Moira Janet Clunie and SBC Have A Chat

Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2000
By: Darren Schroeder

Cover of Moira Janet Clunie and SBC Have A Chat

Comic shops in New Zealand don't, as they don't all over the world, take risks. They order in what they know will sell to the public. Those of us looking for something different have to make do with the occasional lucky find.

Most of us sit around moaning about this, wishing that there were more alternative comics and 'zines available and some way for local creators to distribute their work. Moira decided to do something about it. As well as publishing her own hilarious mini comics she has set up a distribution system for small press. I decided to find out more about this woman of action.

Darren Schroeder: What is your full name?
MJC: Moira Janet Clunie

DS: Age?
MJC: 20 and three quarters

DS: Favourite web site?
MJC: Um., probably. I read a lot of personal/journal type sites.

DS: Were comics a big part of your childhood or did you discover them at a later stage?
MJC: I used to read things like Beano and Archie and buy Oink magazine when I was younger. And mad magazine for a while. But I was never really a comic geek as a child, I used to read a lot of books. I really got into comics as a youngish teenager who was just starting to have a disposable income. I always gravitated towards independent and local stuff. I liked Groo [Sergio Aragones].

DS: Oink, now that was a classic British comic, weird and silly and clever all at the same time. I wish they still published it. What was you favourite strip from it?
MJC: Well, I used to buy it when I was about 8 years old, and when my family moved to Auckland the copies I had were thrown out along with other stuff I 'wouldn't be needing', so I have very little recollection of what was
actually in the comics apart from lots of pigs. What I do remember was a free vinyl record that came with one of the issues [I think it was around issue 3 or so]. I still get earwormed by the silly rap song [don't eat pigs cause they're made from ham / eat that nasty butcher man] and this other catchy little ditty that had stuff about bodily functions in it. Actually, I wonder if my parents still have it in their record collection...?

DS: Was art an important part of your education?
MJC: Not really. I didn't get to do fourth form art because it was on at the same time as French and I had to do that instead. I've always regretted that, though. I liked third form photography, that was lots of fun.

DS: What was the first comic you published yourself and how did that come about?
MJC: Life Sucks#1: The Butterfly.
I had picked up a mini comic called Aye Chomike Boek By an American named Danielle Frohlich about a year beforehand at the Pop Culture convention. It was tiny and silly and I loved it, and so one day I was sitting at home feeling sad and useless and I remembered Danielle's Chomike Boek and I thought 'hey! I could do something like that too!', so I drew it, scanned some copies from work, and showed it to some people, who loved it. And that was that.

DS: Have you ever gone out with someone just because they had access to a photocopier?
MJC: No, I haven't [though I have borrowed copies from my boy's workplace] - but I have definitely considered taking crappy office jobs based on the calibre of their Xerox.

Life SucksDS: What materials and equipment do you use when drawing your comics?
MJC: Paper and a pen. I used to use pencil but discovered that it doesn't copy so well. I've been using a Bic ballpoint up till now, but I've been using one of those thin-tipped black things recently, and it's good.

DS: Who do you see as the target audience for your work?
MJC: I don't really have a target audience in mind when I draw, I tend to just think something's funny and then put it on paper. People like me, I guess. If there is such a demographic.

DS: What work have you been doing recently?
MJC: I've been drawing robots. Just little wordless comics that will go in the next issue of my personal zine, Underpants. I've been writing a lot more than drawing recently.

DS: What comics have you read recently? Why did you like/dislike them?
MJC: Issue 10 of The Assassin and the Whiner from Carrie in California. It's an autobiographical comic, sort of like a personal zine with pictures. I really liked the drawing style and the fact that it was well written [a lot of comics don't pay a lot of attention to the written component]

Moebiustrip, a local zine by Simon Adams, I liked the odd little storylines.

DS: If a film was made of your life, who should play you?
MJC: I can't think of anyone sarcastically nasty enough. Janeane Garofalo? Except she looks nothing like me.

DS: Can comics change the world?
MJC: Yeah. I'm very enthusiastic about the revolutionary power of the small press and the Internet and the whole idea of self publishing and creating your own media.

DS: Can you define for us what the "revolutionary power of The Small Press" is?
MJC: Traditional media dictates the ideas of people with money to the masses [tv, "bestseller" type novels, newspapers, etc etc]. The small press, the Internet and new media types allow 'the masses' to talk back and to talk to each other, - express their own ideas and discuss these ideas with other people on a much larger scale than was possible.

I don't believe large-scale political revolution is going to happen again in western society, I believe the next revolution will be a change in the consciousness of individual members of society. And I think a really important step in that [possibly the most important] is people communicating with each other instead of being communicated to by the person with the highest rating tv show.

That's it in 100 words or less, anyway.

DS: Life Sucks Is the Internet a good way to achieve this communication?
MJC: Absolutely. The Internet is a really good way of communicating ideas and meeting people with the same ideas as yourself and getting really immediate forms of feedback about your ideas. It's a really good way of finding contacts. As a really simple example, my distro would not be happening without the Internet, it would just be far too much work to coordinate all the imported stuff and things.

It can't be a replacement for actually doing stuff locally though, and actually meeting and talking to people in person - I guess that's the drawback, that you don't necessarily meet people, but rather their 'Internet personas'. You're judging them by what they type, which isn't ever representative of everything about a person.

