Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Supreme Feature Comic - Standish Steele

Supreme Feature Comic is considered to be the longest running New Zealand comic with 33 known issues in existence. Artists are not credited although the bulk of the comic is the work of Harry (Henry) William Bennett, an Australian cartoonist. Bennett moved to New Zealand at an early age and commenced his cartooning career as a teenager contributing cartoons to the Christchurch Spectator during the 1920's. Little is known of Henry Bennett's life after producing Supreme Feature Comic which comic historian Tim Bollinger has dated as being produced until 1947.

A Standish Steele adventure from Jaycol's Supreme Feature Comic published in New Zealand 1944.

What little is known about Supreme Feature Comic and Harry W Bennett is largely derived from the research and knowledge of New Zealand Comics enthusiasts Tim Bollinger and Geoff Harrison

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ted Withers - Pin Up Girls Original Art

Ted (Edward) Withers was born in Wellington, New Zealand and after studying at Wellington College enrolled at the Royal Academy in London. later Withers studied at the South Kensington School of Art and the Slade School of Art. Further training was undertaken at the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris. Withers was awarded three decorations for his service during World War One where he was stationed in Samoa, Egypt, France, and Germany.

Withers moved with his wife and two children to America in 1924 and worked a series of jobs in Hollywood including celebrity portraits, special effects, and art direction at MGM studios. After a period of time producing fine arts for his own enjoyment Withers took up painting pin-ups and produced numerous calendar girls for Brown & Bigelow during the 1950s. Brown & Bigelow were one of the biggest producers of calendars in the mid twentieth century and at one time were responsible for putting calendars in an estimated 50 million homes.

A distinctive feature of Withers pin up work was the inclusion of half rendered penciled figures alongside his finished portraits.

In November 1950, at his first Brown & Bigelow cocktail party, Withers was talking with Norman Rockwell when Rolf Armstrong and Gil Elvgren arrived. These two pin-up greats were introduced to Withers, who was bowled over when Armstrong praised him as "one of America's greatest, most versatile painters" and Elvgren, who had a keen interest in photography, added "one of the best photographers in the country". 

In a letter to Brown & Bigelow, Withers once described the view from his Hollywood apartment: "At night I look out on a carpet of jewels composed of neon and street lights, and here I work and am grateful that way over the eastern horizon, you nice people multiply my effort and enable me to live very well indeed".

Withers continued producing pinups until 1961 and passed away in 1964.

Click on the following images for embiggenable photographs of Withers original paintings.


Sources: http://figure-drawings.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/ted-withers-hollywood-pin-up-girls.html, Biography - The Great American Pin-up by Charles G. Martignette & Louis K. Meisel. Original art - Heritage Auctions

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Comics Generation

Comics Generation is an exhibition featuring six young Wellington artist/writers showing their comic books and zines at Thistle Hall Gallery 28-31 March.

The artists- Esther Galloway, Sadie Galloway, Zora Patrick, Joel Spencer, Michael Sanders and Theo MacDonald- range in age from five to 17. Using a variety of methods and approaches to visual story telling they have invented SpaceCats and Skate Rats, delved into experimental cookery, created poetry from a cat's point of view, and reinvented fairy tales and television shows.

Theo Macdonald

I interviewed Comics Generation curator Claire Harris via email about the upcoming exhibition.

What was the impetus behind holding Comics Generation?

Paul Sanders (the writer of Spacecat Adventures, a comic he makes with his son Michael) approached me in my role as an organiser for NZCC to see if I could suggest other comic book makers he and Michael could hold a group exhibition with. I already had a special interest in comics and zines made by children and teenagers, so volunteered to curate a group exhibition of work by Michael and other young comics and zine makers.

Michael Sanders

Are there any common themes among the work of the participating artists?

One commonality that strikes me is the use of mashed-up references from their own reading and viewing, ranging from blatant cribbing of jokes and art styles, to more subtle allusions and reflection on their own media consumption. There is also an autobiographical theme to some of the work, and a vivid sense that work is grounded in the experience and personality of the artists.

Are any of the participating artists second generation zine/comic creators?

Yes. Michael Sanders co-produces 'SpaceCat Adventures' with his dad Paul. Ester and Sadie Galloway are the daughters of Bryce Galloway, the artist behind the long running zine 'Incredibly Hot Sex With Hideous People'. I'd say with a fair certainty that all artists involved have at least one parent who is a comic fan, or at least was supportive enough to photocopy their comics for them.

 Zora Patrick

Are there currently any dedicated zine stockist's in Wellington?

