Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ross Gore (1904-1981) - Baby Face Artist?

It Happened in New Zealand was a newspaper feature produced by artist, writer, and historian Ross Gore in the 1950's. Combining illustration, text and word balloons Gore detailed historical events and mysteries from pre-european times through the European colonisation of New Zealand. Many of Gore's strips focused on clashes during the Maori Wars as well as myth and folklore. Some stories were adapted from accounts related to Gore such as the tale of sailor Albert Roberts who was pronounced dead during the seven months he spent missing presumed drowned whilst shipwrecked on a rock several miles from Auckland in 1907.


Gore's father Henry Morland Gore (1864-1930) painted landscapes and served eight years as President of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts. Gore's brother Eru Digby Gore (1906-1947) was a land agent and Secretary-Manager of the National Art Gallery in Wellington. Gore's daughter Jenny Gibbs recalls Gore carrying a sketchbook all his life, drawing and painting wherever they went – family holidays in their old army tent and family picnics up rivers.

Unexplained mysteries were a feature of Gore's work with tales of mysterious artifacts, premonitions, and hidden treasures.

It Happened in New Zealand was featured in many papers all over New Zealand. The Evening Post, The Auckland Star, The Christchurch Star-Sun, The Taranaki Herald, The Southern Cross, The Greymouth Evening Star, The Southland Daily news and The Students Digest all carried it at a time. The Students Digest published a collection of 48 strips in 1953. Atypical of other newspaper features of the time Gore attributed copyright to himself or the person who's story he was adapting in the bottom right corner of each strip.

A second collection of 30 strips, Thrilling Tales of Rotorua was published in 1958 by Wellington publisher A.H. & A. W. Reed.

As well as the 78 strips featured in the two collections at least another 130 were completed. 208 original pages of Ross Gore's cartoons were donated by Gore's daughter Jenny Gibbs to the cartoon archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1995. Gore worked at just over double up size with his six panel strips being reproduced at 14.5cm by 21cm in contrast to his originals that typically had a working area of 31cm by 53 cm.

Stop Press was a 32 page digest of stories and cartoons produced during the 1940's by Wellington publisher, Mcdonald Publications. Typical of the era there are no authors or artist's credited short of the occasional artist's signature. Patsy Kane was a one page comic serial in the vein of Norman Pett's Jane launched in England twelve years prior. Like Jane Patsy Kane becomes involved in intrigue whilst spending a portion of each episode scantily clad or nude.

Patsy Kane has no artist credit but I theorise it may be the work of Ross Gore. In the August 12 1944 episode above Patsy meets a man by the name of 'Ross Gawe'. This could have been a subtle way of Gore 'signing' his work.

The episode below features a 'D' in the bottom last panel which again could be Gore's masked way of signing his work by using the initial of his middle name.

The illustration below from the same issue of Stop Press is signed the same and is very similar stylistically with the work of Gore's It Happened in New Zealand strips.


In the episode below Ross Gawe is revealed to be a villain. Another possible theory is this comic is the work of an acquaintance of Gore who has named his villain after Gore as a prank. it's not unknown for cartoonists to slip their colleagues into their work.

Ross Gore's daughter Jenny Gibbs suggests that at the time Patsy Kane was produced her father was stationed with other artists in the camouflage unit of the Trentham Military Camp. He may have been disinclined to sign his work if he was moonlighting from the army and perhaps by it's salacious nature. She also commented, 'The name is surely not a co-incidence & stylistically it looks very like his work.  None of the language or phrasing seems unlike him.'

The Stop Press digests feature adverts for Auckland publisher Jaycol Comics including Victory Feature Comic that is clearly the work of the same artist as Patsy Kane, referred to by New Zealand comic enthusiast's Tim Bollinger and Geoff Harrison as 'The Baby Face Artist' on account of all his characters having similar features.

The same artist illustrated the lead story in Meteor Comics, a fourteen page Flash Gordon-esque Sci-fi adventure. None of these comics feature artist credits or dates but it is probable they were published in the mid 1940's with Victory Feature Comic likely appearing around the time it was advertised in Stop Press late 1944.

It is possible Ross Gore is one of the pioneering figures in New Zealand comics. There is no conclusive evidence but hopefully more information will surface.

Sources: , , , Meteor Comics material supplied by Geoff Harrison, Victory Comics Cover supplied by Tim Bollinger, Stop Press Digests supplied by Anne Emery, Thanks to Geoff Harrison, Jenny Gibbs and Tim Bollinger for additional information. All It Happened in New Zealand images copyright estate of Ross Gore.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Zealanders As We See 'em 1934-35

New Zealanders As We See 'em in Cartoons and Caricatures is a handsome volume of black and white work published by the New Zealand Cartoonists' Association in 1935. The preface notes that this book could be considered 'The Cartoonists' Who's Who of New Zealanders' and features 438 portraits combining photos with pen and ink work. Doctor's, lawyers, politicians and businessmen are featured throughout the book with text describing occupations and recreational activities. Due to a hearty response from subjects invited to be a part of this project a second volume was published in 1938 in a limited edition of 450 copies. Typical of the era, all subjects featured are male and appear to be European.

Cartoonists featured in this volume:

William Blomfield
Fred R. Alexander
Gordon Minhinnick
Roy Evans
Trevor Lloyd
E R Leemings
William Sykes Baverstock


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Milk Shadow Books - James Andre Interview

I'll be posting some catch up interviews over the next weeks that were conducted via email and in person over the last several months.

The following interview was conducted via email in February 2012 in anticipation of the Big Arse 2 launch which included several titles from Milk Shadow Books. I've known James Andre for a few years from contributing to his anthology Yuck and following his progress self-publishing his own writing to becoming a significant independent comics publisher in the Melbourne scene. James's tastes in comics and writing are reflected in the output of Milk Shadow Books with an emphasis on matter of a dark nature, perversity, black humour and adult themes.

 James Andre

What was the impetus to start publishing other people's work through Milk Shadow Books?

When issue 5 and 6 of Yuck! were about to come out I thought we should take on some more titles as we were already distributing comics and zines anyway. Then I recalled Ben Hutchings saying how he almost had You Stink 10 ready, so we got into contact with him. Walking to Japan was the first creator owned work we published though. That went quite well, so we took things from there.

 No Map, But Not Lost - Bobby N (2012)

Have you experienced any start up difficulties as a publisher?

Apart from the usual time and cash flow stuff, nothing major. More just little details that turn into larger issues. And needing to keep track of several projects in various stages. Having to make sure certain pages/changes to one book are completed, whilst remembering edits on another one, that a cover is being done on another, and then making sure the printers are working on another. But all of the artists have been great, and some other local comic folks such as Brendan Halyday, Luke Pickett, and Jason Franks have provided much needed creative and technical support along the way too.

Where will your new books be available from after the Big Arse 2 launch?

They'll be on the website – Comic shops such as All Star Comics, Minotaur, Pulp Fiction Comics, Impact Comics and The Beguiling. The trade paperbacks and graphic novels will also be available on Amazon, and through the Ingram catalogue for bookshops. If anybody wants them stocked in their local book or comic shop, they can bug them to place an order.

 You Stink and I Don't #10 - Ben Hutchings (2012)

Melbourne has seen a few publishers specialising in comics established in recent years, where do you see Milk Shadow's place in the scene?

I guess we focus mainly on surreal black comedy stuff. A lot of the work involves parodies and examinations of media, religion, sex, death and modern life. The feel of the material seems to have sprung out of the Yuck! Anthology series. We don't really have a huge interest in superhero or genre material, but would still have a look if it was submitted. Milk Shadow Books publishes art that can take the piss out of society, work that make people laugh and/or think. Or just gross them out.

It Shines and Shakes and Laughs - Tim Molloy (2012)

Bobby N, Bruce Mutard's and Tim Molloy's books are retrospective collections, will you be producing similar collections of other creators?

We'd like to, and we've got some more plans floating about at the moment. There's the possibility of a couple more small colour art books too, similar to the Sweat Soda book that featured David DeGrand's art. But yeah, we'd love to do more collections if the right artist approached us, or we spotted them first.

What do you have planned for the future?

In terms of graphic novels, we've got Bruce Mutard's Alice in Nomansland lined up. It's a very strange, yet literate, adult fantasy trip that's been in Bruce's cupboard for ten years, and it's unlike anything he's previously published. There's also a new collection from Tim Molloy, but more on that as it develops. Plus some more indie projects in the works from artists from Melbourne, Sydney, Brazil and Brisbane. Expanding out into action figures, art exhibitions and animated series would be nice one day too. That's the dream anyway.

