Another review: GEP issue 2

March 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

Gojo Entertainment proudly presents GEP ISSUE 2! And asks me to review it?!? That’s odd! I’m not exactly known for my friendly reviews nor for liking scifi or fantasy.. I hope they read my blog before contacting me.

Ah well, too late.. Here goes!

GEP, Gojo Entertainment Presents, is an anthology comic book series. Issue 2 contains 8 short stories, done by 11 artists of which two are South African, Dawid Strauss and Michael Smith. Written and edited by Diorgo Jonkers. Huh?!? One guy writes all the stories? What’s up with that?!? Hmm, 8 stories by one writer, drawn in different styles: action, sci-fi, kiddie cartoon, manga, fantasy and something uncomfortably pink and blue. Different styles, but one writer. It does bother me! It’s a different story every time and every artist tries hard to make it his/her own but like with all comics and other forms of literature, everyone has its own writing style which applies to both wording and scenario. In the case of GEP2, despite the different art styles, it feels like you’re reading a comic made by one guy. Would be cool if the one guy is Alan Moore. But then again, scenario is very high on my list, higher than artwork so let me stop bitching about it. You get the point.

Artwork. Some of it needs less airbrushing and more drawing effort, some of it is blurry without any reason, some of it needs less babe (nothing against babes, see most sexy comic babe), some of it needs more story, and some of it is disturbingly pink and blue.

But then there’s also Monster Buddy, it’s cute and simple and has faces with expressions. I like! There’s Sensory, a bit too clean, reminds me of illustrations for a school book or educational brochure, but honest and unpretentious. And finally, there’s Michael Smith! Only the essential text, one scene only, shot from different directions, close-up on the hands, full view of the room, reflection in the cup. A killer, a victim, a gun and a cup of tea.. Pure and simple. Beautifully done!

All in all, GEP issue 2 has some rather good pieces but also some work that needs a bit more originality, a bit more thinking, a bit more actual drawing. There’s a few names that I will keep track off. Actually, I will keep track of all of them! Because despite my criticism, I’m grateful for another brave initiative! In SA, one’s gotta turn over every rock to find comic artists. Yes, there’s a scene in most towns but few of them publish or get published, in print or online. You gotta know them personally to admire their work (except for some samples on Deviant Art).

So, much respect for GEP and Velocity to publish comic artists!


Andy Mason finally for Sale online

February 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Andy Mason’s much acclaimed “What’s So Funny?” is now for sale right here. (click on previous sentence and you will get redirected to Monsterpay)

“Mason takes us through the work of Cruikshank in his 1819 cartoons portraying the prototype cannibal ogre as representations extracted from European folklore tradition and plonked on African soil to give voice to the unknown faced by British immigrants; the political work in the Afrikaans press by Fred Mouton and others who developed a visual language of swart gevaar represented by darkness, drowning and suffocation; English-speaking liberal cartoonists who employed scenes of whirlwinds, hurricanes and bushfires to represent the ‘winds of change’; Daniel Boonzaier who traded on the anti-Semitism of the Anglo-Boer war period to demonise the Randlords called Hoggenheimer; David Marais used the second world war period to demonise Afrikaner politicians by dressing them up in Nazi uniforms; Jock Leyden, the affable Scotsman who gave voice to the English tendency to remain separate and aloof, as if raised slightly above everyone else, with an emergency return ticket lodged like an insurance policy in the back of the mind to his great friend, Zapiro, who has been challenged by others of being guilty of racism in his post-Polokwane cartoons depicting Zuma with an ogre–like caricature with its double-domed head bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Cruikshank cannibal ogres of almost 200 years ago. The wheel has turned and we are back where we started. Mason concludes by saying he has no idea how the next chapter in the South African story is to unfold but that our cartoonists will continue to enrich the life of the nation. This is a serious history of a fascinating aspect of our everyday lives and deserves considerable attention.” (Review by Peter Soal)

Kif or Kak?! Andy Mason on SA Comic Art.

February 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

For those that didn’t see it on Mahala, here’s the full version of the interview Sean O’Toole had with Andy Mason. Andy recently launched his book ‘What’s so Funny’ and has a thing or two to say about South African comic art yesterday, today and tomorrow.

