Showing posts with label Interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interview. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Daniel Brader Interview

Daniel Brader is a comics writer and stand-up comic currently running a Pledgeme campaign to fund a continuation of his series in collaboration with Yi Lang Chen, the semi-autobiographical The Adventures of The Kite family. I've followed Dan's misadventures which he has a gift for translating across social media for a couple years and I'm looking forward to seeing more of his writing in comics.

Chatting With Dad tumblr.

Read the first issue of the Adventures of The Kite Family.


What got you interested in comics and creating your own?

I became aware that autobiographical comics existed when the movie American Splendor came out and after that I started reading Pekar's stuff. That inspired me because I'm not an artist either and he was able to get talented artists to draw his stuff. Then I got deeper into the genre when Travis Nash (Melbourne based comedian/artist), who had always been a comics buff, pointed me in the direction of other "real life" comics. He showed me Joe Matt's stuff and I really liked it's brutal, hilarious honesty. Then I did my own research and found out about Seth and Chester Brown who also do a similar kind of thing. 

I'd always loved semi autobiographical novelists like Charles Bukowski, Dan Fante, John Fante and Mark Safranko but I'd always been more interested in film. I was always put off trying to make my own films though because it just seemed like a very difficult enterprise that required a lot of people. I also tried a couple times and was most disappointed with the results. Which is a really defeatist attitude I know and I did keep writing some stuff but I never did anything with it really other than show friends and family. But when I realised that people were telling the style of stories I wanted to tell in comics I immediately gravitated towards the medium as it seemed more likely I could get stuff made and get it out there to the general public.

Where did your interest in comedy develop from?
So I was always a real big movie buff. I used to watch a couple of movies, sometimes more, every night from age sixteen right through to my University days. I was also hired by The Otago Daily Times to write movie reviews from 2001-2004. I always thought I'd try become a writer/director. I made a few short films and then realised how difficult the process was and also that my natural talents might lie elsewhere. The directing and editing side of it felt a bit of out my wheelhouse. I dabbled in poems and short stories too but always felt there was something missing. I'd always loved comedy as a kid growing up and although I wasn't consuming stand-up stuff with the same voracity as I was film I'd always been into it. When I was in high school I'd always been a "class clown" type and I'd often sit around at lunchtimes holding court with funny stories I'd thought up or simply relaying some funny shit that had happened to me. So I found out there was some amateur level stuff going on at University and decided to have a go. My first gig went really well and I got a lot of encouragement to keep going.

I did a few more and I started getting very mixed results. At the time I was too head strong and arrogant to really listen to advice from more experienced people so I found myself blaming the environment I was in, convinced I'd try stand-up again but in another city. After University I found myself working in advertising in Australia and through a friend there I heard about an open-mic competition (RAW Comedy) and we decided to enter. We made it through to the second round and were both immediately hooked and started to perform as often as we could. Now I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with stand-up comedy as it's very difficult to make money from it and my style is far from traditional and often has me at odds with whatever scene I'm working in. I sometimes question whether it's totally for me as I really feel more at home writing. That said when everything comes together on stage and the crowd's with me it's an amazing experience. I think I'll always do stand-up but I wouldn't be surprised if it took a back seat somewhat to writing.

You've mentioned Adventures of the Kite Family being semi-autobiographical, was there a reason for not writing straight autobio?
My comic is pretty close to being autobiographical. I've really only changed the names of the characters and a few minor details here and there. My parents have seen the comic and for obvious reasons aren't exactly thrilled by it. Although I don't consider it to be that cruel to them at all. They have told me to stop writing it on numerous occasions! I figured the least I could do was change the names and a few details here and there and class it as semi-autobiographical in an effort to appease them somewhat. It hasn't worked that well really but I'm still always able to say "it's fiction!" whenever they get particularly irate about a comic I've produced. But aside from that it also allows me some leeway should I want to invent some situations and dialogue completely which often I do. But the spirit of it is always very true. Like the conversations or situations I have made up completely are very much in line with the kind of things me and my parents would say or do.

Are you involved with any comics communities in New Zealand or Australia?
I'm not heavily involved no. I'm not against the idea at all it's more I just haven't really gone out of my way to get involved, which is stupid, I really should. I've maybe held back because I don't draw the comics myself and a lot of the people in these groups write and draw so perhaps I've felt I'm not legit because of that? Which is silly I know! I've also had some big breaks in putting stuff out. Like there was a period in which I churned out a full issue and several short pieces but then I ran into some money trouble and wasn't able to pay artists so I fell out of it a bit and concentrated solely on stand up comedy. 

