5 minutes with Austin Milne

While we wait for a new date for ComicFest 2021, meet Austin Milne in this “5 minutes with” interview.

ComicFest 2021 website

Austin Milne has wanted to be a cartoonist since deciding being a dragonologist wasn’t realistic. When he was 12 he tried writing a comic strip about his life but decided to stop because he was too close to the subject matter, instead he made comics about an anthropomorphic emu. Now aged 23, he has had a few comics and is working on a graphic novel about 12-year olds.

Website: austinmilne.wordpress.com
Facebook: @austincomics
Instagram: @austinjmilne

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

From age 8 I would go to my friend’s house and read all his dad’s Peanuts books. He and his sister made their own comics, and so did I. They soon stopped but I had found something I enjoyed. I remember thinking while working on a Tintin rip off: ‘this is like reading but better cause I can make anything happen that I want’.

Q: What is your average day like?

I’m still working out the perfect way to run a day. I’m most productive drawing early in the morning, when I go for at least 2 walks a day and eat lots of vegetables.
I write best at cafes or on trains, and draw best somewhere warm and quiet.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’ve been working on a graphic novel for middle readers for the last 2 years to be published by Annual Ink.

EPSON MFP image

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I write a schedule for the day in my diary and some notes of what I did yesterday, if I don’t feel like writing, I collage train tickets, drawings, and printed ephemera I chance upon.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac and John Allison’s Bad Machinery are my biggest influences. Lately I’ve been loving the work of Tillie Walden, Noah Van Sciver, George Herriman and Simon Hanselmann. Historically, I was most influenced by Charles Schulz, Lincoln Peirce of Big Nate and a whole host of American newspaper comic strips.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

There’s so many! I really love discovering new creators and especially meeting them in person. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
Alex Cara, Sarah Laing, Dylan Horrocks, Gissele Clarkson, Toby Morris Gavin Mouldey, Sharon Murdoch, Sam Orchard, Ross Murray, David Tulloch, Lil MQ, Ursine mundanity https://ursinemundanity.com

Q: What is your dream comic project?

It would be to draw a daily newspaper comic strip, like a really big one in a broadsheet newspaper. And while I’m dreaming I would like it to be full page and in colour, and l would like to be editor of an 8 page comics section in the newspaper and commision and pay New Zealand cartoonists to make strips for it. and it would be paid for by big business sponsoring it, but as part of the deal the businesses would have to ditch identical corporate branding and have each of their stores designed by a cartoonist complete with strange cartoon mascots. And then the newspaper would just become all comics, and it would save newspapers and it would save New Zealand towns from looking boring and it would save comic strips and then it would take off all over the world and become more popular than music.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I will do my best to cosplay as Gissele Clarkson’s drawing of me.

Austin’s portrait by Giselle Clarkson

5 minutes with Jonathan King

While we wait for ComicFest 2021 keep your Comic juices flowing by reading this amazing 5 minutes with Jonathan King!
ComicFest 2021 website

Jonathan King makes comics and films in Wellington, New Zealand. He wrote and directed comedy horror Black Sheep, co-wrote and directed an adaptation of Maurice Gee’s classic Under the Mountain, co-wrote supernatural thriller The Tattooist and directed sci-fi thriller Realiti.

His comics have featured in Faction Comics (2012–2014), From Earth’s End: the Best of New Zealand Comics (Random House, 2013), High Water, a climate change anthology (2015), and in a collection of his comic works Perplexing Stories (Eel Noir, 2015). His story Holiday featured in Gecko Press’s Annual in 2016, and another, Docking Season appears in Annual 2 in 2017. His graphic novel The Inkberg Enigma was published by Gecko Press in 2020.

Website: jking.nz
Twitter: @MrJonathanKing

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

When I was four years old I got Hergé’s The Black Island and The Shooting Star for my birthday. They remain two of my favourite Tintin books, and set me on a lifelong love of adventure comics. Superman, Batman and Marvel comics were next. This was in the 1970s — and it’s funny to see these same storylines turn up in the movies today. I haven’t really kept in touch with superhero comics since then, but still love kids adventure comics — made today and as far back as the 1930s.

Q: What is your average day like?

At the moment I’m teaching film at Massey University in Wellington, overusing Third Year students’ own film and game projects. So I’m either meeting with students, reading their work … or keeping my own ‘research’ going — which at the moment is writing a feature film script, exploring animation in Blender and Unreal Engine and editing a film I shot for a friend earlier this year.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

My first graphic novel The Inkberg Enigma was out last year – after several years of Workington it. I’ll definitely get back to comics soon … but I both need to earn some (not comics) money, and keep things like film — which I’m still passionate about — moving.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

Napping / thinking / lying around is a super important aspect for me — particularly those few moments when you’re halfway between sleep and awake. I really do find I make huge creative progress on ideas when my conscious brain is disengaged and the creative brain is floating free … Then I just need to remember it all to write to down when I wake up!

