Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Double Tango launch at Dante's!

Yes, it finally happened, my friends.

Two Tangos were launched last Thursday night at Dante's Emporium in Fitzroy. The photos in this entry are by my son Joseph (and darn fine ones they are too). For another look at the launch, including a very impressive panorama, go to Bobby. N's blog, here.

Above: the editor of both books, and publisher of one of them, at the beginning of the night, in a festive mood.


The selfsame editor brandishing 'Tango9: Love and War' during the speech/hoo hah. 'Tango9: Love and War' is published by Cardigan Comics. That is, me.


Andrew and Sean (unpictured, but to the left of the piles of books), from Readings bookshop in Carlton, were there vending 'The Tango Collection', a lovely thing because it was at that very shop that Erica Wagner, the publisher at Allen and Unwin, first suggested the idea of the collection, 18 months ago. Thank you, Erica. And thanks to Jenny Nestor for lettering the signs for the selling of the books, there and then at the start of the launch. And thanks to Adrienne Leith for her reprising her award-winnning role as the 'Tango carnie', selling 'Tango9: Love and War' to punters and handing out authors' copies to the contributors.


John Murphy, a contributor to both books and a great friend, the curtains to the back room, and the neck of a bottle of Corona.


John Retallick, a great friend, comic book correpondent, and anchorman of TheComicSpot, organiser of Comic Camp, and cynosure of many other Melbourne comic book events, who came along early to help set up, then left to interview out-of-towners Chris Downes and J.Marc Schmidt (both in town for the launch), then came back in time to help me through a crisis later in the night. Thank you, John.

Also: John came over to our place the other night and recorded a web-only ComicSpot special, a 'full and frank' interview with Susan and I about the joys and challenges of getting two Tangos out this year. If you can handle the truth, it's here.

Above, the hoo hah in full flight. By this point, I had informed the gathering that 'The Tango Collection' is not a comic book but is, in fact, a walk through a beautiful and time-drenched city. And I'd let them in on the secret that 'Tango9: Love and War' is not a comic book, but is, instead, a postcard from a POW camp to a far-flung and beloved reader.

Both books, in short, are vessels of romance.

Above, a section of the gathering. Most obviously Bruno Herfst, the designer of 'The Tango Collection'. To his left, Jodie Webster (editor of the graphic novels 'The Great Gatsby' by Nicki Greenberg (yes, she was there, with 4-month-old Poppy) and 'The Sacrifice' by Bruce Mutard (there too), all from from Allen and Unwin), and to his right, Elise Jones, my fellow editor of 'The Cardigan Collection'. Thanks Bruno and Elise, it was a real pleasure making the book with you.

The simply staggering image by Michael Camilleri announcing my next project, called (at this point) 'Cardigan Comics'. It will be a magazine. It will feature comics and words-only text. That's what we know. Keep an eye out for it.

Finally, thank you to all of the contributors to Tangos thus far, and particularly 'The Tango Collection' and 'Tango9: Love and War'. You have made the work that makes the making of Tango worthwhile. Important, even. Yeah, important. We're building a comics culture, here. And it's a pretty fine one. Congratulations.

And finally finally, thanks: to all of the very many people for coming along to the launch; to Scott Matthews and Luke Caleo for wrangling files for Tango9; to Justin Caleo for his huge effort on designing the book; to Peter Ra for taking up the 'cover designer' reins from Anita Bacic (she was there! from Istanbul!); to Mary Anne for the hat, and a massive, MASSIVE debt of gratitude is due to Zebedee and Joseph and most of all Susan, for the time and the space and the love and support that I needed to make these books. I love you, my family.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

'The Tango Collection' hits the shelves!

Thanks to my artist friend Torie Nimmervoll for the shots here of 'The Tango Collection' gracing the shelves of fine bookshops up Sydney way, with some great shelfmates. This shot was I think taken in Kinokuniya (hullo Rip Kirby by the great Alex Raymond!),

this one possibly at Ariel Books in Paddington (hallo Charlie Brown and Snoopy by Charles Schulz),

and this, I think, is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (hello, New Yorker cartoons). But really. Good company, eh?