[Taken from

ND Mazin

For much of the past decade Andy Mason, better known as N.D. Mazin and Pooh in the local comix underground, has been working on a book. A serious book. Nominally. Titled What’s So Funny, Andy’s book offers an assiduously researched history of cartooning in South Africa. There are various reasons his book took so long: surfing, indecisive editors, a move from Durban to Cape Town, other stuff. As it turns out, the delay was useful, allowing Andy, head of the Comic Art Unit at the Centre for Comic, Illustrative and Book Arts at Stellenbosch University, to include Zapiro’s controversial Rape of Justice cartoon.

Mahala: Instead of talking about your long white hair, I want to ask you about your star turn in Bitterkomix 15. Joe Dog (aka Anton Kannemeyer) portrays you as someone who talks a lot. How did it feel to be the subject of a caricature?

Well, I do talk a lot, especially about comix, when I get the chance, which is not very often, since there aren’t that many people interested enough to listen for longer than two minutes. Anton talks a lot too, by the way, when he gets going. As far as cartoonists being the subject of caricatures is concerned, I think it should be compulsory. Who watches the Watchmen?

Andy Mason - Whats So Funny?

Your new book is a history of political illustration and cartooning in SA. Who for you were some of the big discoveries from the past? The names we no longer remember or speak about.

The discovery of George Cruikshank’s cannibal ogres from 1819 — the prototypical South African racial caricatures — blew me away. It took me months to work out how I felt about them. William Schroder’s weekly comic magazine The Knobkerrie, published in the mid-1880s, which I found a couple of original copies of, is one of my favourites because it shows how vibrant the small publishing scene in Cape Town was in those days. I love Len Sak, the creator of Jojo, an old white Jewish guy who was South Africa’s most popular black cartoonist for half a century. I also love Richard Smith’s early stuff, ultra cross-hatchy and stylish; Derek Bauer was (and still is) incredible. Working with the Bitterkomix artists, with the Madam & Eve crew, with Zapiro, have all been great opportunities (and big learning curves). These guys are all real pros. And then there’s Joe Daly. A top French comic artist told me at a festival in France last year that as far as he’s concerned, Joe Daly is the best comic artist in the world.

Joe Daly - Scrublands
Joe Daly – Scrublands.

What do you personally think of Joe Daly’s work?

I love Joe’s stuff. I just wish more people knew about it here in South Africa, especially young wired geeky guys who smoke too much weed and watch slacker movies. Joe’s books are 100% tailor-made for this audience. But what makes them unusual is their South African origin. It also raises the more general issue of origins in a globalised world. What does it matter that Joe Daly produces hilarious slacker fables from a room in Mowbray, since his entire sensibility is cradled in a cultural cocoon that’s more Californian than anything else? The titles of his books with their Bob Dylan references, his strip-malls and suburban landscapes, with the odd bit of local fauna thrown in as a kind of post-facto context marker, all speak of a hybridisation of culture that is very interesting, and very Cape Town. For those who haven’t yet seen Dungeon Quest, I entreat you to seek out this book, and the sequels that follow. These are very funny books, if you like that kind of thing.

Let’s talk about the historical character of Hoggenheimer. What do we as a contemporary audience learn out of his story?

Hoggenheimer, invented circa 1910 by Daniel Boonzaier, has been with us ever since. He began as an anti-Semitic stereotype, grew into a generic stereotype for racial capitalism, has strong links to various international versions, such as the Weimar caricatures of George Grosz, and was reincarnated by William Kentridge as Soho Ekstein, the protagonist in his early films. He even appears in my own work as Y.T. Sharke, CEO of Toxacorp. What to learn from him? That pure greed rules the world and all the touchy-feely stuff pales by comparison when it comes to the naked exercise of power. We’re all going down the tubes while Hoggenheimer laughs!

DC Boonzaier - The Magnates Fear
D.C. Boonzaier’s cartoon featuring Hoggenheimer, left.

Objectively described, what is the purpose and function of a political illustration or cartoon?

