5 minutes with Toby Morris – Comicfest feature

Comicfest 2015 is almost here! Head over to the Facebook event for all the details and to receive event updates. There are panels and workshops for comic-lovers of all ages, and don’t forget to come along to the Central Library on Saturday 2nd May to pick up a free comic book on Free Comic Book Day, courtesy of GRAPHIC!

Toby Morris self portraitToday we’re talking to Toby Morris about his comic work, and what we can look forward to at his Comicfest panel. Toby Morris is an illustrator, designer and comic artist who currently draws a monthly non-fiction comic series called The Pencilsword for The Wireless. He has drawn and published his own comics since the age of 13 and now juggles comics, illustration work and parenting two young sons. He has written and illustrated two books and created concert posters for many of New Zealand’s top bands.

What is the first significant comic related job or project you remember working on?
My first comic was terrible – it was called The Amazing Adventures of Okapi and was a really corny story about a superhero crime fighter set at a grunge concert. I was 13, and made a few copies for my friends at school, but really I didn’t know anything about superheroes or grunge concerts. Or comics really, apart from Tintin or Asterix. I think i was just trying to emulate what I assumed a ‘cool comic’ might be like.

At 15 I started a new series called Span that was more personal. I had actually gone to the comics shop by then and discovered some New Zealand comics like Pickle and Absolute Heroes that set me on a better path.

Toby MorrisCan you tell us about your current, or most recent project?
These days my big project is the ongoing non-fiction comics series The Pencilsword which appears monthly on thewireless.co.nz. I’m trying a few new things (for me at least) with it – I’m trying to walk a line between personal and political, and then technically the comics have a little animation on them which has been interesting to experiment with also. It’s the first comic I’ve done that is designed from the start to be read and shared online rather than in print, which is new and exciting for me.

What is your favourite part of your working process?
There is a great daydreamy state you can get into sometimes with drawing that I love where it’s almost unconscious. Time just goes by in a blur, you get really swept up and lost in it. You can’t try to do it – it’s trying but not trying and you can totally tell the difference between drawings where you’ve done it and not. I think of it as ‘the joyous line’. I think the closest description I’ve found to it is the way that Phillip Pullman describes how the Subtle Knife works in the book of the same name. Drawing is like dancing maybe.

What or who are your favourite NZ comics or creators?
So many! Dylan Horrocks was very inspirational for me, still is. His series Pickle was one of the first things I read that really made me want to write in my own voice. Tim Bollinger was another one I read early on that lit a fire for me. Barry Linton was and is the king. I loved the Wellington anthology Pistake in the 90s – Emond, Morse, Dayglo etc – so much attitude. These days there is so much going on, it’s incredible. Hard to start naming people because there are so many. Mat Tait, Robyn Keneally, Sarah Laing, Ned Wenlock, Lauren Marriott/Ralphi, Mary Tamblyn and Alex McCrone, Tim Kidd, Ross Murray, Sam Orchard are a few current favourites that spring to mind. I’ll be forgetting people I bet. I loved Jem Yoshioka’s recent one about the Kimono. I really enjoyed Sarah Lund’s Snap. It’s a great time for NZ comics. There is so much great stuff coming out, more than there ever has been.

Do you have another job outside of comic creation, or any significant hobbies you enjoy?
These days I work as an advertising designer and art director for my day job. It’s a funny thing to balance those two very different worlds. My comics and my job started off as two very different paths – what I love doing on one hand and what I get paid to do on another – but over the years those two paths are slowly getting closer to each other and starting to cross over.

You can catch Toby at his Comicfest panel at the following time:
Thursday 30th of April 6 – 7.00pm – Panel: From cartoons to comics
Toby Morris