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Folio: Theodore Ziegler

This excerpt is by Welland, ON-based illustrator Theodore Ziegler. Two years ago Ziegler sent Broken Pencil a long letter detailing his career (he’s an accomplished painter, and also illustrated the cover for the re-release of Mortdecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.) Ziegler also sent us three utterly bonkers self-published comics he made with his friend Martin Edmunds, including the very weird and excellent Cosmic Comic Trip (2001). We were blown away by the fearless and gonzo qualities of Ziegler’s work as well as the entirely warped life philosophies they envisioned and after several phone calls we are now re-printing these comics for the first time in Broken Pencil. Enjoy!

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Introducing the Prairie Comics Festival!

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If it seems like there are more zine fairs, salons du livres and comics festivals than ever now, it’s because there are! If you haven’t checked out our newly updated list of zine fairs and festivals, take a look, because the list is only getting longer.

This week we’re excited to chat with Hope Nicholson about the very first incarnation of a new comics festival, the Prairie Comics Festival! Taking up the tradition of older and bigger comic arts festivals s in Toronto, the UK and elsewhere, PCF debuts this Saturday at the Millenium Public Library in Winnipeg.  Hope is the organizer of PCAF and also a comics editor ad owner of Winnipeg-based Bedside Press.

What’s special about the comics scene in Winnipeg and the prairies?

The arts scene in Winnipeg is both very extensive and very secret. At least to me, where I’ve been used to in Toronto having large promoted events, it’s much more driven in Winnipeg by word of mouth than mass Facebook invites. That can make it a very intimate and supportive crowd.

How will this be different or similar to comic arts festivals elsewhere?

Well, it’s different for one in that we don’t charge for tables! I wanted it to be as accessible to the creators as possible, and the support of the library meant that I was able to arrange this. I want to carry this forward to future festivals as long as I am able to. Another thing is the size – it’s much smaller! Because it’s being run by myself and not a committee, organization, or retailer, it’s the size that I can handle, but again the hopes are that it will grow.

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Where did this project come about, and how has it been received in the months leading up to it?

I moved back to Winnipeg in December, after having lived on and off in Toronto for about ten years. I was heavily involved in the comics community in Toronto and missed having some of that access. With a city of Winnipeg’s size, I knew that there must be a lot of comic creators, and hoped that they would welcome the opportunity to connect and build a community of artists and writers working in different fields. Through twitter and Facebook, I was able to expand my network of people who work as comic book publishers, artists, writers, webcomic creators, zine makers, and community enthusiasts. The event has been well received, though I wish I had been able to get more press. Winnipeg has a bit of a ‘wait and see’ attitude, which I can’t blame them for. It’s not easy to be excited about something before you know if it will actually work out.

What programming are you especially excited about?

I’m very excited for the programming panels I’ve arranged! Some are on comic colourists – and Winnipeg has a rich history of comic colourists so I actually had more applicants for this panel than I had seats! I was also able to bring together a variety of local comic publishers, and I think that isn’t a particularly touched on part at most comic events, but we do have a lot of people working quietly and diligently to promote, distribute, and sell comics in the city.

I’ve been to many cons across North America, and always had the best time at events that were geared towards the creators, I’m hoping that the fans of the city come out and support our talent!

Prairie Comics Festival will run July 30, 2016 at the Millenium Public Library, 251 Donald St, Winnipeg from 10:30am – 5pm and is totally free!

Jonathan’s Pick: LARVA

Larva scan page 1From Marca de agua by Nik Neves in LARVA 17

A few months ago, af riend passed me the latest issue of LARVA, a Spanish-language  comics review from Colombia. It’s kind of their answer to Toronto’s Wowee Zonk, or other off-the-beaten -path platforms for graphic narrative.

Even if you don’t read Spanish, many of the comics centre movement and body language through the illustration, many without words. And some of the creators are not Spanish speakers themselves, like the UK’s Simon Moreton, whose work appears in translation but hardly needs interpretation; and Brazilian Nik Neves, whose dark, blurry, atmospheric illustrations feel like they come from another dimension.

Other highlights include Argentina’s Delius, whose stripped down strip tells a short Buenos Aires romance, and Montevideo’s Maco, who walks you along the beach.

But perhaps what I most appreciated about this collection was the opening essay where the editors discuss how fruitful it can be to take a break. Two years after its previous issue, the new edition of larva comes from a mature decision to take some time away, to look around, to take a walk, and to try to make a new face out of what they found.

LARVA is an awesome contribution to the comics landscape and is clearly on the pulse of the South American comics scene.

