Showing posts with label Darren schroeder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Darren schroeder. Show all posts

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 clich├ęs 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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bob McMahon

Kidzone #1

Bob McMahon worked in Otago from 1971 as a graphic artist for over twenty years. With a lifelong interest in comics and cartoons inspired by DC Thompson titles in his native Scotland, McMahon has kept his hand in cartooning alongside his professional work for Allied Press Newspapers. In 2007 McMahon published a collection of strips of his cadet reporter from a privileged background Claire Melody. Following the publication of Claire Melody's initial black and white adventures McMahon has produced two unpublished follow up books in full colour. I spoke with him about the various projects he has worked on and the influences upon his work.

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Glasgow in Scotland in 1935...So I'm a bit long in the tooth (laughs).

You grew up in Glasgow?

I did until my late teens and then I had to go and do my two year national service in Singapore. So that got me out of the place. On and off I've always been scratching away at doing cartoons and that but you know what it's like you just can't sell them there's too many on the market. When I came to New Zealand in '71 I worked for the local newspaper, The Otago Daily Times, as a graphic artist, did that for twenty-three years. At Allied Press I had a couple of strips going , but it's one of those sad sorry tales, one of the strips I was doing for The Evening Star and course when The Star closed that was it. The strip goes along with it. Put it this way I'd never be able to get rich with it.

(At this point I told Bob a bit about my cartooning background which led to him talking about his artistic background)

My career for all intents and purposes has been self taught. I did do a couple nights at Glasgow School of Art and when I moved out to England I did a few nights at the Polytech. I've never done a formal sort of thing.

 Panels from Sir Chancelot - Kidzone #1

What comics did you first read?

Mostly it was DC Thompson comics you know The Beano, The Dandy, The Beezer, The Topper,  and that sort of thing. My role model was always Dudley Watkins, he was a very prolific brilliant artist. He not only did pages for DC Thompson but he also illustrated classic books like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, King Solomon's Mines, the guy was a machine. He was only 62 when he died of a heart attack at his desk. He must have been absolutely burnt out. They're the people they were my role models. At the moment you've got the American dreadfuls, all these Marvel comics they churn them out like all these monsters and transformers and other rubbish, I wouldn't bother with that sort of thing.

Did you read comics as an adult?

Not really. I passed by all the strips in the newspaper right now, the syndicated stuff, more like a curiosity than anything else like you know. I did know for a fact that in the case of The Mail only the cream of the strips come out, three get out of maybe ten-thousand (laughs) that's an exaggeration. The thing to some degree it's amazing how those people when they look at a cartoon, a new strip, the first thing they ask is, "What's its commercial potential? Can you make it into the cover of kid's lunchboxes or tea cups?" That's what they look at. The likes of Garfield which I wouldn't call it very good draughtsmenship, but look at the stuff that does. It's just amazing.

Incidentally I don't know if you know, the syndicates they sell for peanuts, they sell a strip to a newspaper for about ten bucks and that's why they're in three hundred newspapers. Of course the artist gets a percentage of it. You know Charles Schulz that drew Peanuts? He was the first millionaire cartoonist. Of course he's been dead a long time but they still print his comics, still print his strips.

Code-0 from Kidzone #1

When did your cartoon Scat Cat run in The Evening Star?

That's right. That's the one that ran in the weekend. I did it in the paper cause I was already on salary at Allied Press and it ran for a few months. I've hit the cross bar a few times. I did send one of my strips over to The Canberra Press and they were very impressed with it and the asked me to send over three months supply. Which I did, sent over a few months drawings but I never heard from them again. Part of the reason it may have flopped...This was about the same time Garfield came out so they don't want another cat cartoon you know? Another one that almost scored the goal was a joker called Hall or Wall or something, he lived in Sydney, his idea was to do illustrated panels for Woman's Weekly, Australian Woman's Weekly, it was something along the lines of Ripley's Believe It Or Not? This guy he was sending over the copy, what it was supposed to be, and I would jack up the illustrations. Unfortunately the poor bugger got wiped out in a motorway crash. So that was it. (Laughs) It doesn't stop me drawing. I still keep on doing all that stuff.

