Every year I produce a poster for my one niece as a combination birthday and Christmas present. Her favourite pop-cultural production this year has been Monster High. I had never heard of them until I got back from the USA, where apparently they are pretty popular. I never saw them, but then again, I didn’t hang around toy shops and box stores. For those of you who don’t know, Monster High is a product of Mattel, so they are fashion dolls. Unlike Barbie, these dolls cannot have their clothes changed, so you have to buy the same character over and again to get it in a new outfit, along with accessories. In short, you collect them as new ranges come out. My niece is steadily draining her mothers purse with them.
Now the dolls are in some ways a bit better than Barbie, being nowhere near as pneumatic, but actually skinnier in some respects. They have a manga/anime influenced body type: large heads, oversized eyes, BIG hair, long, long calves, short thighs, big ‘gap’, tiny waists. They do at least have underwear. Their clothes are the sort any girl who lives in Beverly Hills with USD$2000 per week pocket money can afford. There are guys as well, typically hunky, square-jawed, tall monsters (Henry Hyde, Deuce Gorgon -son of Medusa), tatts, piercings and as smart as jocks. But they are decoration for the ghouls (girls). One thing though, is that girls of any race can play with these dolls as they come in all colours: pink, brown, yellow, green, blue, purple… you’ll see below. Girls of lower socio-economic backgrounds may not be so lucky to collect them though… or look like them. If you’re fat, forget it; there isn’t even a token fat girl. This is Beverly Hill; fat is an illness that can be cured by several trips to the surgeon and his clinics.
Of course, Monster High is a multi-media platform. There are movies and lots of Youboob clips done in a sort of B grade CGI. Lots of books, school bags and desk merchandise, posters, clothing lines, cosplay outfits, video games, books though strangely, not much in the way of comics yet (and I doubt if there’ll be many, even though they are ripe for it). As for story, it is pretty much Beverly Hills 90210 meets the Universal Classic Monsters. Okay, some of you may not be old enough to remember Beverly Hills 90210, but that was a hugely popular Tv show of the early 90’s set in that eponymous H.S. where the primary storyline was who was getting on with who. But you should know the Universal monsters of their classic 1930s movies: Dracula, Frankenstein, the Werewolf, the Mummy etc. Apparently these had sprogs and there are so many of them, they have their own H.S. where they learn how to be monsters, but mostly, they are concerned with who’s getting on with who. No, not who’s up who – this is pre-teen stuff, so there’s no hint of sex (and it is an American show, which as you know, can either be very coy, or full on – no in-between or anything realistic).
I had quite a bit of fun doing this as I love the old monsters. As usual, I’ve tweaked and twisted it through my own sensibility, primarily to the humourous and to pack in as many characters as I could. My niece had a long list of favourites and i still couldn’t get them all in. Yes, there are a few cameos by other ghouls, one from the other Mattel capitalisation – Ever After High, which has the daughters and few sons of fairy tale characters (think how many of them there could be), pop-cultural references, links, puns and the usual sort of rubbish I come up with – hunt hard for them. Yes (snigger), there are even a few ‘adult’ jokes. This thing took waayyy longer than I expected, for each doll has a huge amount of detail; the original no-name artists that Mattel have used a lot of custom brushes and effects I can’t be bothered trying to figure out or construct.
Anyhow, enjoy this for the moment and I’ll post up some more news about 2014 real soon.
I’d like to draw your attention to the only poetry anthology, Cordite: Pumpkin, the poetry/comics issue. It contains 8 adaptations of poems by myself, Mirranda Burton, Bernard Caleo, Mandy Ord, Gregory Mackay, Queenie Chan, Marijka Gooding and Frank Candiloro. It was compiled and edited by Kent MacCarter. The aim was to see if a form of writing that is so visually evocative, could be adapted into a medium that is visual. The brief was for each artist to adapt a poem by a contemporary poet in whatever way they felt appropriate, and as you’ll see, there is variety in the results. My personal aim was to add to the words so that added texture and correspondences to the original, yet keeping within the spirit and aim of it. I actually replaced a lot of words with pictures – see above.
Anyhow, the aim is to produce a print anthology with a few more stories in it sometime next year, and also hold a few events where we can have readings/viewings and discuss this use of comics. Please take a look, share and comment in whatever format you like to gab on.
Sunday 10th November
Fitzroy Beer Garden
243-245 Gertrude St. Fitzroy.
