Showing posts with label Joe Wylie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Joe Wylie. Show all posts

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Ponsonby Rag

Earlier this year I got to have a little dig through the Auckland Library and came across five issues of an amazing paper The Ponsonby Rag, created in Auckland during the late seventies. Similar to alternative papers being produced around the world since the sixties and very informed by counter cultural elements, the Rag consisted of poems, stories, illustration and a significant amount of comic strips by a small group of Auckland artists and cartoonists. A lot of the work struck me as very experimental for the time perhaps influenced by the American underground comics of the sixties and seventies.

Cartoonist/Illustrator Joe Wylie shared his recollections of The Ponsonby Rag:

I didn't do anything for the Ponsonby Rag, though I remember it well. I met the people involved through Barry Linton when I went to live in Auckland in 1977. They had their own little offset press, which was a pretty nifty thing to have back then. There was a particularly impressive issue titled Ponsonby Bag, which came in a bag and consisted of various items. It would be amazing if one had survived intact. I know that David Eggleton wrote for it, but I can't, I'm sorry to say, remember the name of the guy who did most of the printing work. I believe he was also responsible for most of the cartoons, which were pretty memorable. What really impressed me was the attempt at handmade colour separation, made by drawing directly on the offset plates.

David Eggleton was involved with the Ponsonby Rag from it's beginning through to it's end. I approached him for some recollections on the production of the Rag and he sent me the following article effectively detailing the history of The Ponsonby Rag.

The Ponsonby Rag by David Eggleton

            The Ponsonby Rag was an offset-press publication, containing original graphics, cartoons, poems, stories and commentaries. It appeared erratically between late 1976 and early 1978, out of a big weatherboard villa opposite the old and very aromatic DYC Vinegar factory at the top of Crummer Road. The anarcho-absurdist  tone was set by the cover graphic of the first issue, which showed a man wearing a newspaper, which he is also reading, crossing the road at the Three Lamps corner while a seven-headed dragon flies above the old Hydra bacon factory and a crowd of good keen Kiwi blokes with short-back-and-sides haircuts look on.

            It ran to five issues and the average print run for each issue was 200 to 250, with  the largest print-run being 300 for the first one.  The border of the first issue’s cover graphic was made up of over 100 possible-but-rejected alternative titles typed-out, ranging from ‘Dehydrange’ to ‘Pun Sun Be’ to ‘Verb with Paper Snack’ to ‘Remember Gypsy Mick’. A lot of people swirled around the making of the magazine, almost as many as there were copies of issues to begin with, in keeping with the mass-demo vibe of the time.

            The Rag grew out of the rich compost that was Ponsonby in the mid-1970s — an inner-city Auckland working class suburb rundown and seedy and home to dissidents and drop-outs of all persuasions in the years before gentrification. The neighbourhood was pullulating with idealists, and every group and its obligatory dogs seemed to be publishing a little magazine, from the Polynesian Panthers to various workers’ unions.

            The product of a loose collective of like-minded contrarians, agitators,  and artists, some of whom had been involved with the Progressive Youth Movement, Auckland’s Resistance Bookshop, or anarchist collectives in the South Island, it was a publication partly inspired by British and American and New Zealand underground magazines and comic books of the Sixties and early Seventies. As such it is one of the missing links between alternative magazines such as Earwig (Auckland), Cock (Wellington), Ferret (Christchurch) and Counter-Culture Free Press (Dunedin) ,and publications of the late 1970s and early Eighties: Strips, and various Kiwi punk and Flying Nun ‘zines.

            Central figures in early stages of its production were artist and cartoonist Alan Harold, his brother, writer Denis Harold, and members of the Auckland Anarchist Activists, including Frank Prebble, Graeme Minchin, John Markie (later John Segovia) and writer Chrissie Duggan. Artistic contributions were provided by writer and poet David Eggleton, cartoonist Barry Linton, the artist Malcolm Ross, collagist Bryan Harold, and local poets Herman Gladwin and Sue Heap, amongst others.

            The offset printing press that was used had had several previous lives. It originally printed newspapers and posters for the American armed forces based in Auckland during World War Two. Later it became the Socialist Unity Party’s printing press. Eventually coming into the possession of the Ponsonby People’s Union and some associated groups, it was installed at 4 Crummer Road at the top of Ponsonby Road in a former clothing factory annex, where it was used to print leaflets. By this time some of machine’s parts were getting quite worn, and main printer Alan Harold proved adept at buying or obtaining replacement parts and he and others used number eight wire techniques to keep it running.

