind) and make them relax.'

Curiously, Pran believes that cartoonists should ideally reflect a strong sense of social responsibility in their work, 'the cartoonist should provide society with honest work. By commenting on an incident, they should be unbiased or impartial. They should not ridicule a person or a community. Because if they do, it may boomerang on themselves'. He went on to illustrate this with a story of an Arab and a Jew insulting each other in escalating terms (that they end up recycling on each other).

This would seem to be a soft-handed approach in our society of free speech, but in other parts of the world satirical cartoons (especially aimed at politics and religion) can be a very serious business indeed. One of the best example of this being the 'Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons' controversy of 2005: the publication of 12 editorial cartoons created to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship, which lead to mass protests and rioting across the Muslim world resulting in over 100 deaths.

With an eye to the future, Pran has embraced the changing nature of the comics business over time, and like many cartoonists he's profited by franchising his characters for development deals in multi-media outlets. Chacha Chaudhary was made into a long-running TV show (over 600 episodes have aired), with a movie on the way. His comics are also being adapted for cell-phone reading platforms.

Once again he suggested that the popularity of his comics characters across these different multi-media platforms was all made possible by their acceptance as part of the popular culture of the middle class. While there's no denying this makes good business sense, this telling comment did leave me with a sour aftertaste for the rest of the evening.

I couldn't decide if this was a classic example of appealing to the common interests of his audience in the great tradition of comics entertainment, or just pandering to them to make a health profit.

For Pran to be a successful cartoonist for over 45 years does speak to his genuine skill, dedication and accomplishments. I guess a similar argument could be made for any cartoonist who is equal parts creator and businessman, like Will Eisner for example. As cartoonists we can hope to be remembered for our comics and not the TV show or film it inspired that at one point in history that reached a larger audience.

As Pran himself commented at one point, the most successful cartoonists often have a tendency to live in the shadow of their own success. 'One of the (major) drawbacks in our profession is: while a character becomes popular, it's creator always remains in the dark. If you ask a person walking down the street: 'do you know who is Superman, who is Batman, who is Blondie, who is Dennis the Menace?'. They will immediately say 'yes, these are comics characters. But if you ask the same person: 'do you know who created Batman?'...Nobody knows'.

This may be true, but Bob Kane certainly lived a comfortable life of anonymity, while the sound effects POW! WHAM! BIFF! continue to echo in eternity.


For information on Pran's comics you can visit Pran's website and the website of his publisher, Diamond Comics.

Above: Another page from 'Chacha Chaudhary'. Copyright Pran's Features 2009.

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Evening with Pran: UPDATED

Above: A vintage 'Chacha Chaudhary' comic-strip by Pran. Copyright Pran Kumar Sharma 2009.

Pran Kumar Sharma is considered 'the father of Indian comics', the first to create an indigenous comic-strip, 'Daabu' debuted in 1960, featuring indian characters and local themes. In 1969 he created 'Chacha Chaudhary', which quickly became one of the most popular comic-strips in India, even spawning it's own television serial (which has aired over 600 shows). Pran has published over 500 titles appearing in 45 newspapers in India and surrounding countries, with a readership of over two million. Some of his other famous comic-strips characters including: Sabu, Shrimatiji, Pinki, Billoo, Raman and Channie Chachi.

Pran will be in Auckland this week and is very interested to meet some of New Zealand's local comics community. To this end, Dylan Horrocks has arranged a public talk by Pran to be held this Friday the 20th of November at the Central City Library, on Level 2 in the Whare Wananga from 6.00pm.

This is a free event, if you would like to RSVP you can contact the Library: PH (09) 377 0209

This is a rare opportunity to meet an international cartoonist and really see how the universal language of comics translates in a different culture and environment to our own. Hope to see you there!

For more information on Pran Kumar Sharma, you can read his bio and some of his comics at his website.


PS: The previously mentioned Mezze Bar gathering may still happen afterwards (as cartoonists tend to go on once you get us together...), so feel free to hang around afterwards for some extra-overtime comics chatter!

Above: A more recent 'Chacha Chaudhary' comic-strip by Pran. Copyright Pran Kumar Sharma 2009.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Dream King comes to New Zealand

Above: Neil Gaiman hanging out in a graveyard ( you do).

I heard rumblings about this a week before Armageddon, and last week it was officially announced: Neil Gaiman will be coming to New Zealand next March as part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival to attend the New Zealand Post Writers & Readers Week (March 9-14th).

