A year or two back cartoonist/Faction editor Damon Keen turned me onto James Squires' sublime webcomic Moonbeard. I really like James' absurd wonky and sometimes heartfelt humour which is a special thing amongst the glut of humourless parody crowding for our attention on the Internet.
I asked James a few questions about his work via email.
What got you interested in comics? What got you into making comics?
As a young impressionable child I was gifted some boxes of old comic strip collections, mostly Garfield, Footrot flats, Bogor, Tintin. I assume it was this that got me into drawing comics in the first place because all my very first comics were blatant rip-offs of the above, but eventually I started doing my own thing, more or less. I think it was a couple of old Michael Leunig books—his first two collections—that first got me interested in what a comic could be, because up until that point I'd only really seen newspaper comics and Tintin. I drew a pretty bleak strip Fishing for Orphans for the Canterbury Uni mag Canta for a few years while studying, and have been making silly comics ever since.
Were there other cartoonists contributing to Canta during your study years? Were you drawing a weekly strip?
There were a few during the years I drew for Canta. When I started my comics were messy ink things with a muddy mix of ink wash and watercolour crayon, and I totally forget his name but Canta already had a pretty polished cartoonist to make me look bad (I was). Nearer the end I was joined by surreal cartoonist Michael Leung (not to be confused with Leunig) who had a great unique style. Fun times.
Fishing for Orphans was more or less weekly, usually drawn at 3am the night it was due. I think the comic received slightly more fan mail than hate mail, so there's that.
Why do you make so many comics about cats?
There's not that many, but the ones that feature cats seem to do much better online than any others (turns out The Internet likes cats). I have a cat called Ted Danson who often hangs out around my desk while I'm drawing, so that probably contributes.
Are you involved with a comics community or scene in Wellington?
No but I should be. I bet it's wonderful.
What is the most enjoyable part of the comic making process for you?
I also really enjoy the initial concept phase, when you don't know an idea is terrible yet and you're approaching it with a giddy enthusiasm before you realize it has nowhere to go (unless it does).
I also enjoy playing around with structure and pacing. The comics I make are at their core single page "gag" comics, except usually without gags to speak of, so it's important I (try to) nail the pacing and beats to sell a concept and make a short comic feel complete. I'll often finish a comic ending with a gag or a punch and be left wanting, so I like to take from the beginning and add to the end until I'm left with sort of an anti-comic: something that starts with a punch, or a twist, and then dwells on what happens afterwards (or what doesn't). When I say "play around with structure and pacing" I may mean "take a half-baked concept and butcher it until I think it reads well."
What are some comics you've enjoyed reading recently?
My New Year's resolution was to read more comics, so I'm in the process of stocking up and very open to recommendations. Have been re-reading through Jason's work, which I am in love with: The Living and the Dead, Werewolves of Montpellier. Jim Woodring is amazing. Regularly reading and enjoying a whole lot of webcomics, off the top of my head: Matt Bors, Tom Gauld, Extra Ordinary, Anne Emond. Moth City. Am also regularly reading and enjoying Wellingtonian Die Popular's stuff and Aucklandite Eddie Monotone's work totally deserves more fans. I read far too many online comics because my bookcase is all the way over there.
Happening this afternoon at All Star Comics Melbourne: Milk Shadow Books, Squishface Studio, NonCanonical Comic Podcast and All Star Comics present the YOU STINK AND I DON’T - VOLUME 1 AND 2 LAUNCH.
For 20 years Ben ‘Hutcho’ Hutchings has been creating one of Australia's best funnybook comic series, You Stink and i Don't. From the Woden Bus Interchange to the beautiful streets of Brunswick, and over 10 issues (plus lots of other mini comics collected here!), Hutcho has been smashing the piss out of all conventions such as growing up, other comics, modern medicine, pop music, sport, organised religion, and other unimportant things.
From 4 – 5pm there will also be a Q & A with Hutcho by the crème of comics podcasting, the fellas from NonCanonical!
Cakeburger comments on the recent 'formation' of a Pakeha Party in New Zealand.
New Paintings, Comics and Sculpture by Tim Molloy. Opens 6pm Tuesday August the 20th
DRIFT away and off into Hypnagogic landscapes drenched in sunset psychedelic hues, as you listen to the far-off piping of strange flutes. JOIN the procession marching through your frontal lobe, monstrous and altogether (un)familiar... there are AWFUL mysteries to celebrate. Life and death and horror and joy merge into one.BEAR witness to the STRANGE PAGEANT. First 100 Attendees shall receive an exclusive FREE 36 page mini comicbook, HOT off the searing grill of Molloy's subconscious!!!
Alice Online reviews Joshua Santospirito's The Long Weekend.
To round things out, a series of covers from Australia editions of Harvey Comics' Mazie from 1955. Mazie was published in Australia by three series from Magazine Management, Jubilee Publications and Approved Publications. Cover artwork is likely the work of prolific Harvey artist Warren Kremer (June 26, 1921 – July 24, 2003). Kremer was the creator of or helped refine many of the most well known Harvey characters, including Casper the Ghost, Hot Stuff, Joe Palooka, Little Audrey, Little Max, Richie Rich, and Stumbo the Giant.