Comix – words and pictures, narratives or not narratives, an undefined, illegitimate cousin of art and literature. A populist art form (just why is that a dirty word?) that reaches where other products just can’t reach. Art and language, image and text – building a dialogue that incorporates the abstractions of language, the directness of the image, it’s not a new text, it’s always been there. Remember, you were a kid, the classic Asterix vs TinTin debates, who kept you company? Was it Disney? Was it Archie? Or were you like me, did you enjoy Commando and those ‘true life’ fables featuring strange occurrences, ghosts, disasters, fictional histories? Don’t forget those days, it’s where you learnt to read these things, you may be older now and a clever swine but those days gave you something. And they’re not gone yet, there are stories out there that were written and drawn for you – NOW. Quintessential Kiwi texts – dissecting the beef of a nation.
Just what is it? What makes for, constitutes the difference in comix from Aotearoa? Is it a concern for a nationalist discourse? Perhaps it’s the harsh New Zealand light (to borrow a theory). Are there concerns that unify the genre? Make it manageable, digestible, a coherent body of work. Is there some central truth? A code once deciphered that holds the truth? Thankfully not. Concerns appear to be as wide and varied as one could wish for, the dialects of Euro, American and Japanese comix absorbed, translated, mutated (in some cases mutilated) by a variety, a nasty cross section, of Kiwi voices. Voices that vary – from Timothy Kidd’s surreal vision of the land and it’s inhabitants soaked a spiritual sub-text through Dylan Horrocks’ portrayal of Hicksville, a surrogate New Zealand that never existed except perhaps in the mind of ex-pats and in our memories of the past, others like Barry Linton display a concern for pop (pulp) culture, kind of cock rock comix, the list goes on... and on... so much said in such a variety of ways. The voices vary but are at first glance overwhelmingly male, however upon scratching deeper, searching and researching, female voices become apparent. Represented by collectives like The Strip Club and Daughters Of Slaughter and by individuals like Miriam Harris and Lisa Noble a wealth of exciting, and diverse female talent emerge. Women who are hijacking the form from male domination, kicking ass, satirising, expressing feminine concerns in a manner as innovative and as exciting as any of their male counterparts.
In short, this is an exciting time for comix nationally – with a plethora of approaches, a diversity of talent and the advent of comix criticism – dip into the high-brow, the low-brow, the highly polished and the roughly produced. Superman may not be dead but he’s found a whole heap of interesting friends. They don’t all look so good in tights but they’ve got a lot more to say and some of the most interesting ones were born right here in Aotearoa.
→ Contemporary New Zealand Comix, 1996, publication
→ Cartoonists exhibit at Fisher Gallery, Eastern Courier, 24-01-1996
→ Drawing a Laugh, New Zealand Herald, 02-02-1996