Also, there's a wonderful online review by Kristen Dagg on the Kluster web site.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Tale of Two Tangos

Yes indeedy! The launch is on, the heat is on, it's all on and you should definitely come along to the launch of both 'The Tango Collection' and 'Tango9: Love and War'. Allen and Unwin is publishing the former, Cardigan Comics is publishing the latter, and I've edited both.

Launch where:
Dante's Upstairs Gallery
(Dante's is on the corner of Getrude and Napier Streets Fitzroy -
climb the stairs off Napier Street)

Launch when:
6.30pm start, bit of a speech at 7.30pm or so
Thursday 10 December 2009

Launch what:

The Tango Collection
a 'greatest hits' book selected from the pages of Tango 1 - 8
57 contributors. 70 stories. 248 pages.
$35 on the night

Tango9: Love and War
a whole lot of new work
88 contributors. 76 stories. 352 pages
$20 on the night (usually $25)

Koichi incoming!

Last Wednesday, which was a week after I'd returned from Tokyo (actually nine days but who was counting such things?) I cycled into work at Melbourne Museum with a lighter heart because I was going in to meet Koichi Kubo, from the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Below, I and my museum colleague Paola Luz after being showered in gifts by Koichi.

I am holding an extremely rare catalogue from Koichi's museum's exhibition of 'Moyashimon' (see my blog entry here), which Noriko Morii managed to track down for me. I am extremely interested in this exhibition, which used a popular manga as a way 'in' for audiences for an exhibition about fungi and mushrooms. Yes, I'm interested in it because it is comics/manga that provided the window through which the visitors saw this science, but even more because it's fiction though which we gain an experience of fact. As someone who makes theatre in a museum, this is a constant theme for me: bluntly, how much can/do/should you lie in the service of the truth? Although, of course, I don't think of fiction as lies any more than I think of facts as the truth.

We walked Koichi through the museum, showed him our so-new-you-can-still-smell-the-taxidermy exhibition WILD and divers other spaces in which functions (weddings, cocktail parties, corporate events) can be held - this is Paola's department. Why? Kubo-san trained as a biologist, but has been in Australia researching the way that Australian museums hire out their spaces for events, particularly after hours. A fact finding mission.

And if you're after facts at Melbourne Museum, you can't escape this one: that really, the entire gigantic place is really just ONE elaborate case for THIS collection item. Phar Lap. Well, his skin, anyway.

Bernard, Koichi and The Lap, Melbourne Museum November 2009. Photo by Paola Luz.

Sayonara, Koichi! Thanks for coming to Melbourne!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Edo Tokyo and the Amazon

Back. Very definitely back in Melbourne. But dreams still fever-haunted by images from Japan, like this one, from 8 days ago, a stone statue about 5 metres high, outside the Edo Tokyo Museum. So struck was I by this man, in his hat, with his stick, with his bird (a crow, surely) on his disproportionately large left hand (I must confess, that was my work), standing on his turtle, that I had to stop. As I drew, the cries of children - who sounded like they were playing a game - came over a very high fence. As I drew, the turtle gently lifted off the ground, and slowly floated down the road. No one batted an eyelid. So me, not wanting to be out of place, I didn't either.

In other news, The Tango Collection has been listed on Amazon! Wow. Thanks to John Retallick for bringing my attention to this.

And on the very same day that the selfsame river of books brought to me Logicomix. Look for a review here soon.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Wella wella feel I'm in decay...

Hulloa, Sydney.

Lost in transit(ion)

At Narita Airport, about to climb into one of those flying tubes we all love so much.

See you in Australia. Thanks for reading, I've really enjoyed writing this.

'Six views of room 331 at Fukudaya'

Smiling like a loon to cover up the tears.

At Ueno Park this afternoon, my old friends were there in numbers.

This is an art project called 'Overall' by Yoshinari Nishio - he uses unwanted clothes to make big clothes overalls for 'giant lost heritage'. In this case, a 7 metre high Buddha that was destroyed by the '23 earthquke and the WWII bombings.

The Buddha's face survives as a shrine.

Another museum? Pourqoui-pas!

Edward Jenner.