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

Artistically my biggest influences were / are Hergé, Yves Chaland — who was a young French cartoonist, himself influenced by Hergé, who tragically killed in a car accident at a young age, American Darwyn Cooke — who died much too young too, Milton Caniff and Frank Robbins — greats from the golden age of newspaper adventure comics.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

My favourite NZ comics creators include Dylan Horrocks — who was hugely supportive to me (and so many others) when I started making comics; Roger Langridge – whose work is supernaturally great; Sharon Murdoch, who has such an effortlessly light touch with thoughtful content; Giselle Clarkson, whose playful style I just love.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

My dream project would be a serialised adventure story — that unrolled at a strip a day (or maybe a page a week) in the newspaper — if such thing still existed!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

Some of the behind the scenes process of how I made my book, The Inkberg Enigma.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

A certain fearless boy reporter…

ComicFest 2021 to be redrawn another day

ComicFest 2021 logo

ComicFest 2021 logo

To keep everyone safe, organisers are cancelling ComicFest 2021 this Saturday (21 August 2021) as Aotearoa is now under Covid-19 Alert level four.

“We are gutted Saturday’s ComicFest is not going ahead, as we had such a fantastic line-up of amazing artists with many sessions fully booked – but people’s wellbeing comes first,” says Sam Orchard, Assistant Curator Cartoons and Comics National Library of New Zealand.

“The good news is thanks to the generous support of our artists and sponsors we have already agreed to bring ComicFest back once we have returned to Alert level 2 or lower – so watch this space!”

“The ComicFest team are working together on future options for this delivering this event. So, keep your cosplay costumes at the ready for when we can get all be together again,” says Wellington City Council’s Manager Libraries and Community Spaces Laurinda Thomas.

“While you’re staying safe at home, you can be inspired and entertained by our amazing artists who have shared their stories on the ComicFest webpage. ”

If you have registered for an event, we will email you to confirm that ComicFest has been cancelled and again when we have a new date for when ComicFest 2021 will return.

ComicFest is run in partnership with Wellington City Libraries and the National Library of New Zealand and key sponsors Graphic Comics, Gecko Press, Unity Books, and Wellington Zinefest.

5 minutes with Tara Black

ComicFest 2021 website

Photo by Ebony Lamb

Tara Black is a Pōneke based cartoonist and art school drop-out. She can often be found in the front row of book events, illustrating authors and their ideas. You can find her work on The Sapling, Stasis Journal, The Spinoff and her website, taracomics.com. Her first graphic novel, This Is Not a Pipe, was published by Victoria University Press in 2020.

Website: taracomics.com
Twitter: @taracomics
Instagram: @tara_comics

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

Probably Calvin and Hobbes but it’s hard to tease that out from my love of animation and picture books. I used to collect clippings of Calvin and Hobbes from newspapers and paste them into a scrapbook. Dad would bring them home from work for me and I ended up with double-ups. When I was old enough to get a paper run, I systematically bought all of the collected editions. My favourite one is the 10th anniversary edition, where Bill Watterson annotates some key strips with his process. That was my first insight into what it might mean to be a practising cartoonist.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work on comics in the evenings and the weekend. I aim to put out a page of my webcomic, Book Dragons, each week so I will often script and do a draft during weekday evenings before drawing and scanning the comic on a Saturday or a Sunday. On Monday evenings I have a drawing club which gets me started. Some weeknights I will go to book launches and live draw the speeches.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

My first graphic novel, This is Not a Pipe, came out with Victoria University Press late last year. At the moment I’m working on Book Dragons and getting into short fiction and poem comics. Poem comics are a satisfying puzzle – they let me play with the interaction between text and picture in a more abstract way than narrative comics.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I drink a lot of tea. I find it helps me get up and move around but also tea is good. Twinings. Earl Grey. Occasionally chai.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

That’s kind of a cruel question. There are so many great comic creators in NZ and if I start listing them I’m bound to leave out someone cool and regret it. If I had to choose one, I’d choose Li Chen. Her blend of humour and stunning artwork is always a treat. Have you played exocomics 500? If you haven’t, go do it now.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

A comic project that could pay enough to live on but also solve climate change. Yes, a sentient comic that solves climate change and social inequality and rolls back colonialism while it’s at it. No pressure, sentient comic.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m intending to live draw sessions that I’m not in but attend so it will be neat to create and share that record. Maybe I’ll even try to live draw while being on panels.

Tara’s Appa costume

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I peaked in 2008 when I made an Appa costume. I have no need or desire to costume further.

5 minutes with Selina Tusitala Marsh

ComicFest 2021 website

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former Commonwealth Poet, New Zealand Poet Laureate and acclaimed performer and author.  In 2019 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to poetry, literature and the Pacific community.  In 2020 Selina was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand earlier this year.  An Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Auckland, Selina teaches Maori and Pacific Literature and Creative Writing. Selina has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), for queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II), for Gucci and graffiti artists (see Avondale Community Centre).  She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI, Dark Sparring, Tightrope.  Her graphic memoir, Mophead, won the Margaret Mahy Supreme Book in the 2020 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and won the PANZ Best Book Design for 2020, its sequel, Mophead TU: The Queen’s Poem has been shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards 2021.

