5 minutes with Austin Milne

While we wait for a new date for ComicFest 2021, meet Austin Milne in this “5 minutes with” interview.

ComicFest 2021 website

Austin Milne has wanted to be a cartoonist since deciding being a dragonologist wasn’t realistic. When he was 12 he tried writing a comic strip about his life but decided to stop because he was too close to the subject matter, instead he made comics about an anthropomorphic emu. Now aged 23, he has had a few comics and is working on a graphic novel about 12-year olds.

Website: austinmilne.wordpress.com
Facebook: @austincomics
Instagram: @austinjmilne

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

From age 8 I would go to my friend’s house and read all his dad’s Peanuts books. He and his sister made their own comics, and so did I. They soon stopped but I had found something I enjoyed. I remember thinking while working on a Tintin rip off: ‘this is like reading but better cause I can make anything happen that I want’.

Q: What is your average day like?

I’m still working out the perfect way to run a day. I’m most productive drawing early in the morning, when I go for at least 2 walks a day and eat lots of vegetables.
I write best at cafes or on trains, and draw best somewhere warm and quiet.

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

I’ve been working on a graphic novel for middle readers for the last 2 years to be published by Annual Ink.

EPSON MFP image

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

I write a schedule for the day in my diary and some notes of what I did yesterday, if I don’t feel like writing, I collage train tickets, drawings, and printed ephemera I chance upon.

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

Richard Thompson’s Cul De Sac and John Allison’s Bad Machinery are my biggest influences. Lately I’ve been loving the work of Tillie Walden, Noah Van Sciver, George Herriman and Simon Hanselmann. Historically, I was most influenced by Charles Schulz, Lincoln Peirce of Big Nate and a whole host of American newspaper comic strips.

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

There’s so many! I really love discovering new creators and especially meeting them in person. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
Alex Cara, Sarah Laing, Dylan Horrocks, Gissele Clarkson, Toby Morris Gavin Mouldey, Sharon Murdoch, Sam Orchard, Ross Murray, David Tulloch, Lil MQ, Ursine mundanity https://ursinemundanity.com

Q: What is your dream comic project?

It would be to draw a daily newspaper comic strip, like a really big one in a broadsheet newspaper. And while I’m dreaming I would like it to be full page and in colour, and l would like to be editor of an 8 page comics section in the newspaper and commision and pay New Zealand cartoonists to make strips for it. and it would be paid for by big business sponsoring it, but as part of the deal the businesses would have to ditch identical corporate branding and have each of their stores designed by a cartoonist complete with strange cartoon mascots. And then the newspaper would just become all comics, and it would save newspapers and it would save New Zealand towns from looking boring and it would save comic strips and then it would take off all over the world and become more popular than music.

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

I will do my best to cosplay as Gissele Clarkson’s drawing of me.

Austin’s portrait by Giselle Clarkson

5 minutes with Jonathan King

ComicFest 2022 is Saturday 7 May — and this year will be fully online! Find the full programme on our ComicFest website. ComicFest is a joint venture between Wellington City Libraries and the National Library of New Zealand.

ComicFest 2022 website

Jonathan King makes comics and films in Wellington, New Zealand. He wrote and directed comedy horror Black Sheep, co-wrote and directed an adaptation of Maurice Gee’s classic Under the Mountain, co-wrote supernatural thriller The Tattooist and directed sci-fi thriller Realiti.

His comics have featured in Faction Comics (2012–2014), From Earth’s End: the Best of New Zealand Comics (Random House, 2013), High Water, a climate change anthology (2015), and in a collection of his comic works Perplexing Stories (Eel Noir, 2015). His story Holiday featured in Gecko Press’s Annual in 2016, and another, Docking Season appears in Annual 2 in 2017. His graphic novel The Inkberg Enigma was published by Gecko Press in 2020.

Website: jking.nz
Twitter: @MrJonathanKing

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

When I was four years old I got Hergé’s The Black Island and The Shooting Star for my birthday. They remain two of my favourite Tintin books, and set me on a lifelong love of adventure comics. Superman, Batman and Marvel comics were next. This was in the 1970s — and it’s funny to see these same storylines turn up in the movies today. I haven’t really kept in touch with superhero comics since then, but still love kids adventure comics — made today and as far back as the 1930s.

Q: What is your average day like?

At the moment I’m teaching film at Massey University in Wellington, overusing Third Year students’ own film and game projects. So I’m either meeting with students, reading their work … or keeping my own ‘research’ going — which at the moment is writing a feature film script, exploring animation in Blender and Unreal Engine and editing a film I shot for a friend earlier this year.

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

My first graphic novel The Inkberg Enigma was out last year – after several years of Workington it. I’ll definitely get back to comics soon … but I both need to earn some (not comics) money, and keep things like film — which I’m still passionate about — moving.

