Sometimes it surprises me where Graphic Literature is found. I mean, it shouldn’t but I can be in how creators that have worked here in the United States as well as other large markets might come from the end of the earth.
I had to do a little digging for this bit of information. You’ll see why in a moment. I headed to the Library of Congress. Okay, so it was their website. According to the information they’ve pulled in, a comic strip called Mr. Skygack, From Mars by Fred Schaefer and A.D. Condo for the Chicago Day Book appeared in October of 1907, a humorous strip about an alien who comes to learn about humans.1 The LoC source comes from Chronicling America. If you visit the reference below you can see the paper it appears in and zoom in. Actually a very interesting visit.2 There are those who consider this the first science fiction comic strip, humorous as it may be, simply on the basis of an alien being present, the first alien present in a comic strip3. Buck Rogers, appears as of 1/7/1929, although the character had appeared in August of 1928 in Armageddon 2419.4 According to Ron Goulart of The Encyclopedia of American Comics from 1897 to the Present (1990), Buck Rogers is considered the first serious science fiction strip.5
You’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with New Zealand. I argue that Mr. Skygack, From Mars is absurdly considered science fiction simply based on the presence of an alien in it. And then even if one does give it credit, Buck Rogers is not the first serious and true science fiction strip. That is like saying a Gone with the Wind is a Civil Rights movie because there are African Americans in it.
Really and Truly Spaced Out.
In 1924 in the Australian Sunday Times a comic strip appears. It is about a young boy named Peter, who travels through space and visits other planets like Jupiter in the strip Peter and all the roving folk.
The creator is Noel Cook who is Foxton, New Zealand born.6Legend goes he turns down an offer to write the series for a company in New York. Five years later and Buck Rogers gets all the fame.
Although Cook created other science fiction books I found some of his humorous strips worth sharing.
After retirement Cook went on to become a successful painter with many shows in London, one being opened by the Queen Mother. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any of those images, but this image of a pulp magazine piece of his shows how talented he was in that medium. Imagine when he painted without a script or an audience to please.
I wanted to jump ahead a bit, and in a way I am, with Ted Brodie-Mack (1897-?). Although born a year later than Noel Cook (1896-1981), Brodie-Mack brought a different character in 1944, Kazanda the Wild Girl and the Forbidden Kingdom.7
Brodie-Mack drew the character while Archie E. Martin, who went by the name of Peter Amos, was the writer. What makes Kazanda stand out is that for one, she’s a woman, a jungle queen of the Lost Continent. She had powers such as telepathy. There are conflicting opinions about other powers, so I’ll stop with telepathy and typical jungle queen kick butt type stuff. The second thing that makes this comic so interesting, it’s the first New Zealand created comic to be published in the United States, reprinted in Ranger Comics in 1945.8
The 1950s Freak Out.
As happened in the United States and other countries, the End of the Earth decided comics were bad for kids and society and began to ban books. It makes you wonder what literary and creative genius was lost during this time of youth being denied a visual medium to excite their minds.
New Zealand Strips for All.
In 1977 a formally trained artist working as an illustrator started a fanzine called Strips. Colin Wilson intended for Strips to show his work, but what it did in reality was begin to showcase work from all across New Zealand. The comics life of the country was reborn.9
But for Wilson, New Zealand didn’t last much longer. The talented artist, apparently extrememly talented, found his way to the UK and on the flagship UK comic book Judge Dredd10 in 2000 AD11 as well as Rouge Trooper12.
But the UK was not the stopping place for Wilson. France and the legendary book Blueberry13 was in his future. For those who read the France part of this series you will recall Blueberry and its importance in French comics.
Do you think he stopped there? No. American comic fans might recognize the next work of his, a series called Point Blank14, from Wildstorm15 comics, the studio of Jim Lee16. The series was written by a comic great Ed Brubaker17.
I like the above art Wilson did for an expose of his work in which he includes many of the characters he had worked with through the years. As of the last information I have Wilson is still working for 2000AD.
The New Talent.
As in the rest of the world, the government became a little more sane, as most governments do when the people basically tell them to stuff it.
There isn’t a lot of information out there right now about some of the talent coming out of New Zealand, especially about the women. But I want to mention them the women along with the sites you can visit.. Indira Neville18, Sarah Laing19 (awards winning author and teacher), Robyn E. Kenealy20, Li Chen21, and Rae Fenton22.
The researchers brain is toast right now. This was an entertaining adventure for me and a great learning experience. I encourage you to click the Reference #21 just above this paragraph to go to the link for a nice interview with three of the women from New Zealand that have begun an effort to put women in the public eye in a male centric opinion of that public. Good points are made I agree with wholly, and some opinions I disagree with, but a very good interview.
See you next time.
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