Facebook: Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh
Instagram: @selinatusitalamarsh

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

Luka, my older brother, brought home DC comics all the time when I was growing up. I loved these kind of freeze-frame movies where unlike a blockbuster, I could pause, stop, linger, imagine, play and day-dream about what I’d do in the unfolding scene on the page.

Q: What is your average day like?

Pretty nuts to be honest. Full on. When you’re a Pasifika woman poet-scholar at a university where there aren’t many who look, talk, walk, think, and create like you do, you’re either going to shrivel up and die, or thrive and be in so much demand you can’t see the coconuts for the trees. I’m always working on 3 or 4 major projects at once. This is why I run. I haven’t been able to in the past 2 months because I sprained my ankle while running my staff cross in Waiheke bush. The effects are beginning to show.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’ve had 2 successful graphic memoir books for all-ages: Mophead and Mophead TU: The Queen’s Poem, shortlisted for this year’s Children and Young Adults Book Awards. I’m working on Mophead: KNOT Book 3. Because it’s not. Not like the other two and so strangely different. The process, it’s storying, the making of it, it’s so collaborative. I’m working with about 2000 students on it. Watch this space!

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

Movement. Running. Yoga. Anything that makes me want to be still with pencil and ipad and begin moving on the page.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

For the last year, it’s been Charlie Mackesy’s brilliant book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse.’ He draws the pictures and writes a story for all-ages. I can meditate on one page, one drawing for days. It’s what I want for my books – for both kids and adults to feed from.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

Sarah Laing’s lilting and lyrically sensitive drawings are it for me. Mansfield and Me is just sublime. As is Let’s Be Frank. I mean, all of her stuff is just so…so…raw, real, tender, exquisitely executed, and she’s just being herself. She is a pastel inky goddess and I love her. And her work. Another hard to put down to me is Ant Sang’s Dharma Punks. His drawings are just so alive and bold and his skill with gaps and space to imagine myself in between those frames and his sparse dialogue, well, that’s pure talent.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I’m working on it now. Mophead: KNOT Book 3 is choosing me. It’s evolving before my eyes. And all I have to do is be myself, with others, and the stories will come.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

An interactive activity that forms the foundation of Mophead: KNOT Book 3. I’ve done it with 2000 primary school kids, and 370 Royal Society Early Career Researchers. I’m sure it’ll be just as fab with ComicFest attendees!!

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I’ve already got the Wonder Woman costume, so may as well use it. Otherwise, I’d dress up as Sarah Laing.

5 minutes with Mary Guo

ComicFest 2021 website

Mary has been living in Wellington for seven years. She has been working in the game and animation industry for over a decade.  In her spare time, she works on various illustration and comic projects. Check out her personal art and comics at maryguo.com. Follow weekly updates on instagram: @totoroguo.

Website: maryguo.com
Instagram: @totoroguo

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I was born in 1980’s China. There wasn’t much entertainment for kids back then, but there were comics, particularly Japanese manga. For me, the eighties and nineties were Japan’s comic golden age, and I was growing up reading Doraemon, Battle Angel Alita, Monster, and more.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work full-time for an animation company as a visual dev artist. Most days, I’m working from home, sometimes in the library or a coffee shop. During the evenings and weekends, I’m working on personal projects. In my leisure time, I like to attend all kinds of events, like shows, festivals, markets, galleries, etc.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

Currently, I’m working on two personal projects: Lonely Artist with co-creator TBun, and my Wellington Coffee Shop illustrations. Lonely Artist is a series of silent comic strips that we’ve just compiled into a book.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I like to take walks for inspiration. I find that ideas naturally come to me while I’m alone, walking around the town belt and through the city.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

Many comic artists inspire me, too many to name! My biggest influence has always been Studio Ghibli. Nowadays, I also take inspiration from many other media, like video games, fine art, and animation.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

I enjoyed Ross Murray’s new book, Rufus Marigold. It was great! There are many incredible murals around Wellington by artists like T Wei and others. Michael McCormack, a painter with a studio in Island Bay, is probably my favourite local artist.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I’m very excited to explore transmedia storytelling. I’m interested in how players take on the role of their characters in video games. I want to explore these ideas in my next project, a comic-video-game hybrid with a long-form narrative (working title: Concrete Jungle).

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’ll be arriving with my freshly printed Lonely Artist comic books.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

The Knight from the Hollow Knight video game.

5 minutes with Sarah Laing

ComicFest 2021 website

Sarah Laing is a fiction writer and cartoonist. Her first collection of short stories, Coming up Roses, was published in 2007, and followed her win of the 2006 Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition. She published the novel Dead People’s Music in 2009, followed by an illustrated novel The Fall of Light, published in 2013. She is a co-editor of Three Words: An Anthology of NZ/Aotearoa Women’s Comics, the author of Mansfield and Me: A Graphic Memoir and Let Me Be Frank, and has a regular comic strip in Woman Magazine.