Panel from Claire Melody

I understand you did some comics for Funtime Comics? (Long running New Zealand comics collective in Christchurch)

Ah, yeah again that's hit and miss you know, I think they only publish when they have enough loot, enough material, again it's just a labour of love.

How did you get in touch with Funtime?

Good question. I think it was done through the Internet. The Editor (Darren Schroeder) he's no longer there, I think he took over to England. I think he's now in London or some place.

Can you talk about the genesis behind producing KIDZONE?

All the artists that worked at The Times, that I knew they all contributed to it. It was quite a fun thing really. The reason that worked, believe it or not,  We got Gore Publishing to print it. It was just barely feeling it's way after about a couple of weeks, It was burning me out so I just flagged it, I realised that cause I was doing the whole thing. I was doing the colourations, chasing people up for their work, going down to Gore and literally printing it, printing it the way I wanted it. All this sort of thing and it was too much.

Sam's Son from Kidzone #1

You were working full time as well?

Yes, I was working fulltime as a graphic artist for The Times. There were a few times it was almost to the point of being sabotaged because The Times they had another thing called Jabberwocky (New Zealand children's magazine). That was being printed down in Gore as well and sometimes my work would get pushed aside and I'd have to go and chase it up (laughs). I thought nah I don't need this.

I thought Kidzone was impressive, it was like a New Zealand version of your typical DC Thompson comic. Right down to the paper and colours.

That's exactly what it was based on. The thing is, try and get sponsorship, it's like hitting your head against a brick wall. I approached Cadburys, the wee kids they're into this sort of thing, and he said to me, "We'll do that when you've been going for a year." That's the sort of rubbish you get you know.

Can you recall what the print run of Kidzone was?

Ah...I think it was just over a thousand, I'm not quite sure.

Panel from Mickey's Moa, Kidzone #1

Did the Kidzone distribution by Lyndsay Distributors cover the South and the North Island?

No. That was a mistake we made. It only went up as far as Christchurch. If we had have gotten sponsorship and backing I would have included Australia as well. As I was saying heartbreak all the way along the line.

Did you get any feedback from Kidzone? Did readers write to you?

Oh yeah, yes we did, a lot of letters from the kids. The kids loved it. I'm not sure, who knows, even just one big number to sponsor us, we would have pulled it off. As it was I was paying money out my own pocket for the printing the publication and the returns were just barely covering what I paid.

Did you start Claire Melody after you had retired?

Ah no, I think it was slowly I did in my spare time.

What inspired you to do an adventure strip which was perhaps more for adults than children?

I think it'd always been a thing of the fifties and sixties I was always very interested in...well I'll do my version of it. It was black and white. Most people don't like that they prefer colour. So I've got two lots done in colour to go to print if ever I win Lotto. After all is said and done I've enjoyed what I've been doing. I don't do as much now as I used to.

Panel from Claire Melody

Were any of the characters in Claire Melody based on colleagues?

Ah no. It's purely fictional. I'll tell you what if you want to see really good artwork that was done in the fifties and the sixties look up Garth that was done by Frank Bellamy.

I'm a big fan of Garth and Frank Bellamy in general. Another one that worked hard and passed away too early.

Another one that died fairly young was David Wright, he did the Carol Day strips in The Daily Mail. They're the sort of people as I say that were my role models. I'd never hope to get up to their standard but they were the sort of people I'd try to emulate.

Can you talk about your working process on Claire Melody?

I just do all the rudiments in pencil and ink it in later on. Originally it was designed to run as a daily strip in the newspaper but I couldn't get anybody interested so I just thought what the hang I'll put it altogether in a wee booklet. See what it looks like that way.

Panel from Claire Melody

Bob McMahon Interview 2nd June 2012 by Matt Emery. Images copyright 2012 Bob McMahon

Friday, May 25, 2012

Darren Schroeder Interview

Darren Schroeder served fourteen years as the editor of Christchurch comic collective Funtime Comics, New Zealand's longest running comic collective. As well as creating his own series of mini comics, Mopy, Schroeder edited the small press section of Comics Bulletin for 7 years (2000-07) and contributed the occasional interview and review of mainstream comics. Schroeder has also written articles on New Zealand comics for Comic Edge, Comic Quarterly, Stripschrift, Comic Australia and various other magazines and web sites. Since the late twentieth century Schroeder has also maintained fan sites for the comic characters Man-Thing, Jonah Hex, and comic creator Keith Giffen.

