Co/Mix 2012: A Roundup Of Open Book's Mini Comics Festival
Independent artists, illustrators, comics creators, and comics publishers gathered to participate in panel discussions and introduce and sell their books, comics, and artworks at a special day-long event called Co/Mix, held as part of this year's Open Book Festival in Cape Town.
Co/Mix stands for "Comic Art/Mixed Media" and this is the second year that the event has been held (last year it debuted in Grahamstown at the arts festival). This is a summary of some of the events and panel discussions that took place throughout the day, as well as some of the comics and comic producers that caught my eye, most of whom are from, or now live in, Cape Town, which has a burgeoning but thriving comics scene.
The festival was held at The Bank in Canterbury Street and a special mural was painted at the entrance by well known Cape Town graffiti and street artist Mak1one
. Inside, Readers Den had a huge stand selling graphic novels, walls were filled with artworks for viewing and purchasing, and tables were manned by independent artists who were there to showcase their projects. To one side a comics jam (in which people draw stuff) went on all day and at the back a small corner had been created where the panel discussions could be hosted, although the sound from the market area tended to overpower the presenters, even though they had microphones, and it really wasn't an ideal spot to hold talks.
I definitely didn't see everything, and not just because I had to dash off during part of the afternoon's programme to cover a different event at the Open Book Festival (and apparently miss Brett Murray talking about The Spear
in the process). I wish I could go back, having had a bit of a mental breather, to seek out what I missed as the small venue was packed, which made it difficult to move around and catch some details, speak to certain artists, or have a look at smaller publications in corners.
Draw Your Life/Publish Your Self
A Panel Discussion
, one of the organisers of Co/Mix and a legend in the local comics scene, led a discussion by a group of artists and cartoonists - Mogorosi Motshumi, Su Opperman, and Tyron Love - that looked at autobiographical comic making: how comic art is often a way in which people can process their lives and their life stories in a cathartic manner, which can also lead to amazing creative output. It's also a way for artists to document their lives or, in the case of Tyron Love, document the first 21 years of his new son Emmett's life.
Andy Mason, who works under the pseudonym "N.D. Mazin", started the discussion by talking us through what autobiographical comic making is and showed examples of his own work as well as explained why he had produced the work. Mogorosi Motshumi then talked us through some of the panels of his "autobiographic", 360 Degrees
, which tells of his childhood in a township near Bloemfontein.
Su Opperman, a cartoonist and illustrator who is originally from Port Elizabeth, discussed a number of projects that she has worked on that have autobiographical components. Each is very distinct in style and intention and yet it was interesting to see how she fuses either her interests or her alter-egos into the work, which often results in something that doesn't represent her at all, yet somehow still does (if that makes sense). Su talked us through some of her projects, including Gifpit
, a magical realism graphic novel that explores her Afrikaner heritage; Die Mystic Hoer
, a comic strip with a title that's a play on words of the famous restaurant/bar in Stellenbosch
where students hang out; and her most recent work, Cerberus
, which is a love story with a horror-themed twist.
Tyron Love, a cartoonist from Durban, spoke about his character Lonely Schnozz, who manifested when Tyron was ill (he spent a few years in and out of hospital) and was an alter-ego who often reflected Tyron's mental state. When many of the challenges and difficulties had been overcome Lonely Schnozz would disappear and only reappear if Tyron was on a downward spiral again. He then went on to discuss his more recent creation, Yummy Lemons
, the autobiographical comic of his son's life, which he began last year. He talked us through the first of the six-panel comics he has created to show how this different kind of challenging period in his life has resulted in a more upbeat tone and creative output.
Tyron Love also had his Yummy Lemons
mini comic Slice Of Life
, which he had put together especially for Co/Mix, on offer in exchange for anything you wanted to trade (except money, which he refused to accept), or even a handshake or a hug. Slice Of Life
has a blank doodle page at the back and you could ask him to draw anything on it. For those determined to get some money into this crazy man's pocket, canvas panels of the various Yummy Lemons
comics were for sale.
Warren Raysdorf, who recently exhibited at Alex Hamilton's studio
, had some of his work on display and was offering to sketch people for a small fee. I chatted to him for a bit because he was involved in a project called Sketch Warz
in Durban and I am hoping that he will do something similar in Cape Town soon (he's participated in one event here, at Toi Toy
, but I'm hoping for more).
A Web Comic By Ben G Geldenhuys And Danelle Malan
, a "post-global-warming pirate adventure", is a weekly(ish) web comic that tells the story of Renier du Preez, formerly of the former Cape Peninsula (the area is now a lot more watery), who is on the run from Corporation henchmen and ends up fleeing to the CottonStar
, where the captain, Dominique Jezebel Hartwick, gives him a job as the ship's boy.
The web comic is halfway through chapter two and chapter one, with cover art by Dorianne Dutrieux
, is available as a printed comic, which I bought at Co/Mix. Chapter one introduces us to the main characters, sets the story in motion, and gives us some hints of what is to come because it looks as though the Corporation is going to play a big antagonistic role in future. The printed version also includes a bonus "sketch dump" page with sketches and cover roughs. The art is lovely - the characters are particularly expressive - and I'm keen to see where the story, which is warm and humorous, leads.