Website: sarahelaing.com
Twitter: @SarahELaing
Instagram: @SarahELaing

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I always really loved illustrated books. I remember being entranced by the swirling 1970s illustrations in Margaret Mahy’s The Lion in the Meadow and immersed in Robert McCloskey’s meticulously rendered world of One Morning in Maine. My step-grandmother had a 1960s book about kids who transformed a garden and I remember wanting to swim in that pthalo green and wear a little white wool mini-coat whilst planting tulip bulbs. My dad grew up in the baby boomer generation where they sold weekly war comics down at the local dairy, and he made sure we were well stocked with Tintin, Asterix, Garfield and Charlie Brown. I remember the Far Side book arriving at our house in the mid-eighties, to be read until the spine split, and later, a visiting American scientist gifted us a few Calvin and Hobbes collections. I discovered Julie Doucet, Alison Bechdel and Tank Girl in the 90s, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that I really began seriously seeking out comics and thinking that it was something that I’d like to write.

Q: What is your average day like?

I have a 3-day-a-week job as a graphic designer for the government, and I often use my cartooning and illustration skills there. The other two days of the week I am either working on my Woman cartoon strip, due every second Thursday, or else I am drawing comics for a backyard bird rescue book I am working on with my friend, Jo Emeney.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

My most recent book was a collection of comics made during lockdown, The Covid-19 Diaries, and before that I selected comics from my blog for a collection called Let Me Be Frank. Although my regular Woman comic treads familiar ground, this time I have invented an alter-ego, Nomi, who is somewhat like me but has permission to have entirely invented adventures. I have recently switched from drawing on paper to using Procreate on my iPad. This makes things faster and the colours brighter, but I do worry that I am losing something – that raw, messy, spontaneous quality – by working digitally.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

At the moment I am very time-poor so my method is to wait until I am as close to the deadline as humanly possible and then blitz the comic with a little adrenalin. I do semi-regularly generate new comics in a notebook, although I am always losing notebooks, and half-formed ideas. I hope the ones that I remember are the ones that actually have potential. I also find myself making a lot of coffee and toast with peanut butter. I also really like Everything butter by Fix and Fogg.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

At the moment, because I am so deadline driven, and also working digitally, my dream comic project is to use watercolours and to be subconsciously and aesthetically driven. I’d like to live in a cottage by the sea, take long blustery walks, come back to my light-filled studio and then paint until a narrative emerges. I think I need some Scandy linen frocks, a wood burner and a bunch of wild flowers for this particular fantasy too. And a day bed for reading and naps.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m excited to share the incredible line-up of fellow panellists – Dylan Horrocks, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Michel Mulipola, Zak Waipara, Tara Black and Sam Orchard – I doubt I’ll get a word in edgeways! I guess my idea about comics is that you need to keep your eyes and ears open, as there are stories everywhere. Also, don’t worry too much about whether you are the world’s best drawer. Just as long as people get your meaning, it doesn’t matter. Your own style is unique. Lots of practice – that’s a good idea. If you look at the early days of my blog in 2010, and then now, you will see that I got better at drawing. I wouldn’t say practice makes perfect, but it does make you more fluent and better at perspective.

Sam Orchard talks about Comicfest 2021 and his practice

ComicFest 2021 website

Sam Orchard is the newly appointed Assistant Curator for the Cartoons and Comics archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library and one of the co-curators for ComicFest. Sam writes comics, and creates art that celebrates difference. His ongoing web comic ‘Rooster Tails’ has been running for over 10 years. Written from his life as a queer transgender man, the comic explores themes of mental health, fat embodiment, nerd culture and trans lives.

Sam is also the author of ‘Family Portraits’, a series of short comic stories that amplify the stories of intersectional identities within Aotearoa’s rainbow communities. Sam’s comics and resources about sexuality, sex and gender have been used internationally by SOGI advocates. Sam is currently working on his first full-length graphic novel.

Website: thesamorchard.com
Twitter: @sam_orchard
Instagram: @roostertails

As an accompaniment to the upcoming Comicfest , we recently had the pleasure of interviewing Sam  in conjunction with Caffeine and Aspirin arts and entertainment review show on Radioactive FM. The interview was conducted by Caffeine and Aspirin host Liam Wild.

And below is the podcast of that interview for your enjoyment:

5 minutes with Michel Mulipola

ComicFest 2021 website

Michel Mulipola is a comic book illustrator and professional wrestler. Auckland-based Mulipola is a self-taught award-winning artist who has produced illustrations for Learning Media, Lift Education, Reading Warrior and independent US graphic novel series Headlocked. In 2006 he won the Gibson Award for Best New Zealand Comic Book Artist, in 2013 he was a grand finalist in the Secret Walls x Aotearoa Live Art Battles, and in 2016 he was awarded the Storylines Notable Book Award for Samoan Heroes with author David Riley. An advocate for comic drawing and creative expression, Mulipola is keen to inspire young talent through regularly visiting schools and running workshops. In 2020 Mulipola published O Le Aiga Samoa with Nafanuatele Lafitaga Mafaufau, the first-ever Samoan language comic book.

Website: bloodysamoan.com
Twitter: @bloodysamoan
Instagram: @bloodysamoanart

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I fell in love with comics as small kid after finding my uncle’s stash. I became enamoured with the comics medium right from the first page.

Q: What is your average day like?

My days are always hectic with a mix of illustrating, business stuff, video games, school visits, community events, pro wrestling, Zoom meetings et al. Every day is a mixed bag because I don’t really keep a daily schedule, I play it by ear.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I recently finished an autobiographical comic that will be released as a School Journal by Lift Education. It will only be available in the Sāmoan and Tongan languages as resource for bilingual units in schools around Aotearoa. And I can’t say too much about it yet, but I am working with a very big video game company in developing a new game for one of their franchises.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I don’t have any rituals or traditions when I work. It’s literally eat, sleep (or lack thereof), draw, repeat.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

The comics medium itself has been my biggest inspiration though as a kid, I was heavily influenced by the late 80s/early 90s X-Men stuff from Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

It’s odd to think that some of my favourite NZ comics creators are also good friends of mine. I always enjoy work by Roger Langridge, Dylan Horrocks, Toby Morris, Ant Sang, Ben Stenbeck, Rachel Smythe and more. There is an abundance of amazing comic talent in Aotearoa and I am excited to see what will be created by future artists.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

As a kid who loved (and as an adult who still LOVES) superheroes, an opportunity to illustrate a comic story for Marvel or DC Comics is always on the bucket list. I’ve had amazing opportunities to draw some of my favourite pro wrestlers for the WWE Comics by BOOM! Studios. The closest I’ve gotten to thet Marvel dream is illustrating over 300 sketch cards for Upper Deck’s various Marvel trading card lines.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I don’t have too much to share at the moment. Maybe something about the next Headlocked Kickstarter campaign starting soon? With how untethered my day-to-day schedule is, I would not be surprised if something big comes along before ComicFest that I could possibly share with the audience.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I have had a propensity to cosplay in the past and I haven’t done one in quite a while. I would love to cosplay as either Thanos or Hunk from Voltron – the yellow paladin who is also Sāmoan. My current pro wrestling costume is inspired by Hunk.

5 minutes with Sam Orchard

ComicFest 2021 website

Sam Orchard is the newly appointed Assistant Curator for the Cartoons and Comics archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library and one of the co-curators for ComicFest. Sam writes comics, and creates art that celebrates difference. His ongoing web comic ‘Rooster Tails’ has been running for over 10 years. Written from his life as a queer transgender man, the comic explores themes of mental health, fat embodiment, nerd culture and trans lives.

Sam is also the author of ‘Family Portraits’, a series of short comic stories that amplify the stories of intersectional identities within Aotearoa’s rainbow communities. Sam’s comics and resources about sexuality, sex and gender have been used internationally by SOGI advocates. Sam is currently working on his first full-length graphic novel.

Website: thesamorchard.com
Twitter: @sam_orchard
Instagram: @roostertails

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I’ve always found comics to be a really helpful way of getting my feelings out. Sometimes I’m not so good at realising what’s going on, so I’ll sit with a piece of paper and pen and drawing helps me realise what I’m feeling, how to express myself, and usually helps me feel better too. It’s basically self-care.

Q: What is your average day like?

I’ve just started as the Assistant Curator of the Cartoons and Comics Archive, and I love it. I’m learning all about the amazing collection that we have here, and looking forward to adding to it over the coming years.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’m currently working on my first full-length graphic novel. It’s an adaptation of a Young Adult novel; a coming-of-age punk rock trans comic. It’s loud and proud, and exciting, and I’m thrilled to be working on it.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

My favourite way to warm up is to hop on twitter and ask people for suggestions of what to draw – then spend 30 seconds on each of the weird suggestions I get thrown my way.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I have a few ideas in the works, but I’m trying to finish my current project before I jump ahead of myself!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m really proud and excited about being part of the organising committee for ComicFest. There’s an incredible line up of comic creators, talks and interactive events. I really believe that there’s something for just about everyone – whether you’re a comic lover, a comic creator, or new to comics entirely.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I’d like to think that older Steven Universe would be my go to, but sadly I don’t have enough hair for that.

5 minutes with Jem Yoshioka

ComicFest 2021 website

Jem Yoshioka is an illustrator and comic artist living in Wellington, New Zealand. Deftly weaving words and pictures together, Jem’s comics tell evocative and emotional stories with themes of belonging, place, and heritage.

Her current webcomic, Folk Remedy, is a queer fantasy inspired by Taisho era Japan, folktales and monsters called Yokai. Jem’s previous webcomic a sci-fi romance called  Circuits and Veins, was completed in 2020, reaching 92,000 subscribers and still attracts tens of thousands of readers a month.

Jem’s work has been published in a range of local and international anthologies, including the 2020 publication Lockdown: tales from Aotearoa, published by Christchurch Art Gallery. She won first place in the Chromacon New Zealand Indie Arts Festival Comic Awards in 2013 and 2015 and was shortlisted in 2017.