I'm back in New Zealand a for a little bit now and my expenses are lower so I've been able to get back into it, I've also got more free time as there's not anywhere near as many comedy gigs here as there are in Australia. But yeah I am a member of some of the little groups on Facebook for NZ/Aus comics and I've had my stuff published in Dunedin Comic Collective, Funtime Comics and Fist Full Of Comics but I'm not involved to the point where I'm meeting up with these people regularly or chatting online with them all the time. However, I should add that the Fist Full Of Comics guys have been really supportive and they even published the first issue of my series. They sent me a bunch of copies and took a bunch themselves to various comic book conventions around Australia. They've really been a big help in getting my comic out there! Which is awesome. They're really great guys.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Richard Fairgray Interview

Writer/artist Richard Fairgray and writer Terry Jones have recently launched their flagship title Blastosaurus through ComiXology, available now across their entire digital platform including iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Windows 8 &

Blastosaurus is an ongoing monthly comic series about a crime-fighting dinosaur written and drawn by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones with colours by Tara Black.

Richard is one of the most prolific New Zealand cartoonists working in comics in recent years and balances working on several online series through Square Planet Comics with writing comics for Beyond Reality Media and recently delving into creating children's books with frequent collaborators Tara Black and Terry Jones. Amongst New Zealand cartoonists I've typically found Richard to have a refreshingly outspoken manner when it comes to commerce and art.

I've been hap-hazardly trying to interview Richard for over a year, a big thank you to Richard for his patience, the following interview was conducted over the last few months.

When did you start making comics? What inspired you?

I started making comics when I was seven. I had never seen a comic book before, at least not in real life. I'd read comic strips in the paper and I knew a lot about Superman and Batman and Ninja Turtles but I'd never actually laid eyes on a comic book. I knew they existed, or at least that they had at some distant point in history. I knew this because I'd seen characters in cartoons reading them but as far as I knew they were just a relic of some bygone era, some uncomfortable nod to the form that had preceded the wonder of animation. In my mind it followed logically that since TV existed and cartoons were so amazing there was really no need for comics anymore, what with their lack of movement and sound. But there was something about that form that really captivated me anyway.

I'd been drawing a lot of picture books, as soon as I began writing (I think I must have been about 3 then) I'd been making - hand stapling and all - my own picture books. Mostly stories about characters I liked. Donald Duck goes into a haunted house and meets a ghost, the ghost is lonely so Donald kills himself to become the Ghost's lifelong (deathlong(?)) companion, normal stuff like that. But what I hated in picture books was this idea that all the pages were of equal value. It irked me that a monkey catching a ball took up the same space as a rocket leaving Earth, or that a sandwich could take 7 pages to make but only one to eat (it was a really big sandwich after all), so the conceit of panels seemed like an obvious solution.

My first comic was called Ghost Ghost (actually Ghost the Ghost but my grandfather pointed out to me that that was sort of less funny). I drew it as a 16 page book (plus cover and a back cover joke) and taped it all together. I had it photocopied at the office at school (through devious bargaining which I have promised never to disclose) and sold 100 copies for $2 each at an inter school athletics day. I think the majority of my success came from sympathetic parents and the fact that I set myself up next to the concession stand.

So, partly I was inspired by the idea of doing something I honestly thought no-one else was doing and partly I was inspired by the thrill of having money that was all mine and not reliant on housework or car cleaning (or more likely searching sofa cushions).

How did you become involved with Bill Geradhts' Beyond Reality Media? How did you initially approach co-writing material with Bill? Do you have an ownership stake in any of the comics you produce for BRM?

I started working with Bill in 2010. I'd shared a booth with Christian Gossett at the Wellington Armageddon and there'd been rumblings about Bill looking for artists for some project. Christian was acting very mysteriously. A couple of days after the show I get this email from Christian telling me how much he enjoyed my Blastosaurus April Fool's Special but I just said a polite thank you and forgot about it.

That year went on as is well documented, SDCC, Santa molestation, wrestler, hiding in bathroom, crying, losing my starfish et cetera. By August I had no Blastosaurus, no other finished comics and no idea what to do while I waited for the Jeff Katz option to expire. Then I got a call from Bill.

Apparently he and Christian were starting a comic company, they had 3 titles but Christian didn't really think he was suited to writing one of them because comedy isn't his specialty, so - remembering my April Fool's Special - he had recommended that Bill ask me to do it.

We spoke for about two hours that night, batting ideas back and forth, shaping this concept he'd had in his head for a decade or so. It was odd. I never really felt like I had any ownership or even any right to change things with that first book. We passed a script back and forth for a few months but I always just added things, never cut anything Bill had included and I think it was a real learning curve for us both.

The second book was a much better process. We developed the concept together (I think from memory Bill called me and said 'how about a book called 'The Darwin Faeries'?' I said 'hang on, check your email in 5 minutes' and hung up on him to immediately tap out the idea that sparked in the recesses of my brain. I'm not sure how much of that original email stayed in the final book, I know that's why the Fay worship Darwin and try to ensure survival of the fittest by killing the stupids but I'm sure not much else.

