My first encounter with Tim Molloy was at an Auckland Armageddon convention in the early 00's. In those days artist's alley was bundled into the foyer of the Aotea Centre and tables were free (!). I was tabling next to Tim and friends and I recall them throwing things around the room and generally terrorising other cartoonists in the vicinity. The second day I saw one of the guests from Babylon 5 come over and hang with Tim and his pals. He'd been out with them the night before. Wow! I thought, these crazy comics guys hang out with tv stars!
On the last day I traded Tim my minicomic for an early Mr Unpronounceable comic which had the same disturbing surrealism of his recent work in a still developing roughly hewn art style. There's a period of New Zealand cartoonists from the self-publishing boom of the '90's and early '00's that have kept their hand in the comics game, of which I'd regard Tim and I'm glad to see his work reaching a wider audience in the last couple years through Melbourne publisher Milk Shadow Books.
What were the first comics you read? What were the comics that inspired you to make your own? It would have been Tintin, Asterix that kinda thing. Disney comics.. . Got into superhero stuff later, then 2000ad Etc... Calvin and Hobbes... I was making comics very young. These probably had a hand in that... I got into Milk and Cheese later . I started doing a mash up/ rip off of them and Calvin and Hobbes called Nasty Neville and Mr Weasel. When I discovered local stuff, local creators I've Andy Conlan, Wade Shotter, Corn Stone, knuckles, you know, James James... I dived right in with Poot, Ninja Sheep, Drunken Otter... What are some of the influences from outside of the world of comics?
I draw inspiration from all quarters. I've actually spent a lot more time imbibing novels, audiobooks, cinema and fine art than I have spent reading comics... Earliest memory of art would be pulling a Dali book down off the shelf and having my 5 year old mind blown. I have a very active dream life also. I've always had a sense of 'the other' and explores that realm as best I can through experiments in lucid dreaming, readings into the Occult and in the past, psychedelics. Life itself is an inspiration... a turn of phrase, the way light might be streaming in through a strange window, a half glimpsed person down an evening alley... It's all good!
How do you find balance between working in various art mediums? to the best of my knowledge you create comics, paintings, sculpture and music, does any one art form take precedent?
I kind of tend to gravitate towards one thing or another at any given time. I'm just coming out of a heavy comics period (1 or 2 pages a day) and going into some traditional art territory. Whatever is most important at any given time is what I tend to concentrate on. Working out whats important can be the hard thing sometimes... In the end though, comics will probably win out. Here's hoping I never have to make a choice to stick to any one thing! Music is serious fun, and the only team sport I have ever taken part in. My band Plague Doctor explores a lot of the same themes I do in my work, but you can dance to it.
What led to you moving from New Zealand to Australia?
I am an economic refugee. I came by plane though, so thankfully I was not locked up indefinitely in a detention center.
Can you talk a bit about the comics/art community in New Zealand when you lived there.
My journey started with me going to those early 'Iconz' conventions (Is that what they were called?) I ran into the likes of Willi Saunders, Wade Shotter, Andy Conlan, Karl Wills. Loved the irreverent, DIY aesthetic. When I came across the work of James James, and then met him in person, I started getting my work out there. That was 1997? My last year of High School. Those were fun days. Comics and music and art and poetry were all in the same place in those days. I imagine they still are. K Rd was where it was at.
James and I were the youngest, and (sometimes) the most badly behaved participants at 'Poetry Live' at Alleluyah in St Kevins Arcade. Hanging around at Corn Stones house, playing Sooth, reading comics, smoking Beedies and drinking the cheapest booze available. Met a whole cast of weirdos and geniuses through that scene. Everybody knew everybody else and the yearly con at the Aotea Centre (sometimes a trip down to Wellington!) was a good chance to get drunk, hassle B-Grade Science Fiction celebrities and unload some photocopied comics on an unsuspecting public.
It was a very welcoming, vibrant space to develop and grow as an artist, but not without it's share of drama and beef! We played a lot of music, UMX (The Uncle Marty Experience) was our first band (after 'The Tools of Waste' we made a tape called 'The Resin Sessions') and we terrorized audiences with the help of Uncle Marty, our aged patriarch - may he rest in peace.
I became good friends with Ben Stenbeck, The Sheehan Brothers and some of the other people on the 'weird' end of the spectrum. Drew a lot of inspiration and encouragement there. I hung around at Auckland Uni, got a lot of comics into Craccum, drank at Shadows, smoked in Albert park, studied animation on Queen St. Cheap rent, magic mushrooms, cask wine, The Kiss And Make Up Club, St Kevin's Arcade, inky fingers, good people, late nights and lots of fun parties...