Website: jemshed.com
Twitter: @jemyoshioka
Instagram: @jemyoshioka
Facebook: @jem.yoshioka.art

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I have always loved to tell stories and draw pictures, so in a way I feel like I was always on the path to comics. I read a lot as a kid and loved picture books fiercely.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work full time, so I do that, then come home and make comics. I’ve been cooking a lot of hotpot, so that’s been a nice thing to have on hand. Lately I’ve also been playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons, which is great because it forces me to socialise. Comics can be quite isolating!

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

Last year I finished my long-running webcomic, Circuits and Veins, and this year I’ve started Folk Remedy, which is set in a fantasy Japan during the 1920s and references a lot of Japanese folklore. I’ve been publishing it since April and I’m really proud of it so far.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I always have a spare doodle canvas open, so that if I’m struck by other ideas while I’m working on my comic I can draw them down. Usually nothing much comes of it, but it’s nice to have that little no-pressure space alongside my regular comics space.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

Last time I said my grandmother, Taeko. And that’s still true! But at the moment I’m really inspired and influenced by Japanese folklore and history, especially while working on Folk Remedy. I’m especially passionate about the stories of yokai, and their role of both shaping and reflecting Japan as a nation have been influential for hundreds of years, They were at risk of being lost during the Meiji restoration but a series of dedicated scholars across generations are keeping the stories, characters, and traditions alive for us and future generations. I love that these stories aren’t static, but adjust to what’s needed, and even new yokai are born all the time!

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

Of course Rachel Smythe, my closest friend. But I also love the work of Kay O’Neil, Alex Cara, Tara Black, Michel Mulipola, and so many others I’m forgetting.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I’m working on them! The thing with comics is you really have to love them to make them, they take so much work. I love working on projects connected to my heritage that get to reach heaps of people. Telling stories about Japanese diaspora, or fiction but from a Japanese diaspora lens is a huge passion of mine, and one that has been present in all my recent work. It’s the most rewarding thing, to have someone else who has struggled with their heritage tell me that my sharing of my journey has helped them with theirs. I hope that through my work I can continue to do this, to share these feelings.

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m keen to talk about the exciting potential that comics have as a medium! They’re honestly so powerful as a vehicle for creative storytelling, and I believe that the world will always need more people reading, creating and championing comics.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

Hecate from Lore Olympus. Fantastic style, barely contained chaos. I like that in a fictional character.

5 minutes with Toby Morris

ComicFest 2021 website

Toby Morris is an Auckland based cartoonist, illustrator and writer best known for non-fiction comics that investigate political and social issues. He produces the monthly series The Side Eye, published by The Spinoff, and is a four time winner of ‘Best Artwork/Graphics’ at the New Zealand media awards, and ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ winner for 2019 and 2020. He has written and illustrated several kids books and three graphic novels, including 2019’s Te Tiriti O Waitangi.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic he has colloborated with Dr Siouxsie Wiles, producing graphics that have been viewed millions of times around the world, and he is now producing graphics and animated videos for the World Health Organisation.

Twitter: @xtotl

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I was always realy into drawings, then when I was about 9 or so I got got given a stack of old Asterix and Tintin comics, and I just loved those.

Q: What is your average day like?

These days I’m a creative director at The Spinoff and Daylight Creative as well as working on my own comics, so a lot of the time I’m now working with other illustrators, helping them out, then still trying to find time to make my own comics too. It’s busy but I’m really enjoying it.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’m got a new book coming out in August that I’m really excited about – it’s called Dad Man Walking and it’s a collection of short comics and cartoons about the ups and downs of being a dad. Lots of what I’ve been working in in recent years has either been very serious politics or socal issues, or over the last year a lot of very serious science or public health graphics, so it was a bit of a change to work on something less serious.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

No not really – I end up working in all kinds of different times and places these days, I’ve had to get good at just getting on with it wherever I am or whatever is going on around me. If I’m working alone I quite like working with some background noise – either a podcast or sometimes a basketball game or a tv show that I’m not really watching.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

In terms of drawing style and storytelling I’ve always been very inspired by Herge. In terms of making comics journalism or non fiction comics Joe Sacco has been a huge inspiration.  Then there’s lots of other NZ comic artists I love, and political cartoonists too. And these days I’m working with lots of younger illustrators who make me want to push myself and try and new things.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

There’s so many! I feel really lucky to have the chance to commission some artists through our comic of the month series at my job at the Spinoff – I’ll forget people I’m sure, but I’m a huge fan of Ant Sang, Indira Neville, Giselle Clarkson, Sarah Laing, Zoe Colling, Kay O’Neil, Sloane Hong, Hana Chatani, Dylan Horrocks, Mat Tait, Stefan Neville, Dan Vernon, Michel Mulipola, Sharon Murdoch, Sam Orchard… there’s so many people making cool stuff!

Q: What is your dream comic project?

