Showing posts with label Milos week. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Milos week. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Milo's Week - Dylan Horrocks

 Nov 11, 1995

 Nov 18, 1995

Milo's Week by Dylan Horrocks was a half page strip featuring the exploits of a political cartoonist which ran weekly in the New Zealand Listener from Nov 11 1995 to May 17 1997. Milo's Week combined a fictitious cast with real life New Zealand Politicians of the time to produce a blend of political satire and soap opera. Like fellow NZ cartoonist's David Low and John Kent, Horrocks managed to ruffle a few political feathers over the course of producing a weekly satirical strip.

I asked Dylan a few questions about his work on Milo's Week via email.
What led to Milo's Week featuring in The Listener?

It was blind luck, really. I had just quit my day job and was desperately looking for any kind of paying freelance gig. I visited the Listener with my portfolio, hoping to pick up some occasional illustration work. Turned out they were looking for a new comic strip, and they asked me to put together a proposal. I came up with a few ideas, but Milo was my favourite (and theirs, luckily).

Did you have to submit roughs for editorial approval on Milo's Week?

I'm trying to remember. I don't think I did; I just dropped in the finished strip, and the editors looked at them before they went to press. But I don't remember ever having a problem, except the one time I did a strip using characters from Murray Ball's Footrot Flats. It was just before the first MMP election, and the Electoral Commission had been running an advertising campaign explaining how MMP worked, starring the Footrot Flats characters. There was a lot of misleading information around on how to vote (I seem to remember ACT were urging people to vote strategically) and there were all sorts of metaphors and analogies being tossed about: dividing pies, cutting cakes, flushing votes down the toilet. My cartoon showed Wal in the polling booth, his head whirling with all those colourful analogies, too confused to vote.

I'd asked Murray Ball for permission to use his characters, and he'd said sure - although he later pointed out there might be complications with the Electoral Commission, given the contract they'd signed with him. So he said we should get their permission first. The deputy editor (Geoff Chapple) and I talked it over and agreed the Electoral Commission would probably take ages to decide, and then would probably want changes made to protect the clarity of their campaign's message. That would have ruined the whole point of the cartoon, so in the end we made a judgement call and took the risk of publishing without talking to the Electoral Commission first.

Sure enough, when the strip came out the electoral commission were furious and poor old Murray Ball ended up caught in the middle. I felt bad about that, but I'm glad Geoff went ahead and printed it. Politicians didn't get to vet cartoons about them, so why should the Electoral Commission?

Geoff was wonderful to work with; I think he quite enjoyed it when we ruffled a few feathers.

October 12, 1996
How was Milo's Week coloured?

The early ones were hand-coloured using watercolours (with a touch of coloured pencil here and there). Actually the "watercolours" I used were really inks designed for hand-colouring photographs. They were bright and transparent but not very mixable. I had no idea what I was doing, really. I still don't.

A month or so before the end, I started using Photoshop; but then I had even less idea what I was doing and some of those were terrible. I was learning on the job, I guess. Mind you, we were all Photoshop noobs in those days.

By the way, the earliest one coloured in Photoshop wasn't done by me, but by the art director. That's because I came down with suspected appendicitis late one night and was bundled off to hospital for a couple of days. That week's strip was all drawn but not yet coloured, so my wife dropped the black & white strip into the Listener office and the art director did the rest. The next week, it was back to watercolours, until the following year when I started experimenting with digital colouring myself.

Scanning was a constant problem. That was all very new back then, and the process was a little clunky. Whenever a new technology comes in like that, quality takes a few steps back before it improves.

Milo's Week digitally coloured by The Listener Art Director July 27, 1996

Did you receive much reader feedback?
We got letters now and then. Sometimes I actively tried to get readers involved, like when I ran a "Cartoonist Initiated Referendum" on a new National Day for New Zealand. Maybe half a dozen people sent in suggestions, ranging from Parihaka Day to Nuclear Free Day and Not The Queen's Birthday Day. One person even sent in a whole comic strip, and I wish I'd been able to run that. Nowadays, I'd have put it on the blog, but back then I barely knew how to send an email, let alone setting up a website.

February 10, 1996

April 13, 1996

The best feedback I ever got was when I did a series of strips where the Invisible Hand of the Market goes on a crime spree. That sparked a brief debate in the letters column between a couple of economists, which was rather gratifying. In fact, one of those strips has since been reprinted in two or three academic books on economics (including one from Germany).

Oh, and then there was the time I did a two-page strip for them reporting on the 'Beyond Dependency' and 'Beyond Poverty' conferences held in Auckland in 1997. Beyond Dependency was the "official" conference, part of a campaign run by the then-National government to sell its plans for welfare "reform" to the public. A group of anti-poverty campaigners organised an alternative conference called Beyond Poverty, and I talked the Listener into letting me attend both as a reporter/cartoonist.

When my comic strip report was published, the former finance minister Ruth Richardson called the Listener and cancelled a major feature interview they'd planned to do with her. She was outraged that the Listener had sent me to cover Beyond Dependency rather than a proper journalist; and I imagine the tone of my strip didn't exactly appeal to her either. Geoff Chapple chuckled when he told me about that.

 November 9, 1996

November 16, 1996

November 23, 1996

November 30, 1996

December 7, 1996

 December 14, 1996

What led to Milo's Week finishing in 1997?

That's simple: I was dropped. The editor who'd hired me was replaced with a new one (this happened depressingly frequently at the time, as circulation continued to decline throughout the 1990s). The new editor cancelled a number of regular features and brought in new ones. I was upset, of course, because I relied on that reliable weekly cheque. But then they launched a new strip by Anthony Ellison and it was a lot better than mine, so it was all for the best, really.

I tried a few other strips in the aftermath. I briefly tried selling Milo as a daily or weekly to the NZ Herald, without success (you can see some of those here.) Then Chris Trotter asked me to continue Milo in the NZ Political Review, but one episode in the magazine went into a long hiatus and I gave up. I tried out a couple of other strip ideas too: Scoop (starring a reporter who'd address the readers directly) and Life with PeeWee (about an advertising executive who has a midlife crisis and quits to write the great NZ novel; he discovers being a house-husband with 3 kids is more challenging than he thought. ( Samples here.) Both failed to convince the editors I pitched them to. The only success I had with a follow-up strip was Dot Com, which I drew for Ian Wishart's Investigate magazine at the turn of the millennium. I must have done five or six strips before giving it up. I can't even remember whether he dropped me or vice versa. Given how Investigate has evolved into a scary wingnut conspiracy rag since, I'm kind of glad I got out early.

The last Milo's Week published May 17, 1997

Horrocks drew a further two strips before Milo's was cancelled. He commented, "You'll notice I reworked the first one for the proposed daily strip. I was sorry the very last one never saw print, because it was my little tribute to NZ's editorial cartoonists, with cameos by Tom Scott, Slane, Ellison, Tim Bollinger, et al. I was sorry, too, that the strip ended with Milo and Sasha broken up. I never intended that to last forever. But there's something poetic about the last published strip ending with "it's important to know when you're beaten."

Dylan Horrocks Internet Portal:

Milo's Week Copyright 2012 Dylan Horrocks