Friday, November 30, 2012

Colin Wilson, Frank Bellamy, and Dan Dare

 Evan Jenkins and Frank Bellamy's Dan Dare via Colin Wilson

Several years ago I had the opportunity to have a rummage through Colin Wilson's studio and amongst his fine collection of European comics and art I found a folder of clippings from Frank Bellamy's run on Dan Dare from the Eagle in the late fifties. Colin professed to being a big fan Bellamy's work particularly another serial from Eagle, Fraser of Africa.

Recently Colin was contacted by Evan Jenkins in New Zealand who had bought a residence Colin rented in the late seventies. Jenkins discovered a large mural on one of the walls of the house, a recreation of a panel of Bellamy's Dan Dare. Someone told Jenkins "some comic guy" did it and Jenkins liked the painting so much he had it removed when he sold the house and it now resides in his garage down the other end of the country in Queenstown. Colin remarked on the painting, " It's obviously me copying a Bellamy Dan Dare panel from Eagle - November 7, 1959 to be exact - but how the hell could I have done this and not remember anything about it? And it turns up 35 years later in some guys garage!"

 2012 Dan Dare commission by Colin Wilson

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sarah Laing Interview

Auckland cartoonist Sarah Laing was recently awarded a six-month University of Auckland residency from the Micheal King Writers Centre to work on a graphic novel about Katherine Mansfield that is part-biography, part-memoir and part-fiction. Laing's comics have frequently appeared in Metro magazine and she is also a novelist, graphic designer and mother of three. A prolific output of auto-bio comics have featured on Laing's blog Let Me Be Frank in recent years. I asked her a few questions via email about her upcoming residency.

Are you the first author to receive a Michael King Writers Centre residency to work on a cartooning project?

I'm the first at the Michael King Writers Centre, but it's a joint University of Auckland residency and I see that Dylan Horrocks was awarded it in 2006:  But yes, it's rare for a cartooning/graphic novel project to be chosen for a residency! It's great that such a project is now being considered a serious contender. 

When did you first experience Katherine Mansfield's writing?

Somebody read me 'The Dolls' House' when I was in primary school and it all came alive for me - she's such a visual writer; I can still picture everything she described.  I remember my grandmother telling us that Mansfield's family, the Beauchamps, lived down the road from her family when she was a child in Karori. My first writing prize was for a poem I wrote in 7th form, called 'At the (York) Bay', after Mansfield's story. I spent lots of summer holidays in Eastbourne as that's where my grandmother and great aunts lived. Later I lived in a little lane off Tinakori Road in Wellington, where Mansfield was born. My first book published by Random House was a collection of short stories, and I felt like I was following in a tradition established by her. She really is still the most amazing short story writer, the way that she sets up a scene and then disrupts it entirely. Her writing still feels very contemporary.

Will your project be purely comics or a combination of prose and cartooning?

This project will be a cartooning one - a book-length graphic novel. Language does play a big part in my comics though, and I will be working hard on that. There is so much of the visual world to explore - Mansfield was stylish - she had that great bob - and she lived in the 1920s and 1930s, and she hung out with all the modernists and the Bloomsbury set (Virginia Woolf, D H Lawrence) She pushed a whole lot of social boundaries, redefined literature, had lesbian affairs, was the only writer that Virginia Woolf was jealous of. She moved to France and Germany to try and cure her TB, but she died young, at the age of 34.  Recently I read Kiki of Montparnasse and I think graphic novels are such a great way of bringing historical figures to life.

What will your residency at the Writers Centre entail?

I will be given a studio to work in at the top of Mt Victoria in Devonport. It was built in the late 19th century, so I'm hoping it will get me into the right era. Also I will have an office at the university and access to the library, where I hope to read lots about Mansfield. I think I might have to give lectures at the English department too, so I'll be hustling comics and graphic novels.

Do you have a projected scope for the size of this project and when you'll complete it?

