Debra Boyask: Dealing With Issues

Posted: Tuesday, April 3, 2001
By: Jason Brice

Cover of Debra Boyask: Dealing With Issues

Born in England, Debra's quirky sense of humor and lack of reverence for the comic cliches that the mainly male comic audience hold dear make her's a unique voice in the comics scene in her adopted home country of New Zealand. Her work ranges from silly puns to thoughtful observations on the tough bits of adult life. By day she is a medical education adviser, in her free time she drinks tea, draws comics and chats to Jason Brice:

Jason Brice: Thanks for agreeing to this interview Debra, can you please tell us something about your history in comics?

Debra Boyask: I used to read a few comics when I was little, children's comics like, you know, the English ones that are funny.

JB: Like Viz?

DB: No, like ones with characters called Harold Hare and Patsy Panda, then when I was older I liked a British comic for girls called Misty, which was slightly scary and sometimes had free lip gloss or that kind of thing, then later those dumb girls' comics for adolescents with stuff about pop groups and pin ups of boys in them.

JB: So this was in the early 80s?

DB: No probably a bit before that. Once I got to high school there was a long gap, then when I was hairdressing, about 1986-7 I started reading Oink! Another British comic which was funny, it was about pigs and toilet humour, a bit like Viz, but suitable for younger readers.

JB: So I guess there's something what is it about the British humour comics that appeal to you more than the American magazines like MAD?

DB: Well, I did used to get Archies and that kind of thing sometimes, but my sense of humour would be more along British lines than American. I guess it makes sense I'm not an American...

JB: So how do you think that's gone on to influence your own work?

DB: I've never really thought about that, but I guess I do like humour in comics, I prefer funny comics, stuff that makes me laugh when I read comics these days. I'm not very interested in big guns and superheroes.

JB: Is that different from subject material you like in other media because I know that you like science fiction tv and movies, but I shouldn't imagine that you'd be interested in science fiction comic books.

DB: Well, I'm quite picky with science fiction I read, I do like it when it's good, but haven't found a great deal I like, and I don't think I've met any sci-fi comics that have appealed particularly, although probably after my next long gap [after Oink] the first contemporary comic series I read was a 4 part aliens thing which I found vaguely interesting. Plus I read animal man for a while.

JB: So what contemporary books are you reading right now then?

DB: I've been getting Roberta Gregory's Naughty Bits for a while, and I really like Ariel Schrag's work. I don't get an awful lot actually. there isn't a lot I find that I like in comic shops, occasionally I scour through a copy of previews and even less frequently take a risk and order something that looks a bit interesting, that's how I found Ariel Schrag, and I've since recommended her stuff to a few other people.

JB: Hence you have to make your own comics?

DB: What, just so I have something to read? I'm not that bored. No I actually like making them, it's fun, and Funtime Workshops have really provided the motivation for me.

JB: Can you please tell me about the works that you've done over the years?

Monkey and Uncle KenDB: I've always scribbled on stuff for as long as I can remember, but I wouldn't always have called the scribbles comics as such. I did illustrations for various things such as university club magazines and so on, then I started contributing to the Funtime anthology, in particular with a more or less regular strip called Spunky, Punky and Monkey, and eventually did my first solo which was entitled Geeks, Nerd & Dweebs, which was a rather crappily produced vehicle for making fun of people I knew, henceforth alienating me from Christchurch geek circles

JB: Was the fun making motivated out of a sense of spite or just playfulness?

DB: I just do it to make myself laugh. I can't help it. It's kind of a social disability I have.

JB: So you consider yourself an antisocial personality?

DB: Not really, but probably like many geeks my social skills are somewhat limited.

JB: I believe after Geeks, Nerd & Dweebs there was the Ancient Geeks, which incidentally, I thought was a quite a clever play on words.

DB: Thanks, well that was the idea, but I guess it would have been better if the material had fitted the title better. As it was, Alan from our local comic shop thought I was making fun of him, which I wasn't. But there was an old man and an old woman on the front holding comic shop bags, and he's an old man who spends a lot of time in a comic shop, so I can see how he made the connection.

Soft Porn ElvesJB: How did you get started with Soft Porn Elves?

DB: Well, that's a rip off of someone else's character of course, and I haven't been caught yet, but I hope the Pini's won't come to get me. I tried reading Elfquest when I was dating an Elfquest fan. I persevered for quite a while, but couldn't get past the dopy facial expressions and gratuitous cleavage pic's, and to cap it all, my friend John, who works at the comic shop, got himself an Elfquest calendar one year which had soft porn shots [drawings] of elves from the series, with these slightly suggestive or risqué verses with each character. I thought it was sickeningly sappy, and obviously made to appeal to mildly brain damaged adolescent girls. So I had to make fun of it I'm afraid.

JB: But in Soft Porn Elves there's no actual pornography is there?

DB: Well there isn't really in Elfquest either, that's why it's soft. It's all just alluded to rather than overt.

JB: In the past you've said that you had a vague interest in making pornographic comics, how does this fit in with the distain you hold for the pornographic elements in Elfquest?

DB: But it isn't the pornographicness that's the problem, it's because it's wet and pathetic somehow.

JB: So if the Pinis were to make pornographic Elfquest comics you'd be more in support of them?

DB: Perhaps it's actually just that I hate elves.

JB: You do realize that elves are fictional?

DB: It's hard to tell that the way some people seem to go on about them.

The Ancient GeeksJB: Between doing Ancient Geeks and your latest, Adult Issues, you visited the United States and attended SPX. Can you tell us about that experience.

DB: It was very cool. There were lots of people there who made good small press comics, I came away with heaps of stuff which I really liked, better than going to the comic shop.

JB: It's a long way to go to buy some mini comix though.

DB: Very true, but it's not then only reason I went, so that's ok.

JB: How was your work received at SPX?

DB: We sold quite a few comics there. Some People thought we were strange and funny, having come from a funny and strange faraway place.

JB: And the tea wasn't right...

DB: Yes, that was quite a problem.

JB: How did you solve it?

DB: I was very pleased to get to Toronto, they seem to have normal tea there, but in the hotel at the convention they didn't even have a hot water jug. Luckily I'd taken a couple of boxes of Dilmah to America with me, and I had to put tea in the coffee machine, but it was never quite right. If you ask for tea there you get some weird cold drink in a bottle.

JB: So who did you meet at SPX?

DB: It wasn't very easy to meet people there. Obviously being geeks they're not too good at that kind of thing, but there was this cool guy called Andrew and a chick called Amy who drew really well and had the table next to ours. And there was this guy whose name I forgot and whose comics were rather rude, but he had a great sushi shirt.

JB: So nobody really famous?

DB: I talked briefly to Roberta Gregory, but she didn't seem to want to talk to me. There were other well-known people there but no-one much whose name I knew. Darren got quite excited about Eddie Campbell I think, and some other guy too, I'm not very interested in meeting famous people really.

Chief and our HeroJB: Why?

DB: Why should I be?

JB: Let's talk about Adult Issues then. You're moving more into autobiography and further away from puns. Why?

DB: Well, puns are very low level humour, but I wouldn't reject a good one if it turned up. The auto-bio thing I guess is because that's what I like to read myself. I like Ariel Schrag's autobiographical stuff, I like Joe Matt's tedious-life stories. I get some kind of prurient voyeuristic pleasure from it. I also admire people who can put themselves on the line in that way. I haven't really put out too much so far.

JB: Was there an element of catharsis in your work for Adult Issues.?

DB: Yes.

JB: Do you think your readers are going to be taken aback by the change in style?

DB: Well, the last comic came out over a year ago. I don't expect to have a loyal readership. I can't expect any sort of continuity of readership if I can't produce faster than that.

JB: Is that something you'll be working on? Are we to expect more Teacake's comics soon?

DB: It would be nice, but I wouldn't count on it. A full time job keeps me pretty busy, but I'm feeling very motivated at the moment, and communication with others through the net helps, plus Funtime workshops, of course.

Cello PlayerJB: Were there any of the people that you feature in Adult Issues upset by their depiction?

DB: Not that I know of so far, but I don't think Rob's seen it yet.

JB: So no backlash from Soft Porn Elves?

DB: No, strangely Elfquest fans seem to find the Soft Porn Elves particularly appealing for some reason.

JB: Are we going to see Spunky Punky and Monkey next time?

DB: Well, I feel they really belong to Funtime, but possibly.

JB: What are your plans for the future, comics wise?

DB: I'd like to get another issue done this year, I'm also planning to make some other crap like stickers, maybe more t-shirts and maybe fridge magnets.

JB: Lots of merchandising to cash in on your fame and fortune?

DB: I just think it would be cool to make that stuff.

JB: Any parting words?

DB: I haven't replaced Rob yet, I'm currently single.

You can contact Debra via:


PO Box 1961, Christchurch, New Zealand

Related Links:

Debra's Back Catalogue

Growing Up Female in Fiction and Film

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