Showing posts with label Ben Hutchings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ben Hutchings. Show all posts

Monday, June 2, 2014

Ben Hutchings Interview Part One

This is the first part of a belated series of interviews with cartoonists working with Melbourne publisher Milk Shadow Books. If I can manage it they should all run over the course of June.

I first met Ben Hutchings almost a decade ago at a convention in Wellington where the artist's alley consisted of Ben, his esteemed colleague David Blumenstein and myself with a couple friends. It wasn't a great experience for us, it turned out all the hep comic cats in Wellington were attending a New Zealand comics weekend at a pub up the road. I always like talking to Ben, we share a bunch of similar experiences with comics in our formative years and I very much admire his passion for making comics.

MATT EMERY:  What were the first comics you read? What were the comics that inspired you to make your own?

BEN HUTCHINGS: The first comics I read were all the old Whitman and Gold Key ones, who did lots of Disney and Richie Rich, Scooby Doo, all that stuff.

All the comics that used to have the ads for the X-Ray specs, and slim jims, and those bloody genuine flint arrowheads. Oh and ads for selling GRIT magazine. The ads were the most interesting things in them I think.  They made you greedy with all the illustrations of great things you could buy.  All kinds of weird food, practical jokes and toys.  America seemed to have all the coolest stuff. The comic content of all of these was amazingly mediocre. They never made me smile or laugh. I still don't know why people fondly remember Scooby Doo, or any of that Hanna Barbera shite. They were soulless!

I was inspired to make my own comics when I discovered British humour comics. They had a lot more spirit and heart, and even though they were formulaic, I get the feeling they were done by people who cared about what they were doing. They were also strange because they used a lot of British colloquialisms and cultural details like bangers and mash!

Of course I was raised from birth with Tintin comics, but for some reason you never think of them as comics do ya.  But needless to say I adored them, and still do.

EMERY: Where did you grow up? Were comics easily available to you? Where did you typically get them from?

HUTCHINGS: I was born in Moruya, NSW but grew up in Canberra. Every Saturday I'd ride my bike to the local newsagents. Aside from MAD or the Phantom, the selection of comics in newsagents was always erratic, so it was a bit exciting to see what would be there. If I ventured further out on my bike I might find a whole different bunch of titles in some more distant one!  An odd Superman, or some weird Aussie comic, or maybe they'd have three different Archie titles instead of just one. It was always exciting to stumble across a newsagent I'd never been to before, and explore the comic section.

Second hand shops were, and still can be incredible places to discover hidden piles of old, obscure titles. These days they seem to have more comics than before, too. It's fun to scour the foreign sections for cheap manga, Chinese Tintins, Italian Mickey Mouses, or some risque European hard cover comics.

Once I discovered Impact Records in the city, saving up for trips there after school with my mate became my favourite ritual. We'd blow $40 on everything and anything, and as it grew dark outside we'd sit on the floor of the bus on the way home, amongst the legs of public servants, comparing our hauls for the day.

EMERY: Who were the first comic creators that you recognised by name or style?

HUTCHINGS: I reckon I got pretty good at recognising some of the artists who worked on Batman and Justice League in the 90s. I loved Adam Hughes, coz he was really good at clean, appealing faces. They didn't look like the typical rushed sort of thing, and the stories were pretty funny. I could also pick Brian Bolland pretty quickly.  

EMERY: When did you first draw your own comics?

HUTCHINGS: I can't remember when I did my first comic - it must have been when I was 9 or 10. I was already drawing funny pictures but never in a sequential style. I think my first comic was about a legion of superheroes called "Mo".  By Year 6 I had the patience to finish comics that lasted several pages. They were nearly always parodies. I found a big pile of them the other day!  I have one called "Battyman" and I think I called the Joker "The Jokester" or something hilarious like that. It's interesting because I teach children cartooning now, and always remember myself having way more patience and care than they do, but nooooo.