I'm sure Neil Gaiman's writing needs no introduction, he's a prolific writer of prose, comics, films, poetry, journalism, lyrics...and I imagine just about anything else concerning the creative arrangement of words.

He is of coarse responsible for the award-winning comic series 'The Sandman', the cornerstone and inspiration for DC's mature readers imprint, Vertigo. His widely acclaimed novels include: 'Coraline', 'American Gods', 'Anansi Boys', 'Stardust' and his most recent novel, 'The Graveyard Book', for which he won his third Hugo Award and the Newbery Medal.

It's my understanding that he's been on the Writers and Readers author wish-list for some time, but his travel expenses from the US don't come cheap, which has prevented his invitation in the past. But as luck would have it, Neil's girlfriend Amanda Palmer's band the 'The Dresden Dolls' are rumoured to be touring Australia and New Zealand in March, providing the perfect opportunity for Neil to accompany her on tour Down Under. And since he's in town...why not give a talk at the Wellington Town Hall?

His talk will be for one hour and takes place on the 13th of March at 5.30pm.
General admission is $25, with children 15 and under for $15. Tickets go on sale through Ticketek on Thursday 19th of November at 9am. So be sure to get in quick before some kids beat you to it!

There's no word yet on any book signings or other appearances, but I'll be keeping my ear to the ground and let you know if hear any further developments.

Above: Neil Gaiman on the set of 'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army'.

Since he's in town, there's probably a very good chance he'll visit his friend and current Welly resident, 'Hobbit' director Guillermo Del Toro. Neil met Guillermo some years ago in the process of developing the film adaptation of 'Death: The High Cost of Living'. He also spend some time on the set of 'Hellboy 2: The Golden Army' with his daughter Maddy, watching the director at work. Any chance these fantasy masters could cook up a new film collaboration over dinner in Jackson's 'Wellywood'? The mind truly boggles...

In any event, be sure to book a front seat for an audience with the Dream King in March. For more information on this event, visit the New Zealand International Arts Festival.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Events this Week: Monsters & Tattoos

Above: Director Guillermo Del Toro has a close encounter of the devic kind in 'Pan's Labyrinth'.

Two events that might be of interest to comics aficionados this week: the first is 'An Evening with Guillermo Del Toro', to be held this Wednesday the 11th of November at the Paramount Theatre in Wellington.

Guillermo Del Toro has generously donated his time for this Q&A evening as a fundraiser for Wellington producer Bonnie Slater and director Sam Kelly’s first feature film, 'One for the Road'. Described as New Zealand’s first musical drama, it follows the fortunes of a struggling, small town band.

"We're thrilled to have Guillermo's support," Slater says. "He has not done any event of this kind in New Zealand and it’s a coup to have attracted him to headline our fundraiser and help promote our cause. "I would have asked Guillermo to help make the film, but I know he's overworked with projects abroad and, of course, that little low-budget film he's shooting here soon called The Hobbit!"

"I've been pretty busy with various projects," Del Toro acknowledges, "but talent lies in your choices. And I believe in Bonnie so I’m happy to help her where I can."

Born and raised in Mexico, Guillermo Del Toro is one of film's most active imaginations, best known for creating some of the most visually arresting fantasy films of the decade. He adapted Mike Mignola's 'Hellboy' comic series for the screen and was nominated for an Academy Award for 'Pan's Labyrinth'. And unlike most Hollywood flights of fancy, Del Toro's dark fantasy worlds are usually grounded by the realities and horrors of the human condition.

It's no coincidence his films are populated by some of the most unique creatures to grace the screen, as monsters have always been something of an obsession of his. "(I'm) in love with monsters. My fascination with them is almost anthropological... I study them, I dissect them in many of my movies: I want to know how they work, what the inside of them looks like, (and) what their sociology is."

Monsters are just one of his many obsessions, along with insects, clockwork, archeology, pulp magazines and of coarse...comics! And he's no tourist; based in Los Angeles, he owns two homes: one for his family, and one to house his various sprawling collections, including his comic-books. You can even hear him give a stirring Jack Kirby appreciation on the director's commentary for 'Hellboy'.

So if you're in Wellington this Wednesday with a spare $45 for a ticket, this is bound to be an interesting and engaging evening! The event will be hosted by director Jonathan King ('Under the Mountain', 'Black Sheep'), with special guests Richard Taylor (of Weta Workshop) and Robert Sarkies ('Scarfies', 'Out of the Blue'). For tickets you can contact the Paramount PH: 04 3844080. For more information check out the Wellington Events page here.

