Sunday, July 28, 2013

Nexus Comics Issue: Ant Sang Interview 2006

In mid 2006 Nexus Magazine designer Matt Scheurich took inspiration from a recent comics issue of Vice magazine and produced a comics-centric issue of the Waikato University magazine for their 7th August 2006 edition. The full colour magazine featured cartoons from local contributors as well articles and regular columns in cartoon form. Matt interviewed a few New Zealand cartoonists including Ant Sang.

Ant Sang Interview by M. Schuerich.

Ant Sang made his name in New Zealand comics initially with his DIY effort Filth but more break-through was with his serial comic Dharma Punks. If you're still lost, then you might know Ant from the TV series Bro'town as he was the character designer for the denizens of Morningside. I hit him up on some questions to get the low-down on his opinions, ideas and work.

What originally got you into comic creation?

I've drawn cartoons for as long as I can remember but I didn't start producing comics until the early 1990s, when I discovered "alternative" and autobiographical comics... stuff like Dan Clowes' -Eightball" and Chester Brown's "Yummy Fur" and "Ed the Happy Clown".

How do you think New Zealand comics are being perceived by New Zealanders themselves?

I don't think most New Zealanders are even aware of New Zealand comics!

Do you prefer working on comics with other people or by yourself'?

Comics are a very personal form of self-expression for me, so I really like to work by myself. Doing comics isn't really a fun process, it's just something I feel compelled to do.

How viable do you think comic creation and illustration is as a job in New Zealand?

Doing comics as a viable career in NZ is very difficult.. almost an impossibiity really! Doing illustration work is pretty difficult too, but not nearly as hard as basing earnings around comics. With illustration there are a lot more opportunitys and outlets for work such as advertising, children's books, working with design studios etc etc.

What are your impressions of the current New Zealand comic scene? It's a really diverse yet tiny scene. 

There is a whole spectrum of artists working in different genres and towards different goals. Some are seriously trying to make a living from comics while there are a lot of hobbyists who do it for fun. Despite this, most cartoonists seem to know each other or at least know about each other and what we're all up to.

What kind of elements and themes do you try to include in your own creations?
Whatever interests me at the time. Big themes about life, death and why were here seem to crop up a hell of a lot in my work. This isn't a conscious theme I've chosen to explore.., its just that I'm fascinated by this stuff so it winds up in my work.
What do you like appreciating the most out of yours or someone else's comics?

The comics I enjoy the most are ones where the writing and art complement each other seamlessly, neither overwhelming the other. Another thing that makes a good read is a comic which has emotional power and which gives me some heightened sense of being alive.., and these are qualities that I strive for in the comics I create.

What do you think the future has in store for New Zealand comics? 

I suspect NZ comics will continue to exist beneath the radar of mainstream New Zealand. despite our best efforts...

What comics have you been reading lately?

 "Louis Riel" by Chester Brown. "100%" by Paul Pope. -It's a Good Life If You Don't Weaken" by Seth and -Shaolin Cowboy- by Geoff Darrow.

Your 'Filth series is essentially the beginnings of `Dharma Punks'. How did 'Filth' start?
I was inspired by the DIY ethic of alternative and autobiographical comics and thought 'yeah, I can do that!' and just started writing. It was a particularly confusing and angst-ridden period of my life and "Filth" was a natural expression of that.

What kind of themes were you trying to convey with 'Dharma Punks'?

"Dharma Punks" was my attempt at making sense of the "Filth" era of my life. It was also time to move on from "Filth- and -Dharma Punks" was a way of closing that particular chapter.

On your website you mention that you are working on a 'Dharma Punks' script for film. How is that progressing?

Very, very slowly. Though in the last few months I've made a few breakthroughs. I've set myself a deadline.., by the end of this year I will have the first draft finished, fingers crossed.

Doing the character design for the cartoon show "Bro'town" must have been a fun job. How exactly did you get it? 

The show's producer, Elizabeth Mitchell. tracked me down when she heard about "Dharma Punks". She asked me to try out designing some rough ideas of the main characters and luckily she and the Naked Samoans liked what they saw. And yes. its been great working on the show!

How did you come about the design of the characters for "Bro'town"? Did you base them on well-known New Zealand personalities?

Yeah, four of the five main characters are based on the four Naked Samoans, who are the writers and performers of bro'Town... so I had to design teenage, cartoon versions of them and from there had to design the rest of the characters of Morningside.

With your illustration work in publications like Pavement and The Fix, do you generally have free creative will in deciding the final outcome of the works you do for them?

The Fix has been really good about any illustration stuff. Richard either likes it or not and so either accepts it or not I've only done a few illustrations/ comics for Pavement and I've had no problems with them either. They're so supportive of local comics, it's great
'Dharma Punks seems to be one of the very few comic serials you've had completed and printed.

Are you working on anymore comics or are you concentrating more on different avenues?
I'm currently working fulltime on series 3 of bro'Town. Apart from that I'm working on the Dharma Punks script and yeah, I'm also working on my next comic project which will involve kungfu and Shaolin monks and plenty more...

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