The strangest thing happened to me today. I read a self-published mini-comic produced by a New Zealand creator, and it was really good! I don't mean it was "fine" like "Paradise Lost" from last month's PPP. Nah, I mean it was really, really excellent stuff. The comic was "Drinking Mercury", and the creator was a guy named Richard Fairgray.
Now, I'm not saying that the comic was perfect. Richard is clearly a writer first and foremost, and his self-pencilled artwork has a little way to go before it catches up with his scripting skills. Also, the panel flow is a little confusing at times. But by criticising minor details like the occasionally poor panel flow, I hope I'm making it clear by contrast just how much is superb about this one-shot comic. I'm not just talking relative to the (rather lacklustre) New Zealand comics industry here. This is a top-notch comic story by anybody's standards. It's even more incredible when you consider that this is only Fairgray's second published comic.
I should add here that I met Richard at the latest Wellington comic convention. The name was vaguely familiar, though I didn't recall any of his work at the time. I did however note two things. Firstly, he was very young - scarcely twenty years old, if that. Secondly, he was a heck of a nice guy. I would now add to those observations the clear fact that he also appears to be one of the top up-and-coming creators on the NZ comic scene.
Maybe now is a good time to talk about "Drinking Mercury". The story is of that of Thom, a former narcolepsy sufferer who trained himself to live without sleep. Now, he spends the night-time hours among the strange inhabitants who prowl Auckland city in the dark hours - Spencer, Tina, Justine, Rose, Harold. But when Rose goes missing, Harold begins to wonder how much of what they know about Thom is true. The story drives towards a conclusion that packs a serious dramatic punch.
The tale is told in 40-odd half-pages of grayscale art, wrapped in a glossy full-color cover. Production quality is surprisingly high. Publishing costs have been supported by some advertising pages, which is fantastic to see. If advertisers can see the value of self-published work, that speaks volumes by itself.
Seriously, it's no exaggeration when I say that reading this comic has restored my faith in the NZ comics industry. I was just about to give up trying to find anything half-decent produced by locals, when I happened on to this. I'm so impressed that I'm going to go buy half a dozen copies and give them away as presents. This is a comic that merits sharing. I also note that Richard has been busy in the meantime. I've also picked up his seventh comic publication, "Falling Leaves #1", beginning a planned three-part story. If it sustains the promise of this earlier work, then I'm really in for a treat. Either way, you'll certainly see a review of the Falling Leaves trilogy in an upcoming "Better Read".
Richard Fairgray publishes under the label "Unfortunate Creatures", where he also does some editorial and collaborative work. You can find out more about Richard and about Unfortunate Creatures on their Website. Tell them that SpiderFan sent you.
Next: Funtime Comics.