The second event of interest takes place later this week in Auckland, The Tattooed Heart presents: 'Love Hurts!', an exhibition in tribute of tattoo art.

It features artwork by: Adam Craft, Liesje, Tom McMillan, Hamish McLougham, Misery, Deus, Kelly Thompson, Sarah Larnach, Ben Stenbeck, Karl Wills, Chris Sheehan, Steph Lusted, Seth Wood and Sarah Florence.

And as regular readers of this blog know: any opportunity to see artwork by cartoonists Ben Stenbeck ('Hellboy' and 'Witchfinder') and Karl Wills ('Jessica of the Schoolyard') is a treat. The exhibition runs from the 12-26th of November at the Tattooed Heart, 202 K' Road.

Oh, and to round out the week, the monthly Auckland Comic Book Club is meeting this Friday from 6pm in the Whare Wananga, 2nd Floor of the Central Library. This month will be an informal chat about comics, Armageddon and any other sequential story telling concerns.

-AK! (still busy working on that Dylan Horrocks article!)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Golden Opportunity

Above: Tigerbuttah enjoys Halloween (dressed as a narwhal!) by Frank & Becky. Copyright Frank Gibson & Becky Dreistadt 2009.

Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt, the creators of the beautifully retro styled web-comic 'Tiny Kitten Teeth', have made no secret of their love of classic Golden Books and it's influence on their comics. Especially their single panel feature 'Tigerbuttah', which is published every Friday.

Now they are taking the opportunity to bring that creative influence full circle, by publishing their very own Golden Book! But they need YOUR help to make it happen!

They have setup a Kickstarter page to fund the $5000 needed to print the book. Kickstarter is a US based funding donation site, set-up to help creators raise money for creative projects (books, films, music etc) through 'pledges': donated credit in exchange for updates and special rewards offered by the creators. The pledged donations are processed by and only collected if the projected funding goal is reached within a set deadline. For Frank & Becky's project to come to fruition, they must collect $5000 in pledges by Jan 16, 2010.

In exchange for your valued pledges, they are offering a variety of unique and collectible rewards! From mini-comics to signed copies of the book, right up to unique Gouache paintings by Becky! (the more you pledge the greater the rewards...obviously). But they are really outdoing themselves by offering a signed copy of the book with a special hand-drawing inside the cover, for as little as $20! (this could mean a loooooot of drawing on the other side of this!).

If successfully funded, the 'Tigerbuttah' Golden Book will support a travelling gallery show they will be having here in New Zealand next year, exhibiting 24 pieces of artwork which form the story presented in the Golden Book.

It's been less than 24 hours and already they are one third of the way there, which speaks to the tremendous support they have online for their fantastic work. But there's a ways to go yet to reach the target goal, so if you're able, show some support by pledging to this fantastic project. They are making it well worth your money!

You can find out more about Frank & Becky's comics at their website, and be sure to visit their Kickstarter page!

I guess it's probably time I gave in and finally got myself a credit card...


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Comics on K: The Comics Weekend Report

'Comics on K', Auckland's first comics weekend in recent memory took place earlier this month on the 17-18 of October at The High Seas, and I was there to enjoy the company and comics of some of Auckland's finest cartoonist. We had some great visitors from Wellington to add to talent pool, but this was the first organised gathering of Auckland's comics community in years, and that alone marks this as a special occasion.

What follows are some of my recollections from the weekend, accompanied by drawings of the event from the sketchbook of Darren Sheehan.

Above: Cartoonists manning the tables on Day One, as sketched by Darren Sheehan (enlarge to pick out the names!).

Day One: Saturday 17th of October

I arrived at The High Seas just after 1pm. Auckland's temperamental wind and rain was subsiding in time for the weekend's organiser, Jerome Bihan, to fire up the barbecue. While the grilling got underway, I went inside and joined the Sheehan Bros: Kelly and Darren (creators of 'The Inhabitants') and Richard Fairgray (of 'Blastosaurus' and 'Falling Leaves' fame) at the second of two display tables set-up inside.

The other table featured: Frank and Becky (creators of 'Tiny Kitten Teeth'), Marc Streeter (creator of 'ActionMan Adam'), Mat Tait (creator of 'Love Stories') and Brent Willis (editor of Wellington anthology 'Bristle').

