[Editor's note: Toby was living in Melbourne when this interview was conducted and after living further abroad he's now relocated with his family back in NZ.]
Toby Morris Interview by M. Schuerich.
Toby Morris has been a prolific creator of comics in New Zealand - at least, while he was in New Zealand! He is now located in Melbourne, Australia. Toby has been involved with publishers such as Chopper Chick Comics with his Pirate Technics series (up to Issue 2) and has also been the main illustrator for the A Low Hum gig posters. He was even published in Nexus once upon a time ago with a serial comic titled Dreamboat Dreamboat. I gladly took the opportunity to present him with some questions and get his opinions on comic creation
What originally got you into comic creation?
I've always done it I can't really remember why I got in to it. The first time I actually went and got a finished comic printed up I was 13. I grew up with a massive pile of Tintin and Asterix books and I loved those to bits so I think that would have had something to do with it.
How do you think New Zealand comics are being perceived by New Zealanders themselves?
Oh, I think most people who are fairly open minded about the arts in general are prepared to give them a go when they come into contact with them, but there aren't many opportunities outside of meeting someone who makes them for that to happen. NZ comics are ever so slowly growing in profile/acceptance but realistically it is still very much way out on the fringes to your average Joe kiwi.
How viable do you think comic creation and illustration is as a job in New Zealand?
Its not easy. Comics as a job is not even worth thinking about illustration as a job to pay bills while you do comics is do-able - that's what I was doing before I left NZ but I was not making a hell of a lot of money and it had taken me a good few years of doing illos for free and building a profile to even get to that stage.
What are your impressions of the current New Zealand comic scene?
It's funny for me because I'm away from it now. but it seems like having a few new keen people has blown some fresh enthusiasm into everyone's sails. I haven't seen lots of these people's work so I don't know what kind of stuff is actually being produced, but from what I can see it looks like there is a lot of energy there at the moment Like any scene it goes through waves of activity and waves of quiet - good to see its picking up again.
What kind of elements and themes do you try to include in your own creations?
Whatever is on my mind. I have a few things that will pop up again and again (robots and music would be two big ones) but it's usually whatever I'm thinking about on the day. I think about robots and music more than a lot of other things,
What do you like appreciating the most out of your's or someone else's comics?
Impressive execution. Like really flash drawing, is one thing but really it's personality I mainly want to see, a unique idea or perspective. Sincerity and humour are important to me too - people think those two things are opposite but when there are both there that can be magic.
What do you think the future has in store for New Zealand comics?
I don't think NZ comics will ever take over the world but I quite like that about it. I think NZ comics will continue to attract people who do really strange and personal and odd work, and the more generations of people doing that the more the precedent will build to have to do even better stuff than ever before.
What comics have you been reading lately?
We All Die Alone by Mark Newgarden. rereading lots of early/mid Love and Rockets (I love that stuff.), Kramer's Ergot 4 and 5 are still my favourite books after two years, some Ron Rege, Kevin Huizenga.
What was the inspiration for the "Pirate Technics" comic series?
I wanted to do something that tied together my involvement in music and comics. It was also kind of tied specifically to the medium I was putting it out through. It started being in 'the package' which was quite a dance music oriented publication. I felt like I was a rock n roll dude and they were getting me to do all this work for them, and it felt like rock was creeping up and taking over dance music in Wellington at that time. so I started doing stuff for the package with rock n roll pirates 'invading' the package and taking over in the name of rock n roll. By the time they wanted me to do the series I felt like the whole thing had turned around and that whole rock n roll explosion had happened and by that time I felt like rock was being stolen by pop so I made the series about rock and dance teaming up to defend against pop.
With your Dreamboat Dreamboat series, were you aiming for some kind of 'Home and Away' serial?
For sure. very much so. My whole thing was to make it like the whole thing was being sung by a tough 50s girl band (like 'leader of the pack') so that's why I have a 50s girl band as part of the story but also why I tried to do it in a really soap opera serialised way.
Do you prefer to tell a good story rather than make any kind of story up as an excuse to draw?
I love drawing but I have a lot more enthusiasm for writing the stories. I have the concepts for hundreds of comics in my head and scrawled in sketchbooks but I only find the time to draw and complete a tiny portion of them. My sketchbooks are mainly filled with writing - whatever that means.
Your 'A Low Hum' posters are really awesome. Not to mention you've done a million other posters for other bands, including your own. What kind of job are gig posters to you?
Thanks. I love doing posters and approach them in a pretty similar way to comics - even though it's just one image. I still use a storytelling approach. You have to find some kind of connection between a visual image and the music which I love doing. You have to set the tone, the mood the vibe etc for the gig, It's easy and awesome to do if you love the band, hard if you haven't heard, don't like or don't get the band(s). I'm not doing as many these days as I'd like because I'm too busy playing music. but I'll come back to it for sure.
Beatnik Publishing are releasing Toby's latest book chronicling his first year of parenthood, DON'T PUKE ON YOUR DAD, in Auckland on August 22nd. More details here.