No, sadly. However the Wellington City Library has an excellent zine collection, and Graphic Comic shop stocks the work of the artists in Comics Generation.

How did you go about finding the artist's involved with Comics Generation?

The artists have all previously self-published comics and/or zines. I had become aware of their work through either distributing their comics through NZCC, or by seeing their work at Wellington Zinefest. Comics Generation recognises the accomplishment these six young artist have already made.

Joel Spencer

Is there much support or scene for young zine/comic makers in Wellington?

As far as I know Comics Generation is the first attempt to bring a group of young zine and comics makers together to exhibit, and I hope it brings about some collaborations or ongoing mentoring. Local comic shop Graphic is usually very supportive when it comes to stocking comics by young people. There are also opportunities for young zine and comics makers to distribute their work through art/craft markets and the annual Wellington Zinefest.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Milo's Week - Dylan Horrocks

 Nov 11, 1995

 Nov 18, 1995

Milo's Week by Dylan Horrocks was a half page strip featuring the exploits of a political cartoonist which ran weekly in the New Zealand Listener from Nov 11 1995 to May 17 1997. Milo's Week combined a fictitious cast with real life New Zealand Politicians of the time to produce a blend of political satire and soap opera. Like fellow NZ cartoonist's David Low and John Kent, Horrocks managed to ruffle a few political feathers over the course of producing a weekly satirical strip.

I asked Dylan a few questions about his work on Milo's Week via email.
What led to Milo's Week featuring in The Listener?

It was blind luck, really. I had just quit my day job and was desperately looking for any kind of paying freelance gig. I visited the Listener with my portfolio, hoping to pick up some occasional illustration work. Turned out they were looking for a new comic strip, and they asked me to put together a proposal. I came up with a few ideas, but Milo was my favourite (and theirs, luckily).

Did you have to submit roughs for editorial approval on Milo's Week?

I'm trying to remember. I don't think I did; I just dropped in the finished strip, and the editors looked at them before they went to press. But I don't remember ever having a problem, except the one time I did a strip using characters from Murray Ball's Footrot Flats. It was just before the first MMP election, and the Electoral Commission had been running an advertising campaign explaining how MMP worked, starring the Footrot Flats characters. There was a lot of misleading information around on how to vote (I seem to remember ACT were urging people to vote strategically) and there were all sorts of metaphors and analogies being tossed about: dividing pies, cutting cakes, flushing votes down the toilet. My cartoon showed Wal in the polling booth, his head whirling with all those colourful analogies, too confused to vote.

I'd asked Murray Ball for permission to use his characters, and he'd said sure - although he later pointed out there might be complications with the Electoral Commission, given the contract they'd signed with him. So he said we should get their permission first. The deputy editor (Geoff Chapple) and I talked it over and agreed the Electoral Commission would probably take ages to decide, and then would probably want changes made to protect the clarity of their campaign's message. That would have ruined the whole point of the cartoon, so in the end we made a judgement call and took the risk of publishing without talking to the Electoral Commission first.

Sure enough, when the strip came out the electoral commission were furious and poor old Murray Ball ended up caught in the middle. I felt bad about that, but I'm glad Geoff went ahead and printed it. Politicians didn't get to vet cartoons about them, so why should the Electoral Commission?

Geoff was wonderful to work with; I think he quite enjoyed it when we ruffled a few feathers.

October 12, 1996
How was Milo's Week coloured?

The early ones were hand-coloured using watercolours (with a touch of coloured pencil here and there). Actually the "watercolours" I used were really inks designed for hand-colouring photographs. They were bright and transparent but not very mixable. I had no idea what I was doing, really. I still don't.

A month or so before the end, I started using Photoshop; but then I had even less idea what I was doing and some of those were terrible. I was learning on the job, I guess. Mind you, we were all Photoshop noobs in those days.

By the way, the earliest one coloured in Photoshop wasn't done by me, but by the art director. That's because I came down with suspected appendicitis late one night and was bundled off to hospital for a couple of days. That week's strip was all drawn but not yet coloured, so my wife dropped the black & white strip into the Listener office and the art director did the rest. The next week, it was back to watercolours, until the following year when I started experimenting with digital colouring myself.

Scanning was a constant problem. That was all very new back then, and the process was a little clunky. Whenever a new technology comes in like that, quality takes a few steps back before it improves.

Milo's Week digitally coloured by The Listener Art Director July 27, 1996

Did you receive much reader feedback?
We got letters now and then. Sometimes I actively tried to get readers involved, like when I ran a "Cartoonist Initiated Referendum" on a new National Day for New Zealand. Maybe half a dozen people sent in suggestions, ranging from Parihaka Day to Nuclear Free Day and Not The Queen's Birthday Day. One person even sent in a whole comic strip, and I wish I'd been able to run that. Nowadays, I'd have put it on the blog, but back then I barely knew how to send an email, let alone setting up a website.

February 10, 1996

April 13, 1996

The best feedback I ever got was when I did a series of strips where the Invisible Hand of the Market goes on a crime spree. That sparked a brief debate in the letters column between a couple of economists, which was rather gratifying. In fact, one of those strips has since been reprinted in two or three academic books on economics (including one from Germany).

Oh, and then there was the time I did a two-page strip for them reporting on the 'Beyond Dependency' and 'Beyond Poverty' conferences held in Auckland in 1997. Beyond Dependency was the "official" conference, part of a campaign run by the then-National government to sell its plans for welfare "reform" to the public. A group of anti-poverty campaigners organised an alternative conference called Beyond Poverty, and I talked the Listener into letting me attend both as a reporter/cartoonist.

When my comic strip report was published, the former finance minister Ruth Richardson called the Listener and cancelled a major feature interview they'd planned to do with her. She was outraged that the Listener had sent me to cover Beyond Dependency rather than a proper journalist; and I imagine the tone of my strip didn't exactly appeal to her either. Geoff Chapple chuckled when he told me about that.

 November 9, 1996

November 16, 1996

November 23, 1996

November 30, 1996

December 7, 1996

 December 14, 1996

What led to Milo's Week finishing in 1997?

That's simple: I was dropped. The editor who'd hired me was replaced with a new one (this happened depressingly frequently at the time, as circulation continued to decline throughout the 1990s). The new editor cancelled a number of regular features and brought in new ones. I was upset, of course, because I relied on that reliable weekly cheque. But then they launched a new strip by Anthony Ellison and it was a lot better than mine, so it was all for the best, really.

I tried a few other strips in the aftermath. I briefly tried selling Milo as a daily or weekly to the NZ Herald, without success (you can see some of those here.) Then Chris Trotter asked me to continue Milo in the NZ Political Review, but one episode in the magazine went into a long hiatus and I gave up. I tried out a couple of other strip ideas too: Scoop (starring a reporter who'd address the readers directly) and Life with PeeWee (about an advertising executive who has a midlife crisis and quits to write the great NZ novel; he discovers being a house-husband with 3 kids is more challenging than he thought. ( Samples here.) Both failed to convince the editors I pitched them to. The only success I had with a follow-up strip was Dot Com, which I drew for Ian Wishart's Investigate magazine at the turn of the millennium. I must have done five or six strips before giving it up. I can't even remember whether he dropped me or vice versa. Given how Investigate has evolved into a scary wingnut conspiracy rag since, I'm kind of glad I got out early.

The last Milo's Week published May 17, 1997

Horrocks drew a further two strips before Milo's was cancelled. He commented, "You'll notice I reworked the first one for the proposed daily strip. I was sorry the very last one never saw print, because it was my little tribute to NZ's editorial cartoonists, with cameos by Tom Scott, Slane, Ellison, Tim Bollinger, et al. I was sorry, too, that the strip ended with Milo and Sasha broken up. I never intended that to last forever. But there's something poetic about the last published strip ending with "it's important to know when you're beaten."

Dylan Horrocks Internet Portal: www.hicksville.co.nz

Milo's Week Copyright 2012 Dylan Horrocks

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The first edition of a new comics anthology, Dailies, was recently produced by the Silent Army publishing concern. Contained within the pages of the striking 32 page tabloid newspaper format are sixty artists from Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia producing their takes on 'newspaper strips'. Established cartoonist's such as Tim Molloy, Tim Danko, Mandy Ord, Glenn Smith, Ben Hutchings and more feature alongside emerging young talent. Cartoons are presented in a variety of forms from abstract art comics to riffs on popular newspaper strips as well as dense multi-panel narratives.

Excerpt of Mandy Ord's Desperate Times

Each release will feature different versions of contemporary views of the comic art strips presented in black and white, two colour, and full colour spreads.

I asked Dailies Editor M P Fikaris a few questions via email about his latest project.

What was the impetus to publish Dailies?