Find Darren Schroeder online here.

 Darren Schroeder

The following interview was conducted via email May 2012

What were the first comics you took an interest in?

From a young age I had a box of comics by my bed which I used to read over and over and over. They were mostly Disney including Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge and even a Super Goof. There was also some other random issues of other comics: a few Australian/NZ DC reprints, Jonah Hex, Fear # 16, Unknown Soldier etc.

When did you start drawing comics and what were your initial influences?

I started working on drawing my own in the late 90s. I'd been a fan of local comics for many years but hadn't really though about drawing my own until I read a comic by John Weeks which ended with the words "You could have made this comic", and it just made me suddenly think "Okay, I'll give it a try!". Content wise the autobiographical work of folks like Ariel Shcrag, Harvey Pekar, and Amber Carvan appealed to me so I tried that approach, and the humour of Brad Yung's "Stay As You Are" had a strong impact.

Who was involved with the creation of Funtime Comics?

Funtime Comics grew out of Comic Soc, a club at the University of Canterbury established by Jason Brice. The club's aim was to promote the comics form by providing a meeting place for folk of like minds, and publishing a comic/zine was part of Jason's initial plan. He got a lot of folks involved, editing the first issue of Funtime Comics with university friends Bean McGregor and Nigel Campbell, with the name Funtime coming from a competition for the title and cover banner which was won by Debra Boyask.

Have there been any other South island collectives or groups of cartoonist's?

Dunedin had a few well before Funtime - I get the impression Razor, Jesus on a Stick, Treacle, and Umph all came out of a collective approach. In Christchurch there was also the NZ Cartoonist Collective with their own anthology.

What lead you to taking the role of editor for Funtime Comics Presents?

It became available after issue 4 had a troubled production. I'd done some editing of a small zine for another club so said I'd give the job a go.

What sustained you serving fourteen years as Funtimes Comics Presents editor?

The look on the faces of the contributors when they saw the comics arrive fresh from the printers.

Were any comics rejected for publication during your time as Funtimes editor?

No and yes: Everyone who submitted work had something published, but if someone sent us lots of pages I'd select from it what I thought best represented their style, and keep the other material for possible future use. When I stopped being editor there was a large file of stuff for the next editor (Isaac Freeman) to work with.

What did your role as Funtimes editor entail?

I'd collate the contributions for each issue from the work that had been submitted, produce any text pages, commission cover artwork, decide on a subtitle for each issue, deal with the printers, and distribute the finished product to contributors, subscribers and comic shops. As the only "official" of the group I also took on a range of administrative tasks like treasurer and buyer of animal biscuits for the monthly comic workshops.

Dylan Horrocks stocks up on animal biscuits

Who are some of your personal favourite New Zealand Cartoonists?

Tim Cornelius's "Colonel Void & Bisbay the Axolotl" in The New Zealand Comic Gazette is a kiwi classic.

G.C.R. - I loved Grace's autobiographical Bip Bip.

Brent Willis - lots of folk think they're funny, Brent's stuff is always hilarious, and he is so prolific.

Indira Neville - Her comics were great fun

What is the appeal for you of Jonah Hex?

Michael Fleisher wrote great little morality tales, and managed to Jonah a rather tragic figure: alone, despised by most people, unable to escape violence, and even coming face to face with his own stuffed corpse. The future Hex stuff was an odd idea but it worked, and Giffen's artwork is some of my favourite comic artwork - such an extreme, almost expressionistic way of telling a story that used intense closeups on details instead of showing the action.

While you were in Christchurch where were the best places to get comics?

Comics Compulsion did well for mainstream material and were always supportive of local comics. The second hand shops were surprisingly useful for older US stuff back in the 90s as well.

What prompted your move to England?

The woman I love got a job here so I came along with her.

Are you currently doing anything in comics creatively or reading?

I haven't drawn any comics for about 5 years, but recently I've been asked to guest edit a new local comic/zine anthology Quixotic Press.

I'm also looking into running comic creating workshops for schools.

Reading wise I get Jonah Hex, anything that Keith Giffen draws, and the occasional random small press comic.

All images copyright 2012 Darren Schroeder, Funtime Comics