KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Comics and Graphic Novels

If pen erases paper, what erases awkward?

by Jess Alice , July 17, 20131 Comment

pen-erases-paper-copyright-sam-wallman

It could have been awkward. Well, I mean, it was. Meeting Melbourne comic artist Sam Wallman at a café I went the handshake and he went the European greeting. It became an odd mix of both – stooped shoulders and curling arms in a handshake / air kiss merge. My awkwardness wouldn’t be present in Wallman’s comics. But the rubbery-ness of our exchange – of my flailing left hand and zigzagging head – that was a little reminiscent. While very human, Wallman’s characters can twist the bounds of our anatomy. Arms make S shapes, fingers wobble impossibly and mouths poke clean out of their faces. In the title panel of his latest book Pen Erases Paper, Wallman draws himself and another young man, their legs twisted tightly as they ponder a philosophy of drawing.

Despite their characters’ bendable anatomies, Wallman’s pages reflect real life. I’m grateful to hear him use the word ‘activism’ (although it wouldn’t be right to exclusively describe his stories this way). Yes, there’s a sense of justice in many of Wallman’s tales: on being queer, considering racism, rights and working in ‘the welfare industrial complex’. But as the story it’s alright illustrates, Wallman’s take on life is a forgiving one. In the second panel of this comic, two cyclists ride through a once-forest of tree stumps. ‘Fucking forrestry workers,’[sic] one says. ‘They’re just afraid they’ll lose their livelihood,’ the other responds.

‘Everyone’s dealing with their own things,’ Wallman says to me when we discuss a comic that considers the new symbolism of the Southern Cross. ‘I wanted it to be a bit poetic and not laughing at the person. We should want to know why people have Southern Cross tattoos instead of ending the conversation at, “Why would you?”’

smith-street-copyright-sam-wallmanPen Erases Paper is paged with comics that demonstrate Wallman’s sensitivity to other perspectives. not one world quite literally does so (‘‘s many worlds az eyes’ it concludes). smith street has Wallman bemoaning the gentrification of Collingwood. Meanwhile his friend who grew up in the commission flats nearby puts forward a different perspective.

Both Wallman’s vision and his voice are infused with a hearty humour that has me laughing out loud even after multiple readings. faggot perks for perky faggots lists said perks (and makes some genuinely compelling points). Not all the comics are funny though, who is tough? ponders queer life in a hetro world. ‘I always found it strange that queers get laughed at for their perceived weakness,’ it starts.

Wallman always drew as kid, but he never considered making comics until he travelled through the Middle East just a few years ago. ‘I didn’t even take a pen or paper with me on that trip. But it was pretty lonely so I just started drawing on napkins all the time,’ he says. The napkins were reproduced in a book, Brain Furniture and Wallman has been self- publishing since. His work is very polished – too polished, I put to him, for someone who hasn’t formally studied.

faggot-perks-for-perky-faggots-copyright-sam-wallman‘It’s my dirty dark secret that I studied advertising at university and finished it,’ he says. ‘I thought I could use the skills for good. I thought maybe the Left needed more people with those skills. But I don’t have it in me really.’ Yet Wallman recognises the benefits of that degree. ‘It taught me how to communicate ideas and visually represent stuff, to try to get people on board with you a little.’ This education certainly explains the complexity and quality of his compositions. His pages play with perspective, shape, and can document in tremendous detail. Panels come in semicircles, triangles and rectangles, small ones sit on larger ones and visual-storytelling takes us skillfully through complex sequences.

‘I like to see comics where people are exposing themselves – showing some fragility, confusion or weakness,’ Wallman says. He often admits confusion himself and notices double standards without prophesying in his own stories. ‘I don’t think it’s bad to have an opinion, but I think it’s good if you can admit the darkness is a little bit true, or that you’re confused.’

Wallman draws comics to be better understood by people, and to better understand himself. ‘It’s an easy way to explain myself. I meet people and they kind of know me. Like you – we have some sort of connection that we wouldn’t have if you haven’t read my book. And that’s kind of beautiful,’ he says, smiling.

Indeed. When it’s time to leave the café I don’t bother with the handshake and even give him a little hug as part of the air-kiss.

Pepi Ronalds is a Killings columnist. She has been published in Meanjin, Open Manifesto, A List Apart and more. Her blog, Future of Long Form, was an Emerging Blog for the 2012 Melbourne Writers Festival. She’s on Twitter and Facebook, and has a website.




West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »

BuzzFeed

Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

The Lego Movie

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Nostalgia and today’s family-friendly films

Hollywood has always known the adults are watching alongside the kids, and that to push a film into record profits (as Lego looks set to do with a global box office of $428 million and counting), you need to appeal to ‘kids of all ages’. Read more »

nympho-poster

Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »

planes

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »

tweet

Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Web as an Empathy Machine

Ad hoc Twitter projects like #RaceSwapExp neatly draw together all that is terrific and all that is terrible about the web as a system. Depending on how it is used, the web can either allow us to retreat into callousness, cliques, and fixed ways of thinking or it can function as the world’s most sophisticated and effective empathy machine. Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »

wifi

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »

The Fault with a Sick-Lit Debate (1)

Danielle Binks

The fault with a sick-lit debate

American author John Green’s young adult (YA) novel The Fault in Our Stars has been a bestselling juggernaut since its release in 2012. Green’s book was somewhat inspired by his friendship with Esther Earl, whose posthumous memoir This Star Won’t Go Out was released in January this … Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »

Grandma photoshop

Chad Parkhill

Singing out

My maternal grandmother, Merilai Lilburn, recently died in a nursing home in Katikati, New Zealand, of complications arising from pneumonia. She was 82 years old. At the time of her death, I and the other members of our extended family based in Australia Read more »

Community

Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »