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!