Earlier this year I, along with Mirranda Burton, Marijka Gooding, Scarlette Baccini, Gregory Mackay and Dan Hayward ran an Indiegogo campaign to help pay for our foray to North America to bring our (and Australian) comics to the attention of North Americans, building on the good work of Caravan of Comics, 2012. We promised we would produce a comic about it, some limited edition prints, a Dvd documentary, the Graphic Novels! Melbourne! documentary on Dvd and more. So, the time has come to deliver on the promise and celebrate a promise kept! The magisterial comics MC Bernard Caleo will interview us on stage from about 4pm.
For those financial supporters who live in Melbourne, you may come and pick up your rewards directly off us on the day, get them signed and get our profound thanks. We can’t buy you all beers as there are too many of you and we’ve spent the money already. For those who were not financial supporters, fear not! All the books and Dvd’s will be available for sale and signing on the day. If your landlord, electricity provider, speeding ticket has taken your last paycheque, well, come on down and at least take in the atmosphere! It’ll be full of talk of panels and brushes, the aromas of ink and uh, depending on the weather, BO.
My good friend Dale Maccanti has taken on one of the most thankless of tasks, and that is to create, edit and publish a graphic story anthology, in this case, called Ink Tales. The theme in this is tattoos, but from all sorts of perspectives, be it why people get inked, when the ink takes over, the ink taking a life of its own, you name it. There’s a good line up of creators who have tackled this, including myself, Jeffrey ‘Chamba’ Cruz, Gee Hale, Jason Paulos, Kate Moon, Black Betty and Dale himself, to name a few. My story comes floating out the world I am creating for the sequel to The Sacrifice, called The Fight, so it’s a sneak preview of a sort. Above is a page to whet appetites.
Anyhow, Dale needs the money to print the book in time for a launch ideally early December, so get on board now and pre-pay for your copy and other perks. I’ll see you there in December, or wherever Ink Tales can be found.
28 September – 10 November 2013.
Opening Night, Friday 27th September; 6-8pm.
Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts
26 Acland St, St. Kilda.
Can you imagine an exhibition catalogue that has an essay done in the form of a comic? No? Well, I’ve done one in collaboration with Matthew Perkins, the curator of this sizeable and important contemporary art exhibition called A Space Oddity. In it are four large installations that responds to the way people are required to navigate and consume space in this semi-virtual 21st century. I can hardly believe that one of them was co-created by Canadian Denys Arcand, the director of one of my favourite films, Jesus of Montreal. such a powerful, intellectual, profane and secular rendering of the Passion. Other artists are Adad Hannah, Darren Sylvester, Masato Takasaka, Antoinette Citizen, Dominic Redfern, Akira Akira, Philip Samartzis, Will Pappenheimer, Colin Harman. Curators: Jan Duffy and Matthew Perkins (my collaborator).
I took on this job as I love taking comics into places and formats where it is not usually found. True, the comic will be in print only, but some of the comics are going to be used in specially created app that embeds art into the surrounds of St Kilda as a kind of augmented reality. This may not seem all that unusual given that so many people wander around with their eyes glued to a small screen extending their presence (in the McLuhan sense) into the lives of others vis social media, or altering their soundscape with music or podcasts.
Check out the details here: http://www.lindenarts.org/media/a-space-oddity.aspx
And for your delectation, here is one page from the comic, drawn whilst I was doing my residency at Ragdale in Lake Forest, IL, about an hour north of Chicago.
A remember, I’m doing cartooning and comics workshops for kids in the upcoming school hols at Linden. If your kids are aged between 7 and 12, bring them along to get a real education. No kid will go away without some drawings. Book using this form, here (link to http://www.lindenarts.org/media/14229/lindenartistprogram_onholidays.pdf
There are a plethora of manuscript assessment services out there, helping would be writers to get to the next level and ultimately, to their goal of publication, syndication, 7 figure advances, movie deals, awards, red carpet walks, drugs, bad sex, overdoses, drink driving busts, rehab, 60 minutes or Oprah confessionals, rise again and an early death floating face down in a pool overlooking LA.
But no one offers an assessment service for the peculiarity that is comics. After all, comics have both words and pictures in tandem and therefore, tell their stories in a very different way to prose. Not only that, comics is a medium with a lot of different genres within it, each with their own signifiers and rules (of a sort). the medium and industry of comics has advanced considerably in the past decade, and a lot of people are realising that comics are a great medium to tell their stories. However, unlike writing, graphic design, animation, games design, acting and pretty much any other creative art, there are no schools in Australia where you can learn the craft. There are in the USA and Europe, but for the moment in Australia, being an autodidact is the only school there is. I learnt that way, and it took a long, long time, but now there’s a short cut with Comics Masterclass.
