Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Shaolin Burning!

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Apologies for the lack of new Magic Pen pages this past week. Page 56 is turning into one of those pages that takes a week to draw, which has thrown things off schedule. It is, however, getting there…

While you’re waiting, please check out this very important event: the launch of New Zealand cartoonist Ant Sang’s brand new graphic novel, Shaolin Burning.

Ant Sang is one hell of a cartoonist, and a fabulous guy. His serialised story, Dharma Punks, was one of the most impressive New Zealand comics I’ve ever seen, and his inspired work as lead designer on the TV show Brotown has made his style familiar to everyone in the country. Shaolin Burning deserves to sell like crazy – and I can’t wait to read it!

The book is published by Harper Collins, and has already been spotted in some bookstores. The official launch party is tomorrow night (Thursday, 3 February), in Auckland. There’ll be original artwork on show, limited edition prints, copies of the book to buy, and Ant himself to stalk and admire.

Wild horses couldn’t keep me away, and if you’re anywhere near Auckland, I hope I’ll see you there!

P.S. If you can’t make it to the launch, don’t despair. The exhibition will be up till the 18th of February. Details can be found on Adrian Kinnaird’s excellent NZ comics blog, From Earth’s End. And, of course, you can still rush to your local book store for your very own copy of Shaolin Burning!

Now you too can buy ‘All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds!’

Saturday, September 11th, 2010


As I mentioned earlier, Emily Perkins and I have done a mini-comic together! It was done as a jam comic – I’d draw a panel and send it to Emily, then she’d draw a panel in response and send it back, and so on. After a month, we had made a 32-page mini-comic (with one big panel per page) – half of it written and drawn by Emily and half by me. It’s a conversation between us, in words and pictures, about writing, stories, art, reality and – er – monsters.

We presented it at The Orcon Great Blend 2010 in Auckland on September 10th (a wonderful event put together by Public Address, Orcon and The Edge), reading it live while the pictures were projected behind us, which was almost as much fun as making the thing in the first place. About a hundred copies sold on the night (thanks everyone!!), but I still have copies left if you want to buy one. (Sorry – SOLD OUT)

All Hail Ellie, Destroyer of Worlds!
by Emily Perkins and Dylan Horrocks
a 32 page black & white mini-comic (A5 size: 14.85 x 21 cm)
Price (including postage):
within New Zealand: NZD $7
to anywhere else: USD $6



At The Great Blend with Emily Perkins

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Tomorrow evening in Auckland, I’ll be presenting a new comic with co-conspirator Emily Perkins at The Orcon Great Blend 2010. The Great Blend is an occasional event put together by Public Address and Orcon, and this time the theme is collaboration. Organiser Russell Brown put various artists, writers and other creative miscreants into pairs, urging us to create some kind of collaborative work for the occasion.

My team-mate was novelist, short storyist, creative writing teacher and all-round literary star Emily Perkins, who enthusiastically embraced my suggestion that we do a jam comic together – a conversation in words and pictures on the topic of why we write. Every day for a month, one of us drew a panel and emailed it to the other, who then replied the following day with their own panel. Although she claimed she hadn’t drawn anything since school, Emily launched into the task with gusto. And it turns out she can really draw! Our conversation took place as much through the images as the text, and by the end I was simultaneously exhausted and energised!

So anyway, the final result is a 32-page mini-comic (with one large panel per page), which we will read live at the Civic Wintergarden tomorrow evening. We’ll also have copies of the mini to sell on the night. If you’re in Auckland and want to come along, the event is free but you have to RSVP to get a seat (Update: IT’S FULL! SORRY). Hopefully, there’ll be some copies of the mini left afterwards, and maybe we’ll put the conversation online some time too…?

Book launch: Mike Johnson’s ‘Travesty’ (with art by Darren Sheehan)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Come along this Thursday and help celebrate the launch of Mike Johnson’s new novel Travesty, illustrated by the mighty Darren Sheehan (co-creator of The Inhabitants comics). I’ll be there, toasting the good ship Travesty as it sets out on its journey…

In a neglected corner of Travesty, in an apartment building called the rathouse, five marginals take on the universe. Drunk Len takes a gamble on salvation, but can he find the ticket? Nisa Michelangelo reconstructs his David with a vital difference, but can art defeat time? Dr Reingold, the keeper of the files, finds himself doing the bidding of his hidden masters, but will he betray his patient? Dilly Lilly goes exploring through her tunnels of soft toys in search of her mother’s funeral, but what will she do with the mutant baby rat? And Glow Harvey steps into the world of probabilities on an odyssey of discovery, helped by his mysterious girlfriend Hermes, but will he remember enough to avert the destruction of Travesty by The Lion King and his terrorist allies? It all comes together on the Day of Delight.