You can (and should!) buy copies of CottonStar Chapter 1
directly from the creators and you can follow the story each week on the web site (start at the beginning in the archives
Ben G Geldenhuys: DeviantArt
Danelle Malan: DeviantArt
The Art Of Children's Book Illustration
A Panel Discussion
This panel was hosted by award-winning children's book artist Niki Daly, who spoke to Chris Venter, Alex Latimer, and Emily Gravett about writing and illustrating children's books, their work habits, art styles and evolution, and working with publishers. Unfortunately Emily Gravett had to dash off halfway through - presumably to catch a plane - but Chris Venter, who is commissioned by publishers to illustrate others' words, and Alex Latimer, who writes and illustrates his own work, provided interesting insight into children's book creation and illustration.
Niki Daly asked Alex Latimer, who is a self-taught illustrator (who also studied philosophy), whether the fact that he has only one art style is to his advantage or disadvantage and whether he is worried that his style could go out of fashion, and he replied that he felt that although only having one style is a weak point he can build a brand around his name and style. He also spoke about success in publishing in other markets and languages overseas as he has done quite well in Europe.
Alex Latimer works near the sea so he goes for walks on the beach when he wants to think or clear his head. He likes to create books that can be enjoyed by adults as well as children and rather than bash kids over the head with a moral in the story he tries to put something into each of his books that parents can use to teach their children about a topic, such as lying. He also pointed out that he had learnt that if you use animals instead of people in your art and stories it crosses cultural and racial divides and gives children of all backgrounds something to relate to.
In contrast, Chris Venter is a trained artist (who also studied psychology) and he doesn't write - a publisher will pair him with a writer who doesn't draw and together they will produce a book. He spoke about his work habits (he tends to move around to different spots in his studio and he has a terrible productive-procrastination habit) and his experiences as a freelancer, such as how crucial it is to build a collection of contacts from whom you can solicit work. He also spoke of how it's important not to overshadow the writer's words and instead the words and illustrations must work in parallel and form a partnership. He is passionate about increasing literacy and says that "people in South Africa underestimate the value of pictures in books" as illustrations and photos are often a child's first experience with a book, which then leads to both literacy and visual literacy.
Velocity Graphic Anthology
A South Africa-Australia Anthology Co-Production
Issues 1 and 2 of the Velocity Graphic Anthology
were on display and for sale at Co/Mix. The project, headed by Moray Rhoda in South Africa and Neville Howard in Australia, publishes science-fiction and fantasy work by South Africans and Australians in full colour. Issue 1, which is 106 pages and has cover art by Daniël Hugo
(who also did the art for the poster of this year's Co/Mix event), was launched at last year's Co/Mix and Issue 2 was launched at Readers Den at this year's Free Comic Book Day celebrations. Issue 3 has just been launched at rAge in Johannesburg and at the Kunjanimation 2012 Art Exhibition
in Cape Town.
In South Africa you can find Velocity Graphic Anthology
at Readers Den
, Outer Limits
, and Clarke's Bookshop
, or you can purchase it online at The Dark Carnival
comic store and directly via the Velocity web site
Velocity Graphic Anthology: Official Site
Glocal Is Lekker
A Panel Discussion
Moray Rhoda, the publisher of the Velocity Anthologies and one of the organisers of this year's Co/Mix; Pete Woodbridge of Studio Woo and previously of Strika Entertainment; and Mamba Media's founder and MD Craig Nadelman discussed the local comics publishing industry, which has been phenomenally successful in the areas of corporate-sponsored comics publishing, while most independents struggle to reach readerships, generate revenue, and stay afloat.
Mamba Media publishes comics for corporations and brands such as Pick 'n' Pay, Anglo American, the Daily Sun
and Sunday Sun
, and various banks and financial institutions. Strika Entertainment, publishes comics for corporations and brands such as Anglo American, MTN, and SAB Miller.
Local comics are some of the publications that are most read by children in the country due to the success of Strika Entertainment's Supa Strikas
and Mamba Media's Soccer Warrior
so within this sometimes muddy world of corporate sponsorship there are measurable positive outcomes: literacy is getting a huge boost and artists, illustrators, and writers are being employed.
The panel therefore touched on subjects such as whether producing work for corporates or which has corporate sponsorship is dancing with the devil and selling out. Craig Nadelman also offered his perspective as someone who is a publisher in the industry (at a "mass market production house"), rather than a writer or illustrator.
(If you're interested in a longer report on this panel discussion see "The Less Funny Side Of The Comics Industry" by Jonathan Amid at SLiP
, although Moray Rhoda is not happy with it
A Mini Comic By Falcon Comics/Luis Tolosana
Possibly my favourite discovery at Co/Mix was the mini comic Philo's Wish
, a "silent comic" that tells the story of a child tasked with aiding magical beings in a fantasy kingdom. The comic contains no words, and only a few pictograms, so the reader has to work to pay attention to the fantastically detailed art to understand the story. The pictograms add another rich layer to the experience as you can follow what's happening without them but they just add extra depth: as you realise what each one means and go back to double check that you're right by seeing how it was used in previous panels it's like little mental light bulbs of discovery going off in your mind. I really enjoyed that process and how it makes you look even closer at the art, which sometimes one can unintentionally skim when looking for speech bubbles.