Damn! I'm getting all nostalgic now! I could sit here, peering through the mist of time all day, but these are the first impressions that leap out of the gloom at me.
Sir Gordon Edward George Minhinnick was born today in 1902. With a career spanning over sixty years, receiving an OBE in 1950 and Knighthood in 1976, Minhinnick could be considered one of New Zealand's most beloved cartoonists.
I've been posting New Zealand/Australian cartoonist/illustrator Maurice Bramley's painted Scientific Thriller covers on Te Pikitia tumblr. Here's a selection for folk that may have missed them.
covers for Scientific Thriller novels circa 1948-1949. As with other
illustration work , Bramley often used his own photos as well as photos
of actors and celebrities as reference for characters in his
Ant Sang's Dharma Punks along with Adam Jamieson's Blink was one of the few New Zealand comics I was aware of in my teens that was available nationwide through bookshops and newsagents via Australasian distributors Gordon and Gotch. I had picked up the first issues of Ant's first series Filth on a rare trip to Auckland and finding Dharma Punks in a local book shop was impressive to see, for the progression in Ant's work and the fact it was now available in provincial New Zealand where access to comics and especially local ones was limited.
New publishing venture Earth's End have run a Dharma Punks kickstarter this month and successfully funded a collection of the eight part series within days. Three stretch goals have also been achieved with expanded back matter scheduled for inclusion upon reaching a $15,000 target. Backers can expect an A5, 400 page collection with embossed cover, UV spot and french flaps with all eight full colour covers of the original series included in the book.
The Dharma Punks synopsis: "It's Auckland, New Zealand, 1994. A group of anarchist punks have hatched a plan to sabotage the opening of a multinational-fast food restaurant by blowing it sky-high on opening day. Chopstick has been given the unenviable task of setting the bomb in the restaurant the night before the launch, but when he is separated from his accomplice, the night takes the first of many unexpected turns. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear there is more at stake than was first realised, and the outcome of the night's events will change all of their lives in ways they could never have imagined." The following interview with Ant Sang is excerpted from a longer piece covering Ant's career in The New Zealand and Australian Comics Interview Zine #2: Ant Sang available from the Pikitia Store in June.
What were the first comics you read? I've been through heaps of phases of comic reading. The earliest comics I remember reading were cheap funnies. Richie Rich, Casper, Uncle Scrooge, that kind of stuff. When I was around six years old one of my favourites was Burne Hogarth's Tarzan of the Apes. I've still got it sitting on my bookshelf to this day.
What got you interested in making your own comics? I tinkered with combining words and pictures when I was a kid, but I wasn't consciously trying to make comics at that time. It wasn't until my early twenties that I had the thought of actually making comics. I was studying graphic design, and going through a big existential crisis after a classmate died. A friend who was also into comics lent me a bunch of 'alternative comics' - Dan Clowes, Chester Brown, Julie Doucet - and it was a real revelation. For the first time I realised that comics could be raw, crude, angry and could talk frankly about a lot of issues which really connected with me. I was taken by the DIY ethic of a lot of the 'alternative comics' and figured that 'yeah, anyone can do comics', if they had something to say. It was soon afterwards that I started making my first mini-comic, Filth, to explore the thoughts going on in my head.
I remember a boom in self published comics in Auckland around the time Filth came out, I recall the work of Andy Conlan, Karl Wills, Adam Jamieson, and Willi Saunders amongst others, were you part of a comics community then?
Yeah the mid-nineties was a really exciting time in the Auckland comic scene. So many great comics were being made then, and there was a real camadarie amongst the Auckland cartoonists. We met for regular comic meetings and saw each other socially. Cornelius Stone used to have big parties at his flat in Mt Eden and he lived with Barry and Willi at various times. It was also a good time because it felt, not with just comics, but with music and film too, that there was some kind of cultural revolution in the air.
Did you plan to have newsstand/bookshop distribution for Dharma Punks before starting the series? Did you approach any publishers with the work?
When I started working on The Dharma Punks, it was my first attempt at a long form story, and I didn't want it to be just a continuation of Filth. I felt it terms of story and production that I had to do something different. I had to up the ante I guess.
I had been to a heap of conventions by this time, hawking mini-comics at the NZ comics tables to a largely disinterested crowd. Over that time I had the chance to think about the mini-comic scene and came to a few conclusions. One was that a lot of potential readers didn't give mini-comics a chance because they just looked too weird. Too scratchy, too DIY, too lo-fi. I figured people were scared off them. And secondly, people are more likely to pick up comics which they recognise on some level. So my plan with The Dharma Punks was to try to package it differently and to promote the hell out of it, so that people would know about it. This wasn't the done thing at the time. I remember when I talked to another cartoonist mate about the idea he looked at me and said ' what are you going to do, walk around with a sandwich board?' So anyway, I found the cheapest printer I could find, and got the covers printed in colour, on a thicker stock. And I managed to get pretty good coverage on student radio and tv and magazine interviews. It seemed like a real media blitz, for a New Zealand comic anyway.