Welcome to Travesty, where the stringent laws of purgatory rule and every nerve is put to the test.

Travesty book launch
6pm, Thursday 5th August

AUT Creative Writing Centre
4th floor, Duthie Whyte Building
Corner of Wakefield Street and Mayoral Drive

Seduction of the Innocent

Monday, July 19th, 2010

soti-webThis is my contribution to Seduction of the Innocent, a new collection of pin-ups by various artists of pretty girls reading comics. Other contributors include Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Sam Henderson, Dave Kiersh, Peter Kuper, Johnny Ryan and many more, and the drawings range from the sleazy to the hilarious. You can see more sample pages and/or buy the book on publisher Kettle Drummer Books‘ website.

Hicksville at the High Seas!

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Hicksville at the High Seas

Yay! We’re having a launch for the NZ edition of Hicksville at The High Seas (12 Beresford Square, Auckland) on Friday 19th March (6pm). It’s also an exhibition of original art from Hicksville, which will stay open through Saturday 20th March (when Beresford Square is also hosting the fabulous Aroha Day!).

So spread the word – and come join the party!

Hicksville at the High Seas

The Tango Collection

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Tango Collection
I recently wrote a foreword for The Tango Collection – a big fat book of comics about love by over 50 Australian cartoonists (plus a few New Zealanders, including Jared Lane, Tim Molloy and Toby Morris). The comics are selected from eight issues of Bernard Caleo’s love comics anthology Tango, each issue of which is organised around a theme (Love & Death, Love & Food, Love & Sedition, etc). The book is published by Allen & Unwin and is available now!

You can read my foreword below, or else just buy the book and read it in the comfort of your own (or a loved one’s) soft warm bed…

Tango Collection Foreword

Hicksville – the new edition

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Lord, how time flies! My brief hiatus turned into a looong one, for which I apologise. Thing is, I was very very busy doing a few things, more of which I’ll tell you about (and post the comics of course!) soon.

But first let me tell you about the new edition of Hicksville, which is coming out from Drawn & Quarterly (and, in New Zealand, from Victoria University Press) in early February 2010. Getting it ready is one of the main things I’ve been busy with, but now it’s all good to go.

Above you can see the new cover, but there’s also a brand new 13-page introduction (in comics form) by me – one of the most personal comics I’ve done – and the glossary has been expanded (and illustrated). I also redesigned the book, rescanning all the artwork and giving it all a bit more space to breathe on the page. I added page numbers (at the request of various academics and students!), relettered about 12 pages (where the lettering was just too damn sloppy to read!), and corrected a couple of mistakes that had slipped past us in the previous editions. Everything in the book – from the indicia to the glossary – is now hand-lettered (except the barcode, sadly). All in all, I’m pretty happy with it.

I’m especially thrilled that there will finally be a New Zealand edition, too – and doubly so that it’s with Victoria University Press, who I’ve always enjoyed working with in the past. For years, Hicksville was very hard to get hold of here in my home country, and it’ll be a relief to no longer have to field emails from forlorn bookstores and desperate customers. A big thank you to Fergus Barrowman for making it happen!

I’ll post more information about the new edition closer to the time, but for now, I’m looking forward to having it in print again.

The Elfish Gene

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

The Elfish Gene
Mark Barrowcliffe’s The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange is a fascinating memoir of being obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons in 1970s Britain. It does a good job both of capturing the time and place and also of dissecting various forms of cringeworthy D&D geekery. I first got into role-playing games a few years after Barrowcliffe (around 1980, at the age of 13), and my own experience was considerably more benign than his; but even so, many of his anecdotes had me squirming with queasy recognition, and he’s especially good on the strange combination of defensive arrogance and false machismo that many hardcore geeks display.

