Perth Writers Festival

The Perth Writers Festival is now underway until March 1, in the capital city of Western Australia with a host of events, including some that will be of interest to pop culture curious, such as The Game Changers about the video game industry, and a free screening of the recent TV documentary Comic Book Heroes about Perth publisher Gestalt Comics. That follows Graphic Detail, a talk focused on print vs digital comics.

The Game Changers Event

Perth Writers Festival

You may remember me mentioning the highly entertaining documentary, Comic Book Heroes last year. It focused on West Australian publisher Gestalt Comics and their struggle to great success. It aired on Australian TV last year and is really worth watching. If you missed it however, fear not!

As part of this year’s Perth Writers’ Festival, you can see it for free, along with a Q and A of some of the talented Gestalt crew, at Octagon Theatre, Nedlands on Saturday February 22.

Gestalt Comics Sale

Australian publisher, and subject of the recent, and excellent, Comic Book Heroes documentary, Gestalt is having a huge sale this month.

You can pick up such fine goodies as both volumes of The Deep (written by Injustice’s Tom Taylor, and soon to be an animated series), the two volumes of creepy horror to be found in Justin Randall’s Changing Ways, the always amusing and thoughtful Digested series by Bobby N, and oh, so much more.

Browse, buy and enjoy!

The-New-Year-2014-Sale

Unmasked #3 Review

The latest digital offering from the Unmasked series by Gestalt Publishing is out now. My review of the third issue by Christian Read and Gary Chaloner can be found here.

Unmasked-03 Cover

Gestalt Comics Documentary

Yay! An actual (and excellent – see my review here) about Australian comics publisher Gestalt is airing on mainstream TV. That’s a big deal! Here’s the official press release.

‘Comic Book Heroes’ documentary 

Screening on ABC1 – Tuesday 13th & 20th August 2013 at 10.00PM

A two-part documentary series that tells the inside story of two ambitious Australian comic book creators and their battle to penetrate the American market.

Best friends Skye Walker Ogden and Wolfgang Bylsma are talented Australians with a crazy dream.

For eight years these Perth men have been producing mature, ground-breaking Australian comic books through their company Gestalt Publishing. They are publishing the likes of Academy-Award® Winner Shaun Tan and Aurealis-Award Winners Justin Randall and Tom Taylor, with other top-tier writers and artists from around the world clamouring to work with them.

But the guys are getting older and real life is confronting them with financial, emotional and health realities that they can no longer afford to ignore. With limited readership for graphic novels within Australia and no real profits in sight, they are now forced to grow the business fast. Their best bet is to travel 9,000 miles to the heart of the comic book industry – San Diego Comic-Con International in California. This annual comic convention presents an opportunity for the outsider Australians to showcase their wares to the 120,000 plus people that walk through its doors, as well as meet with reps from Hollywood, keen to snap up the rights for the next big graphic novel adaptation.

Along the way to the U.S. Bylsma and Ogden must navigate the tyranny of distance, logistical mix-ups, health breakdowns and financial stress. When they finally arrive at Comic-Con, they encounter thousands of costumed punters and many famous industry faces including film director Kevin Smith (‘Clerks’), 23-million Bestselling Sci-Fi Author Kevin J Anderson, a producer from ‘The Walking Dead’ TV series and the comic book master himself – Stan Lee. Will this trip to the States be the gamble that pays off for the struggling comic book publishers?

Comic Book Heroes tracks the joy and heartache of doing what you truly love. It follows these passionate mavericks and their talented team of artists and writers as they set out to take on the American comic book industry – Australian style.

Comic Book Heroes is Created, Written and Directed by Nicholas Dunlop. It is produced by Little Star and Wild Fury in association with Screenwest, Lottery West, Screen QLD and ABC TV.

Gestalt Publishing’s graphic novels are distributed by Madman in Australia and New Zealand.
www.madman.com.au/gestalt

Comic Book Heroes official Facebook page
www.facebook.com/comicbookheroesmovie

Gestalt Publishing official website
www.gestaltcomics.com

Comic Book Heroes Review

Marvel and DC Comics are the two biggest English language comic book companies in the world, and it is their varied superheroic creations that have dominated cinema screens for the last few years. The comic industry as a whole has benefitted from such exposure, but for every character that is now a household name, there are dozens of small publishers trying for their big break.

