Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Paper Trail

My last two months have been ultra mega busy and thus my paper trail links have piled up to oblivion. To get back on the horse I'll post a few mini Paper Trails this week. Maybe I'll even post that SPX report that I should have done last month...

Latest additions to the Pikitia Press Store,  Mat Tait's Love Stories and David C Mahler's Deep Park are still searingly hot from their SPX debut's and make great Christmas presents!

Extra Ordinary recently their posted 300th strip.

Panels from Simon Hanselmann's forthcoming Life Zone from Spaceface Books. Preorder now.

Early place holder cover preview for Simon's Fantagraphics book  MEGAHEX.

Bernard Caleo documents Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly's visit to Melbourne's Squishface Studios.

Teaser trailer for Karl Wills' Connie Radar short film adaption Over The Moon.

David Mahler writes about Evie Cahir.

Andrew Nette's Pinterest of Australian pulp novels. Love all the beautiful painted Horwitz covers.

Gerald Carr offers an in depth look at the case for Australian cartoonist/animator Pat Sullivan as the creator of Felix the Cat.

Jason Chatfield writes about South Australian State Labor Minister Chloe Fox's  legal threat against The Adelaide Advertiser for publishing a cartoon and a story that she claims caused “distress, stress and damage to her personal reputation”.

Support your local comic shop so they can keep running their underground bare knuckle fight clubs.

Bobby N shares a page from the second volume of The Sixsmiths, a forthcoming collaboration with Jason Franks.

Campbell Whyte wrote an impassioned plea to whoever stole his families luggage in San Francisco.

I love Blakes 7.

After nine years PulpFaction administrator Maggie McFee will be retiring the Australian comics Pulpfaction message boards in the next few days. PulpFaction was notable for many things including hosting yearly 24 hour comic competitions and I believe introducing Tom Taylor to his frequent collaborator Colin Wilson.

"It's with a heavy heart, but a heart full of good memories, that I announce the closing of Pulp Faction and the forums. The forums will be put into read-only mode in the next couple of days, so please log in and say any goodbyes while you can. The forums will remain online in a read-only state for at least the next 12 months. †"

Roger Langridge suggests 10 rules for drawing comics.

Dylan Horrocks has been posting pages every few days lately from his serial Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen.

The Norman Lindsay Gallery and Museum is one of the archival institutions currently threatened by bush fires in Australian. Australian has sadly been stricken by many natural disasters in the last several years with lives and property and likely many works of art being lost. I recall an ebay auction for an original R. Wilson McCoy Phantom daily strip being sold to raise funds for flood relief.

 Norman Lindsay

A new television series of popular New Zealand comic character Terry Teo has been funded by NZ on Air.

Friday, October 11, 2013

SLUG GUTS: Milk Shadow Books Launch - James Andre Interview

From the press release for this Saturday's Melbourne launch of the latest two comics from Milk Shadow Book:

Hi Everyone,
Just a reminder that next Saturday, October 12,we will be launching two excellent new books, Da 'n' Dill - The Showbag Years by Dillon Naylor and Squirt-Stone by Ben (Sea) Constantine.

Both of the artists will be in attendance, signing and sketching. Plus their books will be sold in showbags containing limited edition prints, cool lollies, and other surprises. Also, Dillon and Ben are giving away a page of original art from the books.

The launch is on at All Star Comics Melbourne from 2pm – 5pm. Then at around 5:30pm if people want to have a drink, or can't make the afternoon launch, we'll be having an afterparty where you can sit and chat to the guys and buy books. This will be at Charlies Bar, 71 Hardware Lane (just down the toad from All Star).

These will be our last books released for a while, so we aim to make this a big one! Hope to see you there, and if you can help spread the word to help us make this launch huge it would be greatly appreciated.

I fired a few questions to Milk Shadow Books Publisher James Andre about the two books launching this weekend and what else has been happening with MSB this year.

James Andre Interview by Matt Emery
Can you talk a bit about what goes into choosing artists and books for Milk Shadow Books? Can you talk about how Ben C and Dillon Naylor's work fit into this equation? How much are your choices guided by 'business' and 'aesthetic'?
Milk Shadow Books looks for unique visions and voices. That's about it. Things that will open your mind through paper and ink.

Dillon was recommended to me by Bruce Mutard. At first I was shocked, because Dillon has been around forever. I knew of Da 'n' Dill, Batrisha, and even his stuff such as Pop Culture and Two Minute Noodles. He's a real pro. Bruce said Dillon might contact about publishing some stuff, 'cause he'd mentioned MSB to him. I waited a day or two then contacted Dillon direct. That's how the A Brush With Darkness collected book came about, and with Da 'n' Dill being mentioned early on, we came back to that project as our next one. It's also a good title because of the nostalgia, and all ages aspect.

I've been a fan of Ben's work since picking up a Phatsville comic at a Brisbane Supanova, probably 10 years ago. Plump Oyster was in foetal stages then. At that time I didn't really know an underground/alternative comics scene existed in Australia. I hoped that it did though and that it wasn't all just shoddy superhero/genre knock-offs. Loved Ben's work straight away. Strangely even back then my brain thought, "someone should be publishing this guy."