But for me, where Barrowcliffe strikes the most powerful chord is when he describes his painful yearning for a better, more magical world than the dreary, grey mundane reality that surrounds him. One of my favourite parts comes early in the book, when Barrowcliffe describes having to go on a seaside holiday in Wales with an old friend’s family (when he’d much rather be back at home playing D&D with his new gamer friends). One day, walking past a bustop, Mark and his old friend Dill are rudely proposititioned by two bored girls who abruptly demand a snog. Later that evening, Mark is in bed:

I lay in bed trying to think of lying with a dryad in a boat of reeds, floating down a river of leaves and stroking her tits. Another fantasy kept butting in, though, a dream of a beefy Liverpudlian girl with blotchy legs and the smell of bubblegum on her breath and me with my hands up her sweater.

This seedy intrusion is too awful to contemplate.

In future I’d have to practise harder at having the right fantasies. In all things, I thought, I should strive towards the perfect ideals of the fantasy world where there was no bubble gum, definitely no blotchy legs…. I didn’t want real girls, I didn’t want real anything. I hadn’t since I’d started D&D, and I wouldn’t again, for years.

On the final day of the holiday, Mark is desperate to get back to home and the D&D world. But his friend’s mother can’t understand his impatience: “Don’t you want one last look at the sea?” she asks…

Of course I didn’t want to look at the sea. I wanted to gaze upon the sparkling oceans of the Grey Havens or see dragon smoke rising above a stricken galleon off the Isle of Pendor. All that would be visible from Llandudno seafront was the pier and the crazy golf course, things, it seemed, that had been put in place to spite my fantasy.

I noted this passage down, because it describes pretty well how I felt at the same age. Immersed as I was in dreams of Middle Earth, even apparently “scenic” landscapes in the real world seemed horribly disappointing. Where was the grandeur? The majesty? The enchantment? That sweet, painful yearning seems close to what C. S. Lewis called Sehnsucht, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how it lies behind much of my own relationship to fantasy, fiction and art, with their promise to “re-enchant the world.”

Barrowcliffe’s writing style isn’t entirely my bag; he seems to have honed his skills working as a stand-up comedian and writing satirical novels, and sometimes he comes across like the class clown, trying a little too hard to make us laugh at his own expense. I’m also put off when a memoir tries to read like a novel, complete with long passages of (re-imagined) dialogue. But after a while, even these quirks ceased to grate on me; it all seemed part and parcel of the book’s tone of defensively self-mocking embarrassment. It’s as though Barrowcliffe is still trying to impress us with his superior smarts and wit, even as he excruciatingly dissects those very impulses in his geeky teenage self. “I’m better than that now,” he seems to be saying – in precisely the voice he once used to put down some worthless ignoramus at the gaming table.

Anyway – it’s well worth a read if, like me, you’re an old gaming nerd. Especially if you follow it with American Nerd: the Story of My People, by Benjamin Nugent, another painfully personal, very insightful exploration of the geek as type, as community, and as a presence in the broader history and culture.

Floating Worlds

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Floating WorldsOut this month from Victoria University Press:

Floating Worlds: Essays on Contemporary NZ Fiction
Anna Jackson & Jane Stafford (eds)

The ground-breaking New Zealand fiction of the last fifteen years has not attracted critical commentary beyond initial reviews, despite its success with readers both local and international, and despite its attracting major awards both local and international. Floating Worlds contains stimulating and insightful essays on eight of the best novels of recent years.

These are novels in which there is no longer one authoritative way to tell a story. In contrast to Allen Curnow’s stricture that New Zealand writers should conform to ‘the disciplines of an uncompromising fidelity to experience, of an unqualified responsibility to the truths of themselves, in this place and that time’, these novels invite us into what Paula Morris calls ‘a floating world’, where identities are negotiable and performative.

Floating Worlds illuminates the distinctive ways in which contemporary New Zealand writing approaches the relationship between the real and the imaginary, and the different kinds of challenging, edgy authenticities that operate in the space between them: the familiar and the foreign; the copy and the original; the fake and the genuine; the intention and the act, including the act of writing.

Nicholas Wright on The Miserables by Damien Wilkins
Kirstine Moffat on In a Fishbone Church by Catherine Chidgey
Jane Stafford on The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox
Hamish Clayton & Mark Williams on Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks
Lydia Wevers on Slow Water by Annamarie Jagose
Anna Jackson on The Time of the Giants by Anne Kennedy
Erin Mercer on Hibiscus Coast by Paula Morris
Jennifer Lawn on Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones