Friday, April 18, 2014

John MacNamara (18th April 1918 - February 2001)

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.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kiwiman Comics - Matthew Kelly Interview Part One


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.

Kiwiman Comics

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.

Something more 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.

Chronologically I 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.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Daniel Brader Interview

Daniel Brader is a comics writer and stand-up comic currently running a Pledgeme campaign to fund a continuation of his series in collaboration with Yi Lang Chen, the semi-autobiographical The Adventures of The Kite family. I've followed Dan's misadventures which he has a gift for translating across social media for a couple years and I'm looking forward to seeing more of his writing in comics.

Chatting With Dad tumblr.

Read the first issue of the Adventures of The Kite Family.


What got you interested in comics and creating your own?

I became aware that autobiographical comics existed when the movie American Splendor came out and after that I started reading Pekar's stuff. That inspired me because I'm not an artist either and he was able to get talented artists to draw his stuff. Then I got deeper into the genre when Travis Nash (Melbourne based comedian/artist), who had always been a comics buff, pointed me in the direction of other "real life" comics. He showed me Joe Matt's stuff and I really liked it's brutal, hilarious honesty. Then I did my own research and found out about Seth and Chester Brown who also do a similar kind of thing. 

I'd always loved semi autobiographical novelists like Charles Bukowski, Dan Fante, John Fante and Mark Safranko but I'd always been more interested in film. I was always put off trying to make my own films though because it just seemed like a very difficult enterprise that required a lot of people. I also tried a couple times and was most disappointed with the results. Which is a really defeatist attitude I know and I did keep writing some stuff but I never did anything with it really other than show friends and family. But when I realised that people were telling the style of stories I wanted to tell in comics I immediately gravitated towards the medium as it seemed more likely I could get stuff made and get it out there to the general public.

Where did your interest in comedy develop from?
So I was always a real big movie buff. I used to watch a couple of movies, sometimes more, every night from age sixteen right through to my University days. I was also hired by The Otago Daily Times to write movie reviews from 2001-2004. I always thought I'd try become a writer/director. I made a few short films and then realised how difficult the process was and also that my natural talents might lie elsewhere. The directing and editing side of it felt a bit of out my wheelhouse. I dabbled in poems and short stories too but always felt there was something missing. I'd always loved comedy as a kid growing up and although I wasn't consuming stand-up stuff with the same voracity as I was film I'd always been into it. When I was in high school I'd always been a "class clown" type and I'd often sit around at lunchtimes holding court with funny stories I'd thought up or simply relaying some funny shit that had happened to me. So I found out there was some amateur level stuff going on at University and decided to have a go. My first gig went really well and I got a lot of encouragement to keep going.

I did a few more and I started getting very mixed results. At the time I was too head strong and arrogant to really listen to advice from more experienced people so I found myself blaming the environment I was in, convinced I'd try stand-up again but in another city. After University I found myself working in advertising in Australia and through a friend there I heard about an open-mic competition (RAW Comedy) and we decided to enter. We made it through to the second round and were both immediately hooked and started to perform as often as we could. Now I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with stand-up comedy as it's very difficult to make money from it and my style is far from traditional and often has me at odds with whatever scene I'm working in. I sometimes question whether it's totally for me as I really feel more at home writing. That said when everything comes together on stage and the crowd's with me it's an amazing experience. I think I'll always do stand-up but I wouldn't be surprised if it took a back seat somewhat to writing.

You've mentioned Adventures of the Kite Family being semi-autobiographical, was there a reason for not writing straight autobio?
My comic is pretty close to being autobiographical. I've really only changed the names of the characters and a few minor details here and there. My parents have seen the comic and for obvious reasons aren't exactly thrilled by it. Although I don't consider it to be that cruel to them at all. They have told me to stop writing it on numerous occasions! I figured the least I could do was change the names and a few details here and there and class it as semi-autobiographical in an effort to appease them somewhat. It hasn't worked that well really but I'm still always able to say "it's fiction!" whenever they get particularly irate about a comic I've produced. But aside from that it also allows me some leeway should I want to invent some situations and dialogue completely which often I do. But the spirit of it is always very true. Like the conversations or situations I have made up completely are very much in line with the kind of things me and my parents would say or do.

Are you involved with any comics communities in New Zealand or Australia?
I'm not heavily involved no. I'm not against the idea at all it's more I just haven't really gone out of my way to get involved, which is stupid, I really should. I've maybe held back because I don't draw the comics myself and a lot of the people in these groups write and draw so perhaps I've felt I'm not legit because of that? Which is silly I know! I've also had some big breaks in putting stuff out. Like there was a period in which I churned out a full issue and several short pieces but then I ran into some money trouble and wasn't able to pay artists so I fell out of it a bit and concentrated solely on stand up comedy. 

I'm back in New Zealand a for a little bit now and my expenses are lower so I've been able to get back into it, I've also got more free time as there's not anywhere near as many comedy gigs here as there are in Australia. But yeah I am a member of some of the little groups on Facebook for NZ/Aus comics and I've had my stuff published in Dunedin Comic Collective, Funtime Comics and Fist Full Of Comics but I'm not involved to the point where I'm meeting up with these people regularly or chatting online with them all the time. However, I should add that the Fist Full Of Comics guys have been really supportive and they even published the first issue of my series. They sent me a bunch of copies and took a bunch themselves to various comic book conventions around Australia. They've really been a big help in getting my comic out there! Which is awesome. They're really great guys.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sir David Alexander Cecil Low (7 April 1891 – 19 September 1963)

David Low photograph from The Political Cartoon Gallery.

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'.

Read full David Low essay by Low Historian Dr Timothy S. Benson.
Read New Zealand cartoonist/historian Alan Moir's essay on David Low.

Gallery of Low's work on Te Pikitia tumblr. 

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).


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Lucky Aki in The Stone Age Proofs Have Arrived!


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.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

William Blomfield (1 April 1866 – 2 March 1938)

William Blomfield was born today in 1866. Blomfield produced cartoons for the New Zealand Observer a newspaper he had substantial shares in for 40 years. Blomfield was also a local politician serving as second mayor of Takapuna.