Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Zealand Pictorial - The Seekers

The New Zealand Pictorial magazine was published fortnightly between January 1954 and December 1955 by New Zealand Newspapers Ltd. A large format magazine, New Zealand Pictorial was filled with black and white photography and national news stories. Cartoons and comic strips featured throughout the two year run of publication with American Harold Foster's Prince Valiant a mainstay on the last page and Englishmen Syd Jordan's early work on Jeff Hawke featuring during 1955.

Local cartooning work also featured with panel gags by Auckland cartoonist Neil Lonsdale (1907-1989) and a comic strip, Nez and Zena, by recent immigrant to Auckland, Merton Lacey, (1902-1996). Several issues featured behind the scenes coverage of the first major studio film produced in New Zealand, The Seekers, based on the novel by John Guthrie (real name John Brodie).

The following comic strip adaption of The Seekers featured in the July 26th, 1954 issue of  New Zealand Pictorial. Sadly the artist is not credited. It is possibly the work of an artist that illustrated some true life stories in later issues which were also uncredited.
Severalmagazuines1 (1907- by re1989)907-1989)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

New Comics from Peter Foster


2012 will see releases and re-issues of comics by Melbourne Cartoonist Peter Foster. Foster has had a distinguished career illustrating thousands of pages of comics for DC Thomson in England as well numerous comics in Australia. In the 1980's it was not uncommon to find a DC Thomson comic with two if not three of Foster's stories in it. The Return of the Night Eagle is Foster's re-invention of Carl Lyon's Australian superhero of the '40s, The Eagle, as a legacy hero.
 Carl Lyon's The Eagle

Interior page from Peter Foster's The Night Eagle

Early 2012 will also see the publication of Peter Foster's out of print adaption of the classic Australian novel, For The Term of His Natural Life, by Marcus Clarke. Initially released in a black and white edition in 1986, well before the term 'graphic novel' was commonplace, this new edition is in full colour with additional material about the background and genesis of this project. As well as these Foster is currently working on full colour editions of his newspaper strip in collaboration with James Kemsley Snr, Ballantyne.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A S Paterson

I recently came in to possession of several hundred clippings of Alan Stuart Paterson's (1902-1968) daily cartoons from The Dominion created whilst he was their first staff cartoonist from 1925-1950.

From Susan E. Foster's Profile at Te Ara,

 "Paterson worked his cartoons out in his mind at night, then drew them in the morning, usually taking 1½ to two hours. In his early drawings the influence of Phil May and a young David Low can be seen before he developed his own fluid, economical style."

Over the years Paterson also illustrated many books and publications for A. W. Reed depicting the life and times of New Zealand in the early twentieth century.

As well as his skill as a cartoonist Paterson was an accomplished water colourist with three books of watercolour work published posthumously that saw multiple printings with sales of over 100,000 copies.

From NZ Herald cartoonist G. E Minhinnick. O.B E. foreword to Paterson's book of watercolour puns, The Bull Pen,

"His friends will remember him as a gentle and whimsical philosopher, with a glorious sense of the absurd. They will remember him, too as an artist an illustrator of distinction and a quiet man."

Over the course of Paterson's daily strips for The Dominion he recorded customs, attitudes  and social mores of early twentieth century New Zealand that show remarkable differences to the New Zealand of today.

Click to Embiggen






Self-portrait from Professor Paterson's Book of Engaging Birds

Sources: Susan E. Foster. 'Paterson, Alan Stuart - Biography', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 1-Sep-10 URL:, G.E Minhinnick's foreword to The Bull Pen 1968

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Roger Langridge

New Zealand born cartoonist Roger Langridge has been especially prolific in recent years with high profile gigs on The Muppet Show and Thor The Mighty Avenger. Recently Boom Comics published a collection of Langridge's independent work from the last twenty years as well as launching a new title, Snarked!, featuring characters from the works of Lewis Caroll. I asked him a few questions about his recent comics.

The Show Must Go On collects material from the last 20 years, was there any temptation to touch up any of your older work?

Oh, yes! I'm always tempted, and I was actually ready to redraw one story entirely, but I just ran out of time. In retrospect I think I was right to leave it alone - the work in that book is an accurate reflection of what I was capable of at the time, and I'm happy to send it out into the world in that spirit.

Much of the material in The Show Must Go On is in the absurdist vein that is a constant of your work going back to strips you did in New Zealand. Where did this develop from?

I've always loved oddball, surreal/absurdist humour, ever since I was a kid - I guess it was the Goon Show that really turned me on to that strain of comedy. Spike Milligan was, and remains to this day, my favourite comedian of all time. And I've explored his influences - people like the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields - and those who were later influenced by him, which is pretty much everybody (most obviously the Pythons, but you could write a book on the Spawn of Spike). So, yeah - blame the Milligan.

