Magpie is the newest venture of artist Frantz Kantor and writer Andrez Bergen. They are launching the new superhero series in the Australian comic anthology, Oi Oi Oi! which is run by Nat Karmichael of Comicoz.
Magpie plays with the hero genre with a humorous take on a superhero universe. It's nice to see a strong, smart female lead, and it's no wonder - Frantz, Andrez and Nat share nine daughters between them.
We talked to Frantz, Andrez and Nat about creating Magpie and their thoughts about Australian comics and the comic industry.
Who is Magpie?
FRANTZ: "Magpie, is a "Super-Hero" comic story, presented in episodic form in the pages of Oi Oi Oi!, an all-Australian published graphic novel zine put out by Nat Karmichael at Comicoz. It's the first of its kind so far as I know, in that it challenges the notion of the "Super-Hero Comic" by introducing a very "Un-Super-Hero" narrative of self awareness (the characters know that they are in a comic), and pop-culture references or "cookie-crumbs" of possible story directions and miss-directions.It's the sort of idea that has only really been touched on by web-comics."
ANDREZ: "Yep, Frantz is spot on. We share very similar background interests and influences, I think, so we're approaching this project with a like-minded synchronicity. Taking the piss — in a fun way — is one of the motifs, as is a deconstruction of pop culture and frequent scaling of that fourth wall people usually duck. It's definitely focused around an Australian take on things, hence the icons like Melbourne's Skipping Girl neon sign, public transportation, slang, and the freckles. At times it's an homage to past comics we dig, by people like Will Eisner and Russ Manning, along with classic films and other comic characters — and their creators."
FRANTZ: "The dialogue is short, funny staccato repertoire, reminiscent of early Spider-Man, and the female protagonist (Magpie) is (to my mind) Tank Girl, Batgirl, Catwoman, Black Canary, Sue Storm, etc, in a single cereal box — with a free toy inside!"
ANDREZ: "Maggie's definitely a scrapper. I have in the back of my mind, while writing her, a fusion of people like Tank Girl, Wolverine, Buffy, Black Canary, Catwoman, and another of my own characters, Bullet Gal. She's all these things, but more aside. Maybe it's that toy Frantz talked up?"
How was Magpie created?
ANDREZ: "Magpie was a direct result of Nat Karmichael at Comicoz having approached me and asking to create a distinctly Australian hero for his zine Oi Oi Oi! I'd just finished working with Bullet Gal, and I love my idea of women who're stronger than the male characters surrounding them — but bear the baggage of some kind of emotional fragility. I think everybody bears that to some extent. Making Maggie so damned strong — without apparent super powers to speak of (at this stage; we're still nutting that out!) helps to nurture the dramatic angle along with her punchy, facetious dialogue. When Frantz and I got together to work on it further, he look the character leagues further than I expected. It's now a case of me scripting by bouncing out of his art and ideas, which is bloody awesome territory to explore."
Any thoughts on Australian comic art & industry?
ANDREZ: "There are some sensational creators, especially artists, working in the local scene — but there always have been. The trick is taking it all to the next level, and having the confidence and support to do so. This is where people like Nat at Comicoz are worth more than their weight in gold, by being so damned supportive and encouraging. Hats off to him. One weak area I've noticed, as an editor, is the substandard editing being employed in a lot of local Australian comics. It's not just a matter of brilliant art, but script and ironing out the typos/conversational flow in the scripts. Also, there is such a thing as TOO Aussie in terms of dialogue. Otherwise, I think we're on the cusp of a renaissance, with several creators getting breaks abroad."
FRANTZ: "I wasn't going to go into detail about this, but I have a fear of overt ocker dialogue present in many Australian comics (from friends of mine, so I won't mention names), I find it too distracting in dialogue, and frankly, a little quaint, so I am very pleased to work with dialogue that is Australian and witty and clever, like Andrez' without the need to drop in Geez, Cobber, Strewth etc for a fake laugh.
Tough call? Maybe, but I dislike any stereotyping, and while we are at it, what a pleasure to work on a smart female protagonist! I'm glad you mentioned Buffy! (my best friend's name!) I grew up with strong females, have 3 strong daughters, so I think we can do something very cool here! like Margo Channing said: Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"
ANDREZ: "You can tell, I think, Frantz and I are both blessed with daughters (I have just the one, a 10-year-old) and understand how strong these individuals are. And Buffy? Amen!"
Tell us a little about OI OI OI!
NAT: "Oi Oi Oi! was formed with the idea of allowing Australian artists and cartoonists a vehicle within which they could demonstrate their talents on a national scale. I'm afraid I am going to disagree with Andrez's statement that there have always been artists working in the local scene, because I go a longer way back than he does! For a long time, and I think Frantz may remember this, there were no artists or cartoonists able to work in this unique entertainment medium, because there simply were no comics in this country.
However I do think the advent of the fanzines, and especially the comic specialty shops in the early eighties, lead to a mini explosion of wonderful creative comics being distributed around the country in the late eighties to early nineties. And then, for reasons I am not sure, comics began to appear only sporadically in the marketplace. But then came the advent of computers, digital printing, and print on demand services: once again, this has allowed the medium to take even larger strides. Sort of like a cycle.
And here, I do agree with Andrez: Right at this moment, there are some sensational artists (and by that I mean writers and artists). This has lead to some getting published overseas, and lead others to try their hand at self-publishing their own comic books with the hope that they too can make it overseas. But most of these books are small print runs of about three hundred copies. Until Oi Oi Oi! came along, no-one was willing to take it (as Andrez says) to the next level of publishing -- getting a national comic magazine out there for these artists to be able to share their stories with Australians as far apart as Broome and Brisbane, Adelaide and Cairns!
Initially, I was reluctant to run a Superhero story. Frantz and I were discussing the industry (in an informal conversation) at Melbourne's Supanova. I was already familiar with Andrez' work. (He had forwarded me a copy of one of his books -- that one of my daughters read, and had enjoyed*.) One thing lead to another, and I introduced them to each other over an email! And, having seen their fabulous work, am I glad I did so! This is classic comic storytelling, this is fabulous artwork! "Magpie" is, as far as I can ascertain, the first Superhero story to appear in a nationally released comic in this country for over 20 years!!"
*Oh, and I have five daughters. And a son. And many grandchildren. Eleven at last count. I think.
Oi Oi Oi! #7 will be out around late January - early February. Keep your eyes peeled!