We now take turns writing scripts and writing chunks of scripts and then we stitch them together and hammer everything into place. I think it works pretty well.
You've always struck me as someone very involved in selling your comics be it to convention audiences or publishers, what made you so proactive on this front? From my experience, New Zealand cartoonists can be typical shy retiring types.

I think a lot of people misinterpret the way I sell at conventions and the way I promote my books as being all about sales, it isn’t, it’s mostly because I’m very enthusiastic about what I do. I spend most of my life cooped up in an office drawing comics, aside from Terry, Tara, Theo and Bill I really don’t see or speak to many people on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis, so when I get to actually interact with people and talk about comic books I seize the opportunity.
OK, obviously I’m interested in making a living from comics, at the end of the day I have a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy but if I was in this for the money I’d probably have just been a professional basketballist instead.

 How involved are you with the comics community in New Zealand? Does it have particular strengths or weaknesses?
Well, that all depends on what you mean by the New Zealand Comics Community. I engage heavily with a number of people in New Zealand who create comics, I assist a lot of people with printing advice and I look over scripts and concepts for comics, I even taught comic making for a while, so in that sense I am very involved. In terms of the officially titled ‘community’ I don’t really take part at all.
I think there are a lot of very good writers and artists working in New Zealand on comic books (the main strength) but I think a title like ‘New Zealand Comics’ is incredibly limiting (the main weakness). I think at this stage, in this globalized society with the internets and all of that there’s really no advantage to trying to create/enforce some kind of ‘type’ of work that one country will produce. I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about having NZ specific content in your work but I don’t think there’s anything inherently good about it either, in the end it comes down to the quality of the work. I also think having a title like ‘New Zealand Comics’ can be very alienating to New Zealanders who want to create comics that aren’t set here or don’t have stories about ‘New Zealand issues.’ While there are plenty of good comics that are specifically about NZ (as there are about most countries, I’m sure) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the ‘New Zealand Comics’ with the widest readerships and biggest followings focus on universal themes. 
Blastosaurus has developed considerably since it's conception, I'm guessing you'll be working through a backlog of material for a while but do you think the digital comic format will affect the material you release in future?

I doubt it. Blastosaurus has always been written with print in mind, releasing it online through our own website has always felt a bit forced and uncomfortable for me, the comiXology method of release and of viewing is perfectly suited to Blastosaurus. ‘Guided View’ really nicely mimics the experience of reading an actual comic book, as opposed to scrolling through a portrait format page in a landscape frame.

You've mentioned 2014 as being a banner year for you in prolificacy, can you talk a bit about what allows you to devote the significant time you do to making comics? What is the divide in time you spend on making comics and the business of comics?

Without getting too bogged down in the details of my finances, I sell at anywhere between 6 and 15 conventions per year both here and in Australia. I write scripts, I edit other peoples’ work, and (most recently) I’ve begun making children’s books.

With the children’s books I’ve been sort of sneaky and managed to have multiple panels and word balloons throughout them so they are basically comics in disguise.

I spend on average 14 hours a day working (because I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing), I take no holidays, no days off, no weekends. More and more I’m having to split my time between comics and admin but I am still managing to put out 60 pages of new content on the website every month and come October that’s going up to over 100. If I’m honest I should really put a lot more time into the business and promotional side of things but then I couldn’t have 10 ongoing series, could I?

An Introduction to Blastosaurus in comics form.


Friday, October 11, 2013

SLUG GUTS: Milk Shadow Books Launch - James Andre Interview

From the press release for this Saturday's Melbourne launch of the latest two comics from Milk Shadow Book:

Hi Everyone,
Just a reminder that next Saturday, October 12,we will be launching two excellent new books, Da 'n' Dill - The Showbag Years by Dillon Naylor and Squirt-Stone by Ben (Sea) Constantine.

Both of the artists will be in attendance, signing and sketching. Plus their books will be sold in showbags containing limited edition prints, cool lollies, and other surprises. Also, Dillon and Ben are giving away a page of original art from the books.

The launch is on at All Star Comics Melbourne from 2pm – 5pm. Then at around 5:30pm if people want to have a drink, or can't make the afternoon launch, we'll be having an afterparty where you can sit and chat to the guys and buy books. This will be at Charlies Bar, 71 Hardware Lane (just down the toad from All Star).

These will be our last books released for a while, so we aim to make this a big one! Hope to see you there, and if you can help spread the word to help us make this launch huge it would be greatly appreciated.

I fired a few questions to Milk Shadow Books Publisher James Andre about the two books launching this weekend and what else has been happening with MSB this year.

James Andre Interview by Matt Emery
Can you talk a bit about what goes into choosing artists and books for Milk Shadow Books? Can you talk about how Ben C and Dillon Naylor's work fit into this equation? How much are your choices guided by 'business' and 'aesthetic'?
Milk Shadow Books looks for unique visions and voices. That's about it. Things that will open your mind through paper and ink.

Dillon was recommended to me by Bruce Mutard. At first I was shocked, because Dillon has been around forever. I knew of Da 'n' Dill, Batrisha, and even his stuff such as Pop Culture and Two Minute Noodles. He's a real pro. Bruce said Dillon might contact about publishing some stuff, 'cause he'd mentioned MSB to him. I waited a day or two then contacted Dillon direct. That's how the A Brush With Darkness collected book came about, and with Da 'n' Dill being mentioned early on, we came back to that project as our next one. It's also a good title because of the nostalgia, and all ages aspect.

I've been a fan of Ben's work since picking up a Phatsville comic at a Brisbane Supanova, probably 10 years ago. Plump Oyster was in foetal stages then. At that time I didn't really know an underground/alternative comics scene existed in Australia. I hoped that it did though and that it wasn't all just shoddy superhero/genre knock-offs. Loved Ben's work straight away. Strangely even back then my brain thought, "someone should be publishing this guy."

Most of the other MSB artists are friends who have been self publishing for a long time. I'm a comics nerd/fanboy at heart, and I can generally tell when someone has an interesting style. And it's easy to see different artists who have a strong following online, or at shows. It's not usually a money choice when it comes to publishing, but I don't want to go broke publishing either. A strong sense of style and "something to say" is the main thing. Have some soul basically. Those books usually sell well anyway, as business will follow a good aesthetic.

Both Ben C and Dillon are both well established cartoonists locally, Why do you think other publishers haven't taken an interest in their work prior to you?

That's a good question. I'm not too sure? We're lucky to be working with them. Same as with Tim Molloy, Ben Hutchings, Bobby.N and everybody else really. Both of the guys have worked with larger publishers and publications, but it's usually been in a more restrained sense, or have had short stories published in anthologies/magazines.
We give artists nearly total artistic freedom (with some editorial control/advice being retained by me and the tech people here) to make the best books they can, the way that they envision them. We "package" our books with love, and not to be slathered with tomato sauce and a pickle and pushed down a burger chute. That's probably fairly appealing to artists too.

Were there any difficulties in assembling collections of Ben and Dillon's work, I imagine some of Dillon's work goes back a few years?

The good thing about Ben and Dillon is that they still have a lot of the original art. So it was mainly just waiting for them to scan in the art once we provided them with the technical details. We were originally planning on making Ben's book larger, but most of his early work was drawn A4, so shrinking it down to A5 makes it look a lot tighter than blowing it up to a larger size. While Dillon's Da 'n' Dill comics worked well being collected from different sizes into one uniformly larger book. Then we ran the books through the usual proofing/design process.
How much of your market is divided between local and international sales? Do you have a concentrated focus on either?
We're really focused on local sales at moment after getting the Madman distribution deal happening. That was a big deal for us, and we've been trying to co-ordinate as much publicity and sales opportunities as we can with them. Eventually we'd like to expand overseas more, looking at Diamond and Last Gasp as distributors, but we already have Amazon, The Book Depository coverage so that's the main thing. Currently, I feel that if we can keep working to make a strong local scene for local people (Sorry, that sounds kind of like Edward and Tubbs out of The League of Gentlemen) then it will make things more sustainable for everyone

How important was your partnership with Madman for distribution? Are you at a point were you can evaluate this yet?
Really important. It's hard to keep on top of self distribution when you work full time. Having Madman take care of that frees up spare time to work on production and other business matters. It saves having to call up/go into shops chasing five bucks from eight months ago. The team there have honestly been great to work with. Plus the promo side of what they can do is so much more than we can do ourselves. I got some initial figures the other day and I think the guys there thought I'd be disappointed, but I'm happy every time even if one book sells, so to me, it's been going well so far.

Are there short term or long term goals you can share for Milk Shadow Books?
After these two new books, I'm going to take a break for a while from production. I'm getting married next year so that'll be a priority. But also it would be nice to have some time to go back over the business and catch up with lots of details behind the scenes that are often missed. Walking to Japan was our first major work, and that came out October 2011, so it's been two years. Now is a good time to go back over what's working etc. Even though we'll be toning down our schedule in the future, we've still plenty of really good books lined up.
Do you punch walls when things don't turn out the way you want?
Haha, no. Well, a window in Year 8, but that was more for a laugh.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rena's Journey - Karl-Heinz Schradt Interview


Karl-Heinz Schradt quietly released his 148 page graphic novel Rena's Journey in New Zealand during May of this year. Rena's Journey is one of the few long form comics I'm aware of that incorporates Maori culture and mythology alongside New Zealand's distinctive landscapes.

From the book description:

Rena works as a respected ornithologist at Auckland Museum, but has a sense that there is something missing in her life - is it the answer to the mystery of the moa? Or the dreams of a lost artifact that haunt her? After growing up in a foster family, she rediscovers her roots when her childhood friend Rangi comes to visit, with the news that her last blood relative has died. Rena returns to her childhood tribe and the 'Hinemoa', a trawler she has inherited. She sets out on a journey to answer her questions about the moa, but instead discovers an ancient and magical tiki (pendant). After humankind kills the last moa, the wrath of a forgotten monster is unleashed. Suddenly Rena finds herself in a race against time to uncover the past and stop Papamanu, a fearsome taniwha.

I asked Karl a few questions via email about Rena's Journey and his comics background.

Where did your interest in comics come from?

I have always been a ‘visual’ person. School was about a lot of words and numbers, Therefore, when it came to reading for entertainment; comics seemed more accessible to me. I remember trying to read ‘The Hobbit’ as a child and I remember being frustrated at all characters names trying to keep track of them! I think this was because I remember faces, not so much names.

I didn’t read many comics (apart from Asterix and Tintin) at first - mostly because my schools saw them as being not ‘proper’ books. We read Peter Gossage’s ‘How Maui slowed the sun’ and I loved it – but even that wasn’t really a comic. It was as a teenager, when my second cousins cleared their garage that I got a pile of old Judge Dredd and Superman comics; that I got properly introduced to comics.  

Have you had any art education/training? How long have you been making comics?

Though I took a short course in oil painting, I never had any formal arts training; I don’t know if high school counts?  I’ve always drawn, sketched and I loved Photoshop ever since a flat mate showed me it. I had hours of fun playing with it!

Over the years, I have skimmed many books and graphic design magazines, watched youtube tutorials and experimented and experimented. I started making short (one-pager) cartoons at high school. I’ve written many unpublished novels and screenplays; and when I had the idea for Rena’s Journey I realized that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the ideas in screenplay form. I decided to make it into a comic book instead. Writing a screenplay is much easier I think! If Rena’s Journey was ever made into a movie there is another 30 minutes (or 40 pages) of stuff that didn’t make the graphic novel because of the work a graphic novel entails!

What inspired your use of Māori legend and folklore in Rena's Journey and what research did it entail?

I came up with the idea for Rena’s Journey in NZ, but lacked the will to make it much more than three dog-eared pages of the Taniwha character, the character Rangi and the design for the tiki in the story.  Then I stayed in Australia and the United Kingdom For six years for an overseas experience. While there, I began to miss New Zealand’s landscapes and the unique culture. But it was a trip to the British museum that rekindled my interest in Māori sculpture and art.

With this newfound inspiration, I further developed the ideas for the story of Rena’s Journey. I was intrigued by the ‘what if’ idea that the long extinct Moa and mythological Taniwha existed in today’s modern world. I think this was because I heard so many great Māori myths and legends as I grew up. Peter Gossage’s books were a staple for NZ kids back then, and I read A.W Reed’s ‘Māori Mythology and Legends’ at some point too. I came to feel that these stories were part of me too, as a kiwi kid. 

The research was mainly about getting the many icons of Māori and kiwi culture that were in my mind into actual drawings: locations, places, creatures and believable designs. I scanned books, the internet and re-read A.W Reed’s ‘Māori Mythology and Legends’. Once I had the black and white pages done, I was back in NZ. I contacted a lecturer who had taught me much about Māori culture when I was a student in AUT’s health science facility. She reviewed the content of Rena’s Journey and gave me valuable feedback on making it more accurate. In fact, many people have helped me in this way.

You've lived in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, England and traveled Europe, how have your international experiences influenced your comics?

Living overseas had a couple of effects. As a half German / half Malaysian-Chinese person who moved to NZ at age two; I wasn’t really sure that I was a ‘normal’ Kiwi! Going to Malaysia and Germany helped me see that I am a Kiwi through and through, the German and Asian cultures are great; but are a part of my own ‘Kiwi’ self. Secondly Being overseas helped me see the ‘Kiwi’ culture more clearly – I had a comparison point now. I could see how we are unique in New Zealand.

How has travel influenced my work? It taught me how to appreciate everything more. Before I was in Italy, it was just a ‘concept’ in my head; now it’s place of colour, sound, tastes and feelings! My approach to stories and art widened. Rena’s Journey became about merging great Māori myth with a traditional American or European adventure story. Rena’s Journey has a moral imperative too (a western tradition); the moral is ‘go on a journey’ to find where you belong in your world.

What are some of the challenges you've faced producing comics in New Zealand?