Jonathan Valelly is a writer, editor, and zinester living in Toronto. He is the Assistant Editor of Broken Pencil Magazine

Book Review: Trump For Principal

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Trump for Principal: A Children’s Book for American Grownups
, Beth Schaefer (writing) and Hasby Mubarok (art), 50 pgs, Books on a Whim, booksonawhim.com, $28.67

Given that Trump is drawn to have a golden weasel for a hairpiece, nobody should be surprised as to which way the politics of Beth Schaefer and Hasby Mubarok’s book lean. A scathing political tract dressed up in cartoony colours, Trump for Principal has a lot to say. (It also must be noted: the weasel-hair is uncannily accurate.)

It’s time for Lincoln School’s beloved Principal Moss to retire, and second-grader Jewel can’t wait to meet the replacement. However, when that replacement turns out to be the never-actually-referred-to-by-first-name Donald Trump, the school is in for some major changes. Jewel’s Mexican classmates disappear, for example, and the hallways start to get messy when Principal Trump lays off the janitor. Principal Trump sure seems to sound like he knows what he’s doing, though… doesn’t he?

The star of the show here is Mubarok’s art: bright, whimsical, and spot-on in its skewering caricatures of Trump himself, the illustrations lend a lot to Schaefer’s text. Schaefer’s story is equal parts goofy and sad, and even with lines that are sometimes a touch too on-the-nose—like Jewel talking about no longer singing the Pledge of Allegiance under Principal Trump, saying “We don’t sing anymore, we obey”—it still manages to be an effective mockery of real-life Trump’s bluster and bravado.

Most interestingly, Schaefer left the writing of Trump’s dialogue up to Trump himself: all of Principal Trump’s lines are only slightly modified versions of actual quotes, for which Schaefer provides a reference at the end of the book. It’s a fittingly stark reminder that no matter how much of a circus Trump’s campaign might seem like, we can’t afford to laugh it off. (Kris Bone)

Book Review: Playground of Lost Toys

Playground of Lost Toys

Edited by Colleen Anderson and Ursula Pflug, 318 pgs, Exile Editions, exileeditions.com, $19.95

 

toysExile Editions’ Playground of Lost Toys is a collection that explores the many complex emotions associated with childhood play. In each of the 22 stories, toys and games are central elements that have profound effects on the characters, usually through the mystical and paranormal. These objects come to reflect the feelings of loss, wonder, and nostalgia that are often associated with youth.

The writers of Playground do accomplish this in a general sense, but some of the stories lack the nuance of nostalgia and the complicated nature of a rough childhood. Stories like “With One Shoe” rely heavily on the idea of escape, such that the story feels incomplete both literally and emotionally.

But when things work in these stories, they work really well, as seen in “When Trains Run on Time.” This story uses escapism to greater effect by treating it as a sort of double edged sword — when you escape the troubles of life, you also risk losing crucial experiences.

A bulk of the stories in this anthology feature some sort of mystical element, which, though interesting, becomes a bit worn around the half way point. In stories like “The Food of My People” and “What Not to Expect in the Toddler Years”, the often unexplained magics felt maybe too easy. The most interesting, inventive, and emotionally effective of the collection tended to be the pieces that leaned more honestly towards sci-fi and horror. The characters in these stories felt human as they connected their happiest moments to inanimate objects through emotional bonds, rather than some otherworldly intervention.

The stories of Playground can be a little fluffy, and that’s okay. While they may not give the reader any deep moments of reflection or sentiment, they will at least drum up some of the strange wonder that is childhood. (Rayna Livingstone-Lang)

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Book Review: Pillow

Pillow

Andrew Battershill, 231 pgs, Coach House Books, chbooks.ca, $19.95

 

pillowSurrealism meets psychological realism in Andrew Battershill’s debut novel, told from the point of view of a punch-drunk former “champ” wading through a retirement made up of petty-crime and poverty. Pillow, our protagonist, is an animal-loving amateur enforcer for the local crime-syndicate, now caught up in a downward spiral sparked by the botched payoff which opens the text.

Pillow falls among the lesser-read class of novels where the author’s voice takes a front seat to narrative, refusing to render itself invisible in the face of a steadily-moving plotline. Battershill’s style is anything but phoned-in, reading like a cross between Film Noir and early 20th-century Surrealist literature. The novel sets itself further apart from the crowd, however, in the fact that it benefits from its overbearing voice, casting a cheeky Battershill as the main act in a fictional drama which might come across as too ‘hard-boiled’ were it to double down on the plot, or take itself too seriously.

This is not to say, of course, that Pillow is in any way attempting to tell a joke: the cast is equal parts human and hopeless, and Battershill offers little in the way of resolution. It is instead to insinuate that our narrator might be taken with a grain of salt, making habitual use of metaphors with dubious connections :“They were the sort of woods where seeing an alien landing or a backwoods marriage would have just made Pillow nod and shrug.” Pillow himself might be read as Battershill’s mouthpiece, here, when he recommends a prospect “just learn six words they don’t expect you to use. In this business, that passes for a personality.” Duping his reader or not, Battershill uses ‘personality’ to great effect; Pillow is a fantastic read. (Joel W. Vaughan)

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