Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Roger Langridge

New Zealand born cartoonist Roger Langridge has been especially prolific in recent years with high profile gigs on The Muppet Show and Thor The Mighty Avenger. Recently Boom Comics published a collection of Langridge's independent work from the last twenty years as well as launching a new title, Snarked!, featuring characters from the works of Lewis Caroll. I asked him a few questions about his recent comics.

The Show Must Go On collects material from the last 20 years, was there any temptation to touch up any of your older work?

Oh, yes! I'm always tempted, and I was actually ready to redraw one story entirely, but I just ran out of time. In retrospect I think I was right to leave it alone - the work in that book is an accurate reflection of what I was capable of at the time, and I'm happy to send it out into the world in that spirit.

Much of the material in The Show Must Go On is in the absurdist vein that is a constant of your work going back to strips you did in New Zealand. Where did this develop from?

I've always loved oddball, surreal/absurdist humour, ever since I was a kid - I guess it was the Goon Show that really turned me on to that strain of comedy. Spike Milligan was, and remains to this day, my favourite comedian of all time. And I've explored his influences - people like the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields - and those who were later influenced by him, which is pretty much everybody (most obviously the Pythons, but you could write a book on the Spawn of Spike). So, yeah - blame the Milligan.

Your recent all-ages material is a rare example of kids-friendly comics that adults can also enjoy. Do you find it easy to write for this combined audience?

Pretty easy, yes; it's not like I'm gagging to write skeezy sex scenes or graphic decapitations, so any compromises I might have to make to appeal to a general audience tend to be pretty insignificant ones. And even those are arguably improving the work - for example, if I avoid having characters swearing, I'm forced to find other, more original ways to get across the same idea, and that just forces me to be more creative. The bottom line, though, is that I'm just writing the kinds of comics I want to read, and assuming that my tastes aren't so rarefied that nobody else will agree with me.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger was great example of this, do you think mainstream comics would benefit from writing for a broader audience even if it risked alienating their core fan-boy base?

This is a big, sticky can of worms! The short answer is yes, but only if those comics are actually sold in places where a general audience might stumble across them, and I don't see any signs of that happening. My brief on Thor: TMA was to write the book for a general, non-comic-shop audience - which I did - but then they cancelled it before the book versions had even hit the general bookstores, so it was only ever available in comic book specialty stores - where, of course, it sank like a stone. There's not much point in writing for a wider audience if they can't actually find it.

Is there much material left in the Langridge archive? can we expect another collection like The Show Must Go?

Not too much. I've got a bunch of unpublished Fred the Clown strips which only ever appeared online - I'm considering doing something with the best of those, though of course the reason many of them were never previously published is because they weren't up to scratch. Some of them could benefit from being redrawn, at the very least. And I guess there's a lot of stuff from Zoot! (me and my brother Andrew's 1990s Fantagraphics series) which could conceivably be collected. Actually, yeah! There's still quite a bit of stuff out there, now that I think about it.

What inspired you to create your own story using Lewis Carroll's characters for Snarked?

It was the result of a few things colliding together. I'd been thinking about doing a direct adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark and trying to shop it around, until it came to my attention that Mahendra Singh had just done one. And I'd had an itch (still do, actually) to attempt a daily web strip featuring the Walrus and the Carpenter as a kind of vaudevillian double-act. Also, I was quite keen to attempt writing something long-form with a definite beginning, middle and end after attempting the same with Thor: The Mighty Avenger and not getting a chance to see it through. When Boom! approached me and asked if I had any ideas for a new project, it actually took me a very long time to realise that I could mash all three of these urges together into one book.

I was tinkering around with an idea about a trio of bin-men in a dystopian future for a few weeks there until the "eureka" moment finally arrived! It seemed to make so much sense when it all came together - the Carroll characters are essentially already known to a general audience, even if my spin on them isn't quite what they expect, so my reasoning was that it would be a much easier sell with that germ of recognition already there; plus, it gives me a chance to do a lot of the stuff - silly rhymes, odd-looking animal and human characters bumping into one another - that I was doing in the Muppet Show books without having to contrive a reason for it. With Carroll, that's already there.

Did you use any visual cues for depicting Carrolls characters for Snarked?

You mean like Tenniel's illustrations? Not really - I was quite keen to make the interpretations as much my own as I could. There are certain things you can't avoid, like the Mad Hatter having the price tag sticking out of his hat, which are so entrenched that to lose them would be to lose a part of the character. But I've mostly tried to pull the designs in my own unique direction. I suppose the Holiday illustrations from The Hunting of the Snarked were the ones I stuck to, if any - the Snark crew haven't been as freely interpreted over the years as the Wonderland characters, so there's less room to manoeuvre. Even those looked like Holiday via the Goon Show once I was through with them, though.

The world of Snarked! has a very distinctive colour palette, is there much collaboration between yourself and your colourists?

I kind of let Rachelle Rosenberg, who does the colouring, get on with it - the editor, Bryce Carlson, sent me a few colouring samples to begin with and they were all very good, but Rachelle's really stood out, so I'm really just trying to keep out of her way! I agree it's a very distinctive palette - gives the whole book a bit of extra zing, I think. Anyway, I'm very pleased with the way it's looking. My only input was to decide the colour schemes of the major characters to begin with. The rest is entirely down to Rachelle.

What was the appeal of having characters of an unscrupulous nature as your leads in Snarked?

Again, it goes back to my love of that early 20th-Century entertainment - Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and Chaplin all played bums or scoundrels, sometimes both at the same time, and my all-time favourite comic characters were all deeply flawed individuals (Scrooge McDuck, Wimpy, Barney Google etc.) - so there's a tradition. Also, it gives me somewhere to take the characters - something I'm hoping to achieve as the series goes on is to show the Walrus discovering his (few) redeeming qualities through sheer force of circumstance, as he finds himself with no choice but to rise to the occasion. Starting him off as a scoundrel makes that journey a lot more interesting.

Are you satisfied with the balance you have between working on licensed properties and your own projects?

I'd always prefer to work entirely on my own stuff, but working on corporate stuff pays the bills, so you do what you have to. I'm always striving to find myself in a position where I can just say no to all that, though.

Are you involved in any community of cartoonist's in London?

I don't get out much these days! There's the small matter of having a family - if I do get any time away from work, I quite like to spend it with them. I find myself in the slightly odd position of only seeing people who live in London in other cities, when we both attend comic conventions away from home!

All images copyright 2011 Roger Langridge
Interview conducted via email Oct 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Russell Clark


Two page comic by Russell Clark and 'Augustus'  from the N.Z. Listener Nov 12, 1954
Special Thanks to Brent Willis for Scans

From an early age Russell Clark (1905-1966) showed and interest and ability in art and with his parents encouragement he attended evening classes at the Canterbury College School of Art in 1922 before switching to day classes from 1923-1928. During this time he also joined the staff as a part-time member and began exhibiting locally and elsewhere in New Zealand. An avid painter, sculptor and illustrator, Clark was extremely prolific over the course his life, he encouraged his students to take pencil and sketchbook with them everywhere and to never let a day go by without sketching something or someone.

School Journal Illustrations

Cartoons from The New Zealand Listener

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Betty Roland

Betty Roland was born Mary Isobel Maclean at Kaniva in Victoria in 1903. Over the course of her life she wrote plays, screenplays, novels, childrens books and comics. After a start in journalism during her teens, Roland wrote highly regarded plays in the twenties with her award winning play, A Touch of Silk, performed and radio broadcast many times over the years, most recently on Australia's ABC Radio National earlier this year. After the failure of her first marriage Roland booked passage to England and upon the voyage began a relationship with wealthy Marxist intellectual Guido Baracchi, one of the founders of the Australian Communist Party. After experiences in the USSR and Nazi Germany Roland's later work became agitprop and of a political nature. After separation from Baracchi in the 40's Roland supported herself and her young daughter writing radio plays and a daily comic strip, The Conways, for The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Conways was illustrated by commercial artist John Santry and ran from 10th November 1946 to the middle of 1949 when it was replaced by American strip Kit Conquest. In 1952 Roland moved to England and wrote for magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Woman's Weekly, and Woman's Own. She also wrote adventure strips and stories for Eagle's companion comic Girl and their younger counter-part Swift. In 1951 she legally changed her name to her pen name Betty Roland.

Roland moved back to Australia in 1961 and wrote many novels in her latter years as well as helping found the Australian Society of Authors. Steve Holland at Bear Alley has an excellent article covering her work in English comics.

Angela and the Runaway Heiress from Girl Annual 1962. Written by Betty Roland and illustrated by Dudley Pout.

Sources: Steve Holland at bearalley.blogspot.com , Panel By Panel - John Ryan, Girl Annual 1962, National Library of Australia

Thanks to Phil Rushton from the comicsuk.co.uk forums for tipping me off to Betty Roland

Stitt Autobiographics

Guest's gathered in RMIT's Storey Hall on Tuesday 15 Sept to celebrate the launch of Alexander Stitt's, Stitt Autobiographics, from Melbourne publisher Hardie Grant. An over-sized coffee table book, Stitt Autobiographics features over 1800 illustrations drawn from Stitt's fifty year career in graphic design. Animation stills, Advertising campaigns, comic strips, credit sequences, childrens books and more are included demonstrating Stitt's stylistic use of imagery in various aspects of Australian media.

From the Hardie Grant press release:

Stitt's virtuosity is the stuff of legend among his family, friends, colleagues, clients and associates. He singlehandedly produced some of the first television commercials ever seen in Australia before he turned 20. Stitt Autobiographics started as a digital assembly of work produced over Stitt's 50-year career as a graphic designer and evolved into a personal account of how, why and for whom the work happened, who helped and how it all worked out. The book includes more than 1800 illustrations, as well as pages of comic strips and whole small books, storyboards and film title frames. It has some terrible flops as well as some fabulous success stories. Like most of what Alex Stitt creates, the book is a one-off original.

Buy a copy of Stitt Autobiographics with free shipping and at half retail price here.

Alex Stitt watches as Phillip Adams alludes to their creative circle having been replaced by  replicants from Philip K. Dick novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'

 Alex Stitt and cartoonist Peter Foster. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seduction of the Innocent

 From the Fri 4th Dec 1953 edition of Brisbane's The Courier Mail:

From Sat 3 Oct 1953 edition of Brisbane's The Courier Mail:

Australia and New Zealand experienced their own 'Seduction of the Innocent' with the frequent publication of articles about the 'comic book menace' faced by parents of the day. The article above paints a picture of 'sub standard literature' to the amount of an estimated sixty million copies being sold annually during the 1950's across Australia.

 From Thurs 22 July 1954 edition of Brisbane's The Courier Mail:

'A number of comic books will disappear from Queensland bookstalls after next week-end.They are publications which have been classed as 'objectionable' by the State Literature Board of Review. A Government Gazette order banning their distribution will be published on Saturday. After yesterday's Literature Board meeting, the chairman (Mr. W. G. Hamilton) said the board 'did not intend to release a list of publications at present.' 'An offence' Mr. Hamilton said: 'The board decided to prohibit, by order, the distribution in Queensland of certain publications of the type popularly known as comics. 'The order will be published in the Government Gazette on Saturday, 'Upon publication in the Gazette, the distribution — including sale and offering for sale— of any of this literature in Queensland, will be an offence.' The board last week drew up a list of about 10 publications it regarded as objectionable. Almost all of these were comic books.'

Several years earlier this article from the Sat 17 Sep 1938 edition of The Courier Mail states that newspaper strips such as Larry Whittington's Fritzi Ritz, Chic Young's Blondie and Floyd Gottfredson's, Mickey Mouse would be subject to censorship.

In 1950 a Mrs E. Perley in attendance at a Liberal Party convention in Sydney made the claim that 'immoral' comic strips were being smuggled into Australia via letters and cigarette packages. A resolution to consider the banning of publication of these strips was carried unanimously.

The Courier-Mail Saturday 24 July in 1954 had the following article outlining bannings of specific titles and examples of immorality.