“Objectively described”? As far as history is concerned, there’s no such thing as objectivity. There are approved stories and interpretations, a kind of group subjectivity, ranged around centres of power. And there are oppositional stories that challenge these. All cartooning, one way or another, is linked to a particular centre or nexus of power. Where power is contested, as in South Africa, cartoons play an important role in crystallising and giving visual or metaphorical shape to the most important areas of contestation. Check out Just for Kicks!, the latest compilation of the year’s best political cartoons (edited by John Curtis and myself) to see this process in action. The cartoonists have targeted all the key areas of contestation and given them symbolic shape.

Talking about the now, is Zapiro’s Rape of Justice cartoon really that scandalous when placed in a historical context? Have there not been other similarly contested cartoons in the past?

I’ve given this cartoon so much thought, read so much about it, heard so many opinions about it, and I still haven’t got to the bottom of it. It’s not so much that it’s scandalous. It’s way deeper than that. It strikes to the core of our predicament. And there are valid arguments on both sides. The issues of representation aren’t going to go away. If you’re not sure what I mean by this, look at Edward Said’s Culture and Imperialism (1993). A cartoon this powerful ceases to be the expression of an individual voice, if it ever was in the first place. It burrows down to the pit where these things are slugged out by archetypal figures wielding clubs, up to their knees in gore — like Conrad Botes’s cartoon versions of Goya’s Disasters of War.

Zapiro - The Rape of Justice

At your Cape Town book launch you and Zapiro spoke about the small number of black cartoonists. How is this changing?

Not fast enough. Especially in the field of political cartooning. The fact that the majority of political cartoonists are still white creates a huge credibility gap. A lot more needs to be done to remedy the situation. It’s definitely the biggest challenge facing South African cartooning at the moment.

How has cartooning evolved, formally and conceptually, as print media moves increasingly online?

There is so much happening online that unless you are seriously wired and digitally socially networked (which I’m not), it’s hard to keep track of what the hell’s going on. Take Moray Rhoda’s latest effort, Velocity, for example. Moray spent a lot of his own money a few years ago organising and publishing Cape Town based alternative comic anthologies such as Helix and Clockworx, featuring local artists like Daniel Hugo and Jesca Marisa. Then it all went pear-shaped and he went underground to lick his wounds. Now he’s back with Velocity, a very well organised South Africa/Australia digital comic collaboration. What’s great about this project is that it’s no longer about the finished product, but the entire process of comic making, as participants put their work in progress up on a group blog. What’s not great about it is how little originality there is on show — most of the stuff looks like it’s recycled from something else. It’s wonderful that the online environment provides so many opportunities for upcoming artist and writers to get their stuff out there; however, it’s really sad that most of it is so derivative. Maybe it’s because the South African guys want to get published internationally, but I don’t think I need to point out that local artists who have attracted the most international interest are the ones whose work has its own visual vernacular (to steal a phrase from Anton Kannemeyer). A South African visual vernacular – our own visual Antwoord, if you like – is what we need, online and on paper, if we want anyone to notice us.

Gaining Velocity

January 17, 2011 § 33 Comments

“The Velocity Graphic Anthology website is THE place to check out the best up and coming talent from SA and Oz”

That’s quite a hectic statement to make! One that gives you high expectations….

I immediately liked the website. The design is nice, it’s clear and structured and no glitches with opening and scrolling through images. Slightly irritating though how the author explains on every page how to use it. Totally unnecessary. Just move your mouse around and click.

It’s a nice initiative to start collecting work from local comic artists. It does make me a bit sad though because most of the work is not really inspiring. There’s little authenticity, not in the concept, not in the stories and not in the drawing style. I’ve seen most of it before, somewhere, too many in fact.

But not all is doom. Technically, all of them are good. They just need to find a style of their own (and stop reading american comics maybe). A few, on the other hand, are really nice! I love Pete Woo and his fuzzy monsters, Daniel Hugo’s odd creatures and Rayaan Cassiem with his undefined dreary images.

But then again, that’s my personal taste. You might think different. Go check it out.

Pete Woodbridge

Daniel Hugo

Rayaan Cassiem

What’s so Funny?

December 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

What’s so funny? Wine, delicious eats and good company, including a number of celebrated cartoonists and comic artists!!

Don’t miss it! Zapiro is giving the speech!



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