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

Stalag-X #1 Review

My review of the debut issue of Stalag-X, written by acclaimed novelist Kevin J. Anderson is here at Broken Frontier.

Stalag-X 001

 

This Week’s Winners

Digested #5. This latest issue of Aussie creator Bobby N’s touching and humorous series has been out for a while, but is definitely worth a mention. As is the fact that he has a new collection of self-published comics coming out, called No Map, But Not Lost. Loving the title. Both myself and my podcast co-host Mladen are fans of Digested. In fact, Mladen chose it as his fave Aussie title of 2011.

This issue continues the surreal tale of gas mask wearing citizens in Oxygen that has featured in every issue thus far. In mostly 4 panel, black and white pages, Bobby manages to draw out great empathy and the need to question monotony and embrace the unusual. It’s great stuff and speaks volumes about his ability to use comics as an emotional tool. The other story here is a 3 pager called Small Victories about moving house, and the reason why. Again, with superb use of captions, and facial expressions rather than lots of dialogue, he expresses something that most people can relate to.

You can pick up every issue of Digested (and I suggest that you do) from Gestalt.

Batman Beyond Unlimited #1. I was never a huge fan of the future-set Batman animated TV series that this is based on, but I do love any alternate version of the Justice League, and the art of Norm Breyfogle and Dustin Nguyen, all which feature here. This is the print debut of tales which originally appeared as digital comics BTW. Guided by an elderly Bruce Wayne, teen Terry McGinnis is the Batman of Gotham years from now. The first story, 10, 000 Clowns and features on an influx of Jokerz gangs from other cities, while Bruce talks to Commissioner (Barbara, ex-Batgirl) Gordon, and Terry attempts to reunite with his ex, Dana.

The second story, Konstruction follows a battle between the usual villains from the TV show and new gang, the Animal Kingdom for street splicing. Then the JLB show up. I assume that’s Justice League Beyond. It’s good to see Warhawk, Green Lantern Kai-Ro, exiled New God Big Barda, and Aquagirl again. The older Superman shows up for a bit, with two Bizarro kids and the team discusses what to do with the new Atom, or Micron as he’s been kidnapped and possibly brainwashed. This tale is more action packed than the previous one and features a host of different characters. This 4 part anthology series is pretty newbie friendly, and both stories are a generous 20 pages long too.

Bionic Man #7. Dynamite have been grabbing my attention lately. I was very impressed by the last Lone Ranger TPB (my first time reading that series) and their new Tarzan series, Lord of the Jungle is great, especially the just released second issue. Based on the Six Million Dollar Man TV series, Bionic Man is great too. It should be as, like the first few issues of their Green Hornet series, it’s based on Kevin Smith’s unproduced screenplay and features the same creative team.

Steve Austin and his fiancee Jaime reunite and after some understandable friction (she thought he died in the plane crash, after all) he reveals his new, hi-tech body to her. It’s the kind of touching moment that Smith can write well when he wants to. Their reunion doesn’t last too long though, as Steve is pulled back in to duty, and learns about the powerful new enemy, Colonel Avery Hull and his history with the O.S.I. team that made Austin the titular Bionic Man. With creative exposition, and great action packed layouts from Jonathan Lau, this is another winning issue in this intense series.

Upcoming Gestalt Original Graphic Novels

Perth publisher Gestalt is pumping out quality OGNs big time now. There are 4 books coming in August, including The Deep, and you can find my interview with its writer Tom Taylor here and below is all the official info about their other intriguing projects.

An Old West where Myth, Monsters and Magic are all real.

Christian Read and Michael Maier ride off into a blood-red sunset with their new supernatural western, The Eltritch Kid:Whisky and Hate, solicited in the June edition of Diamond Comics’ Previews catalogue.

Ten Shoes Dancing is a shaman of the Lakota people. He also happens to be an Oxford scholar. There’s not much work for literature experts in the Old West, so Ten Shoes finds himself working as a hired gun, an escort for a group of pilgrims and settlers heading West.