One where I can pause time and just work on one thing for a while! I’ve got an idea for a fictional series that I’d love to do one day. One day I’ll get time!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m really looking forward to meeting and talking with Selina Tusitala Marsh,  I love the Mophead books. I’ve always thought of them as comics, so I’m very excited to talk to her about that!

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I’d usually say Captain Haddock, but my hair is too long at the moment for that! Might have to be a werewolf or something, or Chewbacca maybe.

5 minutes with Giselle Clarkson

ComicFest 2021 website

Giselle Clarkson is a freelance illustrator and comic artist based near Wellington. Her science illustrations and comics can be found in all sorts of places, from bumper stickers and t-shirts, to Auckland Zoo and the NZ School Journal. She publishes a regular comic about children’s books online at The Sapling. Her recently illustrated books for children include The Gobbledegook Book: A Joy Cowley Anthology and Egg and Spoon: An Illustrated Cookbook (Gecko Press).

Website: giselledraws.com
Twitter: @giselledraws
Facebook: @GiselleDraws

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

When I was a kid I loved Tintin, The Far Side and books by Raymond Briggs but I didn’t realise they were “comics”. I often drew Far Side style cartoons of my own. It wasn’t until I was at university and started reading webcomics that I found cartoons made by women! Discovering stuff like Hark! A Vagrant, Hyperbole and a Half, and Nimona made me realise how broad and accessible the medium was – comics could be so many different things, and I could make them too.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work full-time as an illustrator and my studio is at home. I try to keep pretty standard office hours, but I’m a morning person so all my best work is done between about 7am and lunchtime, sometimes even earlier if I wake up with an idea and can’t fall back to sleep! The best part of working from home is never having to set an alarm clock, wearing track pants, and if a drawing’s not quite working – going out into the garden and pulling some weeds for a bit usually solves the problem.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

I make a mental plan for my workday the night before – if I wake up knowing what my goals are for the day I don’t dither and procrastinate! So in the morning I sit down at my desk with a cup of coffee, and read the news and my social media feeds until the coffee’s gone. Then I put on some music, a favourite radio show or an audiobook and get to it. I have to have something to listen to while I work or else my mind wanders too far away and then takes my body with it.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

My favourite picture books from childhood are what inspired me to write and illustrate in the first place, but it’s other people working and making comics and graphic novels in NZ right now that keep me motivated and inspire me to make new work.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

As part of my job I sometimes get to join scientists out in the field or on expeditions and then turn my experiences what I’ve learned into a comic – I just want to do more of that! I’ll always be up for combining my love for comics with my love for adventures in wild and remote places.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

Hilda from the books by Luke Pearson. I just need a long teal wig.

5 minutes with Zak Waipara

ComicFest 2021 website

Zak Waipara (Rongowhakaata, Ngāti Ruapani, Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu) is a lecturer in Digital Media, at AUT, and previously taught at Animation College. He has worked in animation for Māori Television’s children’s show Miharo, as a graphic artist at the NZ Herald, written and drawn comics and illustrated a range of books, and is completing a PhD on comics, children’s books and indigenous storytelling.

Website: zakwaipara.carbonmade.com

 

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

My Dad would buy comics for me and my two brothers from petrol stations, to entertain us on long car journeys. There was something incredibly engaging about comics. I was hooked from then on, always wanting to read them and then to try drawing my own.

Q: What is your average day like?

My days are always different. I teach in Digital Media at AUT, but am also studying toward a PhD. I still do freelance work (when I can manage it) and self-directed projects. My days are always busy! I try to fit in some exercise, and something creative where I can.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

Ōtea is a ongoing comic project for kids, based in the world of Māori myth and legend. The story follows Kurutai, a nature sprite of mysterious origin, and Mokotawhito, an ancient tuatara, as they attempt to retrieve the fragmented life-force of the island, before calamity occurs. The comic series incorporates lots of native flora and fauna, and supernatural beings (or Patupaiarehe), with amazing abilities, magical histories, as powerful and appealing as modern superheroes. Ōtea: Rock of Ages Parts 1 & 2 are published, and well as lots of side material, including some downloadable resources, which you can access here at Tales from Ōtea.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

A bad habit of mine is checking social media first thing, a better habit, when on deadlines, is to check my Google Calendar and Trello lists, if I have been organised enough to make them, and see what needs doing. I find music playing in the background, or a movie that doesn’t demand much attention, can be useful to keep me working.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

My father’s artwork growing up initially, and my Māori culture continues to inspire me. I was a big fan of X-men comics growing up. Studio Ghibli films are also a favourite of mine.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

It’s always possible to miss people out in a question like this, but I will mention some artists that I think deserve attention, Michel Mulipola, Ant Sang, Munro Te Whata, and up and coming artist Lincoln Moa, Jem Yoshioka, Katie O’Neill, Alex Cara, Sarah Lund, Li Chen, and Rachel Smythe. I am also quite fond of the Captain Sunshine comics from the 1970s, illustrated by Colin Wilson.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

This is a hard one, I have so many projects I want to tackle. Some small, some large. I sometimes wonder whether given the chance, whether I would like to work on a big franchise property like Marvel or DC, but I remind myself, that I have my own work that needs completing!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I might be able to show some of the work on my current PhD projects, depending on the format on the day, since I have lots of work-in-progress art in prototype book form.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

Some students have called me Tony Stark on occasion, but I think it is really only the facial hair and my tendency to wear Iron Man t-shirts!