Your recent all-ages material is a rare example of kids-friendly comics that adults can also enjoy. Do you find it easy to write for this combined audience?

Pretty easy, yes; it's not like I'm gagging to write skeezy sex scenes or graphic decapitations, so any compromises I might have to make to appeal to a general audience tend to be pretty insignificant ones. And even those are arguably improving the work - for example, if I avoid having characters swearing, I'm forced to find other, more original ways to get across the same idea, and that just forces me to be more creative. The bottom line, though, is that I'm just writing the kinds of comics I want to read, and assuming that my tastes aren't so rarefied that nobody else will agree with me.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger was great example of this, do you think mainstream comics would benefit from writing for a broader audience even if it risked alienating their core fan-boy base?

This is a big, sticky can of worms! The short answer is yes, but only if those comics are actually sold in places where a general audience might stumble across them, and I don't see any signs of that happening. My brief on Thor: TMA was to write the book for a general, non-comic-shop audience - which I did - but then they cancelled it before the book versions had even hit the general bookstores, so it was only ever available in comic book specialty stores - where, of course, it sank like a stone. There's not much point in writing for a wider audience if they can't actually find it.

Is there much material left in the Langridge archive? can we expect another collection like The Show Must Go?

Not too much. I've got a bunch of unpublished Fred the Clown strips which only ever appeared online - I'm considering doing something with the best of those, though of course the reason many of them were never previously published is because they weren't up to scratch. Some of them could benefit from being redrawn, at the very least. And I guess there's a lot of stuff from Zoot! (me and my brother Andrew's 1990s Fantagraphics series) which could conceivably be collected. Actually, yeah! There's still quite a bit of stuff out there, now that I think about it.

What inspired you to create your own story using Lewis Carroll's characters for Snarked?

It was the result of a few things colliding together. I'd been thinking about doing a direct adaptation of The Hunting of the Snark and trying to shop it around, until it came to my attention that Mahendra Singh had just done one. And I'd had an itch (still do, actually) to attempt a daily web strip featuring the Walrus and the Carpenter as a kind of vaudevillian double-act. Also, I was quite keen to attempt writing something long-form with a definite beginning, middle and end after attempting the same with Thor: The Mighty Avenger and not getting a chance to see it through. When Boom! approached me and asked if I had any ideas for a new project, it actually took me a very long time to realise that I could mash all three of these urges together into one book.

I was tinkering around with an idea about a trio of bin-men in a dystopian future for a few weeks there until the "eureka" moment finally arrived! It seemed to make so much sense when it all came together - the Carroll characters are essentially already known to a general audience, even if my spin on them isn't quite what they expect, so my reasoning was that it would be a much easier sell with that germ of recognition already there; plus, it gives me a chance to do a lot of the stuff - silly rhymes, odd-looking animal and human characters bumping into one another - that I was doing in the Muppet Show books without having to contrive a reason for it. With Carroll, that's already there.

Did you use any visual cues for depicting Carrolls characters for Snarked?

You mean like Tenniel's illustrations? Not really - I was quite keen to make the interpretations as much my own as I could. There are certain things you can't avoid, like the Mad Hatter having the price tag sticking out of his hat, which are so entrenched that to lose them would be to lose a part of the character. But I've mostly tried to pull the designs in my own unique direction. I suppose the Holiday illustrations from The Hunting of the Snarked were the ones I stuck to, if any - the Snark crew haven't been as freely interpreted over the years as the Wonderland characters, so there's less room to manoeuvre. Even those looked like Holiday via the Goon Show once I was through with them, though.

The world of Snarked! has a very distinctive colour palette, is there much collaboration between yourself and your colourists?

I kind of let Rachelle Rosenberg, who does the colouring, get on with it - the editor, Bryce Carlson, sent me a few colouring samples to begin with and they were all very good, but Rachelle's really stood out, so I'm really just trying to keep out of her way! I agree it's a very distinctive palette - gives the whole book a bit of extra zing, I think. Anyway, I'm very pleased with the way it's looking. My only input was to decide the colour schemes of the major characters to begin with. The rest is entirely down to Rachelle.

What was the appeal of having characters of an unscrupulous nature as your leads in Snarked?