I also love that there is a lot going on in the background of many of the panels (note the blade runner on the right in the panel above) that has nothing to do with the story but gives it an extra richness.
is a bit harder to track down but you can contact Luis Tolosana for more information or, this week, it's available at the Kunjanimation 2012 Exhibition
(Alliance Française, 155 Loop Street, Cape Town, free entry).
A Panel Discussion
French illustrator and comic artist Jacques de Loustal (who published in Jean Giraud/Mœbius' Métal Hurlant
in the late 1970s) and South Africa's Anton Kannemeyer (well known for his controversial Bitterkomix
and Alphabet Of Democracy
projects, among others) spoke about South African Road Trip
(ISBN: 978-2-915757-28-6), Jacques de Loustal's new book in which he presents illustrations he made of his trip through South Africa in 2010, which notably touches on the Karoo and the West Coast.
The two artists discussed their influences (Jacques de Loustal was an early inspiration for Anton Kannemeyer) and talked through examples of their landscape and architectural illustrations, as well as some of their past projects, such as Anton Kannemeyer's Congo pieces and Jacques de Loustal's covers and cartoons for The New Yorker
Afterwards Jacques de Loustal signed copies of South African Road Trip
, which you can buy at Amazon.com
A Web Comic By Marc Dey And Anthony Hodge
Marc Dey and Anthony Hodge met at the University of Cape Town and now produce The Passengers
, a web comic in which the end is nigh, so seven archangels are sent to Earth to possess humans, thereby granting them powers that will aid them in saving the world.
Issues 1 and 2 are collected in graphic novel form, which I bought at Co/Mix. The comic is posted in high res on the web site so the quality is actually better than the printed version if you have a big screen but I still prefer holding a graphic novel in my hand. The hard copy is currently also about 14 pages ahead
of the web comic, which is a new way to do things and made me very pleased that I'd bought it, although, of course, it ended on a cliff hanger so now I'm going to have to wait forever
to find out what happens.
is set in Cape Town and the main protagonists are UCT students, so there's much that's familiar even though the story feels more convoluted than it needs to be (but not so much so that you can't follow what's happening). I think it's a case of enthusiasm and lots of big ideas (many still to come, I'm sure) and the creators trying to pack as much into each page as they can. The art is in black and white and grey and Anthony Hodge does a great job of playing with panel shapes, sizes, and flow to keep each page interesting, though I'd like to see clearer expressions in the faces. I think in time both the art and the story will refine themselves and settle down and I'm looking forward to following the story.
You can start reading The Passengers now
by dipping into the archives or buy the hard copy version at Readers Den
. Keep an eye on the The Passengers
web site and Facebook page to see when new pages are posted.
Gavin Thomson is a prolific cartoonist who creates or co-creates a number of popular strips, including Trek Net
(with Dave Gomersall
) and Mama Taxi
(with Deni Brown
At Co/Mix he set up a lovely cartoonist's workstation in a corner and you could also look at some of his artwork and buy signed, framed prints of certain strips.
A Rock Opera By Bruno Paiola And Johnny Ray
is a rock opera set in a post-apocalyptic world (with a love story too, of course). It comprises a CD with 22 tracks and a book that's both a graphic novel and the entire lyrics and dialogue of the musical. The two are packaged together in a sleeve that's the size and thickness of a double LP to give it an old-school feel. The CD was produced with the help of over 40 musicians and the illustrations are by Leandro van der Westhuizen.
At Co/Mix Johnny Ray introduced the audience to the project and then gave the floor to Bronwyn Reddy to sing two tracks, "Look About With A Laugh And Shout" and "I Will Always Follow You", as an introduction to the music, although the musical bounces around all sorts of genres, including rock, reggae, pop, and dance.
The intention is for the owner to page through the book reading the dialogue and story exposition and looking at the illustrations, and then listening to the appropriate songs as the story gets to them. So far I have listened to the CD and have skimmed through the book to look at the dialogue and the art but I still need to find some time to sit down and do it all together, which is going to take a few hours, so I will remain without an opinion until I've had the full experience but it's already hard not to envision this as a huge stage musical. In fact, I hope it's successful enough that they consider putting together a live production.
is available at Readers Den
, Look & Listen, and Musica. A full synopsis of the story, the creation and production process, and the 22 tracks on the CD can be found here
Among the various art and cartoon exhibitions lining the walls was a section on South African political cartoons, featuring work by artists such as Jonathan Shapiro/Zapiro
, Themba Siwela
, Cuan Miles
, Brandan Reynolds
, and the "Dr Jack & Curtis"
partnership of Jack Swanepoel
and John Curtis
I think Co/Mix 2012 was hugely successful and I'm looking forward to next year's event, which I hope will be held in a bigger venue. In the meantime, buy some local comics (the festive season is coming and they make great gifts) and support our talented artists and writers.
Mandy J Watson was a media guest at the 2012 Open Book Festival.