Most of the other MSB artists are friends who have been self publishing for a long time. I'm a comics nerd/fanboy at heart, and I can generally tell when someone has an interesting style. And it's easy to see different artists who have a strong following online, or at shows. It's not usually a money choice when it comes to publishing, but I don't want to go broke publishing either. A strong sense of style and "something to say" is the main thing. Have some soul basically. Those books usually sell well anyway, as business will follow a good aesthetic.

Both Ben C and Dillon are both well established cartoonists locally, Why do you think other publishers haven't taken an interest in their work prior to you?

That's a good question. I'm not too sure? We're lucky to be working with them. Same as with Tim Molloy, Ben Hutchings, Bobby.N and everybody else really. Both of the guys have worked with larger publishers and publications, but it's usually been in a more restrained sense, or have had short stories published in anthologies/magazines.
We give artists nearly total artistic freedom (with some editorial control/advice being retained by me and the tech people here) to make the best books they can, the way that they envision them. We "package" our books with love, and not to be slathered with tomato sauce and a pickle and pushed down a burger chute. That's probably fairly appealing to artists too.

Were there any difficulties in assembling collections of Ben and Dillon's work, I imagine some of Dillon's work goes back a few years?

The good thing about Ben and Dillon is that they still have a lot of the original art. So it was mainly just waiting for them to scan in the art once we provided them with the technical details. We were originally planning on making Ben's book larger, but most of his early work was drawn A4, so shrinking it down to A5 makes it look a lot tighter than blowing it up to a larger size. While Dillon's Da 'n' Dill comics worked well being collected from different sizes into one uniformly larger book. Then we ran the books through the usual proofing/design process.
How much of your market is divided between local and international sales? Do you have a concentrated focus on either?
We're really focused on local sales at moment after getting the Madman distribution deal happening. That was a big deal for us, and we've been trying to co-ordinate as much publicity and sales opportunities as we can with them. Eventually we'd like to expand overseas more, looking at Diamond and Last Gasp as distributors, but we already have Amazon, The Book Depository coverage so that's the main thing. Currently, I feel that if we can keep working to make a strong local scene for local people (Sorry, that sounds kind of like Edward and Tubbs out of The League of Gentlemen) then it will make things more sustainable for everyone

How important was your partnership with Madman for distribution? Are you at a point were you can evaluate this yet?
Really important. It's hard to keep on top of self distribution when you work full time. Having Madman take care of that frees up spare time to work on production and other business matters. It saves having to call up/go into shops chasing five bucks from eight months ago. The team there have honestly been great to work with. Plus the promo side of what they can do is so much more than we can do ourselves. I got some initial figures the other day and I think the guys there thought I'd be disappointed, but I'm happy every time even if one book sells, so to me, it's been going well so far.

Are there short term or long term goals you can share for Milk Shadow Books?
After these two new books, I'm going to take a break for a while from production. I'm getting married next year so that'll be a priority. But also it would be nice to have some time to go back over the business and catch up with lots of details behind the scenes that are often missed. Walking to Japan was our first major work, and that came out October 2011, so it's been two years. Now is a good time to go back over what's working etc. Even though we'll be toning down our schedule in the future, we've still plenty of really good books lined up.
Do you punch walls when things don't turn out the way you want?
Haha, no. Well, a window in Year 8, but that was more for a laugh.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Ponsonby Rag

Earlier this year I got to have a little dig through the Auckland Library and came across five issues of an amazing paper The Ponsonby Rag, created in Auckland during the late seventies. Similar to alternative papers being produced around the world since the sixties and very informed by counter cultural elements, the Rag consisted of poems, stories, illustration and a significant amount of comic strips by a small group of Auckland artists and cartoonists. A lot of the work struck me as very experimental for the time perhaps influenced by the American underground comics of the sixties and seventies.

Cartoonist/Illustrator Joe Wylie shared his recollections of The Ponsonby Rag:

I didn't do anything for the Ponsonby Rag, though I remember it well. I met the people involved through Barry Linton when I went to live in Auckland in 1977. They had their own little offset press, which was a pretty nifty thing to have back then. There was a particularly impressive issue titled Ponsonby Bag, which came in a bag and consisted of various items. It would be amazing if one had survived intact. I know that David Eggleton wrote for it, but I can't, I'm sorry to say, remember the name of the guy who did most of the printing work. I believe he was also responsible for most of the cartoons, which were pretty memorable. What really impressed me was the attempt at handmade colour separation, made by drawing directly on the offset plates.

David Eggleton was involved with the Ponsonby Rag from it's beginning through to it's end. I approached him for some recollections on the production of the Rag and he sent me the following article effectively detailing the history of The Ponsonby Rag.

The Ponsonby Rag by David Eggleton

            The Ponsonby Rag was an offset-press publication, containing original graphics, cartoons, poems, stories and commentaries. It appeared erratically between late 1976 and early 1978, out of a big weatherboard villa opposite the old and very aromatic DYC Vinegar factory at the top of Crummer Road. The anarcho-absurdist  tone was set by the cover graphic of the first issue, which showed a man wearing a newspaper, which he is also reading, crossing the road at the Three Lamps corner while a seven-headed dragon flies above the old Hydra bacon factory and a crowd of good keen Kiwi blokes with short-back-and-sides haircuts look on.