There were a few really. But mostly, as with all anthologies I have published, to show the fine talents of my friends. Also, with dailies it is a little bit of an idea on doing things quickly and without too much pre design and study as most comics tend to be). I asked the artists to submit something in a short time frame, hoping not only to get us doing something without too much thought but also to get something that could be repeated and continued like the daily comics of old newspaper cartoonists.

 Excerpt from The Pox Girls Plan 9 From Outer Space

Some of the material in Dailies seems far removed from the concept of  'the comic art strip', some perhaps more in the realm of art comics, were there editorial guidelines for Dailies? Were you involved in editorial guidance with any of the contributors?

I asked a lot of friends, some with a more traditional comic strip making background and others who I thought were doing things that are very similar in nature to the comic strip. My mind is very open to comics in many mediums and I certainly don’t restrict a comic to squares on a page with characters talking.

 Excerpt from Leigh Rigozzi

 What was the print run of Dailies? Are you satisfied with the finished product?

The print run was 3000 copies. I am satisfied that it is complete, but there are certainly a lot of pips in it. It is the first time I have laid something out for newsprint and I have learnt a bunch of things. My budget was pretty low (but very gratefully it was covered by a fellow artist who wants to remain unknown) so I did it with a printer that was possibly less helpful than I could have hoped. The first issue is not about perfect layout for me but more about getting it complete and making it a progressive thing. The next issue is due in May this year and the following to come out in August, then again in November.

Were there any difficulties in assembling an anthology with this many creators spread out over the globe?

Yeah, a little frustrating – but that was the challenge.


Excerpt from 'Megg's Coven' by Simon Hanselman

Where is Dailies available from?

With this collection I plan to take it to the streets and sell it  like a paper – but with a twist. Combining my background as an artist on the streets and doing work with local theatre companies I am very excited to try something a little different … to have unadvertised ‘happenings’ each month in a Melbourne laneway… each will be plastered with the papers contents on the walls(done the night before) and myself and another dressed to impress with paper in tow ‘performing’ a selling technique I hope will make the paper a more interesting and mysterious collection of stories and artworks for all sorts interested in ‘culture’.

I have plans to do this next week and will be recording it for future reference.

Currently I am also selling it on the silent army website - www.silentarmy.org. and successfully at various art fairs/stalls and markets. The plan with this has always been to glue into laneways of the city and distribute through other less traditional comic outlets. Flexing creative flare instead of bending to the needs of the stores.
 All cartoons copyright 2012 their respective creators.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Loose Crayons - Hawkes Bay Comics Anthology

Covers of Loose Crayons #4,#5 (Apologies to Ant Sang for swiping his parental advisory logo!)

WARNING: Some of the comics in this post may be deemed offensive

My first foray into publishing comics was as an editor and contributor for an anthology, Loose Crayons, which ran for five issues in 1996. Living in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, at the time I was inspired by my neighbour who a few months prior had launched a music fanzine. With contributions from musicians and art students at the Eastern Institute of Technology I published the first 16 page (incl covers) black and white A5 issue in early 1996. It was well received at the local comic shop who managed to sell through a few small runs.

Elixir Joy by Cherie Rosvall ran in the first four issues of Loose Crayons

After the first issue I added colour card covers and the page count expanded to 28 pages. A lot of submissions were from art students that were not particularly interested in comics or versed in comic form which lead to some interesting results. Over the five issues there was only one submission that could have been regarded as a typical superhero story.


Menno Huiber's The Adventures of Rob + Ronny was serialised in the first three issues.

I would sneak into my workplace around midnight, ring the security firm to offer an explanation for deactivating the alarms, and then make as many copies on the photocopier as I felt I could safely get away with. One night I used a whole toner roll which I feared would lead to my discovery but it was never mentioned.

 Michael Hawksworth contributed the three part Scared of the Juice in Loose Crayons #3-#5

In issue four I published three comic strips by a high school friend that proved a bit controversial. I was of the mind that I would publish anything and I considered Loose Crayons to be informed by what I understood as a punk aesthetic. I was also drawing inspiration from what little I knew of the sixties American underground scene. Unfortunately many contributors took offence to these strips and informed me they no longer wanted to be a part of the anthology. I limped along for one more issue that was primarily filled with my own comics with issue #5 in August 1996 being the last.

Two of the three controversial strips from Loose Crayons #4
Loose Crayons was never distributed beyond Hawkes Bay. It's quite possible no-one outside of this part of New Zealand ever saw it. Many small press efforts like this I'm sure have been created in corners of the world never to see any wider audience. Perhaps less so in today's Internet age.

All Comics featured are copyright their respective creators. Loose Crayons was edited by M.Emery.