Monday, July 9, 2012

Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr Interview Part One of Two

Originally intended for publication in Milk Shadow Books anthology title YUCK, a couple years ago, the following interview ended up unused and was passed on to me by Milk Shadow Books Head Honcho James Andre. As S.C.A.R, Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr, have produced some of Australia's most provocative comics garnering fans all over the globe with their uncompromising visions of the distant past and the far flung future. I hope to do a follow up interview with them to touch on what they have been up to in recent times.

Find Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr online here.
Find Milk Shadow Books here.

Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr Interview by James Andre

When most people think Australian comics, they think of that rascal Ginger Meggs, or maybe the majestic gaze of The Phantom. They probably don’t think of vomitous mutilating mutants with the sex organs of humans. They should. But maybe they’ve never heard of SCAR.

Yuck Magazine recently grabbed Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr by the shoulders, and shook them for an explanation.
 
Panel from Charnel House #1

What sparked both your interests in art?

Art itself. We have both always had an inherent talent and interest in it. We’ve always been attracted to visual things. It was the surrealists, Bosch, Ernst, Bruegel, Magritte, Dali, etc, and early images of pulp SF and horror that inspired us, along with comic books from the 1960s, primarily Gold Key SF fantasy and early Marvel comic art, Kirby and Dikto, specifically.

Another inspiration was 1950s SF films and TV shows like The Outer Limits, etc. In fact, we are both more oriented towards SF and weird fantasy rather than horror, even though we often include gory content in our work. Well before the time either of us had actually seen an EC comic, we had been independently creating grotesque and surreal comic art and illustrations.

How was SCAR formed?

We met at a comic book artists and writers meeting in Sydney in 1991 and discovered that we had very common artistic tastes and interests. Turned out we were creatively compatible and made a pretty good team. Both of us have been able to do much more together than either of us ever could have achieved on an individual basis.


What equipment/materials did you start the company with?

We are not a company. We simply work together on many art, writing and musical projects. So far as art, comics and writing are concerned, in the beginning we used the basics – pencils, rubbers, pens, paper, inks and cheap printers or Photostat machines.

How has that changed now with the prevalence of computer graphics technology?

Some layouts, scripts and colouring are produced with the assistance of a computer these days. We also use the computer when it comes to our electronic music, mainly to manipulate and process rhythms and noise.

Was it hard to find printers willing to print your material?

In the early days of Phantastique magazine there were problems. Issue #2 was delayed by several weeks because a printer freaked out over the content. There is also the issue of cost. Printing is expense in Australia.

These days, we’ve had very few problems over the content, even our most graphic images, which are far more extreme than anything that was ever in Phantastique. In fact, our current printer likes us, along with most of our work.

Phantastique #4

Steve, you were part of Phantastique. Could you tell us about your involvement with the Phantastique controversy?

Phantastique magazine was financed by a small grant ($5,000) and a loan ($20,000) from the Office of Small Business. The $5,000 was for capital only and the $20,000 was paid out in increments as specific expenses arose, production, advertising, etc. These funds were also to be paid back in monthly instalments from incoming profits.

Issue #1 of Phantastique was released in 1985. The final issue (#4) appeared on the newsstands late in 1986. I was the creative director, as well as contributing art and stories. There was an instant controversy over the content - explicit depictions of gory violence. Consequently, issues #3 and #4 were banned in QLD, SA and WA.

The loudest critics did not come from the conservative Right, as one would assume, but from the authoritarian Leftists. Stories such as Jungle Ghoul Girls, which appeared in issue #4, were seen as being “highly offensive” and labelled as “ideologically unsound”. However, various conservatives and moral reformists also condemned the magazine, its creators and content. The controversy raged on talkback radio and on TV news and Current Affairs programmes for nearly a month.

 Sequence from The Fuglies

Have either of you ever had any interest in producing art or writing for mainstream comics for companies such as Dark Horse etc?

We certainly have. Our work has been published by Dark Horse and Eros/Fantagraphics, among others, as well as appearing in Australian national weekly magazines produced by ACP, Next Media, Gemkilt, etc. We are always interested in mainstream publishers and the possibility of a wider exposure, not to mention making a living off our art and writing.

Currently, much of our work is in very limited release and consists of small runs. Some of this material is very extreme and not particularly “mainstream friendly”. Despite this, it’s very much in demand throughout the counter-culture. Many of our readers also claim that they have difficulty obtaining our material. Support from mainstream publishers and a broader, more commercial release would go a long way in resolving this problem.


