Read Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks Online


Cartoonist Sam Zabel hasn't drawn a comic in years. Stuck in a nightmare of creative block and despair, Sam spends his days writing superhero stories for a large American comics publisher and staring at a blank piece of paper, unable to draw a single line. Then one day he finds a mysterious old comic book set on Mars and is suddenly thrown headlong into a wild, fantastic jCartoonist Sam Zabel hasn't drawn a comic in years. Stuck in a nightmare of creative block and despair, Sam spends his days writing superhero stories for a large American comics publisher and staring at a blank piece of paper, unable to draw a single line. Then one day he finds a mysterious old comic book set on Mars and is suddenly thrown headlong into a wild, fantastic journey through centuries of comics, stories, and imaginary worlds. Accompanied by a young webcomic creator named Alice and an enigmatic schoolgirl with rocket boots and a bag full of comics, Sam goes in search of the Magic Pen, encountering sex-crazed aliens, medieval monks, pirates, pixies and--of course--cartoonists. Funny, erotic, and thoughtful, Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen explores the pleasures, dangers, and moral consequences of fantasy....

Title : Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780864739759
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 225 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen Reviews

  • Sam Quixote
    2018-11-19 05:48

    Cartoonist Sam Zabel is burned out on comics. Suffering from anhedonia (the absence of pleasure, of joy), he sets aside his indie book Pickle for writing the banal superhero Lady Night for Eternal Comics, hacking out scripts he hates to earn a living. Then one day he discovers a forgotten New Zealand cartoonist, Evan Rice, and his comic The King of Mars. Opening the pages, he sneezes, opens his eyes and… he’s inside the comic’s world! So begins Sam’s fantastical odyssey through sequential art… Dylan Horrocks’ Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is the timely exploration of women in comics, particularly with how they were and are represented. In a positive development, more women today are reading comics than ever before, the numbers growing with each passing year, which is starting to be reflected in Marvel and DC’s focus on bringing female (along with non-white) characters and creators to the fore. The question posed in Horrocks’ book is whether we are morally responsible for our fantasies. Sure, the idea of fantasy is just that: a fantasy, and it’s there to be enjoyed for what it is, not picked apart. But someone’s idea of fantasy is often not someone else’s, ie. violently assaulting women. More to the point, do cartoonists have a responsibility in how they portray women? Comics do shape and form part of the wider culture, especially given the immense popularity of comic book movies - if women are drawn as “generic erotic playthings for men to use and abuse as they wish”, shouldn’t that change to improve the culture? A lot of that criticism is levelled at Golden Age comics from the ‘50s which had no qualms in denigrating women. Which isn’t to say all creators have necessarily lascivious intentions - the joy of creation is expounded upon, something Sam is missing, but other comics creators, like Evan Rice, possess when making their comics. For them, comics are an escape and thoughts of sexism, etc. don’t come into it but can be a subconscious byproduct. Horrocks also romanticises the simplicity and relative innocence of superhero comics from that era. Through the Lady Night character, he talks about his dislike of how modern superheroes have become too dark and gritty, oversexed, rebooted and redesigned far too many times (it’s worth noting Horrocks wrote a run on Batgirl for DC roughly ten years ago, his only superhero work-for-hire to date). These are points of view I fully agree with but I still thought the book ended up being a tad too preachy in its points, the story and its characters becoming secondary to the message. That and the unoriginal Edgar Rice Burroughs-ness of the Mars story made it a little dull to read. Sam’s arc was also a bit too neat and unconvincingly underwritten in its resolution too - that whistle-stop tour/celebration of the medium was a little heavy-handed. Also, the ending about the magic pen itself is very, very cheesy in an after-school special way even though it fits in with the overall theme of the book and Horrocks is clearly being very earnest. I really liked the art. The clean lines and the black dotted eyes reminded me of Tintin (one of Herge’s books also appears in a panel), and I liked how he illustrated in a Golden Age facsimile when it came to those pages. The colours are mostly very bright, imaginative and appealing too. If it wasn’t for all the bewbs (the green women of Venus - because women are from Venus, men are from Mars - are all topless), I’d say it looks like a very kid-friendly comic! Dylan Horrocks’ Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen is a decent comic that I wanted to like more because of what it was aiming for but only felt ambivalent about because of its uninspired over-reliance on well-established genres to tell its story. Necessary, yes, but not very compelling either. It’s a fine comic though, thoughtful and drawn really well. The indie crowd will read this but it should really be superhero readers - and creators - who pick this one up.

  • Jan Philipzig
    2018-11-09 06:31

    Joyful, sweet, smart, effortless, sexy, playful, funny, reflexive, sincere, magical, pure - I love it!

  • Seth T.
    2018-11-04 11:45

    When I was in high school, I heard an older man recount a conversation he had while in seminary in his twenties. He vividly remembered speaking with a friend who was wracked with guilt and confessing sins. Possibly a common experience in so religious a setting as a seminary—a place intended to prepare young men for religious service.  The curiosity was that this repentant man was broken up over and ashamed of sins he had committed in his dreams. The man telling the story was completely blown away by a person who would be so devastated by the actions of his subconscious self (as expressed in dreams) that he would feel the need to confess those actions. The story stuck with the man I heard, and it was wild enough that it stuck with me as well. At the time, the whole idea seemed ludicrous. After all, we couldn’t possibly be held accountable for the murders, careless thefts, and sexual dalliances of our dream lives, could we? Fantasy is, after all, fantasy. Yet now, even those who lack any religious fervor are exploring the intersection of ethics and the imaginary. Are our fantasies harmless or do they encourage certain moral poisons to infect us? Are our fantasies merely products of the us who exists or do they encourage us to act on nascent sparks of interest? One of the principal modern engagements in fantasy worlds, videogames, labours under near constant suspicion. Do violent games breed violent temperaments? Or do they merely exacerbate existent proclivities? Or do they do even that? What about the systemic sexism that expresses itself across videogames’ treatment and portrayal of their stand-ins for the female and the feminine? Does that speak to the broad social assumptions of the civilization? Does it encourage a particular way of viewing women? Does it encourage unhelpful sexual objectification and sexual alienation of the female?The question of whether and to what degree we are responsible for our fantasies is a huge issue of the contemporary ethical landscape. We wonder what participation in fantasy says about the participant—and the power of what it says to the participant. We need to understand fantasy worlds and what they say about the real world, but we seem pretty torn between liberty and responsibility. We dismiss some concerns but highlight others.In one sense, we’re pretty certain that fantasy doesn’t have to have any particular moral quality to it. If I’m playing Super Mario Brothers, I’m engaging in regular, careless-and-perhaps-malicious destruction of turtles by stomping them to death. But I believe deeply in not carelessly harming animals and would never stomp on a turtle in real life. So what kind of weight do we give the fantasy game violence in that case? Negligible moral weight probably.But if I engage in preteen rape fantasies? Is that worrisome? Does that say something about me? We generally agree that it probably does. Obviously better to express in the fantasy than in the reality, but it still speaks (we think) to something broken within the fantasizer. (Pedophiles who do not act on their desires and fantasies are still—probably legitimately—seen as a major concern to the community around them.) And if I express those pre-teen rape fantasies through comics so that others can enjoy and take part in them, is that moral or responsible? Or is that a neutral non-malicious act, or is it rotten and soul-corrupting? By spreading my fantasies and sparking the fantasies of others, am I helping to forge a new framework for people? The hypothetical Me here (the Me that’s published these awful hypothetical comics) has in some sense challenged the notion that preteen girls aren’t to be objects of adult sexual fetishment. And so what are the repercussions of that challenge? Does the idea die with the fantasy or does it, like so many ideas, bear further fruit?This is the world that Dylan Horrocks explores in Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen. He investigates fantasy as healthy release vs responsible fantasy vs focus on the “real” world. Horrocks highlights his purpose in two places early in the book: 1) in his dueling epigraphs, “In dreams begins responsibility” (Yeats) vs “Desire has no morality” (Hartley); 2) when Alice summarizes main character Sam’s subconsciously delivered speech as being concerned with “the pleasures and dangers of fantasy,” the purpose of stories, and whether art is a lie that conveys the truth or merely a lie. This is Horrocks’ fantasy playground, and though he doesn’t actually deliver to us anything like a conclusion, he does pack in enough bookclub’s grist for discussion to keep wheels spinning for a couple hours of heated argument.While only a little more than 200 pages, Sam Zabel is a bit of sprawling adventure-by-way-of-tourism. Sam finds himself sucked into a comic drawn with the titular pen. And then into another and another and another. There’s a bit of plot and danger to move us from here to there near the climax, but largely the book is concerned with Sam and his interaction-with-slash-fear-of fantasy expression. The character is torn all over the place, enjoying and engaging in fantasy flight but then feeling bad and uncomfortable with aspects of it. He’s as confused and contradictory as our own society is—and while he comes to something of a conclusion for himself, it’s more an issue of what’s comfortable to him rather than the larger question of right and wrong. Horrocks seems pretty well aware of his character’s hesitations and often interjects as the omniscient narrator with notes that Sam was supposed to have responded in a particular way but waffled, so the fantasy goes in a different direction. One moment of Sam putting significant effort into untangling the question of responsibility vs fantasy is rendered self-consciously suspect by the fact that it occurs in the midst of one of Sam’s own fantasies (as the fantasy is quick to point out to Sam).It’s a curious book and I would have preferred Horrocks’ ending with less ambiguity (and maybe even coming down straight on the question), but like so much art, Sam Zabel is less Art As Statement than it is Art As Question or Art As Exploration. I largely found myself satisfied with Sam Zabel (though the tremendous amount of nudity[1] made public reading in Starbucks a bit of a dicey affair). There is, however, a chief deficit when interacting with Sam Zabel's primary discussion. It’s a problem similar to that proposed in Duncan the Wonder Dog. In Duncan, Adam Hines offers a fantastic tool for learning to empathize with animals—if a reader will allow themself to be convinced. Duncan's conceit is that all the animals in the world speak and can communicate with humans. Because of this we get a greater sense of their often tragic place in human society. It can be heart-wrenching book. The problem is that because animals don’t actually talk and we don’t really in real life see them able to conceive of their circumstances as sentient beings would, many of the situations feel contrived. So the argument loses its force. The same is true of Sam’s moral rectitude when it comes to the cartoonists’ responsibility for their fantasy creations. He worries that because the magic pen made these comics come to life, the artist has a responsibility to these living things. He means for the argument to carry over, but it’s hard to buy it as there’s not really any actual tie between his argument and our real world. But maybe that’s part of Horrocks’ aim—maybe he intends to undermine his own point.[2] Because if one wishes to say that any fantasy creation has within it the same breath of life as those created by the magic pen, we run into the extremist argument[3] that all fantasy is real. Whether intentional or not, it kind of takes the wind a bit out of the sails and pushes the reader to take the stakes of the book with a little less gravity.The other bit that probably did the least to win me was the dialogue, which sometimes felt like trading monologues devised from well-intentioned Tumblr posts. It’s never awful or even bad. It just never remotely approaches verisimilitude. I won’t ding the book for it though because I’m not even sure that realistic dialogue was ever meant to be on the table. There’s a little something nod-nod, wink-wink about even the “real world” segments of the book—stuff that makes you aware that you’re still reading fantasy—so the dialogue is probably just more of that fantasy bleeding through. It’s a smart book and deserves discussion. I’d highly recommend it to the book club set. I waffled a bit on whether I thought this was Good or Okay. I’m still not sure that I got it quite right. Which may mean that it’s just Okay. But then maybe I’m undervaluing it. Whatever, the stars mean so little anyway. There are probably three kinds of people Sam Zabel is meant for: 1) those who have a community with whom to discuss the Idea books they run across; 2) those already invested in the book’s principle question regarding the nature and place of fantasy; and 3) those with a special interest in nude green women. And man, if all three of those describe you, consider this book a slice of your heaven._______[Review courtesy of Good Ok Bad.]_______Footnotes1) Really, what can you expect from a book that critiques male cartoonists’ fantasies by exploring visually their cartoon fantasies?2) He does this overtly and with tongue in cheek at several points throughout the book.3) Extremist enough that I’m not sure anyone would actually make the argument.

  • David Schaafsma
    2018-10-31 10:28

    This graphic novel by New Zealand artist Horrocks is (for me) a major event in comics this past year, a thing which I also said about Scott McCloud's The Sculptor, of which it in some ways reminds me. In both the main character suggests the author in many ways, both preach a little bit about moral issues and comics history and tradition, and both are masterfully accomplished as comics. Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen appears from the cover and opening to be for kids, but it is for grown-ups. Or all ages, maybe.One of the issues Horrocks takes on is the continuing one of how women are still being depicted in comics, primarily by the two big superhero houses, and primarily with respect to the unrealistic, male-fantasy-dominated depictions of women's bodies. Horrocks, like his main character, has worked in superhero comics (Horrocks did some Batgirl work, and other comics), and he depicts Zabel as quite conflicted about his desires. He himself is of course a male, with fantasies about women's bodies, and through Zabel and the help of three smart women characters he depicts, he wrestles with the issue of representations of fantasy in comics, and particularly sexual fantasies (which, one of the women character notes, women also have, of course, and like to see depicted).So Horrocks is controversial in that there are a lot of naked women in this comics novel. Can he have it both ways? In other words, can he slam the comics industry AND show lots of naked women in the process of his critique? Through a complicated story about a magic pen, Zabel enters into a jungle comic he finds that is from the Golden era, and one from New Zealand. This story he enters is hilarious, with sex-starved jungle women seen in part through the eyes of one or the three or four women who help Zabel see the situation, though not all of the women comics commentators follow the strict feminist condemnatory line. Horrocks has fun with the debate, and in the process has fun with jungle comics with a New Zealand flair; for instance, in many golden age comics, superhero characters used lots of exclamation points. Zounds! Holy Firecats! Horrocks's kiwi angle is to have such characters say things like "Tumbling tuataras!" and "Cackling keas!" that refer to Kiwi and often specifically Maori culture. Fun! Educational! Silly! Helps us lighten up a bit from the intense feminist issues, which is a good thing. It IS a comic, so it's oaky to be educational and political and have fun.Sam Zabel, the sellout comics master has not produced a significant work for more than ten years. . . . a little like Horrocks! The first section, entitled Anhedonia (a term I first heard was Woody Allen's working title for Annie Hall, meaning a condition where you can't experience joy, in anything), shows him depressed, artist-blocked. So he has to go through this process of comics history discovery to regain his chops. The result is a multi-layered, entertaining and educational tale that like Hicksville and other Horrocks's work is a paen to comics and comics history. He wants to speak to his fellow comics readers and artists and engage them in dialogue about moral and ethical issues and recapture the joy of comics in the process. One thing he discovers, along the "preaching" lines (not very spoiler alert): ALL pens are actually magic pens! Go create! Horrocks includes notes that help us with all the comics he references throughout history, and New Zealand cultural references. Overall: Fun time!

  • Ksenia (vaenn)
    2018-11-16 10:54

    Творці в творчій кризі - страшні люди! Відомий інді-картуніст заради грошей фігачить нудну супергеройську серійку. Його вже від цієї супергероїки нудить (і від самого себе - також), але раптом стається диво. Ні, Сем Зейбел не просвітлюється, не відмовляється змащувати вісі колісниці капіталізму (упс, це з іншої книжки, хоча з тієї ж частини світу) і навіть не починає отримувати задоволення від свого заняття. Він провалюється в олдскульний бульварний комікс про землянина на Марсі і знаходить там рай на... ну, на Марсі ж, яким його міг уявляти підліток 1950-х. Пищьпищь, страшні чудовиська, вірні поплічники, гарячі красуні, оце от усе. Хоча дещо випадає з концепції: що це за манга-дівчинка з реактивними чоботями та наплічничком із хронічною гикавкою?Новозеландець Ділан Горрокс утнув доволі дивну штуку - спробував через стандартну пригодницьку фабулу одночасно зробити кілька речей: розповісти історію коміксової культури, висловити кілька думок щодо середньозваженого гік-життя, поділитися творчими бідами та труднощами, а головне - голосно і буквально проговорити проблему відповідальності творця. Причому на матеріалі жіночих персонажів. Такшо в цьому графічному романі хіба що на бронеліфчики прямим текстом не жаліються, але в одному коміксі відбувається емансипаційна революція, в іншому - луплять по тентаклях, в третьому уже давно повний бойовий матріархат, і на прикладі всіх - детально розжовується, чому дівчатам можуть бути нецікаві хлоп'ячі пубертатні фантазії. Поважай себе, поважай свою аудиторію, поважай продукт своєї фантазії - а раптом у нього/неї теж є думка з приводу розвитку сюжету. Ідея ніби й нехитра, але втілена вона яскраво. Іноді аж занадто - бо в процесі натягування концепції на глобус місцями накульгують і логіка, і етика.

  • rob
    2018-10-31 09:53

    Dylan Horrocks, I fucking love you. It has been less than half a year since I found Hicksville and in that time have devoured it no less than 5 times, each time being reminded of why I liked it so much the other times and also getting a little something extra every time. But you couldn't do that story again, and leading up to this book I was wondering how you'd do anything again – hasn't the nature of the criticism of your last book ballooned your head in such a way that the reader won't help but notice in your next book? Weren't you scared that it would just be compared to that anyways and you'd crumple up your penciled paper in rash frustration? What would this story be about – oh, some dumb pen? I wasn't hoping for much. . .--Hicksville did a wondrous thing of celebrating comics within a comic about comics. It would have come off as pretentious if it wasn't so ball-swingingly honest with me right from the start. Each chapter of that book has a selected quote from the likes of Ditko or Lee or Tezuka that (sorta) sets up the following chapter. The Magic Pen gives us just two, right at the beginning. One from WB Yeats and one from...Nina Hartley, pornstar. They both concern fantasy, desire and responsibility. I was worried having a full color work would somehow detract from the experience. Hicksville sports a few pages that are so subtle in their wordless artistry that they're completely without peer to me. Not to worry. Dylan has done it again, and I should've recognized this when I got through the first sixty pages and thought the SAME exact thought that I had with Hicksville when I reached that mark: where's the story, man ? See, The Magic Pen's story comes from real life. Its not in the comic! How are you gonna go and write a comic about something that isn't there, in the book? You start it with a completely self-deprecating and anhedonic tone. Did you know that I, another artist (both less and more failed than yourself), would pull back and lower my expectations? Did you know that I would pity you going into this world(s), seemingly distracted from its own McGuffin for much of its 200 pages?How responsible am I for my fantasies? seems to be the question of this comic. Without saying too much, it both celebrates and critiques fantasy in ways too numerous to count. The Japanese girl with rocket boots and an adorable book bag that burps and noms comics. A tree of literal life and homely retreat and a Martian ravine of adorable, rideable over-sized eyeballs. All of these things show us Horrocks' simple love of comics and the visual medium. And then there's his wife, kids and home life that get pushed to the side when Sam falls inside a comic book. But why set yourself up for failure? Why make the frame of the story so thin and fey its practically not there at all? The plot relies so much on the reader's pathos and determination to re-read that it is no wonder why it took so long to come out (especially after the brilliant but no doubt realistic intro, reminiscent of the intro to Hicksville's rereleased version). Artists get that they're only failures with a couple successes here and there. This book is a xanadu of failures.The female characters are given focus, especially toward the end, when the point is hammered home. Is Horrocks white-knighting his way out of a proper climax? I don't think so. Its an apology for a life of creation ("now, blow") and destructive placation ("Sam sits in front of his computer all day long...keeping the wolf from the door"), but born of guilt it isn't. In maybe the best chapter (in a book full of great chapters) we learn from a golden-age comic heroine about a creator's role in order — now, this is where the artist is holding a mirror to the world. She says the artist wants order in a senseless universe. S/he, the creator, wants... Well, I'll have to leave you to find out what that is for yourself. Sam's character finds out what that is for him and leaves us when that wonderful, glowing sense of the story's arch finally, gloriously raises its head JUST ONCE to eclipse the art itself and tell me, Hey, there's a story after all. Now take responsibility and just breathe.

  • Eleanor Toland
    2018-11-19 06:50

    In this bold and transgressive graphic novel, drawn in a simple, clean style, Dylan Horrocks mixes autobiography and fantasy to relate a poignant journey from depression and artist's block towards a sense of deeper authenticity. Sam Zabel resentfully writes scripts for formulaic superhero stories and can't bring himself to work on his own material. The discovery of a campy 1950s sci-fi comic along the lines of John Carter of Mars leads to him being swept into a series of fantasy worlds.Guided by Miki Roketto, a manic pixie dreamgirl with flying boots, a sentient teddy-bear backpack and black lipstick, Sam explores the true meaning of story through a series invented worlds, many of which are seriously "adult" in nature (in fact, the book should probably be labelled as unsuitable for younger readers). Along for the ride is Alice, a 21-year-old webcomic artist and tumblr enthusiast who rewrites pop-culture into her own Mary-Sue fantasies.It's a strange and often lurid story- seeing a space-alien orgy drawn in the style of Herge really quite something- but there's a moral heart to the story, one put forward in such a heavy handed manner that it's impossible to miss. It's a story about the responsibilities of art, about asking whether fantasy should be held accountable for its influence on culture, and especially whether certain sexual fantasies influence violence in real life. Alice proudly defends her self-insert fanfic as a feminist act in the following quite awe-inspiring speech: "Look- I'm a geek, but I'm also a girl. Fantasy is what I live for. But most of the imaginary worlds I spend my time in were made up by men- often with some pretty icky ideas about women...I've learned to take those imaginary worlds and make them my own- subverting them to serve my fantasies- not theirs." But interestingly, the villain's motive is a dark version of the same thing. He subverts an upbeat children's story into his own vicious, perverse fantasies (Brony?). There are no easy answers here, and the reader is left with the uneasy suggestion that perhaps fantasy itself might be inherently unhealthy. It's a thought-provoking read, and definitely a major addition to the very small canon of New Zealand speculative fiction.

  • Berna Labourdette
    2018-10-27 06:54

    De Dylan Horrocks había leído anteriormente Hicksville y The Names of Magic (una vuelta a Tim Hunter), que la verdad: ni fu ni fa. Pedí este cómic sin ninguna expectativa y fue lo mejor, resultó ser una maravilla y un canto de amor al cómic y a sus escritores y dibujantes, mezclando un antiguo cómic "vivo" que el autor es capaz de visitar cuando lo lee y modificar las situaciones que pasan. Horrocks, con un dibujo muy sencillo pero efectivo, revisa el rol de la mujer en los cómics, pasando por el bloqueo del escritor, utilizando las viñetas al máximo. Muy recomendable.

  • Richard
    2018-10-29 10:32

    I liked the tone, which seemed quite personal and unaffected. Unfortunately, the art didn't really work for me, and although I thought the issues were interesting, no new-to-me ground was covered.

  • Mi
    2018-11-19 09:27

    I will start this off by saying: too much sex and naked women.Although I used to work in a comic store, my love for Western comics is very limited. Not to say that I find them any less good than other types of comics or storytelling. But they, quite simply, do not appeal to me. So as unfortunate as it is, my English Literature paper at university saw the need to include a graphic novel.Sam Zabel is a cartoonist, one with a major block. Unable to appreciate his work any longer he finds that what he lacks is some fun in his life. Upon sneezing into an old comic, he finds himself thrown into the world of the comic itself. It appears he can jump from one comic into another and starts exploring comics of various genres with his new found friends Miki and Alice. The basic story is actually quite nice and could have been a very fun ride. But while Sam Zabel visits comics of very different genres, they all have one thing in common: they all offer ‘fun’. In most scenarios, we have female characters throwing themselves on Sam and trying to please him. In some cases, it ends up in a whole group sex scene. Even if Sam is not involved, there are sure to be some characters in the background who are. What is this supposed to say about comics? Do all of them have sexual themes? Are they meant to be jokes? If it would have been included in one of the comics – fine. But all of them? Then there is my issue with Miki. From the moment the character Miki appeared I was convinced that she represents a stereotypical manga figure. Throughout the book, I just could not figure out: was this a homage to manga or was the author having a go at it? It was made very clear at the end that Miki was indeed a manga character and her comic... Of course, her comic turns out to be hentai – what else? If it were the story alone, I would probably give it a 1-star rating. The good thing about comics, though, is that there is also the graphic aspect. While the art does not appeal to me personally, it is a solid and clean style – I liked the vibrant colours.

  • Beckie Dutcher
    2018-11-21 10:27

    This started out as a magical little adventure tale that weaves together the dull horrors of getting older with the evolution of comics and entertainment. By the end it is a beautiful rumination on creativity, imagination, getting unstuck and loving this life. I'm a sucker for stories within stories, and Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen quite delivered on that front.I enjoyed the earnest examples of how comics can benefit from more progressive views and how Horrocks was able to incorporate that philosophy into the book's action. The discussion of the morality of desire was thought-provoking and fascinating. I'll probably be thinking about that for a long time. 4 stars for Miki and Alice alone. One extra for a surprisingly lovely and touching ending.

  • Derek Royal
    2018-10-28 06:50

    While I appreciated more Horrocks's previous book, Hicksville, I very much like where he's going in this recent work. This plays off many of the characters and situations established in the earlier graphic novel -- or his original Pickle series -- and I'm wondering how connected these two books really are...and along with that, if this is a narrative world that the author plans to revisit again. If we read Sam Zabel as a fictional version of Horrocks, and if Zabel is also a character in a fictional world as found in Hicksville, then the metafictional possibilities are greater than any surface reading might suggest. In many ways, Horrocks's comics are about comics, the history of comics, and the act of creating comics. We're interview the author on an upcoming episode of the podcast.

  • Scott Robins
    2018-11-17 12:31

    Really torn on this one - it tries to recreate the same mysterious, esoteric nature of comic book as in Hicksville but it just doesn't feel as authentic or true. I found the first few chapters of Sam Zabel to feel like a completely different book compared to the rest. There's a lot of great stuff in here but it gets so bogged down and mired in the heavy handed messaging about the nature of writer's block, the responsibility of artists and creators and the nature of graphic fiction itself. I guess considering how much I LOVE Hicksville, maybe my expectations were too high for this. I think this is really a 2.5 stars for me.

  • Vittorio Rainone
    2018-11-09 06:29

    Una storia sul fumetto, che ne esamina la fascinazione e si concentra sullo sforzo creativo. Ma anche una storia perfettamente leggibile e godibile, al di là del suo significato. Con disegni semplici, ma tutt'altro che semplicistici, che si adattano mirabilmene alle diverse tonalità che assume durante il viaggio meraviglioso di Sam Zabel nei generi fumettistici. Bella dinamica, bella risoluzione, per un libro da ricordare.

  • Andrew
    2018-11-14 12:38

    I had just finished reading Horrocks Hicksville when I found out this book was just recently released after a long period of inactivity.I really enjoyed the artwork and the fast paced adventure. The message was a little obvious though, and felt forced. I would have preferred more emphasis on Horrocks' lack of happiness.

  • Tatyana Naumova
    2018-11-11 12:27

    Ооооочень мило!

  • Robert
    2018-11-22 08:36

    I love the art in this book so much.

  • Miguel Jiménez
    2018-10-30 11:37

    "Sam Zabel y la Pluma Mágica" es metaficción que añade un elemento único al estilo literario. Si bien el bloqueo creativo y la consciencia de ficción con aparición del escritor es un tema que puede encontrarse en diferentes obras narrativas, (pienso en la película "Adaptation", escrita por Charlie Kaufman o la novela "El garabato", de Vicente Leñero, entre otras obras, que utilizan cuestiones como el vacío mental para escribir o hacer una historia dentro de otra), el dibujante Dylan Horrocks utiliza los anteriores tópicos que sazona con una característica: los mundos ficticios que pueden ser habitables gracias a una pluma, la Pluma Mágica. Y cómo no, el escritor entra en esos mundos.Señalar una cosa importante: Dylan Horrocks creó varios cómics en uno solo. Y eso es "Sam Zabel y la Pluma Mágica": derroche de imaginación fantástica con cierta inclinación por las historias pulp extrañas de los cómics. Eso me parece destacable. Sin embargo, siento que hay un exceso por mostrar éstas historias. Si bien a eso se refiere el título del cómic, me habría gustado más ver cómo, a partir de esas experiencias vivenciales en los cómics, las traduciría al mundo real, lo cual aparece de forma breve. Por eso le pongo 2 estrellas.

  • Jim
    2018-10-29 13:28

    This was a fun, quick read. Sam Zabel is a cartoonist, who has been in a creative slump for a while and is depressed. He stumbles into a fantasy world of comics, meeting new characters and exploring many issues related to comics and life. This is definitely a graphic novel for adults, due to minor nudity and sexual content. What I found interesting is the exploration and discussion of how women have been treated in comics, comparing and contrasting earlier comics from the 50's to modern comics. There is also some humor and good natured fun along the way.Similar to Sam Zabel, I have been in a slump in terms of drawing. This book actually motivated me to start drawing again!I enjoyed this book.

  • Ryan Conner
    2018-10-30 07:40

    An interesting story about a man with a magic pen to insert himself into past stories written with this pen. While it is an inspirational story, it’s not nearly the impact I expected. It’s far more along the lines of a cute and funny story that is surprisingly graphic(nudity) I was wary of the possibility of sexism being portrayed here, but that was shut down about halfway through, which was a welcomed moment. Overall, quite good, but not exactly what I was expecting.

  • Sam
    2018-10-28 05:41

    A funny take on writer's block. Feminist and full of local New Zealand connections.

  • David Thomas
    2018-11-17 11:35

    An author with writer's block discovers that he can travel into stories written with a magic pen. He goes on some adventures, meet some new friends, and overcomes his writer's block. Not bad.

  • Craig
    2018-11-15 12:42

    Dylan Horrocks never disappoints.

  • Lily
    2018-11-07 12:48

    This is a clever self-aware exploration of fantasy in relation to graphic novels, it covers superheros, pulps, manga, etc. and what exactly is the role of art.

  • Michael Indiano
    2018-11-08 09:28

    It's an interesting premise and a relatively thoughtful reflection on wish fulfillment. The story overall is creative enough. The art style is minimally tolerable. But nothing truly specular out of this work.

  • Johan Haneveld
    2018-11-17 08:51

    Pretty good graphic novel, recommended on the back by Craig Thompson, of Blankets fame (one of my favorite novels, graphic or not). Drawn in a deceptively simple style, reminiscent of Herge (but without the detailed backgrounds of the Tintin-comics), but still emotionally expressive and experimenting with different styles and representing different era's of comic book art. This is at once a fantasy tale about someone discovering a magical artifact allowing instant transport between worlds, and a real life tale about an artist wrestling with a creative block. Struggling with the competing pulls of fantasy (creating worlds of wish fulfillment to lose yourself in, versus conveying an uplifting message), Sam Zabel finds his own inner wellsprings closed of. He finds himself tempted to use his imagination irresponsibly, not only to fulfill his baser desires but also some really dark desires, but wrestles with his responsibility. Is he as an artist responsible for what he imagines, for what he dreams? But if he is, how can he ever be playfully creative again? Is it wrong to dream about nubile green women surrounding you and begging you to touch them? But what if those women became real? What is the responsibility of an author for his creation? There's an example here of an author with really bad intentions for his creations, subverting even others works for his own dark purposes. Is it okay if it's 'only a story?'. I do think this book is not as deep as it thinks itself to be, reaising questions in a bit of a postmodern way. I did not find profundity here. But maybe that is the point. As ultimately Sam discovers that to be really creative one has to appreciate the real world as the beautiful place it is, and the people one is in relationship with, as worthwile and fulfilling. Thus not putting too much expectation on the world of fantasy and being free to 'play' in it. And secondly to be respectful to your own fantasyworld, and try to create characters with agency. It's not wrong to write wish fulfillment, and picture men and women enjoying their own sexuality, but being honest means being honest about your characters. The fact that you made them does not lessen the fact that they are characters, and thus worthy of at least being taken seriously. So the question is not 'does a certain super heroine wear revealing clothes on the cover of a comic?', but: 'Is she a complex, engaging character, and a person who would choose to wear revealing clothes?'. I think this is ultimately a freeing proposition for someone like me, still trying to reconcile my imagination and my conscience. So, yeah, this work touched me and is a book that I will return to. Oh, but as my short description would already suggest: it's not exactly 'safe for work', as they say. But story is not supposed to be safe. Aslan after all wasn't a safe lion. But he was good.

