LIFE SIGNS coming from Turncoat Press

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“From alien warfare to genetic engineering, to the hazards of time travel and to the farthest reaches of the cosmos. Four stories of sterling science fiction. Are we alone in the universe? No, life signs have been detected….”

On the 13th of June, Cork-based comic publisher Turncoat Press will be launching their second comic book. “LIFE SIGNS”.

LIFE SIGNS is a 24 page book containing 4 science fiction stories written and illustrated by local talent. It’s a diverse collection that encompasses comedy, drama and an epic narrative sweep.

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The comic will be available at the launch on June 13th in the Franciscan Well in Cork city, from 2-8pm. The event will have artists from the book available to sign and sketch for the crowd. There will also be a live drawing from acclaimed local artist Gary McShane and several other local publishers in attendance selling their own books, prints and artwork.

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After the launch, LIFE SIGNS will be available to buy, or download, from turncoatpress.com

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Keep up to date with the release of Life Signs and for other events including where it will be on sale in the future by following Turncoat Press on Facebook and Twitter and at turncoatpress.com.

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About Turncoat Press

Turncoat Press are a Cork city based comics publisher, whose first book, I’m Awake, I’m Alive was launched in June of last year (2014) to great success and has since completely sold out.

Spirited Discussions: Exploring 30 Years of Studio Ghibli

Conference poster by Lyndon Jones
Conference poster by Lyndon Jones

On Saturday 18th April, I was in Cardiff to give a paper at the Spirited Discussions: Exploring 30 Years of Ghibli conference. The conference took place in one of Cardiff’s magnificent university buildings (I still love you, Aberystwyth) and was organised by James Rendell and Dr Rayna Denison. I had the most amazing time. Being a baby-faced scholar still fresh from undergrad antics, I’d never actually been to a conference before, let alone present my research. I’m still extremely grateful I was able to a part of it.

After spending most of the night being plagued by ‘I’m going to puke in front of everyone’ thoughts, punctuated nicely by train noises because I did not choose my hotel wisely, I rolled into the venue in time for the 9:30 lecture. The keynote speaker was the fab Professor Susan Napier, author of Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle. Her paper was titled ‘Ghibli’s Ghosts: The Legends and Legacies of Isao Takahata and Miyazaki Hayao’.

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She described the conference both as a celebration and as a ‘day of mourning’ – something I think all of us attending were trying not to admit. Napier then argued that Studio Ghibli’s ‘eeriness’ belonged to a renewed cultural interest in the supernatural and the occult because the world seems larger and as such there are more possibilities.

On the other hand, she discussed that to an extent Japan is losing its cultural memory and to use ghosts in fiction is to make the audience aware of ‘scars’ and of absences. She then rather cruelly introduced the theory that Totoro is a shinigami – a god of death – and when little Mei goes missing she is actually dead.

If any of us were still feeling the early start, this statement certainly woke us up. It was very amusing. But also no. No. Professor Napier’s talk was inspiring – she is so enthusiastic in bringing anime and manga studies the academic recognition it deserves and it was fantastic to listen to her paper.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

Once this was over, it was coffee time. I inhaled a cup of tea. The whole cup. Cardboard and all. It gave me life. We all took part in ‘speed-geeking,’ which was a really fun way to engage with people’s research in small group discussions. I then went to the ‘Ghibli and War’ panel, where I heard Kosuke Fujiki discuss the differences between Howl’s Moving Castle and the source material by Diana Wynne Jones, followed by Thomas Kierstad’s talk on Ghibli films in their relation to historical fiction tradition, and finally Yuna de Lannoy looked at the reasoning behind the strange use of human voices and imagery in Ghibli’s presentation of war machinery and bombs.

After lunch came my panel, ‘Gender and Character in Ghibli’s Films’. My paper was titled ‘Beyond Girlhood in Ghibli: Mapping Heroine Development Against the Adult Woman Anti-Hero in Princess Mononoke and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind’ and looked at the significance of the visual similarities between Nausicaä and Kushana, and the symbiotic bond running beneath the hostility between San and Lady Eboshi.

I argued that in each case, Miyazaki employs the independent adult woman to suggest that autonomy is not limited to girlhood. I think it was because I didn’t know my audience and that if I messed up it wouldn’t follow me back to Aber, because I was weirdly and unpredictably calm. I smashed it. It went so well.

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke

It was such a thrill to be able to share my research, and all the more so for how much I enjoyed the experience of presenting. Following on from me was Amanda Kennell, who gave a terrific data analysis of the divide between male and female characters in Ghibli, and the extent to which animal/monster characters are assigned genders. For all we celebrate the heroines of Ghibli, Kennell argued that Miyazaki ‘forgets feminism when he wants to discuss war.’ Fascinating stuff.