            Over the nearly two years of The Ponsonby Rag’s existence the composition of the core group gradually changed. (Those involved funded it —we all had part-time jobs). By the time of the last issue, Ponsonby Rag 5, Denis Harold and David Eggleton did most of the assembling, lay-out and printing between them.

            Printed on A2 sheets of paper, folded and stapled into an A3 format, using a variety of ink colours to obtain a streaky semi-psychedelic effect, the aesthetic of The Rag borrowed from the hippy, organic-community-garden ethos for its pumpkin/cabbage/beetroot colours, and some of the large sheets were pasted-up on walls around Ponsonby in emulation of wall-pasted community newspapers in Red China: the pasted-up images included big Linton cartoons and Eggleton political poster-poems.

            Otherwise, it was sold at cafes and other outlets around Ponsonby for 30 cents a copy, rising to 50 cents for the fifth and final issue, which consisted of a hand-stencilled paper bag containing printed leaflets and pieces of card. This issue was modelled on the notion of the ubiquitous Kleensac: the big, khaki-coloured, all-purpose paper rubbish bag of those days. The idea was that you went through the contents of the paper bag like a homeless street person in search of  literal and cultural sustenance, emerging with poems, graphic, cartoons stories and poems in a rainbow of colours on various pieces of paper and card.

            One reason for this was that the offset-plate machinery had become very erratic and was not inking properly. Consequently, while the images and text of number 5 were consistent, they all looked slightly different because of eccentric printing techniques in the overlaying of colours. The printing press itself became pretty much unusable shortly after, and anyway all principal parties involved had moved on to other things: single-artist comic books done elsewhere by Alan Harold Kin Oath Comics, The Esoterrorists and Cracking Up; while the anarchist faction put out ‘spasmodical’ anti-newspapers; Barry Linton got involved with the Strips group; and David Eggleton published a series of self-illustrated poetry broadsheets.

            Content-wise, there were three main contributors to The Ponsonby Rag: artist Alan Harold, cartoonist Barry Linton, and writer and graphic artist David Eggleton; while Denis Harold provided editorial direction and the most elbow-grease throughout. Each much-argued-over issue was intended as an anarchic one-off, so it did well to survive, while the eccentricities of its means-of-production remain unique.


The Ponsonby Rag article © 2013 David Eggleton, Joe Wylie recollections © 2013 Joe Wylie, Images © 2013 respective artists, Thanks to Auckland Libraries for access to archival copies of The Ponsonby Rag.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Melbourne Comics Meet Up April

Today after chess in the Carlton Gardens I strolled down to Melbourne comics meet up at the Prince Alfred Hotel in Carlton. Phil Bentley schooled me up on some of the 'boundary pushing' Australian publications of the sixties and seventies. Also had an interesting seven degrees of Colin Wilson discussion with Colin.

Some recent European work by Colin Wilson.

Colin's second instalment in the Jour J series.

Colin's 'Signature'

Stunning Joe Wylie cover for the last Colin Wilson edited issue of Strips #10, Courtesy of Phil Bentley.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Paper Trail

Darian Zam writes about the work of cartoonist and commercial artist, Joseph Bruno Moran.

Image from Darien Zam's Long White Kid. Maori Wonderland picture album, published by Frank Duncan & Co Ltd, c. 1920. Possibly the cover, as well as the company’s logo, were designed by Moran. Courtesy of Early Canterbury Photographers blog,

Ghost Ghost Tumblr.

Joe Wylie's political fumetti at Porcupine Farm.

Bookmarks catchup: Karl DuFresne writes about New Zealand cartooning historian Ian F. Grant.

 Cartoon by NZ cartoonist Trace Hodgson

Five questions with New Zealand cartoonist Steve Bolton.


Toby Morris shares recent gig posters he's illustrated.

Janet McAllister writes about New Zealand Comics exhibition Nga Pakiwaituhi.

 Frank and Becky of Tiny Kitten Teeth feature on The Mutant Season at Nerdist.

Animated abstract cartoons by DRAW.

Chris Arrant interviews Moth City creator Tim Gibson.

Sarah Laing shares illustrations from her forthcoming novel The Fall of Light.

John Retallick has brought his Comic Spot podcast out of retirement with an interview with future co-host Gary Chaloner. John with Jo Waite and Bernard Caleo interviewed a wide range of cartoonists in the Comic Spot's first iteration. Listen to Comic Spot archives here.