Until Rena’s Journey’s recent sales, none of my creative projects have been very ‘successful’. My music, novels and screenplays never got picked up by publishers or agents as hard as I tried! My art never quite made it to a solo show in a gallery either…

Easily 30 NZ publishers declined Rena’s Journey. Really, I think I tried them all! I’ll be honest, it was all kinda depressing! I got some positive feedback, but it came down to money – comics aren’t money spinners for NZ publishers (and fair enough I guess). So I stalled finishing the book, because I was like, ‘What’s the point?’. It took five years before I finished it. I really must thank Ian Watt, the editor of the book, he kept telling me the book was worth printing and that made all the difference.

Eventually I’ve had to see creativity as its own reward; and not a meal ticket, a competition, or ‘success’ versus ‘failure’ thing. I am happy with that philosophy now.. And now I can create, and not care about publishing and all that jazz! If I feel excited about my work, that’s all that matters! 

In the end I self-published, mainly because I wanted to try to inspire like Maurice Gee and Peter Gossage inspired me… I wanted my book in libraries, I wanted it borrowed by young kiwis! I wanted to inspire day dreams in boring maths classes! Self publishing was really a slow and difficult process, I had to learn design, small business, marketing and distribution! 

Are you involved in any comics communities?

Not really, I joined New Zealand comic creators (NZCC) and NZ comics on Facebook; but that’s about it. I have had some good talks with some other comic makers and graphic designers; but then I’ve had some awkward talks too! One guy told me how ‘naïve’ my work was, I was quite surprised at his ‘no bars banned’ approach. Therefore, I prefer to pick when I release myself for critique by my peers.  

There does seem to be a clique at the events I’ve attended, I’m not sure I fit it. I’ve found that I’m not as into the ‘comics culture’ as some other creators are – they seem to know the names of all the great comics geniuses; the styles, the genres, the context of ‘the work’. Me, I look for a good yarn. I don’t care so much about the look of the work, it’s place in history, or even who wrote / drew it. I actually don’t care about that; I like what I like and I don’t need to know why.

What are you currently working on?

A cracking yarn about a solar system in which the animals became the dominant life forms, principally Cats, Horses, Lizards and weird creatures called ‘Anugians’. The main character is a Cat called ‘Spacecat Bob’ who is trying to stop a mysterious robot invasion from killing off his people, The Catesians. Despite the main character’s isolative nature, the theme of the story is about working together - caring about each other; and what happens when we take our humanity for granted. It’s called ‘Daneona: The Legend of Spacecat Bob and you can get more information at      

Where can people get a physical copy of Rena's Journey from?

As of right now: Unity Books, The Women’s Bookshop, Time Out, Jabbawocky Childrens books, University Bookshop and Wheelers Bookshop (online orders). E-copies for android (PDF) tablets are available at

Previews and ebook versions of Rena's Journey available here.

Rena's Journey on facebook.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Newton Comics - The Rise & Fall - Daniel Best Interview

Daniel Best's pozible campaign for his book on Australian publisher Newton Comics book is in it's last twenty hours. Daniel has met his target but I'm sure would welcome any more contributions to support the production costs of the book. I asked Daniel a few questions via email about his background in comics and his forthcoming book.

Please consider supporting Newton Comics - The Rise & Fall pozible campaign here.

What were the first comics you read?

The first comics that I can remember reading was the Death of Gwen Stacey issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, way back when they were released in the early 1970s. My mother taught me to read, but insisted that I read books, not that she had anything against comic books.

When did you first encounter Newton Comics?
I first encountered Newton Comics when they were released in 1975/1976. They were cheaper than the American versions and usually contained far more interesting material.  The posters and swap cards, along with the iron-on transfers also sold me - I'd buy them and chop them up mercilessly - swap cards in school books, posters on walls and iron-ons on shirts. But, hey, that's what you did as a kid in the 1970s. I didn't know, nor did I care, that these things would be worth anything down the track. Newtons were perfect for children - the true disposable comics.
What attracted you to researching comics history?
I've always had a fascination with history in general and, more often than not, it's the stories behind the official or published stories that have interested me the most. I first became interested in learning about comic book history in the early 1980s when I discovered magazines like The Comic Journal, but my interest really picked up when I found a battered copy of All In Color For A Dime at a library book sale for ten cents. That changed my outlook on comic books and comic book history in general. From there I discovered some old Alter Egos and a few FOOMs at a second hand store and never looked back.

The same second hand store used to sell me comic books for between five and ten cents each - from 1981 to 1984. They'd get stuff in like the John Byrne X-Men, Iron Fist, old Gil Kane and John Romita Spider-Man's, Silver Age Marvels and the like for peanuts. But never any DC. Like an idiot I lost the lot.

At what point did you consider turning your research into Newton Comics into a book?