Again, it goes back to my love of that early 20th-Century entertainment - Laurel and Hardy, W.C. Fields and Chaplin all played bums or scoundrels, sometimes both at the same time, and my all-time favourite comic characters were all deeply flawed individuals (Scrooge McDuck, Wimpy, Barney Google etc.) - so there's a tradition. Also, it gives me somewhere to take the characters - something I'm hoping to achieve as the series goes on is to show the Walrus discovering his (few) redeeming qualities through sheer force of circumstance, as he finds himself with no choice but to rise to the occasion. Starting him off as a scoundrel makes that journey a lot more interesting.

Are you satisfied with the balance you have between working on licensed properties and your own projects?

I'd always prefer to work entirely on my own stuff, but working on corporate stuff pays the bills, so you do what you have to. I'm always striving to find myself in a position where I can just say no to all that, though.

Are you involved in any community of cartoonist's in London?

I don't get out much these days! There's the small matter of having a family - if I do get any time away from work, I quite like to spend it with them. I find myself in the slightly odd position of only seeing people who live in London in other cities, when we both attend comic conventions away from home!

All images copyright 2011 Roger Langridge
Interview conducted via email Oct 2011

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Russell Clark


Two page comic by Russell Clark and 'Augustus'  from the N.Z. Listener Nov 12, 1954
Special Thanks to Brent Willis for Scans

From an early age Russell Clark (1905-1966) showed and interest and ability in art and with his parents encouragement he attended evening classes at the Canterbury College School of Art in 1922 before switching to day classes from 1923-1928. During this time he also joined the staff as a part-time member and began exhibiting locally and elsewhere in New Zealand. An avid painter, sculptor and illustrator, Clark was extremely prolific over the course his life, he encouraged his students to take pencil and sketchbook with them everywhere and to never let a day go by without sketching something or someone.

School Journal Illustrations

Cartoons from The New Zealand Listener

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Betty Roland

Betty Roland was born Mary Isobel Maclean at Kaniva in Victoria in 1903. Over the course of her life she wrote plays, screenplays, novels, childrens books and comics. After a start in journalism during her teens, Roland wrote highly regarded plays in the twenties with her award winning play, A Touch of Silk, performed and radio broadcast many times over the years, most recently on Australia's ABC Radio National earlier this year. After the failure of her first marriage Roland booked passage to England and upon the voyage began a relationship with wealthy Marxist intellectual Guido Baracchi, one of the founders of the Australian Communist Party. After experiences in the USSR and Nazi Germany Roland's later work became agitprop and of a political nature. After separation from Baracchi in the 40's Roland supported herself and her young daughter writing radio plays and a daily comic strip, The Conways, for The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Conways was illustrated by commercial artist John Santry and ran from 10th November 1946 to the middle of 1949 when it was replaced by American strip Kit Conquest. In 1952 Roland moved to England and wrote for magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, Woman's Weekly, and Woman's Own. She also wrote adventure strips and stories for Eagle's companion comic Girl and their younger counter-part Swift. In 1951 she legally changed her name to her pen name Betty Roland.

Roland moved back to Australia in 1961 and wrote many novels in her latter years as well as helping found the Australian Society of Authors. Steve Holland at Bear Alley has an excellent article covering her work in English comics.

Angela and the Runaway Heiress from Girl Annual 1962. Written by Betty Roland and illustrated by Dudley Pout.

Sources: Steve Holland at , Panel By Panel - John Ryan, Girl Annual 1962, National Library of Australia

Thanks to Phil Rushton from the forums for tipping me off to Betty Roland

Stitt Autobiographics

Guest's gathered in RMIT's Storey Hall on Tuesday 15 Sept to celebrate the launch of Alexander Stitt's, Stitt Autobiographics, from Melbourne publisher Hardie Grant. An over-sized coffee table book, Stitt Autobiographics features over 1800 illustrations drawn from Stitt's fifty year career in graphic design. Animation stills, Advertising campaigns, comic strips, credit sequences, childrens books and more are included demonstrating Stitt's stylistic use of imagery in various aspects of Australian media.

From the Hardie Grant press release:

Stitt's virtuosity is the stuff of legend among his family, friends, colleagues, clients and associates. He singlehandedly produced some of the first television commercials ever seen in Australia before he turned 20. Stitt Autobiographics started as a digital assembly of work produced over Stitt's 50-year career as a graphic designer and evolved into a personal account of how, why and for whom the work happened, who helped and how it all worked out. The book includes more than 1800 illustrations, as well as pages of comic strips and whole small books, storyboards and film title frames. It has some terrible flops as well as some fabulous success stories. Like most of what Alex Stitt creates, the book is a one-off original.

Buy a copy of Stitt Autobiographics with free shipping and at half retail price here.

Alex Stitt watches as Phillip Adams alludes to their creative circle having been replaced by  replicants from Philip K. Dick novel 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?'

 Alex Stitt and cartoonist Peter Foster.