Out there he finds a man he scarcely believed to be real, the dime novel hero, the Eldritch Kid. With an impossible reputation as a hero and champion, the Eldritch Kid was known for seeking out the dark forces that plagued those newly United States. But is the Kid all he seems? With bad times coming for the wagon train, the price Ten Shoes will pay for the Kid’s help might be too damn high.

“The book came out of my enduring interest in the history of America and specifically, that expansion after the Civil War. But really, I just wanted to tell a story about cowboys. I kept dreaming, actually, of an uncanny man, whose eyes were hidden behind smoked glass with two evil Colt Peacemakers and I knew it wasn’t a straight historical”, says writer Christian Read.

“Michael Maier’s work is so richly textured you can taste it in your mouth. An eerie colour palette and such strange personalities. He’s turned out to be the perfect partner for this project and we’re both looking forward to this morbid cowboy romance.”

The Eldritch Kid: Whisky & Hate is a 112 page Original Graphic Novel, scheduled for publication 11th August 2011.

Details at a Glance
shelfdate: 11th August 2011
retail price: $11.95
diamond order code: JUN11 1132
website: www.eldritchkid.com

Dive into the Adventures of a Multicultural Family of Underwater Explorers!

The Deep: Here Be Dragons is a new Graphic Novel from the 2011 Aurealis-Award-winning Gestalt Publishing. The Deep tells the tales of the Nekton family – A multicultural family of daring Aquanauts who live on a submarine.

Written by award-winning writer Tom Taylor (Star Wars: Adventures, Star Wars: Invasion, The Authority, The Example) and illustrated by the incredible James Brouwer, The Deep: Here be Dragons is an original Graphic Novel in which we meet the Nekton family, a family who have been exploring the seas for generations. Here Be Dragons sees the Nekton family aboard their state-of-the-art submarine, The Arronax, following strange reports of monster sightings all the way to Greenland. What they discover in those dark depths may change their perceptions of the ocean forever…

A Diverse Family
Not every family of heroes looks like The Incredibles. With this in mind, The Nekton family members aren’t from anywhere. At no point in The Deep will the Nekton family’s ethnicities or countries of origin come up. Simply put, the sea is huge and covers the globe, and so do the Nekton family.

An All-Ages Adventure

Most graphic novels aren’t geared towards, or attractive to, young people. Similarly, some comics under the ‘all-ages’ heading aren’t for all ages. Comics written for young people often hold little appeal for older ones.

With The Deep, Tom Taylor and James Brouwer, both fathers themselves, have created a story of absolute escapism. A story full of humor, full of action and full of adventure. A story you can share with young people which will hopefully spark their love of comics. An action adventure story not bogged down by tortured pasts, shortcomings and ‘real’ life.

Film studios like Pixar have taught us that so-called kids movies can appeal to everyone – can excite and enthrall everyone – and it’s this ethos that has been brought to The Deep.

Tom Taylor is a multi-award-winning playwright, whose comedy, drama and musical works have been produced across four continents. To date his most well-known comics work has been for Star Wars: Blood Ties, The Authority, Star Wars: Invasion (which was nominated for a 2009 Diamond Gem award), and his adaptation of his play, The Example, for Gestalt Publishing. He is also qualified in Child Care and an ex-professional juggler and fire-eater. Tom currently resides in Melbourne, Australia.

The Deep is distributed by Diamond Distribution in the USA with an RRP of $9.95

Details at a Glance
shelfdate: 4th August 2011
retail price: $9.95
diamond order code: JUN11 1131
website: www.exploringthedeep.com

                                                             A Werewolf Story in Reverse

Torn is a disturbing action-horror story written by talented newcomer Andrew Constant, and featuring the illustration talents of Nicola Scott and Joh James.

Life is a constant struggle for the leader of the pack. A struggle that has made him strong. Strong enough to provide for his family. Strong enough to protect them. However, providing for them means he’s not always there to protect them from monsters. Monsters like man…

Torn tells of a wolf infected with the most aggressive virus the world has ever seen -humanity – and chronicles his attempts to reclaim the life he once knew and escape the cycle of tragedy.

Andrew Constant makes an impressive debut with Torn, a story that will make you believe horror comics still have teeth.

Nicola Scott is the superstar Australian artist whose work includes Wonder Woman, Secret Six and Birds of Prey for DC Comics.