I started to get interested in Newtons again in the early 2000s when I found a copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #1. I wanted to know what the story was behind these comics. I knew about the many Australian reprint comics, mainly the DC reprints that KG Murray did in the 1970s and 1980s, the Federal and Yaffa reprints of Marvel and the Gredown reprints of rare horror material, but these were new to me, in a way. Old, familiar comics, but new in their own way.  I hopped on the internet and did a search and found...nothing.

Then Robert Thomas did his brilliant Newton Comics article for The Sunday Observer (which used to be owned by Maxwell Newton, the same guy who owned Newton Comics) and I was hooked. I started collecting them and writing about them on my blog and there was a great interest. From there I began to interview people who were involved with Newton Comics and, once Robert and myself sat down and compared notes, I thought, "There's a book in here." That was in 2005.

I then caught up with Kevin Patrick in Melbourne. What he doesn't know about Australian comics isn't worth knowing, but he admitted that he didn't know a lot about Newton. I mentioned the idea of a book and he replied that nobody has ever written a book about an Australian comic book company, so why not be the first? By then I was really leaning towards it.  On the same weekend I was chatting to Philip Bentley, who founded Minotaur Books in Melbourne, who said, "You know, Maxwell Newton was named a spy in Parliament." That sold me. I started work on it in 2007, once I finished the Jim Mooney book, and I've been working on it ever since.  Now it's ready for publication!

Those three guys, Robert, Kevin and Phil, have been brilliant helps along the way, sharing ideas, research and allowing me to bounce things off them.

Daniel's blog Oh Danny Boy has a wealth of articles on Australian and American comics.

Images from the Newton Comics facebook here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brent Willis - BD Zine

French publication BD Zine is published tri-monthly in full colour, each issue focusing on a comic maker from around the world. Comics featured are in french and english and freely distributed to various comic shops and libraries in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands. BD Zine is published by I.M.A., a French non-profit association. Their 38th issue features Wellington cartoonist Brent Willis. The 32 page zine features 20 pages of Brent's comics, an interview (translated in French) and some ads for other comics.
Along with other featured BD artists, Brent also recently designed a label for Koala Beer home beer. He described his contribution, " Mine is the one which looks like its been drawn and coloured in by a 12 year kid with cheap felt-tip pens and coloured pencils."

I asked Brent a few questions about what he's been up to lately,

Seeing as you have close to zero web presence, How did BD Zine become aware of you?

I asked the BD Zine people this and they say they found me by chance on the internet. Because of my "close to zero web presence" this is indeed surprising but in situations like this I don't delve too deeply.  Its just a happy little miracle of sorts.

How can people get a hold of your ongoing zine Wark or the recent Bristle Annual?

People can get hold Bristle (which is now the Bristle Annual) or Whark (which is now spelt with an 'h' as I have recently discovered there was a British sci-fi zine with the same name in the 70s) by emailing me at 

The Bristle Annual is $10NZ and Whark is $3NZ, plus postage. If buying from outside NZ, I can accept a few other currencies so email me and we can work something out. Otherwise if you're lucky you might find them at a zinefest or comic convention near you.

Read any good comics lately?

The new Funtime comics collection is very good and I bought Lucky Luke and the Daltons for half price recently. And of course the comics that people send in to Bristle.

What are you working at the moment?

I have just finished editing and printing the Bristle Annual, which is like the Bristle Quarterly but bigger and less frequent. I'm currently working on a the latest edition of Whark and planning for a few comics beyond that. I'm also on the Wellington Zinefest Committee so we're working on organising a really good zinefest later this year.

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.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Chromacon 2013 Allan Xia Interview

New Zealand is hosting a new illustration and comic art convention this weekend with the inaugural Chromacon on May 12th at the Aotea Centre in Auckland. In recent years the Australasian convention circuit has primarily been made up of large scale conventions with a depleting focus on comics and artists so the establishment of a new convention catering specifically to illustrators and comic art has been welcomed by the sixty plus artists from New Zealand and Australia scheduled to attend. Auckland based illustrator Allan Xia, the primary organiser of Chromacon, shared some of the behind the scenes development of Chromacon.

Jigsaw by Allan Xia

What was the impetus for organising Chromacon?

I've been going with a few art friends of mine to different conventions around New Zealand for quite a few years now. I guess with Chromacon It really started off as a joke because I've always found with any of the conventions in New Zealand as artists I really felt we needed an event that was purely about the art and not entertainment or pop culture focused or a specific style or subject matter. I said to a friend of mine after we had a booth at a convention I said, “It didn't really go that well this year, so what if we started our own illustration and comic arts festival?" I guess in my naivety I just decided to jump in the deep end and just decided to do it. Initially I planned it and found a venue space, I sort of just asked around. The good thing about this was I knew quite a lot of people who I thought would be interested. Pretty much everyone has been on the same wavelength, fortunately enough; the response has been really awesome.