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

Napping / thinking / lying around is a super important aspect for me — particularly those few moments when you’re halfway between sleep and awake. I really do find I make huge creative progress on ideas when my conscious brain is disengaged and the creative brain is floating free … Then I just need to remember it all to write to down when I wake up!

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

Artistically my biggest influences were / are Hergé, Yves Chaland — who was a young French cartoonist, himself influenced by Hergé, who tragically killed in a car accident at a young age, American Darwyn Cooke — who died much too young too, Milton Caniff and Frank Robbins — greats from the golden age of newspaper adventure comics.

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

My favourite NZ comics creators include Dylan Horrocks — who was hugely supportive to me (and so many others) when I started making comics; Roger Langridge – whose work is supernaturally great; Sharon Murdoch, who has such an effortlessly light touch with thoughtful content; Giselle Clarkson, whose playful style I just love.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

My dream project would be a serialised adventure story — that unrolled at a strip a day (or maybe a page a week) in the newspaper — if such thing still existed!

ComicFest 2021 to be redrawn another day

ComicFest 2021 logo

ComicFest 2021 logo

To keep everyone safe, organisers are cancelling ComicFest 2021 this Saturday (21 August 2021) as Aotearoa is now under Covid-19 Alert level four.

“We are gutted Saturday’s ComicFest is not going ahead, as we had such a fantastic line-up of amazing artists with many sessions fully booked – but people’s wellbeing comes first,” says Sam Orchard, Assistant Curator Cartoons and Comics National Library of New Zealand.

“The good news is thanks to the generous support of our artists and sponsors we have already agreed to bring ComicFest back once we have returned to Alert level 2 or lower – so watch this space!”

“The ComicFest team are working together on future options for this delivering this event. So, keep your cosplay costumes at the ready for when we can get all be together again,” says Wellington City Council’s Manager Libraries and Community Spaces Laurinda Thomas.

“While you’re staying safe at home, you can be inspired and entertained by our amazing artists who have shared their stories on the ComicFest webpage. ”

If you have registered for an event, we will email you to confirm that ComicFest has been cancelled and again when we have a new date for when ComicFest 2021 will return.

ComicFest is run in partnership with Wellington City Libraries and the National Library of New Zealand and key sponsors Graphic Comics, Gecko Press, Unity Books, and Wellington Zinefest.

5 minutes with Tara Black

ComicFest 2022 is Saturday 7 May — and this year will be fully online! Find the full programme on our ComicFest website. ComicFest is a joint venture between Wellington City Libraries and the National Library of New Zealand.

ComicFest 2022 website

Photo by Ebony Lamb

Tara Black is a Pōneke based cartoonist and art school drop-out. She can often be found in the front row of book events, illustrating authors and their ideas. You can find her work on The Sapling, Stasis Journal, The Spinoff and her website, taracomics.com. Her first graphic novel, This Is Not a Pipe, was published by Victoria University Press in 2020.

Website: taracomics.com
Twitter: @taracomics
Instagram: @tara_comics

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

Probably Calvin and Hobbes but it’s hard to tease that out from my love of animation and picture books. I used to collect clippings of Calvin and Hobbes from newspapers and paste them into a scrapbook. Dad would bring them home from work for me and I ended up with double-ups. When I was old enough to get a paper run, I systematically bought all of the collected editions. My favourite one is the 10th anniversary edition, where Bill Watterson annotates some key strips with his process. That was my first insight into what it might mean to be a practising cartoonist.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work on comics in the evenings and the weekend. I aim to put out a page of my webcomic, Book Dragons, each week so I will often script and do a draft during weekday evenings before drawing and scanning the comic on a Saturday or a Sunday. On Monday evenings I have a drawing club which gets me started. Some weeknights I will go to book launches and live draw the speeches.

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

My first graphic novel, This is Not a Pipe, came out with Victoria University Press late last year. At the moment I’m working on Book Dragons and getting into short fiction and poem comics. Poem comics are a satisfying puzzle – they let me play with the interaction between text and picture in a more abstract way than narrative comics.

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

I drink a lot of tea. I find it helps me get up and move around but also tea is good. Twinings. Earl Grey. Occasionally chai.

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

That’s kind of a cruel question. There are so many great comic creators in NZ and if I start listing them I’m bound to leave out someone cool and regret it. If I had to choose one, I’d choose Li Chen. Her blend of humour and stunning artwork is always a treat. Have you played exocomics 500? If you haven’t, go do it now.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

A comic project that could pay enough to live on but also solve climate change. Yes, a sentient comic that solves climate change and social inequality and rolls back colonialism while it’s at it. No pressure, sentient comic.


5 minutes with Selina Tusitala Marsh

ComicFest 2021 website

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former Commonwealth Poet, New Zealand Poet Laureate and acclaimed performer and author.  In 2019 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to poetry, literature and the Pacific community.  In 2020 Selina was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand earlier this year.  An Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Auckland, Selina teaches Maori and Pacific Literature and Creative Writing. Selina has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), for queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II), for Gucci and graffiti artists (see Avondale Community Centre).  She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI, Dark Sparring, Tightrope.  Her graphic memoir, Mophead, won the Margaret Mahy Supreme Book in the 2020 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and won the PANZ Best Book Design for 2020, its sequel, Mophead TU: The Queen’s Poem has been shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards 2021.