Joh James’ chaotic style is bursting with energy and unspent rage, perfect for the horror genre. His work includes I.C.E. From 12GaugeComics and Daddy’s Little Girl, a short story published by Marvel.

Torn, a 120 page original graphic novel, is distributed by Diamond Comics in the USA with an RRP of $12.95.

Details at a Glance
shelfdate: 18th August 2011
retail price: $12.95
diamond order code: JUN11 1133
website: www.wolftorn.com

HIS DREAM OF THE SKYLAND
THE WALLED CITY TRILOGY: BOOK 1

Anne Opotowsky & Aya Moron unravel Kowloon in this sumptuous trilogy.

Imperialist controlled Hong Kong, the British ruling classes, the ambitious dynasty influenced Chinese, all create an amazing labyrinth for His Dream of the Skyland, Book One in The Walled City trilogy.

The gorgeous watercolor illustrations create an utterly distinct experience. His Dream of the Skyland immerses the reader in a world that is opulent, dark and absorbing…

304 pages, F/C. 
$31.95 USD

Diamond Order Code:
JUN11 1130

5 Years of Gestalt in One Sweaty Pub

On Thursday night I decided to curb my notoriously unsocial ways and venture into a place of strangers, uncertainty and unhealthy food. Yes, I went to a pub. There was even beer involved (well, a middy at least) and a taxi ride home. The motivation for getting me out of the house was certainly cause for celebration though, as Perth publisher Gestalt celebrated 5 years in “the biz.” They have an impressive library of books, as one glance at their table at Clancy’s Fish Pub for the night would attest, and it looks like they have bold plans for the future, with greater international distribution and more OGNs spinning out from Rombies. The eery trailer for Justin Randall’s April-releasing Changing Ways left everyone impressed and the wait for signatures from Randall, and Rombies creative team of Tom Taylor and Skye Ogden was also impressive.

Grant Stone, host of long running radio show Faster Than Light officially kicked things off and enthusiastically praised Gestalt (and urged us to buy their books at the end of the evening – for the sake of our children!). Gestalt’s Managing Director Wolfgang Bylsma was up next and thanked all the attendees for their support, and also mentioned that Clancy’s was where he and Ogden (Gestalt’s Art Director) decided to form their own comics company half a decade ago. Ogden was third, and spoke a few words in Japanese (as he resides in the country) with Tom Taylor translating, with the aid of a laptop.

Taylor (writer of Star Wars: Invasion and now The Authority) rocked the mic like a rapper at a beat box competition (in enthusiasm, if not vocal gymnastics, though I’m sure the ex-juggler can probably sing too). The Melbourne scribe’s praise for Gestalt continued, and his jokes and volume had everyone’s attention, including bewildered patrons at the pub who were only there for a quiet night and were probably perplexed about what all these geeks were up to.

It was an unusual place for such an event, as the assembled comics fans had to avoid the sweaty environment and the speedy waitresses carrying paper cones filled with wedges, but it served to remind me what a fairly close knit community it is.  A few of the people I already knew, and some I knew of but had never actually met, such as Taylor and Ogden. It really was a fun night, and it’s very encouraging to see the roster of local talent in supply in our humble city, and thankfully, a vessel through which those same creatives can share their skill with the world.

Mladen and Dave (two of my mates, but I do have more).

Wolfgang Bylsma

Skye Ogden

Lean On Me: Tom Taylor and Skye Ogden

Some of Gestalt's goodies

Changing Ways Teaser

In the first issue of Arcana magazine (out next month!) we have a preview of Changing Ways, a forthcoming OGN from Justin Randall and Gestalt Comics. Below is a just released teaser for the great looking book.

Gestalt Comics Sale

 

WaldoLocal (to me, anyway) Aussie publisher, Gestalt Comics are having a sale on their original graphic novels. It includes their entire range of unique books. Admittedly its only 3 books but they’re pretty different, and a bargain, as they start at only $10!

The sale has been extended until the end of January, so go here for the list and also previews of the great artwork. Gestalt will be a publisher to keep an eye on, with some interesting stuff in the works for 2009.