What is your background as an artist?

Illustration is pretty much what I try to keep as my main career, how I feed myself. Comics are a great passion of mine and it's also for me personally quite tied in with events like this. It gives me motivation to get create something, get it printed, having something physical in hand that people can flip through. The past few years the comics I’ve made were for events like this which is good it gives me a deadline to work towards.

Allan Xia

Who's involved behind the scenes of Chromacon?

We've got quite a few people who have been really helpful. A designer friend Des Young has been helping me out with a lot of design; he designed our awesome logo and a lot of the promotion material everyone will be seeing around Auckland. We're going to be having a conference, artist discussions at the event. Bec Wheeler from Watermark, she's been really great help with organising that. She used to be part of Illustrators Australia. Bec has run discussion panels like these at festivals before and her expertise has been a really great help. Also Renee Lang who's a great poet and playwright, she's got way more experience than me when it came to organising things like this, she's giving me a lot of great advice so far. Mostly I've just been doing a lot of it solo which is good, because I'm freelancing rather than have a studio job otherwise it would have been quite a big problem because I didn't realise quite how much work it would be.

When I saw the Chromacon site go up I was really impressed that someone was organising an event like this in New Zealand as you mention the main conventions have become more pop-culture oriented and the comics have really taken a backseat.

That sort of thing is reflected around the world. It's also sort of a good thing it gives opportunities for things like Chromacon to carve out our own niche. A few of the inspirations for Chromacon were things like Spectrum Art Live and IlluXCon and quite a few conventions that have popped up around the states. It's similar to what you just said, you know Comic-Con became really really big and eventually artists became less of the focus which gave opportunities for events like the ones I mentioned to start happening. I guess it's similar to Chromacon really.
In my naivety I sort of just jumped into the deep end. I think initially my plan was to have it at a community centre. This was after I had already spoken to a few people that had been really excited by the idea, I was looking at the places available and I decided a community hall wasn't big enough. Like I say I think a lot of it had to with naivety, I knew the Aotea Centre would be a really good space because I wanted it to be a public event not just completely about the creative industry talking to each other but also engaging the wider community. The Aotea Centre is a very central venue in Auckland. Having it at the Aotea Centre will just have the benefit of being able to have more people to attend and having it a free entry event we want as many people to attend as possible.

Why did you make Chromacon a free entry event?

One of the biggest motivations for me was to create a platform where artists can leave the comfort zone of their studios and promote their art to the rest of the community and similarly the community can get an understanding of what it is we do. People ask me all the time what I do for a living and I say I’m an illustrator and seven out of ten times the response would be, “what is that?” Another exhibitor at Chromacon told me almost the same story. That’s a big motivation for me, basically illustration, visual storytelling and arts surround every aspect of our lives these days but the artists and what we do gets pushed to the background so people don’t really notice or understand anymore.

We have a lot of really awesome creatives in New Zealand especially since we have Weta, there’s a lot of great concept artists and designers from there who do great work on the films that everyone really appreciates it but outside of ‘art of books’ they don’t really have a platform to showcase their own artwork at least not to the local audience. Which is very surprising because we’ve got all this talent in New Zealand but I doubt the public really knows about the great artists we have here. That was the first thing when I decided to create this event was I definitely wanted it to be free admission.

  Greed by Allan Xia

How is Chromacon funded?

It’s quite a hard process. Step one I wanted to make it free admission. As soon as I announced the event we had retail stores asking for retail booths, I never announced we’d have retail booths, people just took it for granted. I really wanted the event to be about the artists and I think having retail and merchandising booths would clash with that mentality, that core philosophy, because I want it to be about the artists showing their original artwork and their self published works. That being said it has added problems for us with financial budgeting. Basically how we are funding, is mostly through sponsorship booths. I’ve taken great care to make sure they fit in with the culture of the event. Quite a few educational providers, art schools from Auckland, they see that we’re engaging with kids and students locally who are interested in art. This is another thing we want to foster as well, so we sort of happen to meet the same demographic. Also we have Takapuna Art Supplies which is run by Jim Auckland who is a great old school illustrator who has a history in education as well. He’ll be doing demos at the event as well. We have some other sponsors coming onboard but mostly we’re trying to budget the best we can at the moment. We didn’t manage to get government funding but I already budgeted for that so even though we don’t have it, it’ll be okay. Obviously I would have liked to have had it because then we could have more money for marketing.

Do you think Chromacon could become an annual event?

I definitely hope so. Hopefully my budgeting is all good and we don’t end up being in the red this year. I’m pretty confident that it will be successful. The response from the artists has been really good so hopefully we can get the same sort of response form the community.

Interview conducted by phone Early April 2013