I'm hoping it will take me no longer than a couple of years. But then I'm still finishing an illustrated novel (to be published in July 2013) that I started almost 4 years ago! I want to explore Mansfield's life, and also I want to couple that with memoir, exploring how my own fascination with her. I imagine that this will be a reasonably big book - 300 pages maybe, and I want to do it all in inks and watercolour. I've recently been reading Brecht Evans and I love his style and his way of story telling. I'm also a fan of Joann Sfar and Vanessa Davis, who also use watercolours a lot.

How was the experience of your short term residency at the Michael King Writers Centre in 2008?

It was really great - it was just for 6 weeks but I really got to concentrate. At the moment I work at home, on the dining room table, and I have 3 kids, so when they're at home I have to clear everything away or else they'll want to augment my art. The other thing that I've done when I've been on residencies is minimise my internet access. I waste such a lot of time! Then again, it's a brilliant resource for picture references so I won't be able to cut myself off entirely.

You've indicated on your blog that you've had an interest in doing a longer comics work for a while, did applying for the residency help consolidate commencing this project or was it already underway?

I thought this would be a good kind of project for a University writer-in-residence - I'd have access to all the English department expertise and a library full of books! I also had a lot of other ideas jostling around - mostly memoir ideas. I still have a whole host of short stories I want to draw in comic form - I'm hoping to get a few of those started before the residency begins.

All images copyright Sarah Laing 2012

The Sun-Herald Comic Section February 17 1974

Thirty eight years ago comics were plentiful in Australian newspapers with the Sun-Herald containing an eight page supplement of Australian and international cartoons. The following pages are from The Sun-Herald Comic Section February 17 1974.


John Dixon's Air Hawk and the Flying Doctors ghosted by Hart Amos as featured in Australian papers from 1959 to 1986, commencing in the Sun herald on 14 June 1959. Over the years Dixon was assisted by Paul Power, Phil Belbin, Mike Tabrett, Hart Amos, and Keith Chatto. Nat Karmichael has recently published a significant collection of Air Hawk strips available from Comicsoz.

The Potts is said to be the longest running strip produced by one artist. Originally created by Stan Cross as You & Me in Smith's Weekly who worked on it for nineteen years eventually passing it on to his colleague Jim Russell in 1940 who worked on the strip for the next sixty-two years.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Comic Life #656 - Colonial Edition

Comic-Life The Amusing Picture-Paper for The People was an eight page tabloid companion to Lot-o'-Fun and published by James Henderson and Son's for 1,465 issues from 1898 to 1928. This edition is labeled a 'colonial edition' with the back cover indicia stating it was printed by the London Colour Printing Co. Ltd in North Kensington. Presumably a print run of 'colonial editions' were produced and shipped out to the colonies. present day distributors of comics to Australasia, Gordon and Gotch, are listed as distribution agents for Australia and New Zealand. This issue is undated but the reference on the mast head to it being a 'supplement to 'Lot-o'-Fun No. 254 would indicate it was published around 1910.

Combining cartoons and prose, Comic-Life featured new material and reprints from another Henderson title Young Folks' Weekly Budget.

Click to enlarge

 Page two click to enlarge

 Detail from page two

 Page three click to enlarge

For a comic paper that is over a hundred years of age this one is in delicate condition although still intact.  Despite circulations in the hundreds of thousands, comics papers from this era are now very scarce. Early twentieth century collector and scholar of bloods and penny journals, Frank Jay, wrote a few months after Henderson's publications had been purchased by Almalgamated Press for the London Journal in 1920,  'It is remarkable that considering the enormous number sold and put into circulation so very few of these old books are now seen.  They were very popular and commanded a huge sale.'

Lew Stringer's Blimey! blog has more information about Comic-Life here.

The center spread pages contain cartoons over pages four and five.

Page six click to enlarge

Detail from page six

Page seven click to enlarge

Page eight

Detail from page eight