Takamori Saigo.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Astro, Lafcadio, and me

When my train pulled into Takadanobaba (what a name, eh?) this morning, the 'you've arrived at the station' jingle was very familiar - where DO I know that from? -- of course! It's the theme song to the show featuring Osamu Tezuka's most famous creation, Mighty Atom. Coming down the steps I was greeted by a panoramic frieze featuring the intrepid Astro and other Tezuka creations. Okay, what gives? Did Astro save Takadanobaba in the first episode or something? 'Painted by a grateful public' etc?

Okay, there's one of my odd pan-and-scanimations of the entire frieze at the bottom of this post, or go to this lovely blog where they have much better pictures, as well as the answer to: 'Why Astro? Why here?'

Whiles I was taking my snaps, I heard a GREAT rendition of the Astro theme being played LIVE -drums, sax, maybe even accordion? Whirling around I saw these guys who, while they may have wanted to tell me about god, were great musicians.

Good costumes too. Anyway, I'd come here to find 'The Blue Parrot', a second hand English language bookshop, and after a false street or so, I did locate it. (It occurred to me for the first time today that actually a compass would be really good in Tokyo, maybe any city but particularly one without street names or street numbers, in order to orient your map at least in the right direction... ah well, next trip)
Waitaminnit -- an English language bookshop? A bit pathetic, surely...? Hear me out, hear me out. It all had to do with my NEXT destination. I had read (thanks Time Out) that in the Zoshigaya (another great name, no?) Cemetary, just up the road, the grave of Lafcadio Hearn could be found, under his Japanese name, Koizumi Yakumo. My remarkable wife Susan had given me, maybe a year ago, a book by Hearn and I'd loved it. And now I was going to visit his remains, but if I could I'd take a book of his with me.
And thanks to The Blue Parrot, indeed I could. 'Lafcadio Hearn's Japan: an anthology of his writings on the country and its people', edited and with an introduction by Donald Ritchie (Tuttle, 1997). Armed with this, the autumn 2005 issue of 'Modern Haiku' and (ahem) Gerard Jones' 'Men of Tomorrow: the true story of the birth of the superheroes' (Heinemann, 2005), off I hiked.

OVER the Kandagawa River.

UNDER the traffic lights whose horizontality I love so.

PAST the owl sculpture, through the back streets and finally, into Zoshigawa Cemetary.
Tokyo, I would have to say, is very good at hyper-busyness and freneticism.
And also very good at oases.
The orb weaver spiders hung in their webs.
The sun slanted in through the trees on the headstones.
It was cool, and quiet, and calm.
I sat and read my Hearn.
Then went in search of his bones.
I couldn't locate the actual grave, but I did find the row in which it lies.
So I drew that (inked it back at home base this evening).

Then launched myself into the mega-shopper Saturday afternoon craziness of Ikebukoro - hoo! Everybody alive here! A train to Harajuku Station, another busy throbbing shopping mecca where I managed to find KIDDYLAND (Joseph, Zebedee: does that sound good?) and was dragging my feet back towards the station, when another 'Oasis this way' sign appeared. I followed it, and found myself in a pair of white slippers and the 'Ukiyoe Ota Memorial Museum of Art' - a perfect follow-up to yesterday's shin-hanga experience. This museum changes over the pieces that they display EVERY MONTH (imagine that, my curatorial friends), and at the moment the show's focus is on plants, flowers and gardening and its place in old Edo town. Sounds so-so: was fantastic. And was a great intro, for me, to the work of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797 - 1858) -- far and above the pick of the artists on display. Every time a piece hit me with design, colour, particularly composition, I'd bet myself it was a Hiroshige and it would be.
There's a selection of Hiroshige ukiyo-e on this site here (seems to be linked to Monash University, sugoi), but please, do come to Harajuku and put on the slippers and see 'em for real.
Below is a sketch (again, 'no photos', hooray!) of an ukiyo from a series called 'Parodies of Watanabe no Tsuna' by Utagawa Kunioshi (1897 - 1861). 'Parody' must be being used in a sense I'm unfamiliar with, here: maybe it means closer to 'version'... anyone? Bueller?

Looks a bit Matisse-y, eh?
My two oasis experiences had brought a line from a previous post into my mind, and tonight I went back and removed a rather weak joke at the tobacco shredder's expense from a couple of days ago (the Tobacco and Salt Museum visit). It's interesting: in Australia I would think such an exhibit/person/representation fair game, but here, the same approach left a bad taste in my mouth, and I feel better now that I've removed it.

