Cartoon Alley: Reviews and commentary #10… Tim Bollinger

Great moments in my recent comic reading history

by Tim Bollinger

Bob Gibbons

Looking Back: a retrospective of commix works
(Iron Mask publishing co-op)

Bob Gibbons is a long-time stalwart of Christchurch’s Funtime Comics collective (funtime.comics.org.nz ). This compilation of varied work from over thirty years of self-published comics and collaborations is a testament to Gibbons’ love of the medium, and his involvement in other forms of subversive political and social commentary. Hes wears his comics influences on his sleeve, from the American ‘hippie’ underground of the 1970s to the British ‘punk’ underground of the 1980s, all delivered with the rough-and-ready do-it-yourself style and ethos for which Funtime is renowned. This volume features cameo contributions from fellow-Funtime artists Darren Schroeder, Jared Lane et al, and Christchurch’s political underground comic strip artist of the 1980s, Ron Currie.

Theo MacDonald

I Lied
(Top Hat Comix)

Still in his teens, Theo is one of the youngest of the current crop of self-published Wellington comic writers. His latest 8-page taster reflects the experimentation and enthusiasm of his youth. A step up from his pre-adolescent ‘Skate Rate’ series, ‘I lied’ follows MacDonald’s popular literary parody Oliver Twisted (reviewed on Scoop by Robyn E. Kennealy). Bursting with pop culture references and off-beat humour, Theo’s comix auger a lively future for Wellington independent comic publishing.

Moto Hagio

They were Eleven! (Juichinin Iru!)

I found this 1976 manga in the Japanese section of the Wellington public library. It’s apparently out-of-print in English, but I thought I’d rave about it anyway, even though I can’t provide a full review!

Moto Hagio is one of a generation of women Japanese manga writers who emerged in the 1970s in the wake of the post-war manga boom led by Osamu Tezuka.

Tezuka inadvertently ‘invented’ modern girls’ (or ‘shoujo’) manga with his series ‘Princess Knight’, popular among Hagio’s generation of girl comic readers for introducing the long form adventure narrative to traditional romance comics. The story of a princess who hides her identity as a boy so she may rule her kingdom freely, the ‘Princess Knight’ theme was oddly inverted by the young women writers of Hagio’s generation to take on stories of male characters whose emotional and physical romantic relationships embodied those of their female readers, culminating in a new genre of all-male homosexual romance stories for girls, known as ‘shounen ai’.

Some of this sexual ambiguity is present in ‘They Were Eleven’, where one of the main characters is a sexually indeterminate ‘girl’ who regards ‘herself’ as male and despises all women despite ‘her’ large sparkling eyes and blonde ringlets.

Like many of the manga stories of her contemporaries (such as Keiko Takemiya’s ‘To Terra’, recently published by Vertical), Hagio’s ‘They Were Eleven’ has a science fiction setting, with an aesthetic reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001, but the story revolves around emotional relationships, pioneering shoujo manga break-out panel techniques that slow down the action and describe the inner life of the characters. Showers of flower petals float around the frames, alongside the meteorites, stardust and space harware.

You can read more about Moto Hagio here.

Here’s a few sample pages:

ENDS