Graphic novels


Sydney Bridge Upside DownTwo of my favourite things about literary festivals are: to hear authors read from books, and to find out what their best loved reads are. Reading Favourites was a WORD event that ticked both those boxes for me.

The three authors were Kate de Goldi, Sarah Laing and Carl Nixon and they were asked to name their two favourite New Zealand books. Guy Somerset hosted this event, which he wistfully billed as being: “like an Uber Book Group without the wine or cake.”

Kate de Goldi chose:

Sydney Bridge Up-side Down by David Ballantyne, a book about which she confesses to be somewhat evangelical. Published in 1968, it is a book that “keeps finding its readers”. It was, according to de Goldi, way ahead of its time.

Kate’s second choice was Welcome to the South Seas by Gregory O’Brien, a book de Goldi classifies as Creative Non-Fiction. It is a book that awakens the child in you, that grandparents buy for their grandchildren and end up keeping for themselves. It has the artwork asking you the questions.

Cover of HicksvilleSarah Laing:

Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks topped Laing’s favourites list. She has read this graphic novel several times and never tires of its multi layered approach. With each reading she seems to uncover more and more.

Sarah’s second choice was From the Earth’s End – The Best of New Zealand Comics. Sarah reminded us that after the war, 47 comic titles were published every month in New Zealand alone and that libraries are the guardians of much of this early material.

Carl Nixon:

The Day Hemingway DiedCarl’s first choice was The Day Hemingway Died by Owen Marshall. It was the first book (at 18 years of age) that Carl remembers wanting to read as if he had discovered it all by himself. It has a very distinct tone, is the perfect illustration of character foibles and is laugh-out-loud funny – all at the same time.

Carl’s second choice was Gifted by Patrick Evans. He read a wonderful extract from this book about the meeting between Sargeson and Janet Frame, two people who never really understood one another at all, according to Carl. This book never received the attention that it deserved and Carl hopes that we will rectify that by getting out there and doing it justice.

This was a well presented, varied event in which the participants gave us a peek into their best-loved books. And, to top it all, it was free. That is correct, there were a number of free events at the festival, and the calibre of all events is very, very high. So, in two years time, even if the budget is tight and penury looms (and I do so hope this will not be the case), you can still tart yourself up, hitch a ride down to the Fest and recharge those tired old book-loving batteries.

See you there in 2016!

Image of Capes and Tights Session WORD ChristchurchI always love panel events because it can be much more of an organic conversation between panellists, bringing up themes and topics that might not otherwise be heard. I was especially excited about Capes and Tights because, well, firstly it’s about comics, and secondly, the speakers are all excellent people. The session did not disappoint.

Discussion began with an exploration of each speaker’s initiation into comics (Tintin and Asterix being the main offenders), and then their first experience within the realm of the superhero.

Damon Young confessed being drawn as a teenager to the rage and violence of characters such as Ghost Rider, the Punisher and Batman, whereas Dylan Horrocks and Jonathan King were both fans of the fun and absurd superhero comics of the 60s. Karen Healey was a relative latecomer to superhero comics, becoming fascinated with comics such as Kingdom Come at university despite an initial difficulty breaking into the genre as a reader.

Dylan Horrocks asked the panel for their opinion of the “dark and gritty” reboot of many characters, and the fetishization of violence in the superhero canon (comics often being produced with sponsorship by or advertising for the US Army and Air Force). Comments ranged from an appreciation of the way in which physical violence can be paralleled by verbal argument, to the disappointing flattening of a character consumed only by darkness.

Karen Healey brought up the problematic trend of fridging female characters and bemoaned the lack of a Black Widow movie (seriously, when will it happen? We’re ready), which segued into a discussion on copyright and our collective ownership of these characters.

Superhero comics are basically fanfiction. The writers, the artists are all fans of these characters and are creating stories in response to that history, but they have no legal ownership of that material.

All agreed that it is time for DC and Marvel to let “their” creations fall into the public domain, to be used as modern myths (à la Robin Hood or King Arthur) without threat of legal action.

What superpower would you most like to have?

Damon Young:Cover of Batgirl/Robin Year One

The teenager inside me would say mind control, because that would just be incredibly useful, but I think I’d like physical invulnerability.

Karen Healey:

At first I thought telekinesis, but then time-travel because imagine how much time you’d save on research!

Jonathan King:

I’ve always dreamed of flying, so I think I’d have to go for that.

And Dylan Horrocks opted for invisibility.
Capes and tights session

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know I was going to write comics. When I would read Tintin, even the individual panels seemed like a little window I wanted to climb inside. Creating my own comics is a way to climb in that window.

Journey to HicksvilleDylan Horrocks

Dylan Horrocks was born in 1966 and raised on a diet of Asterix, Tintin and Captain Marvel. He was part of the 80s zine revolution, photocopying his own comics at school and giving them away. Despite learning (to his surprise) that writing comics is not a high-paying profession, he moved to London with the intention of making his way in the European comics market. It was in London, pores full of smoke, that he began to write comics set in New Zealand.

Hicksville started off as a side project, emerging from the stories I was writing for Pickle. Eventually Pickle was swallowed into Hicksville and that became my main thing.

