5 minutes with Toby Morris

ComicFest 2021 website

Toby Morris is an Auckland based cartoonist, illustrator and writer best known for non-fiction comics that investigate political and social issues. He produces the monthly series The Side Eye, published by The Spinoff, and is a four time winner of ‘Best Artwork/Graphics’ at the New Zealand media awards, and ‘Cartoonist of the Year’ winner for 2019 and 2020. He has written and illustrated several kids books and three graphic novels, including 2019’s Te Tiriti O Waitangi.

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic he has colloborated with Dr Siouxsie Wiles, producing graphics that have been viewed millions of times around the world, and he is now producing graphics and animated videos for the World Health Organisation.

Twitter: @xtotl

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I was always realy into drawings, then when I was about 9 or so I got got given a stack of old Asterix and Tintin comics, and I just loved those.

Q: What is your average day like?

These days I’m a creative director at The Spinoff and Daylight Creative as well as working on my own comics, so a lot of the time I’m now working with other illustrators, helping them out, then still trying to find time to make my own comics too. It’s busy but I’m really enjoying it.

Q: Can you tell us about a current or recent project you’ve worked on?

I’m got a new book coming out in August that I’m really excited about – it’s called Dad Man Walking and it’s a collection of short comics and cartoons about the ups and downs of being a dad. Lots of what I’ve been working in in recent years has either been very serious politics or socal issues, or over the last year a lot of very serious science or public health graphics, so it was a bit of a change to work on something less serious.

Q: Do you have any traditions or rituals that help you when you get to work?

No not really – I end up working in all kinds of different times and places these days, I’ve had to get good at just getting on with it wherever I am or whatever is going on around me. If I’m working alone I quite like working with some background noise – either a podcast or sometimes a basketball game or a tv show that I’m not really watching.

Q: Who/what is your biggest influence or inspiration?

In terms of drawing style and storytelling I’ve always been very inspired by Herge. In terms of making comics journalism or non fiction comics Joe Sacco has been a huge inspiration.  Then there’s lots of other NZ comic artists I love, and political cartoonists too. And these days I’m working with lots of younger illustrators who make me want to push myself and try and new things.

Q: What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?

There’s so many! I feel really lucky to have the chance to commission some artists through our comic of the month series at my job at the Spinoff – I’ll forget people I’m sure, but I’m a huge fan of Ant Sang, Indira Neville, Giselle Clarkson, Sarah Laing, Zoe Colling, Kay O’Neil, Sloane Hong, Hana Chatani, Dylan Horrocks, Mat Tait, Stefan Neville, Dan Vernon, Michel Mulipola, Sharon Murdoch, Sam Orchard… there’s so many people making cool stuff!

Q: What is your dream comic project?

One where I can pause time and just work on one thing for a while! I’ve got an idea for a fictional series that I’d love to do one day. One day I’ll get time!

Q: What are you excited to share with ComicFest attendees? Just a taster!

I’m really looking forward to meeting and talking with Selina Tusitala Marsh,  I love the Mophead books. I’ve always thought of them as comics, so I’m very excited to talk to her about that!

Q: If you were to enter our cosplay contest, who/what would you dress up as?

I’d usually say Captain Haddock, but my hair is too long at the moment for that! Might have to be a werewolf or something, or Chewbacca maybe.