Friday, May 10, 2013

Debra Jane Boyask 11 April 1966 – 23 April 2013

[Editor's note: The following remembrance of Debra Boyask was written by Darren Schroeder.]
Debra Jane Boyask aka Teacake aka Pelms, aka Bad Astronaut  
11 April 1966 – 23 April 2013
Born in Chelmsford England, Debra and her family moved to New Zealand in 1974 where they settled in Auckland. Brought up with the occasional UK kids comic It was while training to be a hairdresser in the mid 8o's she developed an interest in comics when she began reading the subversive British kids comic Oink.
She moved between Christchurch and Auckland in the late 1980s, and at one time was on the fringes of the Flying Nun music scene, where her musical skills came in handy tuning guitars for various male musos who needed her help with that sort of practical detail but wouldn't let a girl play in their bands.
When a group of us at the University of Canterbury got involved in setting up a small press comic fanzine/anthology Debra helped out by picking the title: "Funtime Comics". She designed the masthead, submitting comics for the anthology under the pen name Pelms as well, including her ongoing tales of Spunky, Punky, and Monkey. Her humorous approach to storytelling and the medium itself was questioning of the "grim and gritty" comic clichés that we, a bunch of geeky male comic fans, held dear in the late 1990s.
Debra completed a BEd at the University of Canterbury in 1991, then BEd Hons 1992. After university she got work at the Education Training & Support Agency as an educational evaluator. As her interest in self published comics grew and she started publishing her own small press comics titles she travelled with me to the 1999 Small Press Expo in USA, and we took a side trip to take part in a comics jam held in the Cameron building, Toronto. Inspired by the work of creators such as Ariel Schrag, James Kochalka, and Joe Matt she began to produce comics with more autobiographical themes and narratives.
Wanting to get more time to draw comics she helped establish the tradition of Midwinter comic retreats in 2001: a weekend away where a group of comic artists drew comics without too many other distractions apart from food and walks in the country.
After several years working with as an educational developer at Otago Medical School in Christchurch she began looking for jobs in England, finding work at the University of the West of England as an educational developer. She had particular interests in equality and diversity issues in education, and became involved in support groups and message boards for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual communities in Bristol and the wider UK.
She continued to send Funtime the occasional submission while being involved in a variety Bristol's creative communities, taking part in Stitch and Bitch workshops, ladyfest, the Here Shop/Galley, rambling, and much more besides. She also made wider contacts within The Caption small press comics festival in Oxford, submitting material to the Girly Comics anthology, and introducing UK comic creators to the delights of midwinter comic retreats.
Debra took funny comics very seriously; taking great pleasure in reading them, making them, hanging with folks who did the same, and hanging out with people as they made and read comics while they ate the food she made for them. She was also very supportive of other folks giving comic creating a go.
In her final days her huge store of inner strength was much in evidence as she dealt calmly with the cancer that claimed her life, but never took her dignity. I have no doubt that she'll be the subject of a number of autobiographical comics documenting the impact she had on so many peoples' lives, and would have heartily approved of any bum jokes that folks decide to include.

Debra Boyask on the NZ Comics wiki.

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