Above: The cover from the complete set of 'The Inhabitants'. Art by Darren Sheehan, colours by Ben Stenbeck. Copyright the Sheehan Bros 2009.

A small but steady stream of customers and friends made their way through the gallery in the first two hours as cartoonists enthusiastically organised their wares and welcomed any chance to introduce their work to the uninitiated. The Sheehan Bros were greeted with many a cry of "at last!" in response to publishing the final issue of 'The Inhabitants'. So how long exactly was the wait? "Seven years, I believe", was Kelly's response, although Darren's recollection was closer to six years (personally, I think Kelly should let Darren have that extra year off!).

Above: Punters from Day One, and Becky Dreistadt inking at the bottom left.

One thing you can be sure of, there's never a shortage of lively conversation between fellow comic creators. You never know when a discussion on Jack Kirby or a 2000AD appreciation is going to break out, as it did later that afternoon between the Sheehan Bros, Mat Tait and some customers.

It also keeps things interesting if you have opposing views on subjects. As I was telling Jose Barbosa, Richard Fairgray and I can't seem to agree on any two subjects:

ME:..I'm telling you, we disagree on EVERYTHING. We should really get our own point/counter-point show on public access.

JOSE: Uh-huh. So what else have you been up to?

ME: My flatmate just imported a copy of the Director's Cut of 'Watchmen' on Blu-ray...

RICHARD: I really didn't care for 'Watchmen'. It was far too faithful to the source material, like 'Sin City'. I HATED that movie.

KELLY (catching interest): THANK YOU! You're not the only one, Richard!

ME: See, see! Opposite!
And you haven't even seen 'Watchmen', Kelly!

KELLY (smiling): I don't NEED to see it.

Of coarse agreement would just spoil our fun. You can learn a great deal from listening to someone else's point of view, especially when it comes to comics. Speaking of which, there was a variety of comics and styles on offer that weekend. From the slick, retro-styled humour of Frank & Becky's 'Tiny Kitten Teeth' to Mat Tait's brooding 'Love Stories'. Humour was also a strong suit in the collective mini-comics of Brent Willis and Marc Streeter's comic, featuring the always upbeat 'ActionMan Adam'.

Above: The cover of 'ActionMan Adam'. Copyright Marc Streeter 2009.

Later that afternoon (after a well cooked BBQ break to keep energy levels up) Dylan Horrocks arrived, with two issues of a new mini-comic series 'Pikelet', which he had whipped up on his home computer printer!

Above: The cover of 'Pikelet' issue #1 by Dylan Horrocks.

'Pikelet' collects some of Dylan's short stories, which have appeared in various places over the last decade as a set of two handsomely presented DIY mini-comics.

Issue #1 of 'Pikelet' subtitled: 'The War and Peace Issue', features: '10-7': Dylan's contribution to Dark Horse's '9-11: Artist's Responce' , 'My World': from 'Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption' and 'Siso' previously seen in 'Douze Ecrivains Neo-Zelandais' and 'Pictozine 3'.

Above: The cover of 'Pikelet' issue #2 by Dylan Horrocks.

Issue #2 of 'Pikelet' subtitled: 'The Imaginary Geography of Love', features: 'Cornucopia' from 'The Lifted Brow' (with a minor re-write) and 'The Physics Engine', Dylan's contribution to 'Are Angel's Ok?: The Parallel Universes of New Zealand Writer's and Scientists'.

Most of these stories are already available on Dylan's website for free, but these home-made mini-comics make a strong argument for print-to-order, as these items are as much beautiful craft objects as they are comics. If you would like to get hold of some Pikelet's for yourself, you can try The High Seas in Auckland or contact Dylan directly at his website.

Above: An example from Chris Slane's educational comics. This example is from 'No Hea te Hau' : A history of Te Rauparaha's raids into the South Island. Artwork by Chris Slane copyright Hana Limited/Ministry of Education 2009.

At 5.30pm the evening's lecture series got under way, beginning with a talk from cartoonist Chris Slane. For several years Chris has been producing a series of educational comics based on Maori history as part of a learning resource package for the Ministry of Education. Produced in water-colour, Chris' artwork brings the past to life in dramatic fashion, with the sensitivity and respect this project demands.

He showed a series of slides illustrating the extensive research he under took to keep the stories historically accurate (no matter how small the details in the final artwork!). From combing library archives, to checking out locations on Google earth and snippets of Youtube footage, Chris left no stone unturned to produce these historically accurate wide-screen comics.