Saturday night in Shibuya. My last night in Tokyo, at least for a while. I feel like I've only scratched the surface of the facet of the dermis of the mantle (of course).
But I think that I'll be back.

Below: the Astro street art

Friday, November 6, 2009

Every haiku leaf that falls

Ladies and gentlemen, supper tonight is brought to you by the equally wonderfully named and fonted convenience store of

And it looks a little like this:

On one of the nights that we were out with Nahoko from Miraikan, she recommended the Edo-Tokyo Museum as a good place to visit. I had already starred it in my pre-Japan Time Out and Lonely Planet guidebook scanning (thanks Torie, Hayden, Luke) and today was the day.

On the way out of the station I saw this poster and thought, oboy. I really hope THAT exhibition is on at the Edo Tokyo. And you know what?

It was.

This is the Edo-Tokyo museum. Pretty vast. I stood outside it and thought what people think when they arrive at Melbourne Museum: "Where do I get in?"

Having located a ticket counter and a lift and F1, I stood outside 'Beautiful Shin-hanga: Revitalisation of Ukiyo-e', took a deep breath and entered. 'Shin-hanga' means 'new print' and this exhibition tells the story of woodblock prints made from the Taisho to the early Showa periods (1915 - 1942) which were created using techniques developed through the Edo (1603 -1868) period.

In the latter Meiji period (1868 -1912), ukiyo-e (or woodblock prints) were being replaced as a means of image-making by photography. The ukiyo-e genre was in decline locally, although it had begun to generate interest overseas. Wanatabe Shozaburo, a dealer in ukiyo-e, was central
to the revival of this method of making images. He commissioned artists to make them, and shin-gawa as a form peaked from 1916-1923, at which time the great Kanto earthquake and subsequent fire puts a dent in things.

Charles W. Bartlett from the USA holds an exhibition of shin-gawa in New York in 1916.

There was beautiful work in there: the Edo-Tokyo link above has a few images, and you weren't allowed to take pictures, which is a good thing, so I took some quick sketches instead.

This head was from work by Sugiura Hisui, whose design sense was excellent.

The below is from an incredible image by Kawase Hasui, 'Snow at Zojoji Temple' (1922).

Another North American player in the story was Robert Muller who first sees shin-gawa in 1927 and is gob-smacked but gets his first opportunity to come over here and do some scouting in 1940 when he visits, as the text panel delightfully puts it, "...ostensibly for his honeymoon..." but returns to the US with a huge swag of shin-gawa. Below, the ostensible Mister and Mrs Muller check out some Tokyo art action. (Must have been a pretty interesting time for an American to be doing business in Japan, yes?)

I have to credit the National Gallery of Victoria with whetting my appetite for ukiyo-e: they had a great exhibition a few years ago which seems to linger as an online education program, but with lots of good images, here.

Oh, and the picture on the poster is called ' The actor Onoe Matsuke IV as Konori Yasu in the play Yowa Nasake Ukina no Yokogushi' and it was made by Yamamura Koka in 1917.

Then it was up to the 6th floor for the permanent exhibition, telling the story of the history of Tokyo. Above is a model of the facade of the Nakamawa-za Kabuki Theatre. Scale: 1/1. This place was an aeroplane hanger. If, like me, you didn't have much of a bead on Tokyo's history, let me give you my now very basic version.

This guy is Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543 - 1616). He builds a stronghold at Edo and establishes a warrior government, or bakufu. There's the shogun, the bushi (samurai), and the chonin (townspeople).

Then there's the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when Edo becomes Tokyo. Hey, I didn't promise details. Broad strokes! Broad strokes!

The guy below is the American who sails into Tokyo harbor at some point and says, well lookee here!

Aw forget all that facts stuff, you know why we're here --- dioramas!

Below, the chonin area around Nihonbashi Bridge, mid 17th century, scale 1/30.
There were even binoculars around the dioramas so you could see all the lttle people and little street dramas and events that were going on. Wow.

Below, the ohiroma (large chamber), matsu-no-roka (pine coridor) and shiroshin (white study) at Edo Castle, mid nineteenth century, scale 1/30.