What’s the story with the banning of Spore Whores?

The Spore Whores trilogy, along with Femosaur World and Kill of the Spyderwoman were produced for Eros/Fantagraphics. The Office of Film and Literature Classification banned all three issues of Spore Whores in the early 1990s after a package containing our complimentary copies of Femosaur World and Spore Whores #1 was seized by Australian Customs and forwarded by them to the OFLC.

Due to its content of graphic and explicit depictions of gory sexual violence, Spore Whores #1 was immediately banned in Australia. Issues #2 and #3 soon suffered the same fate. However, Spore Whores remained on sale in various comic book specialty stores for some time afterwards; the banning was never widely publicised. Some stores were raided and their stock was confiscated or impounded.

 Page from Once Upon A Time In Australia

Besides influences such as Tales From The Crypt and horror comics, what are some of the influences behind your art, both visually and the writing style?


There are countless influences: Death Metal, Black Metal and prog rock art are a source of inspiration, not to mention the music. SF authors such as H. G. Wells, Harry Harrison, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Sheckley, John Sladek, Bruce Jones and Fredric Brown have had a lasting impact.

Influential horror authors include David Case, Alex White, Nancy A Collins, and Joe R Lansdale. Early fantasy writers like Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E Howard, Lovecraft and others were among our earliest influences, along with the Pan Books of Horror.

Visually and conceptually, our work would have evolved very differently had we not been exposed to concepts like dadaism and Cubism, etc, Ray Harryhausen films and their modern counterparts, as well as primitive and tribal art.

Of equal importance are negative influences, such as mediocre ideas and anti-progressive and prohibitive ideology. These things often motivate us to create something that we find inspiring, regardless of any “barriers” or “limitations” that are transgressed in the process.

There’s a strong portrayal of females in your work. The villains seem to almost all be female. Any reason for this?
We think female villains are way sexier than lame do-gooder heroines like Xena and Wonder Woman. And they are fun to draw. Besides, the traditional “male villain” archetypes have been fully explored in a myriad of ways. There’s a kind of freshness to the idea of using female villains that makes them more appealing to us than your average generic bad guy. However, that’s not to say that male villains are no longer relevant or that female villains are anything especially new.

When it comes to art, fiction and fantasy, we are both interested in and inspired by the concept and images of hyper-predatory females. Global legend and mythology is full of female monsters and demonic goddesses of destruction – Lilith, Hecate, Kali, Echidna, Tiamat, Medusa, harpies, banshees, lamiae, etc.

These powerful female archetypes have endured throughout history. They provide a diverse source of inspiration for storylines, concepts and characters. There is a plethora of subtext and themes – social, political and Freudian - just waiting to be explored through these archetypes.

Panel from The Fuglies

All images copyright 2012 Steve Carter and Antoinette Rydyr. Interview copyright 2012 James Andre.

3 comments:

Richard Van said...

Beautiful! I admire your page on Facebook and would love to get my hands on actual physical copies of the work some day. As I'm in the USA, Texas, this may be difficult.

I had no idea you'd seen such censorship push back in your careers; over here, if you fly under the radar, no one seems to notice much. Then again, people wander around in urban spaces with pistols. Different culture.

I look forward to the next part of the interview.

Richard Van Ingram

Seth Baker said...

One of the first things I show new friends is the Spore Whores short series of comics. I love seeing the initial astonishment and the inevitable arousal gradually wash over them. They've actually gotten me laid a couple of times, honest to God. Since the first day I read these crazy books, my one big pipe dream has been to turn them into a major motion picture. Y'know, with a two hundred million dollar budget, directed by James Cameron or some shithead like that that'll guarantee it gets a huge distribution. I would produce and the original authors would adapt the screenplay. Everyone cool would love it and conservative fools (along with liberal, apparently) the world over would go apeshit about it, providing the film with millions of dollars of free publicity. I will never give up this pipe dream. But enough about me - thanks for publishing this interview! Very interesting to get all the names of SCAR's influences. It will provide me with lots more reading material. Why it wasn't published in the originally planned book... Well, it doesn't take a large IQ to guess why. Most people are terrified vanilla idiots!

Seth Baker said...

I retract my comment about Milk Shadow Books. It was wrong to call them terrified vanilla idiots. They are awesome, and I regret the error.