All images copyright 2012 respective authors, James Andre photo copyright 2012 M.Emery

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Tim Bollinger Interview Part Three of Three

Attitude Problem #3 (1996)

What are the attitudes of New Zealand archival institutions such as the Alexander Turnbull Library to preserving New Zealand's comic heritage?
You'll have to ask them. They certainly have some comics in their collections and I've found some interesting material (in Alexander Turnbull Library and Archives New Zealand especially), but I'm not sure how much has been collected especially and they're not all together in a single place. Their attitude to preserving New Zealand's heritage generally is great. It's just that back in the day, such material was considered ephemera, low quality and culturally unimportant. I found a few interesting New Zealand and Australian comics in the Government's Education Department files, at Archives New Zealand (thanks David Newton!), filed in folders with complaints from school teachers and the minutes from government censorship committees. So the context is sometimes quite interesting as well.

But for comprehensive well-studied collections of comics, you have to go to private collectors to find stuff.

Lost Wellington (2005)

Are there any tragic tales from New Zealand's comic history you could relate? 

The whole story is a tragedy from go to whoa. Anyone who ever tried drawing or publishing comics in New Zealand has had to fight a battle on several fronts - cultural, logistical, economic. There's never been the population to support large numbers of local sales and, unlike say France or Japan, New Zealand does not have a strong culture of reading or writing comics (bandes dessinées/manga, call it what you will). The brief time in which a (so-called) boom took place, back in the 1940s, there were tight import restrictions on imported material, but they were hardly great times either for the artists or their art. Distribution was always and still remains, a problem, because a few big distributors dominated magazine circulation, limiting access to retail outlets by independent publishers.  Most New Zealand comics are born out of a combination of naive optimism and bitter struggle. Karl Wills once described the New Zealand comics scene as "a corpse on a life support machine".

 Early Stories About Food & Death (2004)

Specific tragedies? Eric Resetar has stories of losing large quantities of unsold comic books, either accidentally in garage fires, or on purpose, by dumping them into rivers out of the back of his station wagon. Eric's friend and colleague Rod McLeod at the Auckland Art Gallery knows some of these stories.

Then, there was the original artwork for the final episode of Joe Wylie (a.k.a. Flexible Shaft)'s 'Kabuki' comic series in 'Strips' back in the late 70s that was stolen out of the back of his car and never saw print! A real tragedy for New Zealand comics of the period…He pretty much gave up, there and then.

Colin Wilson's 'Captain Sunshine Volume 2' is another apparently completed comic book that never saw the light of day and no one knows where the finished artwork ended up. The whole history is littered with premature births and deaths…It's very Shakespearian.

 Orpheus in the Underworld - first appeared in White Fungus Issue # 12 (2011)

What are the difficulties in producing a definitive book like Back of Beyond?

Well, it's kind of you to refer to this almost 'mythical' volume called 'Back of Beyond'. Since I proposed that title back in the early 90s - a comprehensive 'history' of New Zealand comics
- I've been gathering and writing material for it. But the more you learn and find out about, the more questions it raises, and the more leads there are to follow. Furthermore, the longer it takes, the more new comics get produced, so the biggest hurdle is time. Plus I have a day job. But I'm getting there. I reckon I'm about half way through. That would make it a mid-2025 release date…(give or take a decade).

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - first appeared in White Fungus Issue # 11 (2009)

Can you offer any advice for young cartoonists in New Zealand?

Draw to deadlines. A bird on the page is worth two in your head. Publication deadlines are the best sort of deadlines - try submitting to your local student newspaper. Use digital sparingly - clarity of line remains supreme.

All images copyright 2012 Tim Bollinger

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Purple Pagoda - Betty Roland

From Girl Annual #4 an eight page story written by Australian writer Betty Roland  (22 July 1903 – 12 February 1996) and beautifully painted by Englishman Charles Paine. They also collaborated on The Rajah's Secret for Girl Annual #5. Originally published by Hulton Press in 1956. Hulton were taken over by Longacre in 1960 who in turn were subsumed by IPC Magazines in 1964.

Images copyright IPC Magazines or possibly Warner Brothers.