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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oz Comic-Con Melbourne 2012

The Inaugural Melbourne Oz Comic Con was plagued with issues, mainly stemming from the overselling of tickets, creating an overcrowded Exhibition Centre with many ticket holders locked out while entry was temporarily closed on both days to ease congestion.

The OZ Comic Con facebook page was rife with negative feedback over the weekend from many disappointed punters. Negative comments were going up faster than Oz Comic Con could delete them with threads reaching at some points 400-500 comments.

The news wasn't all bad though. Many punters enjoyed the show and appreciated the rare opportunity to meet pop culture icons and made their thoughts known online. Also every guest and creator in artist alley I've heard from have reported positively about their Oz Comic Con experience with the general impression being this convention attracted more comic readers in contrast to other pop culture events. Perth publisher Gestalt Comics sold out of three of their titles, with James Brouwer and Tom Taylor's The Deep: Here Be Dragons marking three weeks of sellouts after the Sydney and Perth Supanovas. There was also a substantial turn out of comic dealers and stores hosting booths with several out of state appearances and swarms of people actively digging through long-boxes.

Hopefully the negative publicity of this convention will not effect future Oz-cons. I'm certain the organisers have taken these teething problems on-board and will be better prepared in future. In the last few years the amount of good local comics being produced has vastly increased and conventions like this are the perfect place for them to find an audience.

David Holloway writes about the Oz-comic con here.
Bobby N has a round up and photos here.
ABC footage here.
YBNews blog post here.
Sky news video here.
Herald Sun story.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Paper Trail

Melbourne writer/artist Jason Franks reveals a preview of his second volume of  The Sixsmiths. Following his collaboration with artist J Marc Schmidt on the first volume for Top Shelf Comics, the sequel will features multiple artists including Dean Rankine.

Illustration and comics: Ralphi

Australian Cartoonists Association President Jason Chatfield goes to war for comics in newspapers with some radio idiots here. Chatfield speaks with Lindsay Foyle on newspaper strips here.

Guerilla Pussy are seeking queer themed comic submissions by 31st July.

Emmet O’Cuana at The Momus Report writes about several Australian comics purchased at the Sydney Supanova over here , here, here and here.

At the Melbourne Oz Comic Con this weekend Milk shadow Books release two new mini's, Cartoondelia by Rio de Janeiro cartoonist Johandson Rezende and Zoonmini #1 by Fil Barlow. Zoonmini #1 is a preview for Barlow's forthcoming Zooniverse collection collecting remastered material previously published by Eclipse Comics.

Australia's first open comics studio Squishface as featured on The Circle earlier this year.

FourPlay String  Quartet perform their soundtrack to Roger Langridge's silent comic Nowhere Special at TEDxSydney Saturday 26 May 2012.

The Australian Cartoon Museum have uploaded a series of video profiles and interviews produced by Rolf Heimann featuring some of Australia's finest cartoonists. View their youtube channel here.

This week Pikitia Press will feature an interview with Alex Hallatt one of the rare breed of cartoonists that has achieved syndication with Kings Feature Syndicates Inc. whilst working from New Zealand and Australia.

In the works at Pikitia Press: The second comic collecting Peter Foster and James H. Kemsley's Ballantyne strips from The Sydney Sun-Herald. Extensively reformatted by Foster to fit a 297 x 210 mm format, The Spirit of The Stone is forty full colour pages and will be available from the Pikitia Press store next week.

Today's post is brought to you by the following comics created by Noel Cook, a New Zealand born artist who worked extensively during the golden age of Australian comics.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bob McMahon

Kidzone #1

Bob McMahon worked in Otago from 1971 as a graphic artist for over twenty years. With a lifelong interest in comics and cartoons inspired by DC Thompson titles in his native Scotland, McMahon has kept his hand in cartooning alongside his professional work for Allied Press Newspapers. In 2007 McMahon published a collection of strips of his cadet reporter from a privileged background Claire Melody. Following the publication of Claire Melody's initial black and white adventures McMahon has produced two unpublished follow up books in full colour. I spoke with him about the various projects he has worked on and the influences upon his work.

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Glasgow in Scotland in 1935...So I'm a bit long in the tooth (laughs).

You grew up in Glasgow?

I did until my late teens and then I had to go and do my two year national service in Singapore. So that got me out of the place. On and off I've always been scratching away at doing cartoons and that but you know what it's like you just can't sell them there's too many on the market. When I came to New Zealand in '71 I worked for the local newspaper, The Otago Daily Times, as a graphic artist, did that for twenty-three years. At Allied Press I had a couple of strips going , but it's one of those sad sorry tales, one of the strips I was doing for The Evening Star and course when The Star closed that was it. The strip goes along with it. Put it this way I'd never be able to get rich with it.

(At this point I told Bob a bit about my cartooning background which led to him talking about his artistic background)

My career for all intents and purposes has been self taught. I did do a couple nights at Glasgow School of Art and when I moved out to England I did a few nights at the Polytech. I've never done a formal sort of thing.

 Panels from Sir Chancelot - Kidzone #1

What comics did you first read?

Mostly it was DC Thompson comics you know The Beano, The Dandy, The Beezer, The Topper,  and that sort of thing. My role model was always Dudley Watkins, he was a very prolific brilliant artist. He not only did pages for DC Thompson but he also illustrated classic books like Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Robinson Crusoe, King Solomon's Mines, the guy was a machine. He was only 62 when he died of a heart attack at his desk. He must have been absolutely burnt out. They're the people they were my role models. At the moment you've got the American dreadfuls, all these Marvel comics they churn them out like all these monsters and transformers and other rubbish, I wouldn't bother with that sort of thing.