Facebook: Mophead by Selina Tusitala Marsh
Instagram: @selinatusitalamarsh

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

Luka, my older brother, brought home DC comics all the time when I was growing up. I loved these kind of freeze-frame movies where unlike a blockbuster, I could pause, stop, linger, imagine, play and day-dream about what I’d do in the unfolding scene on the page.

Q: What is your average day like?

Pretty nuts to be honest. Full on. When you’re a Pasifika woman poet-scholar at a university where there aren’t many who look, talk, walk, think, and create like you do, you’re either going to shrivel up and die, or thrive and be in so much demand you can’t see the coconuts for the trees. I’m always working on 3 or 4 major projects at once. This is why I run. I haven’t been able to in the past 2 months because I sprained my ankle while running my staff cross in Waiheke bush. The effects are beginning to show.

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

I’ve had 2 successful graphic memoir books for all-ages: Mophead and Mophead TU: The Queen’s Poem, shortlisted for this year’s Children and Young Adults Book Awards. I’m working on Mophead: KNOT Book 3. Because it’s not. Not like the other two and so strangely different. The process, it’s storying, the making of it, it’s so collaborative. I’m working with about 2000 students on it. Watch this space!

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

Movement. Running. Yoga. Anything that makes me want to be still with pencil and ipad and begin moving on the page.

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

For the last year, it’s been Charlie Mackesy’s brilliant book ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse.’ He draws the pictures and writes a story for all-ages. I can meditate on one page, one drawing for days. It’s what I want for my books – for both kids and adults to feed from.

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

Sarah Laing’s lilting and lyrically sensitive drawings are it for me. Mansfield and Me is just sublime. As is Let’s Be Frank. I mean, all of her stuff is just so…so…raw, real, tender, exquisitely executed, and she’s just being herself. She is a pastel inky goddess and I love her. And her work. Another hard to put down to me is Ant Sang’s Dharma Punks. His drawings are just so alive and bold and his skill with gaps and space to imagine myself in between those frames and his sparse dialogue, well, that’s pure talent.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I’m working on it now. Mophead: KNOT Book 3 is choosing me. It’s evolving before my eyes. And all I have to do is be myself, with others, and the stories will come.

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

An interactive activity that forms the foundation of Mophead: KNOT Book 3. I’ve done it with 2000 primary school kids, and 370 Royal Society Early Career Researchers. I’m sure it’ll be just as fab with ComicFest attendees!!

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

I’ve already got the Wonder Woman costume, so may as well use it. Otherwise, I’d dress up as Sarah Laing.

5 minutes with Mary Guo

ComicFest 2022 is Saturday 7 May — and this year will be fully online! Find the full programme on our ComicFest website. ComicFest is a joint venture between Wellington City Libraries and the National Library of New Zealand.

ComicFest 2022 website

Mary has been living in Wellington for seven years. She has been working in the game and animation industry for over a decade.  In her spare time, she works on various illustration and comic projects. Check out her personal art and comics at maryguo.com. Follow weekly updates on instagram: @totoroguo.

Website: maryguo.com
Instagram: @totoroguo

Q: What first got you interested in comics?

I was born in 1980’s China. There wasn’t much entertainment for kids back then, but there were comics, particularly Japanese manga. For me, the eighties and nineties were Japan’s comic golden age, and I was growing up reading Doraemon, Battle Angel Alita, Monster, and more.

Q: What is your average day like?

I work full-time for an animation company as a visual dev artist. Most days, I’m working from home, sometimes in the library or a coffee shop. During the evenings and weekends, I’m working on personal projects. In my leisure time, I like to attend all kinds of events, like shows, festivals, markets, galleries, etc.

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

Currently, I’m working on two personal projects: Lonely Artist with co-creator TBun, and my Wellington Coffee Shop illustrations. Lonely Artist is a series of silent comic strips that we’ve just compiled into a book.

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

I like to take walks for inspiration. I find that ideas naturally come to me while I’m alone, walking around the town belt and through the city.

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

Many comic artists inspire me, too many to name! My biggest influence has always been Studio Ghibli. Nowadays, I also take inspiration from many other media, like video games, fine art, and animation.

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

I enjoyed Ross Murray’s new book, Rufus Marigold. It was great! There are many incredible murals around Wellington by artists like T Wei and others. Michael McCormack, a painter with a studio in Island Bay, is probably my favourite local artist.

Q: What is your dream comic project?

I’m very excited to explore transmedia storytelling. I’m interested in how players take on the role of their characters in video games. I want to explore these ideas in my next project, a comic-video-game hybrid with a long-form narrative (working title: Concrete Jungle).