Showing posts with label richard fairgray. Show all posts
Showing posts with label richard fairgray. Show all posts

Friday, January 17, 2014

Richard Fairgray Interview

Writer/artist Richard Fairgray and writer Terry Jones have recently launched their flagship title Blastosaurus through ComiXology, available now across their entire digital platform including iPad, iPhone, Kindle Fire, Windows 8 &

Blastosaurus is an ongoing monthly comic series about a crime-fighting dinosaur written and drawn by Richard Fairgray and Terry Jones with colours by Tara Black.

Richard is one of the most prolific New Zealand cartoonists working in comics in recent years and balances working on several online series through Square Planet Comics with writing comics for Beyond Reality Media and recently delving into creating children's books with frequent collaborators Tara Black and Terry Jones. Amongst New Zealand cartoonists I've typically found Richard to have a refreshingly outspoken manner when it comes to commerce and art.

I've been hap-hazardly trying to interview Richard for over a year, a big thank you to Richard for his patience, the following interview was conducted over the last few months.

When did you start making comics? What inspired you?

I started making comics when I was seven. I had never seen a comic book before, at least not in real life. I'd read comic strips in the paper and I knew a lot about Superman and Batman and Ninja Turtles but I'd never actually laid eyes on a comic book. I knew they existed, or at least that they had at some distant point in history. I knew this because I'd seen characters in cartoons reading them but as far as I knew they were just a relic of some bygone era, some uncomfortable nod to the form that had preceded the wonder of animation. In my mind it followed logically that since TV existed and cartoons were so amazing there was really no need for comics anymore, what with their lack of movement and sound. But there was something about that form that really captivated me anyway.

I'd been drawing a lot of picture books, as soon as I began writing (I think I must have been about 3 then) I'd been making - hand stapling and all - my own picture books. Mostly stories about characters I liked. Donald Duck goes into a haunted house and meets a ghost, the ghost is lonely so Donald kills himself to become the Ghost's lifelong (deathlong(?)) companion, normal stuff like that. But what I hated in picture books was this idea that all the pages were of equal value. It irked me that a monkey catching a ball took up the same space as a rocket leaving Earth, or that a sandwich could take 7 pages to make but only one to eat (it was a really big sandwich after all), so the conceit of panels seemed like an obvious solution.

My first comic was called Ghost Ghost (actually Ghost the Ghost but my grandfather pointed out to me that that was sort of less funny). I drew it as a 16 page book (plus cover and a back cover joke) and taped it all together. I had it photocopied at the office at school (through devious bargaining which I have promised never to disclose) and sold 100 copies for $2 each at an inter school athletics day. I think the majority of my success came from sympathetic parents and the fact that I set myself up next to the concession stand.

So, partly I was inspired by the idea of doing something I honestly thought no-one else was doing and partly I was inspired by the thrill of having money that was all mine and not reliant on housework or car cleaning (or more likely searching sofa cushions).

How did you become involved with Bill Geradhts' Beyond Reality Media? How did you initially approach co-writing material with Bill? Do you have an ownership stake in any of the comics you produce for BRM?

I started working with Bill in 2010. I'd shared a booth with Christian Gossett at the Wellington Armageddon and there'd been rumblings about Bill looking for artists for some project. Christian was acting very mysteriously. A couple of days after the show I get this email from Christian telling me how much he enjoyed my Blastosaurus April Fool's Special but I just said a polite thank you and forgot about it.

That year went on as is well documented, SDCC, Santa molestation, wrestler, hiding in bathroom, crying, losing my starfish et cetera. By August I had no Blastosaurus, no other finished comics and no idea what to do while I waited for the Jeff Katz option to expire. Then I got a call from Bill.

Apparently he and Christian were starting a comic company, they had 3 titles but Christian didn't really think he was suited to writing one of them because comedy isn't his specialty, so - remembering my April Fool's Special - he had recommended that Bill ask me to do it.

We spoke for about two hours that night, batting ideas back and forth, shaping this concept he'd had in his head for a decade or so. It was odd. I never really felt like I had any ownership or even any right to change things with that first book. We passed a script back and forth for a few months but I always just added things, never cut anything Bill had included and I think it was a real learning curve for us both.

The second book was a much better process. We developed the concept together (I think from memory Bill called me and said 'how about a book called 'The Darwin Faeries'?' I said 'hang on, check your email in 5 minutes' and hung up on him to immediately tap out the idea that sparked in the recesses of my brain. I'm not sure how much of that original email stayed in the final book, I know that's why the Fay worship Darwin and try to ensure survival of the fittest by killing the stupids but I'm sure not much else.

We now take turns writing scripts and writing chunks of scripts and then we stitch them together and hammer everything into place. I think it works pretty well.
You've always struck me as someone very involved in selling your comics be it to convention audiences or publishers, what made you so proactive on this front? From my experience, New Zealand cartoonists can be typical shy retiring types.

I think a lot of people misinterpret the way I sell at conventions and the way I promote my books as being all about sales, it isn’t, it’s mostly because I’m very enthusiastic about what I do. I spend most of my life cooped up in an office drawing comics, aside from Terry, Tara, Theo and Bill I really don’t see or speak to many people on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis, so when I get to actually interact with people and talk about comic books I seize the opportunity.
OK, obviously I’m interested in making a living from comics, at the end of the day I have a mortgage to pay and groceries to buy but if I was in this for the money I’d probably have just been a professional basketballist instead.