My dear friend Julie Ditrich, director of Black Mermaid Productions, author of Elf-fin and former portfolio holder for the ASA Comics and Graphic Novels portfolio (I’m now the guy) has set up a pay-for-service business that can help you – the comic writer/artist/creative team/cartoonist/web-comics meister – to get advice from some of the best in the business. Okay, one of those experts happens to be me, but Julie has contracted a team of experts to cover all aspects of the comics spectrum so that you can get your manuscript assessed by someone who knows that segment like the pores on the tip of their nose. Superhero and genre comics, slice-of-life and ‘indy’ (that’s my area), comic strips, web-comics, single panel cartoons, zines are all covered. Whether you are a writer only and seek advice on polishing your script, or are an artist wanting to get your story-telling craft to the next level, a creative team or a comics auteur, we can help you.
To think of this service in short hand, Comics Masterclass’ aim is to help you get your creative project to the next level, and ultimately to where you want to go, wherever that may be. Please be clear on this, they cannot publish your work or act as an agent in finding you a publisher; any advice in that area can only be general. Comics Masterclass can only increase the chances of your work finding publishers by making it as professional as you are able to do yourself; in other words, you have to do the heavy lifting. There is no short cut to professionalism, which is a lot perspiration, but more importantly, a state of attitude. This means working hard to be the best at whatever it is you want to do, then being able to get up and talk about your work, market it, encourage others to climb up onto your shoulders and see further.
So, head to their website, here: http://comicsmasterclass.com and find out if we can help you get to where you want to go.
They also have a Youtube channel with a nifty little ad to watch: http://www.youtube.com/user/ComicsMastery
This is a commission I received whilst flogging wares at TCAF. Jeff Singh is a collector of original comic art with a particular fetish for Milt Caniff’ creation Dragon Lady in his long running strip, Terry and the Pirates begun way back in the 1930’s (and yes, this strip is the origin of the orientalist concept of Dragon Lady as an asian femme fatale). Jeff wanted some original art from my books A Mind Of Love and Stripshow, but has been commissioning artists to do interpretations of Dragon Lady for many years as you can see here. As you can see, there are works by some of comics best, including Jordi Bernet, Frank Cho, Tim Sale, Bill Sienkiwicz among others. One of the options was to do a Sunday strip rather than a pin-up, which I elected to do.
Well aware of Milt Caniff’s great art, I hadn’t read much Terry and the Pirates, so I had to do some research to create a story. There was one involving Dragon Lady teaching Terry how to dance so that he could impress his sweetheart, April, at some gala ball. Apparently, in the original it was all very sweet and showed that Dragon Lady was not all bad by any means; just a woman who did what it took to get what she wanted. But I also wanted to inject my personality into it and came up with this confection. I had a lot of fun doing it, but I think I perturbed Jeff a bit, as he says he is taking time to ‘get used to it’. It wasn’t like anything he’d received before. Well, he doesn’t hate it, either. What do you think?
Here’s the opening page of the second of my stories in the upcoming anthology. It’s an entire episode of Border Security featuring me and the ladies and gents of the Canadian and US customs operations. Did we have some fun! Let’s just say there were lessons to be learned… Can you guess the pop cultural reference in the title panel?
Wednesday 2nd October, 2013. Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, 26 Acland St. St. Kilda.
Workshop 1 is for kids aged 7 to 9 and is between 10:30am and 12pm.
Workshop 2 is for kids aged 10 to 12 and is between 1pm and 2:30pm.
This should be a fun day where I’ll teach kids how to draw space themed cartoons and comics. The basics of character creation and writing a few simple panels with action and dialogue will be covered. No kid will go away without a few pages of drawing, and hopefully, the desire to do a lot more. I want these kids to beat me at my own game – in about 30 years!
Bookings essential by emailing, calling, faxing the details on the brochure, here.
It was translated by Fanny Soubiran and lettered in a font generated from the one I wrote in the original work. I am very happy to be have been chosen by this mob alongside Alan Moore, Andi Watson, Dash Shaw, Eddie Campbell, Frank Santoro, Harvey Pekar, Linda Medley, Lynda Barry and Carol Swain among others. I hope it opens more doors for me overseas, but who knows. Reviews have started to flow too, but I can’t read French.