Given the option by his publisher to either finish off the Pickle series or bring out Hicksville as a graphic novel, Horrocks decided to publish Hicksville.

After working on something so carefully planned out (Cafe Underground), I wanted to do something I could just make up as I went along.

There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in —Leonard Cohen

As someone who is fascinated by concepts such as Jasper Fforde’s Well of Lost Plots, writing ephemera and the mystery of unfinished drafts, I was excited to discover Horrocks is a fellow fan of the unpolished product (which I might have guessed from his recent title Incomplete Works). There’s just something alluring about the idea of what might-have-been:

A finished novel is like a palimpsest where if you scrape it away you find all the different Incomplete Works — Dylan Horrocksversions, all the drafts and different endings the author gave up on.

It reminds me of an anecdote in The  Changeover session, where Karen Healey recounted the experience of re-reading her own work and discovering she’d accidentally created a time capsule of pre-quake Christchurch. Every written word is a moment captured in time. Sometimes it can be a thought that will ring just as true across several centuries, and sometimes it will be a mystery to be puzzled over by a future reader.

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen

Titular Sam Zabel is in Christchurch for a conference when he is catapulted into a comic set on Mars. His adventures and attempts to make sense of himself make up the book soon to be published by Fantagraphics, and otherwise available on his website.

I just wanted to set up a situation that had plenty of potential for exploration. I wanted to ask: Does it matter ethically what we fantasise about? Do we bear a moral responsibility for our fantasies?

If you know the answer, please leave a comment and let me know!

A selection of covers from the latest Fantasy newsletter. This and other newsletters can be subscribed to from the libraries’ website.

Cover of The Tropic of Serpents Cover of Reflected Cover of Seven wonders Cover of Baptism of Fire Cover of The war of the grail Cover of Powers: supergroup

Working in a library, there are at least two absolutes:

  • There are hundreds of thousands of books I could read
  • I am never going to read them all

With this in mind, I have found the solution. Never again will I have to worry and fret about all those classic titles that cause me shame to admit I have never read. With my new tool, I can sound as if I know the plot to the biggies and nod sagely when people discuss the nuances of character development in The Clan of the Cave Bear or the sense of place in Death in Venice.cover of 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry

My great weapon for feeling superior? 90 Classic Books for People in a Hurry by Henrik Lange

This slim but filling book lets you read the classics, from The Bible to To Kill a Mockingbird, through to Lord of the Flies and Catch 22, by simply reading a single page with three cartoon squares.

It sums up the tale, the characters, the subtle plot lines, the good, the bad and the ugly and you can almost head to your book club, safe in the knowledge you can bluff your way through.

Spoiler Alert: Once you read it, if you have a good memory, which thankfully I don’t, you may not be able to actually read the book in the future, because you now know how it ends.

It is written with wit and strips away of of the pretentiousness that can accompany the reading of classics.

One of my favorites was the summing up of The Lord of the Flies

So bad boy Jack sets the entire island on fire which gets a navy ship to come to the rescue. The officer says he would have expected better of British boys

So, dip in and enjoy a classic, you could read a dozen while eating your lunch.

Far be it for me to advocate the use of computers to babysit children, but sometimes Mummies and Daddies need an easy way out before they start going feral themselves. There is always something going on in libraries to help you out but if  the weather is keeping you inside then let me present some electronic aides that may prevent domestic tensions:

BusyThings Award winning quirky and fun online games and activities for 3 to 7 year olds;

TumbleBook Library An online collection of animated books, games, quizzes and puzzles;

Literacy Planet Children can create characters and earn rewards  in return for completing fun tasks around reading  and maths skills;

OverDrive: Our downloadable e-book and audio book collection has a number of items for kids!

If homework looms …

World Book Online Kids An easy-to-use encyclopædia for young readers. Articles, multimedia games, science projects and interactive tools for homework and fun;

Encyclopedia Britannica Junior Search articles, photographs, maps, famous people and more. Aimed at primary level.

All of this and much more besides is available through the library catalogue or at the Source with your library card number and PIN.

Linwood Library and Service Centre at Eastgate opening

Kids reading on a couch at Linwood Library at Eastgate.

Life can be a bit of a slog when you are a teen. Here at Christchurch City Libraries we want to make your life easier. To kick this off let me highlight some entertainment options before heading to the more icky work-related stuff  for homework and research.

Fun stuff

Freegal: Download for free three songs a week to keep from the Sony Music catalogue. It has every kind of music from Top 40 to  Tiny Tim and His Tornadoes(?).

OverDrive: Our downloadable e-book and audiobook collection has a large range of content for teens.

TumblebookCloud: an online collection of e-books, read-along chapter books, graphic novels, videos, and audio books.

Study stuff

Student Resources in Context: valid information accompanied by pictures, audio and video files through a single entry search point – a real time saver.

World Book Online Info Finder: an interactive online encyclopedia covering every known subject.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context: provides balanced information from both sides of social, political and technological debates.

This is but a trickle in the ocean of online information we provide at the Source. Have a look and be converted to a new way to relax and also get those deadlines out of the way.

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