Gestalt Comics is one such publisher. Founded in Perth in 2005 by Wolfgang Bylsma and Skye Ogden, the pair have managed to increase their output and get the attention, and praise, they deserve along the way, but it certainly isn’t an easy journey, as Comic Book Heroes, a new documentary reveals.

Conceived by director Nick Dunlop, and airing on Australia’s ABC on August 13 and 20,  it is a fascinating, and sometimes painful examination of the cost of following one’s dreams. Not just the credit card breaking financial cost either. The physical and emotional turmoil that is experienced by the pair, especially, Bylsma is at times harrowing, as frustrations rise and expletives fly.

Bylsma lives in Western Australia, and Ogden in Japan and both men have given Dunlop access to their varied, and harried, lives. It is beautifully shot, making the most of the locations of sunny Perth, sunny San Diego, and crowded Tokyo. The divergence between two guys in the suburbs and those same two guys rubbing shoulders with 125,000 other people at the pop culture perfect storm that is San Diego Comic-Con, means Comic Book Heroes is a delight to witness. For comics readers and those who aren’t, the film is an intriguing, informative and inspiring examination of what it really takes to pursue a specific ambition. There are the highs such as winning awards, and gaining appreciative readers, but there are also lonely times in hotel rooms, distanced from loved ones, the sleep depriving commitment of multi-time zone conversations online and the moments of sheer panic and disappointment that surface when depending on others.

There are moments of humour too, especially with the glimpses of Ogden’s life in Japan, living with his wife and in-laws, but primarily it is a refreshing, raw and honest look at aiming, and achieving, success in the comics industry. It is a world that most people don’t ever witness, and Bylsma and Ogden serve as two likeable, relatable guides, inviting us in to the world of deadlines, travelling and stress. It’s impossible not to witness their unpredictable trials and feel sympathy, and to somehow offer encouragement through the screen, as their resolve and determination faces continual opposition. For anyone who wants to know what it really takes to follow one’s vision, Comic Book Heroes is a must see, as it breaks the barrier between pleasant daydreams and cold, hard reality.

Dunlop followed Gestalt for two years, primarily throughout San Diego Comic-Con in 2011 and 2012, and the majority of the publisher’s talented creators are along for the journey, discussing and promoting the products of their hard work. This crew includes writer Tom Taylor (The Deep) who has also had success, with gigs for Dark Horse and DC Comics, Christian Read (The Eldritch Kid: Whisky and Hate), Emily Smith (Unmasked) and Justin Randall, whose two volumes of Changing Ways have piqued the interest of some of the producers of TV’s The Walking Dead.

Gestalt’s already impressive artwork from their established work looks even more beautiful with subtle motion added, and colouring bleeding to black and white pages. This effect, plus the multiple locations means that Comic Book Heroes is much more than a series of talking heads. Well edited and fast paced, it is a riveting portrait of the maddening dedication, as well as the personal victories and personal sacrifices, of bringing creativity from the suburbs to the international stage.

CBH Doco

Gestalt Comics Documentary

The talented team behind Western Australia’s Gestalt Comics have been going from strength to strength in the last few years. They may be a small outfit from Perth, but their ambition knows no bounds and the diversity of their goodies is most impressive. From the upcoming animated series based on The Deep, written by Injustice’s Tom Taylor, to working with noted novelist Kevin J. Anderson, Gestalt are the local (to me, anyway) guys done good.

Documentarian Nick Dunlop has seen the work they’re doing and is bringing their efforts to the small screen in a new documentary entitled Comic Book Heroes, which follows Gestalt founders Wolfgang Bylsma and Skye Ogden over two years, as they travel to the wonderful madness of San Diego Comic-Con, and generally experience the highs and lows of a small comics publisher making it on the international stage.

The doco screens on ABC1 here in Australia on Tuesday the 13th, as well as the 20th, of August at 10pm. Here you can see the tantalising trailer.

CBH Doco

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