At the bottom of this post (I can't seem to put movies mid-post) you will find a slide show tour of the residence of the daimyo of Echizen-Fukui, Matsudaira Iyo-no-kami Tadamasa (1567 - 1645), which was built in front of the Otemon Castle gate of Edo Castle. A huge complex which in the Meireki Fire of 1657 was razed to the ground.

Below, a picture of the 1/1 scale model of the offices of the newspaper Choya Shinbun, from around the 1870s-1880s. This 'Government and People's Newspaper' was founded in 1874 and was significant for its severe criticisms of the Meiji administration.

Below, a 1/30 scale model of the same area, the Ginza 'bricktown' from the same time period. The area had been burn to the ground by the Tsukiji fire of 1872. The Meiji government rebuilt, design supplied by British architect Thomas James Waters. I overheard a man explaining to his compainions that the design was an utter failure as the brick buildings became stifling in the Tokyo heat. The area was destroyed again by the Kanto earthquake of 1923.

This model, which was under our feet under glass, was amazing. I think it depicts a luxury residence constructed to receive honoured overseas guests. Anyway, every 10 minutes or so, some Strauss would strike up, the roof would slide back, and you could look into the ballroom where a circle of couples were waltzing!

This tower was built in 1890 by the British engineer William K Burton. Called Ryounkaku, or '12 stories', it was the first building in Japan with an elevator, contained shops and lounges and was also destroyed by the 1923 earthquake.

The dreadful 20th century was not kind to Tokyo. In 1923 came the 7.9 richter Kanto earthquake, followed by high winds which fanned dreadful fires. 71,000 people were lost, 44,000 in ONE PLACE, the army clothing depot at Ryogoku (the area where the museum stands today).
In World War II, the 'Pacific War' as I saw it referred to a couple of times, air raids on Tokyo began in 1942. On March 10, 1945, 100,000 people died as the result of one raid. This stuff hit me like a brick. As it should. I had to get out, I needed air.

Another quest for the day had come up yesterday, talking to Skye. He had mentioned a Moomin cafe. A Moomin cafe? Would I be able to order Hattifatteners on toast? I had/hat to find it.

Clutching some admittedly fairly sketcky directions cobbled together from blog references that I'd found, I emerged out of Korakuen station, right next to the Tokyo Dome (or 'big egg' sports stadium and fun park) and followed my little map which got me here:

Really? That's NOT what I'm looking for. A bit downhearted, I listlessly walked along a very long wall until I came to somewhere that Moomins might go on holiday.
A beautiful park.

My spirits lifted. I had yearned, and Tokyo had provided. Not what I wanted, but something better.

I walked, saw the fish splash in the pond, I sat down. A leaf fell.

I lef the gardens and pretty soon found the Moomin cafe. Of course. And unsurprisingly, this was on the front table.

Now I don't think you'll be surprised to hear that the cafe is sort of underwhelming. BUT, there's some good transfers of Tove Jansson's art onto the walls.

And blow me down if that isn't Moominpapa up there in his boat suspended from the ceiling.

And various members of his extended family sitting around waiting for a drink.

Though I don't know, maybe it's me but they more remind me of creatures from the cantina at Mos Eisley in 'Star Wars'. Not the puppets themselves, but I dunno, it's something about the way they are sitting... their attitude.

And this was a BIG mistake: putting a picture of Snufkin on the piece of plastic that they attach the bill to... a Hemulen perhaps, maybe even the Groke, but Snufkin? Never...

Anyway, I went, I saw, I ate, I paid. I'm pretty sure that somewhere Tove (RIP) is rotating at such speeds she could probably generate enough electricity to power Greater Tokyo, but there you go.

On the way back to Shibuya (and THANK YOU helpful white gloved Tokyo Metro man at Korakuen who was SO KEEN to aid me with my public transport plans) I kept thinking about that scene in the movie 'Barton Fink', where Mad Man Munt (John Goodman) is giving the lowdown to Barton (John Turturro). Maybe it was the mosquito in my hotel room last night, I don't know, but the line keeps repeating in my head:

"You're just a tourist with a typewiter, Barton...

I have to LIVE here."

The tourist

The typewriter

Hm, maybe I should cut down on these long-winded posts.
It's obviously preying on my mind.
Still, If I did live here, I'd be able to get these from LAWSON

And finally, the diorama slideshow as promised...