Friday, May 17, 2013

Interview: Mat Tait

As part of the celebration of german composer Wagner’s bicentenary in 2013 The Goethe-Instituts around the globe have commissioned works to view the composer through the prism of the present day and age. The perspectives collected are personal, subjective, international and multimedia. New Zealand cartoonist Mat Tait has contributed a comic adaption of the opera The Flying Dutchman currently serialised in 13 or 14 parts every Tuesday at the My personal Wagner Blog. I asked Mat a few questions about this project via email.

When were you approached to take part in the My Personal Wagner project?

I was approached by Bettina Senff from the Goethe Institut towards the end of last year. From what I understand she saw my work in the NZ Comics and Graphic Novels book that Dylan Horrocks put together for the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Did you have much prior knowledge or interest in opera or Wagner specifically?

Almost none! I knew a little of Wagner's work, but probably as much as most people (I imagine), ie Ride of the Valkyries thanks to Apocalypse Now. So yeah, I was pretty ignorant.

Did you draw inspiration from anywhere in particular for your adaption? Particularly the use of large sweeping spreads with inset panels?

The inspiration for the format came mainly from the fact that the source material was intended for the stage, and it seemed to me that using large panels as analogues of stage sets or backdrops might be an interesting way to go. Also I'd been reading Chris Ware's Building Stories not long before and I think that definitely influenced me to be a little bit more formally daring than I would be usually.

Will your Flying Dutchman adaption eventually appear in paper form?

Yes; though this was commissioned as a web-based strip the intention was always to see it print at some point. I tend to envisage things in print in a kneejerk way even when doing something for the web. It's probably a fault and somewhat old-fashioned but I love print and can't help it.

Can you take us through your process for creating a page from this project?

I wrote a rough draft for the script then a more finished one before moving on to doing roughs of the page layouts and finally starting to do the finished pages, which constitute the final draft as I make a lot of changes as I go. I pencil and ink  each page onto about A2 size paper, then do the inset panels, text and any other bits and pieces separately. All of that's then scanned and put together in Photoshop. It's a good way of working for me as I'm able to play with stuff on the page and see what is and isn't working, and then make changes relatively easily.

Will we see more of your collaborations with Mike Brown on New Zealand folklore tales in the Werewolf Cartoon alley?

Yes possibly, though we're looking for print venues at the moment. I think the next story, which is almost completed, will probably be in an upcoming issue of Faction. Beyond that we're not sure, though we have some options.

Artwork © Mat Tait.

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