Shiro Yoshioka (whose co-writer Andrea Germer unfortunately couldn’t attend) discussed ‘The Housewife Trap’ of The Cat Returns and the idea of hegemonic masculinity and femininity in Japan. After the panel I inhaled more tea because I deserved it.

The final panel I attended was ‘Theorising Ghibli’. The first speaker was Manuel Hernández-Perez, who discussed Miyazaki in relation to Tezuka and whether Miyazaki presented an ‘Anti-Disney’. Next, Anna Blagrove gave an ecocritical view to the conference, focusing on the portrayed threats to the delicate equilibrium of Ghibli’s wonderful environments. Michael Lucken analysed the intricate symbolism of Spirited Away, bringing to attention things I would never have noticed before. Multiple minds were blown.

The closing keynote was given by Dr Rayna Denison, called ‘Toshio Suzuki and the Studios Ghibli: The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Most Successful Animation Studio’. It was an excellent close to the conference. Dr Denison explored the inter-textuality of Ghibli, and how it has developed into a brand with the help of Suzuki’s presence as the marketing face of the studio.

We then drank quite a lot of wine and watched Howl’s Moving Castle in a very chilled and happily exhausted atmosphere. I almost fell asleep once but I don’t think anyone noticed. It was a lovely way to end a fantastic event.

I really don’t think I could have asked for a better first conference. The atmosphere between delegates and attendees was excellent, and it was so great to be able to exchange ideas on Studio Ghibli. I think it’s going to be the first of many conferences celebrating Japanese media and storytelling and I sincerely hope to able to present more papers on the subject.

Shout-out to everyone (myself included) who shamelessly name-dropped Professor Susan Napier in their paper. We were all rather star-struck, I think. Special thanks to James Rendell and Dr Rayna Denison for doing a tremendous job in organising the event. And thanks to all the awesome people I met and to Mary for giving me the giggles throughout the film screening. I had the best time, guys.

Convergence: Batgirl #2 – review

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Convergence: Batgirl revives two retconned incarnations of the Gotham heroine – namely, Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain. Alongside Tim Drake’s Robin, they are pitted against the Flashpoint version of Catman in one of the Convergence deathmatches. However, the battle is joined by an unexpected third party in Gorilla Grodd, and both sides must join forces against their powerful foe.

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But this conflict is not the focal point of Convergence: Batgirl #2. The fight is wrapped up satisfactorily, but Alisa Kwitney is more interested in playing with the relationship between the three protagonists…

Through generous usage of flashbacks, Kwitney is able to balance the central fight scene with sequences that take place beforehand. The resulting narrative lacks clarity in places, and sometimes tends towards the convoluted (“I figured death was too good for Grodd, so we put him in the zoo with an elderly female named Zelda” remarks Catman, carefully filling us in on a superfluous piece of backstory) but the script’s character-led moments go some way towards making up for the its weaknesses.

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Immediately before the fight begins, Stephanie has a panic attack about the possible nature of the antagonist. Later on, the romantic relationship between Stephanie and Tim reaches its breaking point as old grievances bubble to the surface.

The two characters have a good chemistry. Nervous and uncertain Stephanie needs someone to lean on for support; Tim is perfect, if only they can forget their bumpy history long enough to last out the battle. This relationship is not given as much development as it could have been, but it at least ends on a charming note: Steph and Tim try to express their love physically, which turns out to a little bit more painful for the badly-bruised heroes than they would have liked…

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As this is very much Steph and Tim’s story, Cassandra gets sidelined throughout the issue. Aside from a sarcastic moment towards the end, she has little to do beyond stand around watching as the other heroes go at each other.

The artwork by penciller Rick Leonardi and inker Mark Pennington is passable but not exceptional, with plenty of energy alongside some occasionally suspect anatomy. Actual characterisation is largely absent from the illustrations until the love scene at the very end of the issue.

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Convergence: Batgirl #2 will find its ideal audience amongst readers who were fans of these characters in the pre-New 52 days and would like to see them get a little closure. Anyone else might be better off waiting for the trade; but still, this is an entertaining two-part runaround with enough good points to make it worth a look.

Talent

  • Writer: Alisa Kwitney
  • Penciller: Rick Leonardi
  • Inker: Mark Pennington
  • Colour: Steve Buccellato
  • Cover: Rick Leonardi & Dan Green

Specs

  • Series: Convergence: Batgirl 2015
  • Issue: 2
  • Price: $3.99
  • On Sale Date: May 6 2015
  • Color/B&W: Color
  • Page Count: 32

 

A bunch of literary girls reading comics. We're champions of comic books, realistic female superheroes, indie webcomics & manga. Reading, and reviewing!