PAVEMENT magazine

FEATURE

October / November 1999

VIVA LA COMIX!

To those in the know, New Zealand has always had more than its fair share of world-class cartoonists. Some leave home and achieve success overseas - Noel Cook, Colin Wilson, Roger Langridge, to name just a few. Others toil away in obscurity, turning out brilliant xeroxed minicomics that are read by a few dozen cognoscenti. But far too many give up after a while, tired of earning neither money nor recognition. “It’s all such good stuff,” laments cartoonist James Merritt; “and no-one knows about it!”

Well, if James and his friend and co-conspirator Jeremy Anderson have their way, that’s all about to change. The two young Aucklanders are about to launch Linoleum, a new bi-monthly comic book with which they hope to make New Zealand comics creators rich and famous in their own country. “Obviously it’s an elusive goal,” Anderson concedes, “but we’ll pursue it as vigorously as we’re able.”

What makes Linoleum more likely to succeed where most local anthologies fail is the sheer quality of their contributors. The first issue boasts significant new strips by Chris Knox, Anthony Ellison, Adam Jamieson, Tim Molloy and myself, all wrapped up in a full colour cover by ‘the godfather of New Zealand comics’ Barry Linton. There’s a nice mix of irony, whimsy and serious literature and at least one strip - Ellison’s hilarious ‘Rocket Man’ - deserves to get its hero plastered across t-shirts and fridge magnets from Kaitaia to the Bluff. The humour is perverse and the drawing beautiful. Jamieson’s ‘Charcoal,’ on the other hand, is haunting and evocative and would stand out even in the leading alternative American anthologies.

Future issues will include work by Ant Sang, Kelvin Soh, Tim Kidd, Sophie MacMillan, Roger Langridge and Strips veterans Grant Major and Colin Wilson - in short, the cream of the last thirty years of antipodean cartooning. Notably absent is anything by the two editors. “I’m too lazy,” James apologises. Besides, Linoleum’s not about promoting his own work - “it’s about the promotion of New Zealand comic book artists.” Their editorial policy is just as uncompromising: “it’s got to be high quality,” James explains. There’s a marketing plan, too, including radio advertising and a media blitz: “we want to get everyone talking about it.” If all goes well, Jeremy adds, the long term plan is to set up a publishing house and put out a number of titles.

Ambitious? You bet. New Zealand comics have been ignored for too long, James explains, “and quite frankly we’re sick of it! We’re up in arms!” Jeremy agrees. “There needs to be a revolution!”

The revolution begins - appropriately enough - in October, when the first issue of Linoleum hits the stands. It will be available for $5.00 from comic shops and magazine shops or from 39 King St, Arch Hill, Auckland.

 

(Nb: Since this article was written, Linoleum #1 has been cancelled - that's what I get for hyping up something that hadn't yet been published, I guess.  You can read my own contribution here)

 

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