  • Brett Francis
    2018-11-03 13:38

    Neither great nor particularly bad, just a real breeze with a bit of questioning what is real and what is fantasy, and a little bit of feminism and gender politics thrown in. Not too much meat here--I read it cover to cover in about an hour. A decent way to pass the time, but nothing much more.

  • Emily Wrayburn
    2018-11-21 06:42

    Review originally posted on A Keyboard and an Open Mind 02 December, 2016:This was an interesting book and I admire it for what it’s trying to do and the messages it is trying to convey, but I felt it got a little too bogged down in that and forgot to tell and interesting story at the same time.Sam Zabel is an aspiring cartoonist, carving out a living writing bad superhero scripts that he hates, all the while trying to find the inspiration to write something truly incredible. Then one day, he comes across an issue of an old New Zealand comic from the 50s, and when he sneezes, finds himself transported to the world inside its pages. What follows are a whole lot of questions Sam is not sure he knows the answer to.The themes of this book are ones worth considering. It touches on the objectification of women in comics, and how far can we allow the “it’s just fantasy” argument to go before fantasies that are presented in and absorbed through comics and other mass popular culture media become problematic. These are important things to consider, and I appreicated Horrocks bringing them up.Unfortunately, I found the storytelling a bit bland. Particularly at the start, there’s a lot of telling rather than showing. You’d expect a graphic novel to manage that better than a novel written in prose! The characters were all fairly two-dimensional character archetypes, and I didn’t feel that they each had their own unique voice. While obiously the artwork made them easy to tell apart, if I had been reading this in prose, it would have been one of those cases where I could barely distinguish them.While this was a good idea, there was too much emphasis on the ~point, and not enough on storytelling to hold my interest for too long. I would recommend this if you are interested in the themes, but not so much if you’re just interested in reading some more graphic novels.

  • Fredrik Strömberg
    2018-10-23 12:25

    A new graphic novel by the New Zealander Dylan Horrocks, who wowed the world with his graphic novel Hicksville way back in 1998, but has not produced much on note since. This is yet another meta-comic, just like Hicksville, about a comics artist - a thinly disguised avatar for Horrocks, who has lost his ability to create and is drawn into worlds created by a magical pen. It's a fun and intelligent play on writers block, and just like Scott McCloud's new, eagerly anticipated graphic novel The Sculptor, which was also a long time coming, it's nigh perfect when it comes to the craftsmanship, but just a little distanced, a little unemotional. Maybe this was intended by Horrocks, as part of the story is about the artist Sam Zabel loosing his ability to burn brightly for his art, but it lacks the ability to really grab hold of me emotionally.That said, as this is yet another foray into the strange and wonderful world of Horrocks, where nothing is as it seems, and the line between reality and comics is always blurry, reading this together with Hicksville, which I'm bound to do now since it been way too long, will probably reveal more levels built into The Magic Pen, referring back to Hicksville, which I missed out on. The fact that the first part of the book is not a little sexist, and that the second part is full of excuses about that, trying desperately to make up for the initial part, makes me think that there have been versions of this book in the works for a long time. It all works, and the book feels like it fits into the more equal minded 2010s, but there is just that nagging feeling that this was not fully intended from the start.Oh well, for comics fans, this is an interesting read, and if you already have read Hicksville, then I'd say it's a must.

  • Alexander Lisovsky
    2018-10-25 06:32

    Сэм Забель встречается со школьницей! Нет, не то, хотя немного похоже. Сэм Забель - автор комиксов средних лет, находящийся в глубоком творческом кризисе и в лёгкой депрессии. Случай отправляет Сэма в волшебное путешествие, где ему предоставляется возможность исследовать вопросы моральности фантазии, гендерные стереотипы и природу творчества. Просто, но с большой любовью нарисованная и приятно раскрашенная история, которая периодически поднимает довольно интересные вопросы нравственной ответственности - и автор в лучших традициях древних философов старательно рассматривает их со всех сторон, дискутируя сам с собой и с читателем, и с определённой долей иронии. Повествование тщательно выверено, но при этом меня лично на протяжении всей книги не покидало ощущение лёгкой скуки и упущенной возможности сделать что-то по-настоящему стоящее. Наверное, меня развратил "Скотт Пилигримм", к которому тут есть определённые отсылки, но, по-моему, комедия способна украсить любую историю, и её здесь явно не хватало. Сам автор родом из Новой Зеландии, он гордится своей страной и ненавязчивым образом наполнил текст очаровательными новозеландскими деталями (которым в конце книги посвящены четыре страницы убористых примечаний). С другой стороны, он не чувствует над собой типично американского гнёта пуританства и не боится обнажённого женского тела (причём, нормальных, не слишком сексуализированных пропорций - чего настоящие пуритане никак не могут себе позволить). Всё это, разумеется, большой плюс. В целом не шедевр, но довольно мило, и на досуге вполне стоит ознакомиться.