Given that it’s South Africa’s largest comics festival, Icon, this weekend, it seems timely to introduce you to one of the newest and possibly most ambitious new local titles to hit stores, cons and expos – SECTOR. SECTOR is a take on the classic ‘pulp’ comic format, in that it’s an anthology of short black and white stories – or ‘sectors’ – that span a variety of genres from scifi through to horror and each episode ties in to a larger narrative that will develop over the course of the project.
According to one of the creators, Nas Who, we’re in for a bi-monthly rock-n-roll rollercoaster as each narrative becomes steadily more interwoven and developed into enough content to fill multiple graphic novels.
There was a time when the term “South African comics” would evoke a raised eyebrow and a guttural “Huh? We have comics here?” from the general person on the street. This would be most often followed by: “It probably sucks then”. This is somewhat frustrating for makers of local comics – perception often outweighs reality, and with the prevailing opinion on locally produced content rather sardonic, to say the least, building readerships and gaining acceptance has been tough.
Things, thankfully, have moved on since then, and over the past 7 years our fledgling industry has seen meteoric growth in terms of titles. We’ve always had the quality, but now we’re starting to get the quantity. SA comics have been seen at the San Diego Comic Con and Design Indaba, they feature annually at the rAge Expo and more artists are taking to plunge and making their own titles. We still get the “Huh?” when we say “SA comics”, to strangers but now it’s followed by: “Whoa! This is seriously good!” Which is a slight improvement, at least.
What impresses me most about SECTOR is that it stars some true heavy-hitters in the SA comic scene. Hailing from both Joburg and Cape Town, we’re seeing the likes of Daniël Hugo (of The Souvenir fame) and Moray Rhoda (SA’s ‘Godfather’ of comics and one of the reasons we’ve run panels at SDCC for two years in a row). This is important, for those of you that aren’t familiar, because they’re both superb writers and even better artists, meaning that you get a double-whammy of 2000AD-esque “kick ya in yer soddin’ balls” accompanied by wondrously visceral imagery.
A word of warning, though, this aren’t your standard Archie1 or Peanuts fare, the stories are brutal, gory and laced with sarcasm and wit, so younger audiences might not appreciate the content.
For the non-committal reader, the books even feature one-shots, which are singular self-contained short stories as a kind of caffeine for the tired comic-reading eye that is highly evocative of Rhoda’s incredibly successful Gaining Velocity anthologies, which feature a series of short stories by a team of artists from both SA and Australia.
The debut does not disappoint, literally throwing us in the deep end with an intriguing piratical adventure titled Uncharted Waters with story and art by Daniël Hugo and co-written by Moray Rhoda, featuring the capture of a mermaid and the ship’s captain’s discourse with the prisoner – there be a mysterious treasure in a sunken city and very determined crew seeking their fortune. Hugo’s art is sumptuous and his timing with each panel is superb, always punchy, and always resplendent with detail while toned perfectly in simple greyscale. Uncharted Waters was the perfect choice to start the book with, and the two follow-up stories only lend to the overall feel of pulpy goodness.
Both Katnipp and The Illustrated Guide to the End of the World combine beautiful, stark black and white images with hilarious stories. The one-off Katnipp has an especially hilarious final twist, but is also kinda sad, so it makes you guilty for laughing and that means that it was totally engaging and hence great!
I can’t sing this book’s praises any higher, because it sets a great benchmark for the issues to follow. Being the lucky person that I am, I received an advance copy of issue 2, and it’s as much a treat as the first, especially the follow-up to Uncharted Waters that has an utterly breath-taking nautical battle sequence.
SECTOR takes a bold step in an old direction that worked perfectly in its favour – the content is easily digestible, fun to read and, most importantly, gets you excited for the next issue. The team are delivering on their promise of an issue every two months, meaning that it’s not even a long wait to get your next fix.
Now, the big question is where do you get the books? SECTOR is currently available at selected comic stores in Joburg and Cape Town, and will also feature at conventions like Joburg’s Icon and rAge.
So this is where I implore you, dear reader, to head out to the various stores and/or events and pick up this prime example of SA’s comic talent – the industry needs the support, you need entertainment, so both parties will win in that regard and we’ll be able to see even better growth over the next few years.
It’s also be nice if people stopped saying ‘Huh?’ about SA Comics, and rather ran into stores, clamouring for new books.