Friday, July 26, 2013

Pikitia Press News

This weekend Pikitia Press are proud to launch Issue #3 and #4 of Sarah Laing's Let Me Be Frank at the 2013 Auckland Zinefest. The ever prolific Sarah has gathered a selection of her Autobio comics to produce another couple themed issues, this time writing and celebrity. For folks not attending the Auckland Zinefest Sarah will be selling copies of her latest and previous issues from her blog, Let Me Be Frank and the Pikitia Press Store from next week.

In other exciting news Pikitia Press will be a Special Guest at SPX this year. We'll be taking comics from our 'ye olde floppy style' line and a few surprises to be announced next month. Three comics will debut at SPX this year, Love Stories by New Zealand cartoonist Mat Tait, Deep Park by Australian cartoonist David C. Mahler and Despair Party by Matt Emery. Big thanks to Bruce Mutard and Warren Bernard for a lot of the behind the scenes paperwork.

Mini Paper Trail

Tonight: Silent Army Storeroom 6pm -8pm Once - A New Comic Book by Tim Danko.

Silent Army:

Storeroom open today 12 - late with hardcover book launch of 'once' by Tim Danko tonight and the last pages of the giant wooden comic book being completed live and for your enjoyment.
Katie Parrish's We can go anywhere but we'll always be we where we are.

Jonathan Goodman writes about Gavin Aung Than's Zen Pencils.

Erica Goldson: Graduation Speech on Zen Pencils.

Race Relations Commissioner receives complaint for cartoon depiction of the goddess Kali in the New Zealand Herald. (Hat Tip - Alan Liefting)

Jason Paulos Heavy Metal Submission.

Milk Shadow Books publisher James Andre is Scenestr of the day!

Lucy Frew profiles Toby Morris.

Simon Hanselmann excerpt from The Lifted Brow.

Keith Chatto must win the award for drawing the most Australian comics covers ever.

James James and Tim Molloy share WIP Deerstalker.

Clip from a couple years back of Michel Mulipola on Pacific Beat St.

Pepi Ronald's interviews Sam Wallman.

Q and A with Ben Hutchings on Noncanonical.

Penny Lewis writes about pioneer New Zealand cartoonist Trevor Lloyd's home, Whare Tane.

Eddie Monotone's Sloths and Trolleys.

Paper Trail masthead courtesy of Toby Morris. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rena's Journey - Karl-Heinz Schradt Interview


Karl-Heinz Schradt quietly released his 148 page graphic novel Rena's Journey in New Zealand during May of this year. Rena's Journey is one of the few long form comics I'm aware of that incorporates Maori culture and mythology alongside New Zealand's distinctive landscapes.

From the book description:

Rena works as a respected ornithologist at Auckland Museum, but has a sense that there is something missing in her life - is it the answer to the mystery of the moa? Or the dreams of a lost artifact that haunt her? After growing up in a foster family, she rediscovers her roots when her childhood friend Rangi comes to visit, with the news that her last blood relative has died. Rena returns to her childhood tribe and the 'Hinemoa', a trawler she has inherited. She sets out on a journey to answer her questions about the moa, but instead discovers an ancient and magical tiki (pendant). After humankind kills the last moa, the wrath of a forgotten monster is unleashed. Suddenly Rena finds herself in a race against time to uncover the past and stop Papamanu, a fearsome taniwha.

I asked Karl a few questions via email about Rena's Journey and his comics background.

Where did your interest in comics come from?

I have always been a ‘visual’ person. School was about a lot of words and numbers, Therefore, when it came to reading for entertainment; comics seemed more accessible to me. I remember trying to read ‘The Hobbit’ as a child and I remember being frustrated at all characters names trying to keep track of them! I think this was because I remember faces, not so much names.

I didn’t read many comics (apart from Asterix and Tintin) at first - mostly because my schools saw them as being not ‘proper’ books. We read Peter Gossage’s ‘How Maui slowed the sun’ and I loved it – but even that wasn’t really a comic. It was as a teenager, when my second cousins cleared their garage that I got a pile of old Judge Dredd and Superman comics; that I got properly introduced to comics.  

Have you had any art education/training? How long have you been making comics?

Though I took a short course in oil painting, I never had any formal arts training; I don’t know if high school counts?  I’ve always drawn, sketched and I loved Photoshop ever since a flat mate showed me it. I had hours of fun playing with it!

Over the years, I have skimmed many books and graphic design magazines, watched youtube tutorials and experimented and experimented. I started making short (one-pager) cartoons at high school. I’ve written many unpublished novels and screenplays; and when I had the idea for Rena’s Journey I realized that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the ideas in screenplay form. I decided to make it into a comic book instead. Writing a screenplay is much easier I think! If Rena’s Journey was ever made into a movie there is another 30 minutes (or 40 pages) of stuff that didn’t make the graphic novel because of the work a graphic novel entails!

What inspired your use of Māori legend and folklore in Rena's Journey and what research did it entail?

I came up with the idea for Rena’s Journey in NZ, but lacked the will to make it much more than three dog-eared pages of the Taniwha character, the character Rangi and the design for the tiki in the story.  Then I stayed in Australia and the United Kingdom For six years for an overseas experience. While there, I began to miss New Zealand’s landscapes and the unique culture. But it was a trip to the British museum that rekindled my interest in Māori sculpture and art.

With this newfound inspiration, I further developed the ideas for the story of Rena’s Journey. I was intrigued by the ‘what if’ idea that the long extinct Moa and mythological Taniwha existed in today’s modern world. I think this was because I heard so many great Māori myths and legends as I grew up. Peter Gossage’s books were a staple for NZ kids back then, and I read A.W Reed’s ‘Māori Mythology and Legends’ at some point too. I came to feel that these stories were part of me too, as a kiwi kid. 

The research was mainly about getting the many icons of Māori and kiwi culture that were in my mind into actual drawings: locations, places, creatures and believable designs. I scanned books, the internet and re-read A.W Reed’s ‘Māori Mythology and Legends’. Once I had the black and white pages done, I was back in NZ. I contacted a lecturer who had taught me much about Māori culture when I was a student in AUT’s health science facility. She reviewed the content of Rena’s Journey and gave me valuable feedback on making it more accurate. In fact, many people have helped me in this way.

You've lived in Germany, New Zealand, Australia, England and traveled Europe, how have your international experiences influenced your comics?

Living overseas had a couple of effects. As a half German / half Malaysian-Chinese person who moved to NZ at age two; I wasn’t really sure that I was a ‘normal’ Kiwi! Going to Malaysia and Germany helped me see that I am a Kiwi through and through, the German and Asian cultures are great; but are a part of my own ‘Kiwi’ self. Secondly Being overseas helped me see the ‘Kiwi’ culture more clearly – I had a comparison point now. I could see how we are unique in New Zealand.

How has travel influenced my work? It taught me how to appreciate everything more. Before I was in Italy, it was just a ‘concept’ in my head; now it’s place of colour, sound, tastes and feelings! My approach to stories and art widened. Rena’s Journey became about merging great Māori myth with a traditional American or European adventure story. Rena’s Journey has a moral imperative too (a western tradition); the moral is ‘go on a journey’ to find where you belong in your world.

What are some of the challenges you've faced producing comics in New Zealand?

Until Rena’s Journey’s recent sales, none of my creative projects have been very ‘successful’. My music, novels and screenplays never got picked up by publishers or agents as hard as I tried! My art never quite made it to a solo show in a gallery either…

Easily 30 NZ publishers declined Rena’s Journey. Really, I think I tried them all! I’ll be honest, it was all kinda depressing! I got some positive feedback, but it came down to money – comics aren’t money spinners for NZ publishers (and fair enough I guess). So I stalled finishing the book, because I was like, ‘What’s the point?’. It took five years before I finished it. I really must thank Ian Watt, the editor of the book, he kept telling me the book was worth printing and that made all the difference.

Eventually I’ve had to see creativity as its own reward; and not a meal ticket, a competition, or ‘success’ versus ‘failure’ thing. I am happy with that philosophy now.. And now I can create, and not care about publishing and all that jazz! If I feel excited about my work, that’s all that matters! 

In the end I self-published, mainly because I wanted to try to inspire like Maurice Gee and Peter Gossage inspired me… I wanted my book in libraries, I wanted it borrowed by young kiwis! I wanted to inspire day dreams in boring maths classes! Self publishing was really a slow and difficult process, I had to learn design, small business, marketing and distribution! 

Are you involved in any comics communities?

Not really, I joined New Zealand comic creators (NZCC) and NZ comics on Facebook; but that’s about it. I have had some good talks with some other comic makers and graphic designers; but then I’ve had some awkward talks too! One guy told me how ‘naïve’ my work was, I was quite surprised at his ‘no bars banned’ approach. Therefore, I prefer to pick when I release myself for critique by my peers.  

There does seem to be a clique at the events I’ve attended, I’m not sure I fit it. I’ve found that I’m not as into the ‘comics culture’ as some other creators are – they seem to know the names of all the great comics geniuses; the styles, the genres, the context of ‘the work’. Me, I look for a good yarn. I don’t care so much about the look of the work, it’s place in history, or even who wrote / drew it. I actually don’t care about that; I like what I like and I don’t need to know why.

What are you currently working on?

A cracking yarn about a solar system in which the animals became the dominant life forms, principally Cats, Horses, Lizards and weird creatures called ‘Anugians’. The main character is a Cat called ‘Spacecat Bob’ who is trying to stop a mysterious robot invasion from killing off his people, The Catesians. Despite the main character’s isolative nature, the theme of the story is about working together - caring about each other; and what happens when we take our humanity for granted. It’s called ‘Daneona: The Legend of Spacecat Bob and you can get more information at      

Where can people get a physical copy of Rena's Journey from?

As of right now: Unity Books, The Women’s Bookshop, Time Out, Jabbawocky Childrens books, University Bookshop and Wheelers Bookshop (online orders). E-copies for android (PDF) tablets are available at

Previews and ebook versions of Rena's Journey available here.

Rena's Journey on facebook.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chromacon 2013 and Assorted Auckland Ramblings

A couple months back I had the pleasure of tabling with Pikitia Press at the inaugural Chromacon Illustration and Comic Art Festival in Auckland. This was the first comics event I've made the trek from Australia back to New Zealand for and It was well worthwhile. For a first time comic art festival, organiser Allan Xia and helpers seemed to pull it off without a hitch. This is the sort of event I'd love to fill my calendar with. Amongst the highlights of the couple days I spent in Auckland for Chromacon:
  • Chromacon was a one day event which for my coming-into-middle-age is the perfect duration for a convention.
  • It was nice to attend an event down this part of the world with a focus on comics and illustrators, no commercial retailers, just local creative folk.
  • The audience which I think numbered around 1000 for the day keep a steady flow of people through the venue. Not too busy, but rarely a quiet moment.
  • Chromacon was a veritable who's who of New Zealand Comics, there were some notable absences and I don't believe there were any South Island cartoonists there but on the whole it was a great opportunity to meet and catch up with a large variety of comic folk at one event.
  •  I got to finally meet Tim Danko in person for a few minutes!
  • Getting to meet the cartoonists I publish. It's probably not so much of an odd thing in this day and age but I had never met in person, Sarah Laing or James Davidson, despite having published several of their comics by this point. Lovely hard working easy to deal with folk. They make my work easy.
  • The venue, one floor of The Aotea Centre, in the heart of Auckland, was an ideal place to have Chromacon, easily accessible and a comfortable fit for the amount of exhibitors and audience.
  • Grabbing pizza and gabbing comics with Kelly Sheehan, Ben Stenbeck and Chris Slane after the show. Heck, even the barman at the pizza joint was a cartoonist (look for a Pikitia Press comic from him sometime soon.)
  • Heading into the carpark after pizza this was waiting for us:
  • Grabbing coffee and gabbing comics with Timothy Kidd, Kelly Sheehan, Karl Wills and my little bro Sam at the Auckland Public Library.
  • On a quest of New Zealand comics archeology at the Auckland Public Library I found some real gems. Evidence that I suspected existed of a connection between two golden age NZ cartoonists surfaced and a NZ "Kramers Ergot" from the seventies? More to come on these developments...
 Interview with Chromacon Organiser Allan Xia.
 Fuzzy photography of some but not all of the comic folk at Chromacon.

 Theo Macdonald and Richard Fairgray

 Tim Gibson

 Tim Bollinger and Barry Linton

 Toby Morris

  Sophie Oiseau

 Czepta Gold

 Dylan Horrocks

 Chris Slane

 Chris Slane

 Ant Sang, Ben Stenbeck and Adrian Kinnaird

 Jesca Marisa

 Damon Keen

  Karl Wills

Marc Streeter

James Davidson

Michel Mulipola

Kelly and Darren Sheehan

Art in park

No visit to Auckland is complete without a visit to the St Kevin's Arcade Secondhand Bookshop. Piles of FP Phantom comics, Eric Resetar facsimile comics, the first 2000AD annual,  I've bought many a fine comic from here over the years. This time I snapped up some reading for my flight home, an Australian edition of Buck Rogers Annual No. 2. Hundreds of pages of early Buck Rogers adventures compiled in one aromatic pulpy volume.

Before heading to the airport I took a shortcut through the Auckland University Campus to pick up my luggage. My "eagle book eyes" spied a table of old books next to a reception office. A lifelong fascination with old books, (I lived in secondhand bookshop for several months) I was compelled to go in and have a look. The receptionist told me they were donated to the university, who didn't want them, and had put them out for folk to take away. All German texts from the early twentieth century, I couldn't resist the offer of free old books so gathered up as many as I could carry and made my way back through the winding alleys and paths of the University. I'd love to keep all the wonderful paper goods I gather, but I can't, so I sold a selection of these to antiquarian book dealers in Melbourne and Switzerland, which paid for my trip and my coffee bill for the next three months.

A tragic inscription from the inside page of Conrad der Leutnant.