The Public Relations Institute of New Zealand present a talk from three New Zealand cartoonists this Thursday 21st March at Dida's Wine Lounge in the Auckland CBD. Rod Emmerson, Chris Slane and Guy Body will discuss cartoons and news media with MC Brendan Boughen. More details here.

Bookmarks catchup: Dylan Horrocks talked to Arts on Sunday about New Zealand comics and recounted his experiences at the 2012 Frankfurt Bookfair and Treviso in Italy.

Tim McEwen reviews Bobby N's Digested #2

Nat Karmichael reviews Kokoda: That Bloody Track. Copies are currently available on selected Australian news stands and from Zbeach True Comics.

Cartoonist, 2013 Ruebens Host, and stand-up comedian Jason Chatfield promotes his upcoming show at the 2013 Melbourne Comedy Festival with some speed cartooning. Tickets online at

From the Pikitia Press WIP folder:

 Illustration by Allan Xia

Cartooning and comics in New Zealand capping magazines.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tim Bollinger Interview Part Three of Three

Attitude Problem #3 (1996)

What are the attitudes of New Zealand archival institutions such as the Alexander Turnbull Library to preserving New Zealand's comic heritage?
You'll have to ask them. They certainly have some comics in their collections and I've found some interesting material (in Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand especially), but I'm not sure how much has been collected especially and they're not all together in a single place. Their attitude to preserving New Zealand's heritage generally is great. It's just that back in the day, such material was considered ephemera, low quality and culturally unimportant. I found a few interesting New Zealand and Australian comics in the Government's Education Department files, at Archives New Zealand (thanks David Newton!), filed in folders with complaints from school teachers and the minutes from government censorship committees. So the context is sometimes quite interesting as well.

But for comprehensive well-studied collections of comics, you have to go to private collectors to find stuff.

Lost Wellington (2005)

Are there any tragic tales from New Zealand's comic history you could relate? 

The whole story is a tragedy from go to whoa. Anyone who ever tried drawing or publishing comics in New Zealand has had to fight a battle on several fronts - cultural, logistical, economic. There's never been the population to support large numbers of local sales and, unlike say France or Japan, New Zealand does not have a strong culture of reading or writing comics (bandes dessinées/manga, call it what you will). The brief time in which a (so-called) boom took place, back in the 1940s, there were tight import restrictions on imported material, but they were hardly great times either for the artists or their art. Distribution was always and still remains, a problem, because a few big distributors dominated magazine circulation, limiting access to retail outlets by independent publishers.  Most New Zealand comics are born out of a combination of naive optimism and bitter struggle. Karl Wills once described the New Zealand comics scene as "a corpse on a life support machine".

 Early Stories About Food & Death (2004)

Specific tragedies? Eric Resetar has stories of losing large quantities of unsold comic books, either accidentally in garage fires, or on purpose, by dumping them into rivers out of the back of his station wagon. Eric's friend and colleague Rod McLeod at the Auckland Art Gallery knows some of these stories.

Then, there was the original artwork for the final episode of Joe Wylie (a.k.a. Flexible Shaft)'s 'Kabuki' comic series in 'Strips' back in the late 70s that was stolen out of the back of his car and never saw print! A real tragedy for New Zealand comics of the period…He pretty much gave up, there and then.

Colin Wilson's 'Captain Sunshine Volume 2' is another apparently completed comic book that never saw the light of day and no one knows where the finished artwork ended up. The whole history is littered with premature births and deaths…It's very Shakespearian.

 Orpheus in the Underworld - first appeared in White Fungus Issue # 12 (2011)

What are the difficulties in producing a definitive book like Back of Beyond?

Well, it's kind of you to refer to this almost 'mythical' volume called 'Back of Beyond'. Since I proposed that title back in the early 90s - a comprehensive 'history' of New Zealand comics
- I've been gathering and writing material for it. But the more you learn and find out about, the more questions it raises, and the more leads there are to follow. Furthermore, the longer it takes, the more new comics get produced, so the biggest hurdle is time. Plus I have a day job. But I'm getting there. I reckon I'm about half way through. That would make it a mid-2025 release date…(give or take a decade).

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - first appeared in White Fungus Issue # 11 (2009)

Can you offer any advice for young cartoonists in New Zealand?

Draw to deadlines. A bird on the page is worth two in your head. Publication deadlines are the best sort of deadlines - try submitting to your local student newspaper. Use digital sparingly - clarity of line remains supreme.

All images copyright 2012 Tim Bollinger