DS: What made you want to start up a distro?
MJC: I was in contact with a lot of 'zinesters in America, and I knew there was lots of independent stuff going on here but didn't know of any distributors or people organizing collective things. Basically I like zines and I wanted to see more of them in the country and promote local stuff overseas.

DS: Lots of readers seem to ignore the mini comics out there. What made you start reading them?
MJC: I like unconventional humour and storytelling, and I get bored easily with formulaic/ mass produced/ lowest-common denominator shit. I guess I'm a snob. And if I'm in a comic shop, I'll tend to seek out the comics which don't have scantily clad big breasted women on the front, and *aren't* about Superheroes [unless it's too much coffee man or something] and most of the stuff that's left that's interesting is independent.

DS: What comedians do you enjoy and why?
MJC: Well, I don't watch a lot of tv and don't go to a lot of live comedy. I like Mike Ling's smile. He always looks like he's up to something. And I like Ed Byrne, he's a bit of alright. And he makes amusing jokes about Alanis Morrisette. I went to a live show of his a couple of years ago with my sister and enjoyed it immensely.

DS: What's the Comics' community like in Auckland?
MJC: I would have absolutely no idea. I'm no kind of scenester and I have very few friends who are into comics [and most of them are more into the big budget collectors stuff, especially anime/Manga]. My exposure to other local independent comics is mostly through the comics shops that stock them, and the impression I get is that it's really male-dominated and most of the comics being done are story-based or done to showcase the artist's talent as opposed to humorous. Which makes me terrified of any 'scene' that might exist because I feel like an absolute phony. I can't really draw, and any comics I do tend to be based on a funny idea I had. I don't feel like they're 'professional' enough compared to most of what I've seen, and I've actually been snubbed by at least one comicster who thought they weren't "real" comics. Again, though, most of my exposure is through shops and high-profile events like the 1999 Armageddon convention, so there could be a whole bunch of amateur comics like mine out there that I just haven't heard of.

Life SucksDS: What did you think of Armageddon?
MJC: I wasn't there for too long but it seemed like there wasn't much independent stuff represented at all. I picked up a few local comics, dropped some ads off with people and had a brief look at anime stuff with my friend who is obsessed with Masamune Shirow and then left. It was very crowded. I enjoyed myself for the short time I was there, but would not have remained interested for much longer, I don't think.

DS: What sort of response has your distro had so far?
MJC: A really positive one as far as zines go - I've already sold out of a few things and had to reorder, and I have a couple of regular customers already. I've had orders from Australia, America, Singapore and Israel as well as New Zealand and I've been in contact with lots of people interested in being part of it. I haven't sold many comics at all, I think partly because there's this mentality that if you read zines, you don't read comics and vice versa. Which is crazy because there's a lot of overlap between zines and comics, The Assassin And The Whiner which I'm stocking is very zine-ish. But I'm guessing comic sales will pick up once more comics people get to know about it - most of the promotion I've been doing for it has been within zine circles.

Now I just have to wait until exams are over so I can get round to writing to all the people I've been meaning to.

DS: What are you studying?
MJC: A conjoint bachelor of arts/engineering in English lit/classics/womens studies/art history and resource/environmental engineering.
[When I finish I get to be a BABE]

DS: Do you think that comic shops are female friendly?
MJC: Well, they're friendly towards pictures of scantily clad females with large breasts...
I don't really hang out around comic shops enough to generalize, but there never seem to be females working there, there are barely ever comics by independent female artists and people look at me funny when I walk in. So, maybe not.

DS: You talked about "sitting at home feeling sad and useless", and there is a hint of that in your work but it is overlaid with a big dose of humour, as if these emotions are fighting for control of your comics. Which do you think wins?
MJC: [Laughs long and hard] Life Sucks doesn't really reflect my emotions at all - if anything it's meant to be a parody of the whole teenage gothic "I'm so sad and everything sucks and I might as well die right now" thing. And if I've ever been prey to that in former years, I guess it's a parody of myself as well.

Life SucksI try for humour, but sometimes it's obscure humour because it's parody or hyperbole or sarcasm rather than a direct joke. They're meant to be humorous.

I found this question funny because the first person I ever showed Life Sucks #1: The Butterfly to laughed at it for minutes and then said 'oh I'm sorry, I don't mean to be laughing at your angst, but this is so funny' and I had to explain that this wasn't my angst, it was a parody of my angst, and that him laughing at it was actually the desired result.

Also, I have to be humorous because I can't draw and I have to hold the reader's attention somehow :)

DS: If you could get some of the money that the New Zealand Government has just given to the Arts, what would you do with it in relation to comics/zines?
MJC: Obtain [or fix] a photocopier and provide a cost-only copy service for local zinesters/comicsters. Maybe purchase a printing press. Do small press books. Do workshops for people interested in learning about zines. Just off the top of my head. A bunch of things. Depends how much money we are talking about.

DS: What the most unsucky thing about life?
MJC: There are lots of unsucky things about life, it's hard to pick the least sucky.
* Bagels with avocado plus soy milk latte for breakfast.
* Afternoon naked cuddles with my boy.
* Getting giant packages in the mail.
* The exact emotion I had the other day when I finished my last exam.
And so on.

Life Sucks You can get hold of Moira via:

Postal Address: P O box 7754, Wellesley Street, Auckland, New Zealand

Related Links

Moon Rocket Distribution

Moira's Homepage

If you have a comment or question about Small Press then feel free to contact me