In the 10 Sept 1951 edition of The Courier Mail Professor Murdoch wrote in defence of comics, encouraging reform rather than abolition.

Sources: The National Library of Australia

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walking to Japan Comic Launch

Melbourne Cartoonist Ben Hutchings launches his new comic, Walking To Japan, this Tuesday at the Toff in Town. Walking To Japan is the first of a few projects he has lined up with Milk Shadow Books. I had a quick chat via email with Ben about his new work.

What was the basis behind publishing Walking To Japan in Newspaper format?

We were thinking of alternative sizes. The mini size is too small.  Normal American size is annoying, and A4 is ugly. Then I suddenly remembered newspaperclub.com and thought that would be a novelty, and great for the detailed panels. It's a 16 page story I think, and the whole comic is 20 pages. There are a few full page panels that I spent one or two days on.   

What else do you have lined up with Milk Shadow Books?

You Stink #10 is underway. I had already posted most of it online though, and I thought that would be disappointing for a lot of people. So I am replacing most of it with new content except for one or two of my favorite stories that people will have read online. The style of most of the strips in #10 is that really loud, ridiculous style with fairly crude drawings. So we are talking about releasing that within the next couple of months. Milk Shadow will also be doing the third Lesson Master reprint, and Handball Heaven too! We even talked about the possibility of doing the second You Stink collection 6-10. How rad would that be, eh?  

What do you have prepared for the Walking To Japan launch party ?

Yeah, the first hour will be just be us selling our comics, and swanning about chatting and being charming to everybody, so turn up on the dot OK? But i wanna recommend people do stay for the bands and burlesque. The reason is that after chattin' comix, we'll be sitting and drawing while the bands play with the lights down and I get such a kick out of drawing stupid drawings for people, especially when they actually look good, ho ho.

Do you think you'll publish in newspaper format again?

Wow, I haven't even seen it yet. Gotta touch it and smell it and inspect the line quality close up. James sounded excited by it on email, and the process of making it was really fun.  Ask me again after the launch!

Walking To Japan preview here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sunday Star Times - Comics

From the Sunday Star Times July 2nd 1995. Mark Paul pictured in the article founded the Mark One franchise of comic shops in New Zealand that at one point numbered 17 across the country.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stuart Peterson


 Stuart Peterson from Vane Lindesay's Drawing from Life

(Archibald) Stuart Peterson (1900-1976) was one of many Australian journalists and cartoonists during the hey day of newspapers that spent a portion of their career in New Zealand. Born in Adelaide Peterson studied at the National Gallery Schools in Melbourne before taking up a position as editorial cartoonist on the New Zealand Free Lance (1927-34).  Returning to Sydney in 1934, Peterson worked freelance before becoming the main political cartoonist for the Sydney Sun and Sunday Sun after Tom Glover's death in 1938. Tom Glover, an englishman raised in New Zealand, cartooned for the Truth in New Zealand for eleven years before crossing the Tasman to work for the Sydney Bulletin and the Sydney Sun. Upon Glover's death in 1938 at 47, he was regarded with such prominence that a State funeral procession was held through the city. Peterson also contributed cartoons to The Bulletin in the 1920s and 30s.

The Following examples of Stuart Peterson's work are taken from the New Zealand Freelance February 28, 1934.



Whilst in New Zealand Peterson produced book plate designs for the New Zealand Ex Libris Society.


Published in two volumes in 1930 and 1934, Legends of the Maori was illustrated by Peterson and edited by early New Zealand historian James Cowan from the writings of Sir Maui Pomare. Peterson's illustrations for Volume two can be seen in full here. During April 15th - May 6th 1931, Easton's Gallery at 55 Willis St Wellington hosted an exhibition of 59 of Peterson's drawings and etchings including work from The Legends of the Maori volumes.

Examples of Stuart Peterson's work for Legends of the Maori

Sources: Vane Lindesay - Drawing From Life, Ian F. Grant - The Unauthorised Version A Cartoon History of New Zealand,  Joan Kerr  - A. Stuart Peterson Biography , New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, New Zealand Freelance and Pictorial Weekly, The New Zealand Railways Magazine.