I can't remember when I thought newstand/bookshop distribution would be a good idea. It certainly wasn't the plan from the start. Probably not til quite close to the first issue being released. In the end most copies were still sold from comic shops, but having the comics on display at the newsstands/bookshops really helped with promotion and being visible.
I'm pretty sure I approached a couple of overseas publishers, probably some of the better known alternative publishers, but I don't think I heard back from them...
How long was the gestation process of Dharma Punks before the first issue came out? How far into the series were you when it launched?
The gestation period of Dharma Punks will have been about four years. When I finished Filth in 1997 I wanted to work on a longform story, but I had to brush up on my writing as I hadn't ever done a comic of substantial length. So for those four years I read heaps of screenwriting books, drew a number of aborted attempts of Dharma Punks, and tried to figure out what the storyline should be.
Did you receive much feedback from Dharma Punks original publication?
The immediate reaction to Dharma Punks was great. The comic shops here in New Zealand were super supportive, and there seemed to be quite a buzz about the comic. Even folk who don't normally read comics were apparently heading into the specialty comic shops and asking for Dharma Punks.
Did you anticipate the response to the Dharma Punks Kickstarter? What were your expectations?
Well, y'know we were hopeful of meeting our goal, but as the launch date approached we all got increasingly nervous about the response to our campaign. We'd been planning the campaign for close to a year, so a lot of planning and discussion had gone into it. We felt there were a lot of people who wanted this to happen, but you never know how it will go until you actually go ahead and do it for real. The first few days were crazy. I couldn't help constantly checking in to see the latest running total. Fortunately the Dharma Punks fans came through and we reached our initial goal within five days.
John MacNamara was born today in 1918. A newspaper cartoonist in New Zealand in the early twentieth century, MacNamara immigrated to England in 1950 and quickly found work in newspaper and comics for Amalgamated Press. From the fifties through to the early seventies MacNamara illustrated the newspaper strip Paul Temple. Biographical notes and art samples from New Zealand and England.
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.
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.
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.
Today marks 123rd anniversary of the birth of one of New Zealand's most influential political cartoonists, David Low. Born in Dunedin and educated in Christchurch, Low sold his first cartoons at 11 to The Christchurch Spectator. Low worked for a variety of papers throughout his teens and twenties before moving to Sydney in 1911. After a career in Australian newspapers in 1919 Low moved to England where Low's cartoons in British papers proved an immediately success. Low's antipodean upbringing and attitudes provided a satirical bite in his work in contrast to his peers whose work was still rooted in staid Victorian society. Before and during World War Two Low's stinging depictions of Adolf Hitler and Mussolini led to his work being banned in Italy and Germany, and his being named in The Black Book, a list of prominent Britons to be arrested upon the successful invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany.
From Dr Timothy S. Benson essay on Low.
"A few months later, Bruce Lockhart, as foreign correspondent of the Daily Express visited Germany to interview Hitler. During the interview, Hitler surprisingly mentioned Low in conversation and was full of praise for him in his mistaken belief that the cartoonist's attitude was anti-democratic because of the way he derided politicians and parties in his daily cartoons. According to Low: "At the time I was upbraiding democracy rather drastically for its attitude to European events and Hitler got the impression I was anti-democratic." Hitler then asked Lockhart if he could arrange for Low to let him have some originals to decorate the Brown House, the national headquarters of the Nazi party in Munich. When Lockhart relayed Hitler's request to Low upon his return, the cartoonist obligingly sent a couple as from in his words 'one artist to another'.
David Low cartoons from the Billy Book. The Billy Book: Hughes Abroad, collected 50 satirical drawings by Low about the wartime visit by Australian Prime Minister William Morris Hughes to Britain and the Western Front to attend the Imperial War Cabinet from June to August 1918. Copies of the book received by various English editors led to the book became a bestseller and critical praise. This also led to Low moving to England to take a salaried job at the London Star newspaper in 1919. David Low cartoons reprinted from British papers in Australian newspaper The Worker (1921).
New Zealand's most dedicated cartoonist Barry Linton's Lucky Aki in The Stone Age will be available next month. Printed in our new Pikitia 'Dinky' format on lovely thick recycled paper, This first volume of Lucky Aki will be available for pre-order from the Pikitia Store next week.