Did you read comics as an adult?

Not really. I passed by all the strips in the newspaper right now, the syndicated stuff, more like a curiosity than anything else like you know. I did know for a fact that in the case of The Mail only the cream of the strips come out, three get out of maybe ten-thousand (laughs) that's an exaggeration. The thing to some degree it's amazing how those people when they look at a cartoon, a new strip, the first thing they ask is, "What's its commercial potential? Can you make it into the cover of kid's lunchboxes or tea cups?" That's what they look at. The likes of Garfield which I wouldn't call it very good draughtsmenship, but look at the stuff that does. It's just amazing.

Incidentally I don't know if you know, the syndicates they sell for peanuts, they sell a strip to a newspaper for about ten bucks and that's why they're in three hundred newspapers. Of course the artist gets a percentage of it. You know Charles Schulz that drew Peanuts? He was the first millionaire cartoonist. Of course he's been dead a long time but they still print his comics, still print his strips.

Code-0 from Kidzone #1

When did your cartoon Scat Cat run in The Evening Star?

That's right. That's the one that ran in the weekend. I did it in the paper cause I was already on salary at Allied Press and it ran for a few months. I've hit the cross bar a few times. I did send one of my strips over to The Canberra Press and they were very impressed with it and the asked me to send over three months supply. Which I did, sent over a few months drawings but I never heard from them again. Part of the reason it may have flopped...This was about the same time Garfield came out so they don't want another cat cartoon you know? Another one that almost scored the goal was a joker called Hall or Wall or something, he lived in Sydney, his idea was to do illustrated panels for Woman's Weekly, Australian Woman's Weekly, it was something along the lines of Ripley's Believe It Or Not? This guy he was sending over the copy, what it was supposed to be, and I would jack up the illustrations. Unfortunately the poor bugger got wiped out in a motorway crash. So that was it. (Laughs) It doesn't stop me drawing. I still keep on doing all that stuff.

Panel from Claire Melody

I understand you did some comics for Funtime Comics? (Long running New Zealand comics collective in Christchurch)

Ah, yeah again that's hit and miss you know, I think they only publish when they have enough loot, enough material, again it's just a labour of love.

How did you get in touch with Funtime?

Good question. I think it was done through the Internet. The Editor (Darren Schroeder) he's no longer there, I think he took over to England. I think he's now in London or some place.

Can you talk about the genesis behind producing KIDZONE?

All the artists that worked at The Times, that I knew they all contributed to it. It was quite a fun thing really. The reason that worked, believe it or not,  We got Gore Publishing to print it. It was just barely feeling it's way after about a couple of weeks, It was burning me out so I just flagged it, I realised that cause I was doing the whole thing. I was doing the colourations, chasing people up for their work, going down to Gore and literally printing it, printing it the way I wanted it. All this sort of thing and it was too much.

Sam's Son from Kidzone #1

You were working full time as well?

Yes, I was working fulltime as a graphic artist for The Times. There were a few times it was almost to the point of being sabotaged because The Times they had another thing called Jabberwocky (New Zealand children's magazine). That was being printed down in Gore as well and sometimes my work would get pushed aside and I'd have to go and chase it up (laughs). I thought nah I don't need this.

I thought Kidzone was impressive, it was like a New Zealand version of your typical DC Thompson comic. Right down to the paper and colours.

That's exactly what it was based on. The thing is, try and get sponsorship, it's like hitting your head against a brick wall. I approached Cadburys, the wee kids they're into this sort of thing, and he said to me, "We'll do that when you've been going for a year." That's the sort of rubbish you get you know.

Can you recall what the print run of Kidzone was?

Ah...I think it was just over a thousand, I'm not quite sure.

Panel from Mickey's Moa, Kidzone #1

Did the Kidzone distribution by Lyndsay Distributors cover the South and the North Island?

No. That was a mistake we made. It only went up as far as Christchurch. If we had have gotten sponsorship and backing I would have included Australia as well. As I was saying heartbreak all the way along the line.

Did you get any feedback from Kidzone? Did readers write to you?

Oh yeah, yes we did, a lot of letters from the kids. The kids loved it. I'm not sure, who knows, even just one big number to sponsor us, we would have pulled it off. As it was I was paying money out my own pocket for the printing the publication and the returns were just barely covering what I paid.

Did you start Claire Melody after you had retired?

Ah no, I think it was slowly I did in my spare time.

What inspired you to do an adventure strip which was perhaps more for adults than children?

I think it'd always been a thing of the fifties and sixties I was always very interested in...well I'll do my version of it. It was black and white. Most people don't like that they prefer colour. So I've got two lots done in colour to go to print if ever I win Lotto. After all is said and done I've enjoyed what I've been doing. I don't do as much now as I used to.

Panel from Claire Melody

Were any of the characters in Claire Melody based on colleagues?

Ah no. It's purely fictional. I'll tell you what if you want to see really good artwork that was done in the fifties and the sixties look up Garth that was done by Frank Bellamy.

I'm a big fan of Garth and Frank Bellamy in general. Another one that worked hard and passed away too early.

Another one that died fairly young was David Wright, he did the Carol Day strips in The Daily Mail. They're the sort of people as I say that were my role models. I'd never hope to get up to their standard but they were the sort of people I'd try to emulate.

Can you talk about your working process on Claire Melody?

I just do all the rudiments in pencil and ink it in later on. Originally it was designed to run as a daily strip in the newspaper but I couldn't get anybody interested so I just thought what the hang I'll put it altogether in a wee booklet. See what it looks like that way.

Panel from Claire Melody

Bob McMahon Interview 2nd June 2012 by Matt Emery. Images copyright 2012 Bob McMahon