5 minutes with Dylan Horrocks

Dylan Horrocks has been writing and drawing comics, graphic novels, cartoons, and prose fiction for more than 30 years, including Hicksville, Sam Zabel & the Magic PenBatgirl, and Hunter: the Age of Magic. His work has been published around the world in various languages and won the Eisner Award and the Sir Julius Vogel award, among others. He currently lives in Wellington, where he teaches comics and visual narrative at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Design Innovation and is drawing a graphic novel about fantasy role-playing games.

Website: hicksvillecomics.com
Twitter: @dylanhorrocks

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I’ve loved comics for as long as I can remember (partly thanks to my Dad, who kept me well supplied with a range of old classics and obscure contemporary stuff – from Carl Barks and Tintin to Edward Gorey and Zap comics). I grew up wanting to write stories and draw pictures, so comics just seemed like a natural form.

Q: What is your average day like?

I currently teach comics and visual narrative at the Victoria University of Wellington School of Design Innovation (phew!), so my days are often busy with classes and post-graduate supervision. When I can, I’m writing or drawing (in notebooks or on the computer). I relax with a book or TV (I love weird old movies from the 1930s-50s). And about once a week, I spend the evening playing role-playing games (like Dungeons & Dragons) with friends.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’m working on a bunch of projects, but who knows when they’ll see the light of day? The ones I’m most focused on at the moment all come from my life-long obsession with role-playing games (not just D&D but also innovative indie games, etc). I’ve been researching the history of the form and exploring different ways of thinking about story and narrative inspired by gaming. I’m even designing my own RPG rules. I’ve also self-published two issues of a little side-project, a series of zines called Darkest Dungeons. It’s inspired by an infamous 1985 religious comic about how D&D is a Satanic cult, but I’m retelling their deliciously lurid story with added context and new perspectives. It’s way too much fun!


Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

One thing I do is alternate between working on fancy paper, in a cheap notebook, and on the computer. Whenever I get stuck, I shift to a different medium and often that gets me going again. It’s like each format uses a different part of my brain. Recently I’ve also been drawing on an iPad Pro (in Clip Studio). I still love drawing on paper, but it’s interesting learning a new set of tools.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

There are so many! Hergé’s Tintin is a huge influence on my work. But one New Zealand cartoonist who’s had a big impact on me is Barry Linton. He drew comics for more than 40 years, and left behind an extraordinary body of work. I hope someone gets it all back into print soon. Other recent inspirations include American cartoonist Gabrielle Bell (whose diary comics are hilarious and lyrical) and, from Britain, Gareth Brookes, who made the art for his most recent graphic novel using pyrography and embroidery!

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

I’ve already mentioned Barry Linton and there are other earlier NZ cartoonists I’m fascinated by: Eric Resetar, Harry Bennett, and Jack Raeburn (all of who were publishing locally in the 1940s and 1950s). Rita Angus drew some gorgeous newspaper strips in the 1930s (as Rita Cook). And Joe Wylie, Laurence Clark, and Colin Wilson (along with Barry Linton and others) made fascinating comics in Strips magazine in the 1970s.

There are so many amazing cartoonists working in NZ right now and their work is reaching an ever-wider audience: Sarah Laing, Toby Morris, Tara Black, Ross Murray, Mat Tait & Courtney Sina Meredith, Ant Sang, Katie O’Neill, Ben Stenbeck, Rachel Smythe, Jem Yoshioka, Michel Mulipola, Li Chen, Sam Orchard, Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom (among others) are all getting well-deserved attention for their graphic novels or webcomics. And there are countless people whose work I try to follow: Alex Cara, Timothy Kidd, Brent Willis, Indira Neville, Laya Rose, Sally Bollinger, Karl Wills, Andrew Burdan, Kirsten Slade – and so many more!

A cartoonist whose work over the past 40-odd years really needs collecting is Tim Bollinger. He’s drawn so many gorgeous, complex, utterly New Zealand comics for various magazines, newspapers, and zines; I’d love to see them brought together between two covers. These days, I get to see loads of amazing students’ comics, too. Look out for one of our former students, Liliana Mañetto Quick, on The Spinoff, where she draws a delicious regular comic about eating in Wellington. I know I’ve left out too many names in this brief list: there’s far too much wonderful work being made!

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I have so many dream projects and I’m working on several of them right now. The elusive dream is to find enough time to actually finish them….!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

Mostly I’m excited to see so many local cartoonists and enthusiastic readers. I’ll bring some of what I’m working on, too.

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

Blue from Bob Kerr & Stephen Ballantyne’s Terry & the Gunrunners.