 How involved are you with the comics community in New Zealand? Does it have particular strengths or weaknesses?
Well, that all depends on what you mean by the New Zealand Comics Community. I engage heavily with a number of people in New Zealand who create comics, I assist a lot of people with printing advice and I look over scripts and concepts for comics, I even taught comic making for a while, so in that sense I am very involved. In terms of the officially titled ‘community’ I don’t really take part at all.
I think there are a lot of very good writers and artists working in New Zealand on comic books (the main strength) but I think a title like ‘New Zealand Comics’ is incredibly limiting (the main weakness). I think at this stage, in this globalized society with the internets and all of that there’s really no advantage to trying to create/enforce some kind of ‘type’ of work that one country will produce. I don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about having NZ specific content in your work but I don’t think there’s anything inherently good about it either, in the end it comes down to the quality of the work. I also think having a title like ‘New Zealand Comics’ can be very alienating to New Zealanders who want to create comics that aren’t set here or don’t have stories about ‘New Zealand issues.’ While there are plenty of good comics that are specifically about NZ (as there are about most countries, I’m sure) I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the ‘New Zealand Comics’ with the widest readerships and biggest followings focus on universal themes. 
Blastosaurus has developed considerably since it's conception, I'm guessing you'll be working through a backlog of material for a while but do you think the digital comic format will affect the material you release in future?

I doubt it. Blastosaurus has always been written with print in mind, releasing it online through our own website has always felt a bit forced and uncomfortable for me, the comiXology method of release and of viewing is perfectly suited to Blastosaurus. ‘Guided View’ really nicely mimics the experience of reading an actual comic book, as opposed to scrolling through a portrait format page in a landscape frame.

You've mentioned 2014 as being a banner year for you in prolificacy, can you talk a bit about what allows you to devote the significant time you do to making comics? What is the divide in time you spend on making comics and the business of comics?

Without getting too bogged down in the details of my finances, I sell at anywhere between 6 and 15 conventions per year both here and in Australia. I write scripts, I edit other peoples’ work, and (most recently) I’ve begun making children’s books.

With the children’s books I’ve been sort of sneaky and managed to have multiple panels and word balloons throughout them so they are basically comics in disguise.

I spend on average 14 hours a day working (because I honestly can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing), I take no holidays, no days off, no weekends. More and more I’m having to split my time between comics and admin but I am still managing to put out 60 pages of new content on the website every month and come October that’s going up to over 100. If I’m honest I should really put a lot more time into the business and promotional side of things but then I couldn’t have 10 ongoing series, could I?

An Introduction to Blastosaurus in comics form.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Pauper Trail

From 1982: Clip of New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon ejecting cartoonist Tom Scott from his weekly press conference.

Sarah Laing concludes her residency in Devonport.

Read out of print 2012 Simon Hanselmann 16page mini comic on the Space Face Books site.

Young Cartoonist Exhibition - National Library of New Zealand

No Soap Comics.

Andrez Bergen writes about his comics year.

Write up on my old local Mark One Comics in Hamilton adding digital comics to their offerings.

 (Pic nabbed from Fairfax NZ)

Jason Paulos Biro Art

Caitlin Major makes comics for work!

Toby Morris' screenprints.

Jase Harper Showreel

Short clip of Ron Tandberg in his studio.

Scriven interviews Richard Fairgray.

Scroll slightly down on the Silent Army site for pics from the launch of Michael Hawkins' Boyfriend: Magic, Sentiment and Bondage.

Bob Temuka and Kelly Sheehan posted a five part discussion on the film collaborations of Mitch Jenkins and Alan Moore at the Tearoom of Despair.

After several years absence The Ledger Awards are scheduled to return in 2014 in conjunction with Supanova Pop Culture Conventions. View the current  long list of nominees here.

Paper Trail masthead courtesy of Toby Morris.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2013 in Review: Richard Fairgray

What have been your personal cartooning/comics highlights of 2013?
Finally catching up on my work so that I've now averaged a page for every day i've been alive (and currently 47 days ahead), selling thousands of copies of a picture book without anyone realising it's actually a comic, and finally having quality tee shirts for my staff to wear at shows (after ten years of shitty shirt makers letting me down).

What are some of the comics you've enjoyed in 2013?
The obvious ones. Saga, Lock and Key etcetera. Lots of old stuff (as usual).

What is something non-comics that you have enjoyed in 2013?
That's a hard question.

What are you looking forward to in 2014?
Releasing more books than ever before (including a new project that starts next October that might just kill me...figuratively).

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Armageddon Melbourne 2013

Some of comic folk at Armageddon Melbourne 2013.

All Star Comics

Colin Wilson and Tom Taylor

Colin Wilson sketches Star Wars

Fil Barlow and Helen Maier

Richard Fairgray

Craig Bruyn

Dean Rankine

Matt Kyme, Matthew Nicholls and Ross Stewart

Brent Anderson

Sorab Del Rio

Steve Sparke

Neville Howard and BMB