EMERY: Was there a particular project where you felt you had established your own style? I always thought your work had a consistent tone of humour and I wondered if you felt there was a project where you consolidated your craft or style of drawing?

HUTCHINGS: I reckon Lesson Master was the comic that sums up my style!  Very cartoony but with lots of detail.  The people looked a little goofy but the environments and objects were usually pretty accurate. That's the style I feel most comfortable working in, and the most fun. But I never stick with one style and am always figuring out the best way to draw. For example in Iron Bard which I'm doing now, I am pushing the detail way more, and trying to find the perfect mix of funny/realistic to give to the characters.  Even the shading techniques change throughout it coz I can't decide.  On the other hand I'm posting a few webcomics now and then which have a deliberately inaccurate and loose style that I love doing. So really I don't feel like I've consolidated my style of drawing yet, even though I think most people can recognise my art when they see it.

EMERY: A while back you mentioned to me you’d like to attempt projects outside of the humour genre, have you made any progress with this idea?

Not actively working on anything serious yet unless you count rough story outlines and scene thumbnails.  It seems to get pushed back all the time.  I have a number of serious ideas which I think would be great.  Ideas like that are stressful because I know I can do funny joke comics, but I think telling a poignant story will really expose my shortcomings in that area.  They could be hamfisted, or shallow, or derivative or self indulgent or unoriginal without me knowing.  I am not afraid of being insincere with them at least.

EMERY: With Squishface you've established a long running comics studio in Melbourne,  How has having a studio and an environment with several cartoonists/artists impacted on your work? Can you talk about future plans for the studio?

HUTCHINGS: Two years now, which was my original hope. Two years means it has actually made an impression and become a 'thing' people will remember even if it dies. So now we're starting year number three. When you are around other people who are also involved in their own projects, new things always get thrown your way, and being a sort of institution, festivals and events and people always approach us. I started it because I loved having people watch us work when we did Inherent Vice, but I find the public aspect of it very different here. When it's only me here I find I like to shut the door and work away in solitude, but when there's a few of us here I like inviting people in but it's a bit more one-on-one, being a small enclosed room. I find it hard to have one day away from this studio. I always wind my way back. I have no future plans except for this place to survive, but I would like it to have more activity, and to bring in a bit more money from comic sales and art sales. That's about it!!!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Paper Trail


Trailer for Connie Radar short film

Jem Yoshioka on tumblr.

Robert Virtue writes about the 2014 Parkes Comics Fest, that happened a couple days ago at the Parkes Library and I'm posting late because the links pile up in no discernible order and it's hard to keep on top of things.

Dr Matt Finch and Tracie Mauro from the Parkes Shire Library. (Pic yoinked from

INTERVIEW: Mary Tamblyn

 - Vibrations (after Fiona Wright)


Graphic! Novels! Melbourne! available on DVD.

Lauren Maier reviews Rooster Tails

Bruce Mutard - Microaviary (after A. Frances Johnson)


Garrick Tremain on cartoon censorship.

Paper Trail masthead courtesy of Toby Morris.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

12 Comics You Can Buy Right Now From Polyester Books!

Part one of a series of irregular posts spotlighting comics with blurry photos that you can buy from various places. The following comics are a sample of the shelves in Polyester Books 'World's Freakiest Bookstore', 330 Brunswick St, Fitzroy Melbourne.



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly Melbourne Visit

In Melbourne for a couple of speaking engagements during early October, Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly met up with a handful of local cartoonists at Squishface Studios to talk comics, art and publishing.

Sarah Gooding wrote about Françoise Mouly's career overview with Penny Hueston at the Wheelers Centre on Oct 9th.

Bernard Caleo wrote about Art Spiegelman & Françoise Mouly's Squishface visit at An Island Art.

pic by Bernard Caleo

 Art Spiegelman and Shaun Tan

Colin Wilson and Ben Hutchings

Jo Waite lunch sketch

Pic by Bernard Caleo

All pics by M.Emery unless credited otherwise

Friday, July 26, 2013

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.