It's a true testament to Chris' artwork that these stories are visually exciting and engaging (something that's usually lacking from most NZ educational publications!), presenting Maori history in his own unique style, while maintaining a respect for the source material that elevates the quality of these books far beyond the educational market.
It's a real pity the Ministry of Education has no plans to release these books to the wider public, as they deserve to be seen (according to Chris they fear someone will make money from it...god forbid that happens!).

Chris' talk was a real eye-opener, a look at some of New Zealand's finest 'secret' comics and a great example of an artist's research methodology in action. For more of Chris' stunning educational comics, you can view samples over on Chris' website and there's also links to interactive versions of the stories too!

Dylan Horrocks was the next speaker, with a talk entitled: 'The 6 Things I Learned from Comics'.

It would be a disservice to briefly summarise this talk here, so I'll be covering it as a separate article. In his talk Dylan discusses some of the difficulties he's had in the past wrestling with his own artistic 'voice' and the pitfalls of working in the world of corporate comics. But the most thought provoking discussion of the night came from Dylan's thoughts on intellectual property and the copyright law reforms, one of the most fiercely debated issues in the arts world right now. Dylan now protects all his comics under a Creative Commons Licence, which allows the work to be freely shared and distributed as long as it is attributed to it's author and is not used for commercial purposes. For more from Dylan's fascinating talk, check back next week!

Day Two: Sunday 18th of October

Above: More sketches from Day Two from the sketchbook of Darren Sheehan. Again you can spot some of the guests..(I'm the big head at the bottom left with Bruce Willis' hairline). The High Seas co-founder Nigel Wright is to my right, looking out from over his laptop.

Above: In this second picture is a portrait of Jerome Bihan at the bottom right, 'Master of Ceremonies'.

The Sheehan Bros made a morning appearance on BFM's Sunday Breakfast Show (that you can listen to here) to help plug the event and talk about 'The Inhabitants', before things got under way again at The High Seas at 1pm.

After the previous day's introductions, Sunday was a more informal affair with more in-depth discussions and sharing of technical skills. Kelly and I learnt a great deal about web-comics and Wordpress from a conversation with Frank Gibson, an experienced authority on the subject (thanks Frank!). With Dylan's absence on the second day, I got in on the act exhibiting some of my 'graphic novel in progress' to interested viewers.

Above: Table Two, Day Two: From left: Darren and Kelly Sheehan talking to Mat Tait (not pictured) and myself and Richard witnessing a profound vision...(perhaps someone spiked our water?).

The hours seemed to pass more quickly on the second day, and before we knew (or expected) it, the Sunday art auction was upon us! Now if there was one miss-fire this weekend, this would have to be it. Perhaps it was poorly timed, but to be fair you never know when you're going to draw a crowd. As it turned out, our busiest time for visitors was right before the lectures on Saturday night. Sunday afternoon's turn out? Not so much...

Wine had wisely been distributed half an hour before hand to help loosen people's purse strings, but when you have a room full of (marginally) starving artists, it'll takes a bit more than that to get people effectively bidding on their own artwork.

This scene could very quickly have become an episode of 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' if Jose Barbosa had not strolled in at that crucial moment to start a bidding war with Kelly Sheehan over a page of Mat Tait's artwork. Jose's bid prevailed, winning the artwork, while the rest of us managed to slowly but quietly bid the auction to rest. In a word...awkward.

With the auction out of the way, the second day came to a close with some friendly chatter as comics were packed away and emails and farewells exchanged.

Overall, 'Comics on K' was a great start to what I hope will be a continuing tradition.
It would be fair to say there's definitely room for improvement, as the punter turnout was much lower than I think anyone was expecting. But much like Zine Fest, these weekend events need time to grow and gain awareness in the community, and my hat is off to Jerome Bihan for assembling such a professional and well organised show in such a short time frame. If anything, the short window in which this show came together (to meet the decided weekend-before-Armageddon deadline) may have contributed to it's limited attendance. I have no doubt that if this event continues in the future, it will gain the following it deserves.

Personally, I considered the event to be a great success for one very important reason: it unified the Auckland comics community for the first time in recent memory, and that in itself is a significant achievement. Auckland can now join to ranks of Wellington and Christchurch as a unified, thriving comics community, with a new date on the calendar for cartoonists to look forward to and work towards.

I'm already looking forward to next year's event and the progress that will accompany it, as a new day for NZ comics dawns over Beresford Square.