            It ran to five issues and the average print run for each issue was 200 to 250, with  the largest print-run being 300 for the first one.  The border of the first issue’s cover graphic was made up of over 100 possible-but-rejected alternative titles typed-out, ranging from ‘Dehydrange’ to ‘Pun Sun Be’ to ‘Verb with Paper Snack’ to ‘Remember Gypsy Mick’. A lot of people swirled around the making of the magazine, almost as many as there were copies of issues to begin with, in keeping with the mass-demo vibe of the time.

            The Rag grew out of the rich compost that was Ponsonby in the mid-1970s — an inner-city Auckland working class suburb rundown and seedy and home to dissidents and drop-outs of all persuasions in the years before gentrification. The neighbourhood was pullulating with idealists, and every group and its obligatory dogs seemed to be publishing a little magazine, from the Polynesian Panthers to various workers’ unions.

            The product of a loose collective of like-minded contrarians, agitators,  and artists, some of whom had been involved with the Progressive Youth Movement, Auckland’s Resistance Bookshop, or anarchist collectives in the South Island, it was a publication partly inspired by British and American and New Zealand underground magazines and comic books of the Sixties and early Seventies. As such it is one of the missing links between alternative magazines such as Earwig (Auckland), Cock (Wellington), Ferret (Christchurch) and Counter-Culture Free Press (Dunedin) ,and publications of the late 1970s and early Eighties: Strips, and various Kiwi punk and Flying Nun ‘zines.

            Central figures in early stages of its production were artist and cartoonist Alan Harold, his brother, writer Denis Harold, and members of the Auckland Anarchist Activists, including Frank Prebble, Graeme Minchin, John Markie (later John Segovia) and writer Chrissie Duggan. Artistic contributions were provided by writer and poet David Eggleton, cartoonist Barry Linton, the artist Malcolm Ross, collagist Bryan Harold, and local poets Herman Gladwin and Sue Heap, amongst others.

            The offset printing press that was used had had several previous lives. It originally printed newspapers and posters for the American armed forces based in Auckland during World War Two. Later it became the Socialist Unity Party’s printing press. Eventually coming into the possession of the Ponsonby People’s Union and some associated groups, it was installed at 4 Crummer Road at the top of Ponsonby Road in a former clothing factory annex, where it was used to print leaflets. By this time some of machine’s parts were getting quite worn, and main printer Alan Harold proved adept at buying or obtaining replacement parts and he and others used number eight wire techniques to keep it running.

            Over the nearly two years of The Ponsonby Rag’s existence the composition of the core group gradually changed. (Those involved funded it —we all had part-time jobs). By the time of the last issue, Ponsonby Rag 5, Denis Harold and David Eggleton did most of the assembling, lay-out and printing between them.

            Printed on A2 sheets of paper, folded and stapled into an A3 format, using a variety of ink colours to obtain a streaky semi-psychedelic effect, the aesthetic of The Rag borrowed from the hippy, organic-community-garden ethos for its pumpkin/cabbage/beetroot colours, and some of the large sheets were pasted-up on walls around Ponsonby in emulation of wall-pasted community newspapers in Red China: the pasted-up images included big Linton cartoons and Eggleton political poster-poems.

            Otherwise, it was sold at cafes and other outlets around Ponsonby for 30 cents a copy, rising to 50 cents for the fifth and final issue, which consisted of a hand-stencilled paper bag containing printed leaflets and pieces of card. This issue was modelled on the notion of the ubiquitous Kleensac: the big, khaki-coloured, all-purpose paper rubbish bag of those days. The idea was that you went through the contents of the paper bag like a homeless street person in search of  literal and cultural sustenance, emerging with poems, graphic, cartoons stories and poems in a rainbow of colours on various pieces of paper and card.

            One reason for this was that the offset-plate machinery had become very erratic and was not inking properly. Consequently, while the images and text of number 5 were consistent, they all looked slightly different because of eccentric printing techniques in the overlaying of colours. The printing press itself became pretty much unusable shortly after, and anyway all principal parties involved had moved on to other things: single-artist comic books done elsewhere by Alan Harold Kin Oath Comics, The Esoterrorists and Cracking Up; while the anarchist faction put out ‘spasmodical’ anti-newspapers; Barry Linton got involved with the Strips group; and David Eggleton published a series of self-illustrated poetry broadsheets.

            Content-wise, there were three main contributors to The Ponsonby Rag: artist Alan Harold, cartoonist Barry Linton, and writer and graphic artist David Eggleton; while Denis Harold provided editorial direction and the most elbow-grease throughout. Each much-argued-over issue was intended as an anarchic one-off, so it did well to survive, while the eccentricities of its means-of-production remain unique.


The Ponsonby Rag article © 2013 David Eggleton, Joe Wylie recollections © 2013 Joe Wylie, Images © 2013 respective artists, Thanks to Auckland Libraries for access to archival copies of The Ponsonby Rag.

Happy 47th Birthday, Dylan Horrocks