Thursday, April 10, 2014
I first came across Matt Kelly's work several years ago when he was an enthusiastic contributor to the BRD Community. I knew Matt had been serialising his Kiwiman comics online for a while but I hadn't been a regular reader until a recent story caught my eye with a new vertical scrolling format that provides a great showcase for Matt's art. Kiwiman's busy depictions of super-heroic adventure in New Zealand bush through lush brush strokes at times brings to mind some of the great comics of yesteryear by New Zealand comics pioneer Henry William Bennett.
How did you get interested in comics and what inspired you to make them?
I got into comics because My parents gave me comics from a young age [along with other books]. I was the second child so comics in the house preceded me. One that made a big impression is a comic called Disneyland, which was a British publication as far as I can make out, no prizes for guessing the content. Also Rupert Bear which was a frustrating read because it was almost a comic but had text along the bottom of each panel instead of balloons. These were my earliest exposure and probably can't be overestimated in terms of the impressions they made (notably the British element).
At some point in the proceedings I was given Burne Hogarth's Tarzan book which I remember as having a profound effect; in fact years later in conversation with Dylan Horrocks we discussed Harvey Kurtzman's comments over the same work, and it's stirring eroticism. I suppose that could read as homoeroticism, and I certainly still like some homoerotic art and images, but I think the figures Hogarth presented are tremendously ambiguous. The nudes have A sort of barbie doll like lump in the crotch (In fact the lump-crotch probably makes things more erotic due to the mysteriousness of it). But everything about Hogarth's drawing style is certainly sensual, almost lurid, certainly fleshy, even the plants, water, boats, buildings. Everything is so melodramatically presented that there is a certain sexual or at least very sensual sensibility at work. Anyway I identify with harvey kurtzman's prepubescent erotic sensation at reading the Hogarth Tarzan book.
Also during my younger days the odd black and white Australian reprint of North American comics would show up. I think my mother would buy them on impulse for us. Some of the art in those books was very impressive, I remember a Batman with particularly nice chiaroscuro. Nowadays I really love picking up old black and white Aussie reprints at 2nd hand book sellers: this is purely subjective, but the aesthetics of these books seem to restate or even change the original stories in a way that lends them a greater legitimacy or perhaps just a more immediate context. Jeez.
When I was older, probably just about to start intermediate school, mum encouraged me to collect a comic title. I think there was a concern that my reading age was slipping bellow the average, certainly I was put through remedial reading classes earlier on, and reading comics was still reading. This may have been why the encouragement.
I certainly read comics. I was crazy for Garfield, and Asterix (but had almost never read Tintin except a light perusal at my cousin's house once; I remember being slightly affronted by Tintin, probably out of loyalty for Asterix. In fact I have only in the last couple of years actually made the effort to read Tintin and collect some of it, it is excellent, I see that now.
Anyway I started buying Buster, a weekly british news print (“children's paper”) comic, an anthology of regular comedy strips featuring probably the same joke (or very nearly) each week. Somehow this lead me to 2000AD, and then something happened in my brain, as powerful as, but perhaps more tangible than the Hogarth Tarzan book.
Something more about Asterix though, because it had at least as profound an effect as anything else. There was a time when I read Asterix the Legionary (the first experience and book of Asterix I owned) almost religiously. Perhaps daily, in fact sometimes even more than that. I have a strong specific memory of myself as a young kid considering whether or not to start rereading Asterix the Legionary yet again or to do something else. It was a sunny day and I had toys and other things I could have been doing, but there was a sense of not only considering whether to reread a comic album, but more intensely whether to submit to or enter into that state of consciousness, not that those terms were familiar to me at the time. I was considering whether to enter a very charming, exciting and entertaining world that existed in the act of reading that book. Of course I did so, with great excitement. It is still very easy for me to spend a great deal of time exploring the panels, the drawings alone give me hours of distraction, but add to that the pace and storytelling, the comedy and characterisation (of the Rene' Goscinny written books) is just spellbinding. I have found nothing as compelling in the Uderzo written books, but I have high hopes for the new book, Asterix and the Picts, written by Jean-Yves Ferri and drawn by Didier Conrad.
Chronologically I came to 2000AD later in life and at a time when I was drawing in a way that including copying or at least copying from memory. My brother, Chris, was also drawing a lot (and was much better than me in my estimation) and his work, based on or straight copying 2000AD images, was in the mix of influences on me at the start of my sequential art endeavours.
As far as being inspired to make comics is concerned, the big thing that came along to actually make me think that making comics was something I could do was the mini-comics and black and white comics of the mid 1980's. In that respect I stand firmly on the shoulders of mini-giants, Terry Rota, Simon Morse, Dylan Horrocks, Corn Stone, Chris Knox.
At one point in the Eighties my mother obtained a photocopier because she was part of a group (family history I think) who needed to store the thing somewhere. It was in earnest that I proposed to make a comic with two friends titled, Geekly Weekly, but one friend objected to this title and somehow my enthusiasm waned. It was a time of fickle interests. My good friend Chris McLaren made his contribution to my notional minicomic: in the end producing his own little book starring his character, Shadowman, a cute style character based loosely I think on the Dick Smith spectrum computer video game of “3d” Batman (if anyone remembers that).
I experimented a lot with comics making, in a very limited sense, making one page comics for friends, giving away the originals, but nothing really came of these. I also started many a longer form project, some with collaborators. But I was unable to sustain anything longer than half a dozen pages and never finished a story.
In the late nineties I met Simon Adams at the ambiguously famous (in NZ) freelance animation school and made some mini-comics with him. I provided scripts for a few short stories that simon drew, lettered and published in his excellent Moebius Strip minicomic. I also collaborated with Ben Nightingale, also a fellow student, he drew a story I wrote and Simon published it in Moebius Strip. For me this was the very beginning in terms of wanting seriously to make things. Animation school introduced me to a lot of great people, to a few disciplines, and to life drawing which I have an undying love of, and pursue to this day.
After meeting Corn Stone, James James, Tim Molloy, Ben Stenbeck, Ant Sang, Dylan Horrocks, Lars Cawley, and many others, and seeing their minicomics I made some of my own.