zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rambling Review – Hollow Fields Vol. 1


Sent to you by Jack via Google Reader:


via The Comic Spot by John Retallick on 11/4/08

Story and Art by Madeleine Rosca.

I haven't read a lot of manga. I've not been very enamoured at the aesthetic in general and have found it difficult to connect with the characters and stories of the ones that I have come across. But, all this being said, I have and am making a concerted effort to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of eastern influenced comics.

I began in earnest after a brilliant and mind expanding Osama Tezuka exhibition came to the NGV in Melbourne about two years ago. To see the depth and breadth of just a fraction of his work was very special. There is nothing quite like seeing the original art of a great cartoonist to gain a greater appreciation of their skill and talent. Tezuka's art had just this effect on me. In particular I found pages from his unfinished Beethoven biography profoundly beautiful and exciting. The way he depicted music on the page made it a visceral experience. As far as I know this has never been in print in English. If you know different then please let me know so I can get hold of it.

But I digress.

The exhibition motivated me to go out and buy some of Tezukas more mature works. I began with reading the 8 volume Buddha. A lovely work depicting the entire life of the Buddha. Monumental stuff, but also full of mangaesque quirks, humour, asides, in jokes and a story that went from rollicking to somber at the drop of a hat. It helped me develop my way of reading eastern comics. It's through this prism that I find myself starting my manga journey.

From there I read some OzTaku anthologies of seriealised and short manga by Australian creators before reading my first series in the shape of Queenie Chan's 'The Dreaming'. The Dreaming is set in a boarding house in the Australian bush where a set of twins find themselves in a situation populated by ghosts, demons, suppressed secrets and horrific dreams. Queenie was a guest on the June 08 ComicSpot (which I'm hoping to post in a week or two)and she gave us a window into the manga world from a creators point of view. Another step toward my understanding of this hitherto undiscovered country.

Don't worry – I'm getting to Hollow Fields.

So now – October 2008 - I pick up a copy of Hollow Fields after hearing that it has won a Japanese Manga Award and is created by a Tasmanian! Is there a better way to combine an interest in manga and a passion for Australian Manga? I think not.

Hollow Fields is the story of a young spunky girl called Lucy Snow. She accidently finds herself a student at boarding school for the offspring of mad scientists and evil doers. The major plot point hammered home in the volume is that 'detention' (where the worst student of the week is sent) is a place of no return. Once sent – no one ever returns. This leads to Lucy scheming all manner of escape plans and ways to complete near impossible homework assignments. The school is run by a cabal of suitably menacing robot lecturers, a seemingly evil headmistress, a patchwork monster enforcer by the name of Mr Stinch and within this first chapter Lucy's class is populated by friends and foes that I'm sure are further developed subsequent volumes.

I had fun reading this tale. It's fast moving and a good adventure story. The art is dymanic and full of energy. The world Rosca has created is well populated and diverse. She seems to have created many avenues to explore. Whether that be through Lucy, her classmates, the schools staff or the building of the school itself. The school, the 'Hollow Fields' of the title is solidly realised and worthy of exploration in it's own right. A sort of steam punk influenced environment of permanently turning clockwork cogs and complicated architecture that demands a map and good secret passage or two to be the core of at least a few of Lucy's adventures.

There is a second volume and according to Madeleine's blog a third just completed. I'm more than happy to say that I'm along for the ride. This is quality stortelling – and whilst I'm sure I'm not the core audience for this book – I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Check out Madeleine's blog and I also found this great video featuring Madeleine talking about her art, her process and the book's development. It looks like it was taken at a gallery showing of her art. Sweet!

I'm off to Tassie for a few days myself this week so I'm hoping the next episode of TheComicSpot (November 27) will feature some interviews with Tassie creators and comickers. You'll know more as it comes to hand. Hopefully Madeleine will be amongst them.

Cheers for now.



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